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Has it really been 40 years? August 8, 2014

Posted by phoenixhopes in Grief, Uncategorized.
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Earlier this summer I heard 2014 was the 40 year anniversary of President Nixon’s resignation and was surprised to realize that I don’t remember it happening. Oh, I definitely remember that it happened, I do pay some attention to events going on around me, but I can’t remember the coverage. The resignation of a President is the kind of event that the TV coverage or newspaper headlines become imprinted on one’s subconscious. “Where were you when you heard the news?” My family always watched the news and I was a teenager at the time—I really should remember this. I Googled the date in an attempt to figure out what was happening in my life.

August 9, 1974.


Now I understand.

August 9, 1974 was the worst day of my life. It was the day my mother died.

I was 15 and it was the summer between 10th and 11th grade. The summer of my first kiss and my first broken heart (Kevin Hunter, wherever you are, I hope you’re happy). I rode my bike everywhere, often with no destination in mind. I read stacks of books far into the night, waking up bleary-eyed. I was more a child than an adult and if it would have occurred to me to think about it, I would have told you my life was perfect. I loved being a kid.

Two memories stick with me from that summer. First, on a whim, I had flowers delivered for my mom’s birthday. She cried because she’d never had flowers delivered to her before. It was an arrangement in a little fishbowl shaped vase, the only thing in the shop that I could afford. The other memory is making Swedish Limpa bread, flavored with orange juice, from a recipe from Sunset Magazine. I’m not really a fan of rye bread, even a light rye like Limpa. This was the first time I’d ever tried baking with rye flour but the recipe was Swedish and my mother was Swedish and so I gave it a go. I think I remember that it was good and I definitely remember that my mother loved it.

And then she got sick.

For years afterward I unfairly blamed myself for her death (when I wasn’t busy blaming my father, equally unfairly). I believed the logical fallacy that Correlation Equals Causation. Mama ate the bread. Mama got sick. It must have been my fault. I never again made Swedish Limpa bread and very rarely have I eaten it.

My mother had been a semi-invalid for years and rarely left the house. A form of muscular dystrophy runs in our family and that limited her physically. From my perspective as an adult I wonder sometimes if she also suffered from agoraphobia or something similar and if that limited her emotionally/mentally. All I can say for sure is that for years my mother very rarely left the house so when she first got sick it wasn’t obvious, at least not to me.

In my childish mind she went from normal (which usually meant sleeping at least half the day) to extremely sick overnight. I’m pretty sure my dad wanted to call the doctor for days, maybe even weeks but my mom said no. By the time he called she was at the point where he could no longer help her to the bathroom. She was hospitalized immediately and within a day or two moved to the ICU. For the next week I sat by her side or in the hospital lobby.

And then, we got the phone call she was gone and my life was never the same.

So no, I don’t remember the details of Nixon’s resignation or anything else important that might have happened in 1974. I was stuck in a grief deeper than any I had known before or since. Some days I still feel cheated because I never got to know my mother as an adult, to hear her parenting advice and to share favorite books. I didn’t think to ask her much about her life before being my mother—I was still young enough that it didn’t occur to me that she was a person outside of being my mother. I wonder what she would think of the person I’ve become and if she would be proud of her grandkids. When I miscarried I thought of her rocking that grandbaby in heaven.

I can’t quite believe it’s been 40 years since she died. Honestly, I don’t think of her every day and sometimes I can’t quite remember what she looked like. I do, however, remember her love and I will always miss her presence in my life.


Aloo Gobi Success June 4, 2013

Posted by phoenixhopes in cooking, food.
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I love it when a recipe finally works.

When I have the chance to eat Indian food, one of the things I always look for is Aloo Gobi – Cauliflower with potatoes. I’m pretty sure it’s one of those every-family-makes-this-a-little-bit-differently kind of recipes, much like the generic “spaghetti dinner” will be a little different depending at whose table you’re sitting. It can even vary from day to day when made by the same cook or the same restaurant. I think it’s one of those “a little bit of this and a little bit of that” type of recipes and will vary depending on how much of each ingredient the cook has on hand.

I’ve tried to follow a recipe with limited success. It was acceptable but not wonderful. Now that has changed because I tried a mix. I tend to avoid mixes and see them as cheating but someone gave me this one and I couldn’t waste it, right? Besides, I had a cauliflower in my fridge begging to be turned into Aloo Gobi. I had to buy a couple of potatoes and fresh tomatoes to fill out the recipe, although I suppose I could have used some canned tomatoes from my pantry. (There was a time I could never keep enough potatoes on hand to satisfy my family. Now that it’s just me at home, even the small bags of potatoes tend to go bad before I can eat them all.)

I call this success:

Aloo GobiThe color is good, the balance of spices is perfect, the heat was just right (I added a half of a Serrano pepper)… it was delicious! It could have used a little more potato so I suppose it wasn’t 100% successful, but I’d give it a 98%.

If you want to give this mix a whirl, the brand name is Arora Creations. I’m definitely looking for more of their mixes.

Questioning Faith May 26, 2013

Posted by phoenixhopes in God, life, Preaching, Sermon.
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There are two things you might know about me – 1.  I’ve been in church all my life (except for a bit of a sabbatical a few years ago) and 2. I have this thing about questions – I like them. A lot.

Some people in my life have seen those two facts as mutually exclusive – One is supposed to accept what one is taught about God and church and the Bible, and not be that difficult person in the back row furiously writing down your questions… or the one in the front row, with a perplexed expression on your face, waving your hand.

Obviously, I don’t agree with those detractors. If I did, I wouldn’t be standing here before you today encouraging you to ask your own questions and keep asking until you get answers. I wouldn’t be here recommending that you question your faith.

Jesus talked about having the faith of a child. Most often I’ve heard this comment explained to mean that children have a simple faith, and believe what they’re told, that children are accepting of their circumstances and trust without question.

 I wonder if the people that say that ever had teenagers. Or a three year old. I wonder if instead Jesus might have been referring to the brutal honesty of children and that prolonged “Why?” stage.

There have been times when my questions have taken me to a very dark place, or maybe it was my dark place that led to my questions. Either way it was a place where I wondered if everything I had been taught and believed was really true, or if it was all an elaborate façade. How could I say that a loving God exists when the world, and my own life, was such a mess? How could I say I believe what’s written in the Bible when parts of it seemed so contradictory or confusing? How could I continue to be involved in church when the people there were such hypocrites? In those periods of intense questioning, I came very, very close to losing my faith.

If you can relate to any of this or have struggled with your own questions, I want to hear an “Amen”.  Did you hear that? You are not alone.

Now before anyone has a panic attack because I’m asking you to question your faith, the first thing I want to establish is what I mean by faith. Very simply, I mean “what is it that each of us, as an individual, believes about God – who is He… or She, how does He relate to us as individuals and to the world in general, and what does it matter what we believe?”

Don’t worry; I’m not going to try to answer any of those questions today. What I hope to do is to encourage you to engage those questions for yourself so that you can better understand your own faith.

The second thing I’d like to say is what faith is NOT, at least the kind of faith that I’m talking about today. Your faith is not the same as your theology. One definition of theology is: The systematic study of the existence and nature of the divine and its relationship to and influence upon other beings. There is a legitimate place for this kind of academic study, but that’s not what I’m discussing today.

 Your theology can be perfect—you can know all the ‘right’ things–and still, your faith can be hollow. You might be able to explain all the points of Calvinism, expound on different views of Atonement, debate Eschatology, Soteriology, Christology and any additional ‘ologies you want to add, and be able to flip to a Scripture to defend every point. And still, you might have no idea who God really is or if any of these points of view matter or is it all just academics?

The second thing that faith is not is Faith is not certainty. I have heard many times that having faith is the same as not having doubt.  Think about when you walked into church this morning, chose your seat and sat down. How many of you consciously thought about whether or not the pew would collapse underneath you or if you could sit down safely? I know when I sit in our pews, I don’t give my safety a second thought.

I don’t believe that the pew will hold me, I am confident, I am certain, the pew is not going to collapse. There is not a doubt in my mind. Now, I’m a big person, there are some chairs that I’m not so certain will hold my weight. Those chairs I sit down carefully and I consciously don’t move around much. I think about how I shift my weight to get more comfortable. I have faith the chair will hold me or I wouldn’t risk sitting, but I’m not 100% certain.

If we are absolutely certain about something, if we ‘know that we know that we know’ and there is no possible question that we might be wrong, then there is no real faith involved.

The third thing that faith is not is that Faith in God is not the same as faith in church. This might be obvious, but we need to be careful not to confuse God with Church. Ideally, God is evident here and we can see how He is working in the lives of our friends and neighbors. Ideally, the form of Organized Religion practiced here at Salem United Methodist Church helps us better understand who God is and enables us to then reach out to the world around us. But the Church is made up of people and, as you may have noticed, people can be pretty messed up. People will break your trust. They will disappoint you, make you angry, hurt you, fight with you, gossip about you. People are going to turn their backs on you when you need them, and sometimes act holier-than-thou while they do it. And guess what? Sometimes you are going to do the same things to them.  I hate to admit it, but sometimes I’m going to do some of these things to some of you.

Why does the Church act like that? Why do we hurt and disappoint each other? I know it might be hard for some of you to accept, but you aren’t perfect. None of us are.  Don’t let your faith, or lack of faith, in people and in the Organized Religion that we call Church, get confused with your faith in God. Love the people around you, give them the grace to be imperfect humans, but don’t confuse their acts and words as coming from God.  Now HOW we do that is a whole ‘nother discussion for another day. Loving and accepting people is definitely hard work.

 I’ve told you what I understand faith to be – what we each believe about God, how He relates to us and why that matters.  And I’ve told you a few things that faith is not – it’s not our theology, it’s not absolute certainty and it’s not our faith in people and the Church – and maybe what I said so far made some of you a little uncomfortable.  Yes! I’ve succeeded!

As you go home today, and over the next week, take some time to think about your faith. Maybe you’ve been in some of those dark places I mentioned earlier. Perhaps you’re there now and you have some serious questions for God. Maybe you’ve resolved those questions, at least for now, and you’re wondering what your faith in God means in relation to how you relate to your neighbors, or even how your faith can be expressed in your politics. Don’t worry, I’m not going there.

The first step is to start right where you are. Drop any notion of “this is what I SHOULD believe” and instead honestly ask yourself “what is it that I DO believe?” We all have a different starting place. Some of you might even be wondering if God even exists. How can we see all the pain and suffering in our lives and in the world and still believe that a loving God is in control?

I once read about a discussion between Rabbi Irwin Kula and an atheist. Kula asked the Atheist “tell me about this God you don’t believe in”. The Atheist spoke of a harsh, remote god who hated groups of people, and who told people to go to war, thereby endorsing murder and genocide. Kula’s response was brilliant. He said “We have much more in common that you think. I don’t believe in that god either.” Once they were able to agree on who God was NOT, they were able to begin to discuss who God MIGHT BE.

Maybe your starting place is that your faith in God isn’t really your own faith. Some of you young people here today, or maybe those of you not so young, might be here because your parent, or your spouse, or someone wants you here, perhaps even forced you to attend today. Maybe you don’t identify yourself as a Christian, or at least not a church attending one.  If you see yourself in what I’m saying, then please take the time to consider what you believe. Don’t simply go with the flow, but take the time to honestly consider who God is and to develop faith that is your own.

And maybe your faith in God is secure. You’ve had your struggles, your doubts, and come out the other end knowing that God is there and He is taking care of you. I invite you to ask questions as well – How can I deepen that faith?  What difference is it making in my life and how I relate to those around me? Am I listening to those around me and helping them figure out their own faith?

None of us ask our questions in a void. We have places to go for answers, or at least places to go to grapple with the questions because sometimes the answers are a long time in coming.

We read about our first resource earlier – the Spirit of truth. Last week Clarissa spoke about God giving us His Holy Spirit at Pentecost and that He is still here today. He may speak to us through Scripture and prayer, or he may speak to us through circumstances or individuals in our lives. Our responsibility is to be listening.

Another resource is the Bible. I will admit that sometimes I read the Bible because I know I am supposed to read the Bible.  And sometimes I go searching for a verse that will prove my point because I want to win an argument (even if it’s just one with myself). Other times I read out of habit, although it is a habit that ebbs and flows, like most of my good habits (why is it so difficult to stay faithful to a good habit and so easy to hang on to the bad ones?).

Even if my approach is wrong, God can still speak to me.

December 4, 2003. I know the date because I wrote it in my Bible. My ex-husband was in prison due to his abuse to the family. I had three children still at home and struggled to pay the bills with an income barely above the poverty level. I would come home after work, change directly into my pajamas, and struggle through the evening on autopilot until the kids were in bed. Then, sometimes, I would open my Bible. I knew I was supposed to find comfort there, but some nights it was just words.  One night I read Psalm 93 and God gave me something to hold onto:

The Lord reigns, he is clothed with majesty:

The Lord has clothed and girded Himself with strength:

Indeed the world is firmly established, it will not be moved.

Your throne is established from of old

You are from everlasting.

God is. He reigns. He is strength. He will not be moved.

The floods have lifted up, O Lord

The floods have lifted up their voice,

The floods lift up their pounding waves.

Life is overwhelming. I’m going under for the third time and I don’t know if I’m going to make it. I’m being pummeled on all sides and I can’t take it much longer.

More than the sounds of many waters,

Than the mighty breakers of the sea,

The Lord on high is mighty.

Your testimonies are fully confirmed;

Holiness befits Your house,

O Lord, forevermore

God is bigger. He is bigger than my pain, bigger than my problems, bigger than my fears. God is there and He is and always was.

 That was the message the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart that night and that I wrote in my Bible with the date so I wouldn’t forget:

God is.

Life is overwhelming.

God is bigger.

Understanding and believing that message gave me an anchor for my faith and a reminder to turn to when the questions popped up again.

I have one last thought to share with you today – it is something I learned from Grace Imathiu at Faith Alive a few months ago. She said:

“Doubt is the ants in our pants that keeps us awake and alert spiritually”

I invite you to embrace that doubt and ask those questions. Think about what your faith in God really means. Let your questions and your doubt bring you to a deeper understanding of what you believe. And then, encourage each other by sharing your faith. Let it change your life so that you can reach out and share that faith with those around you.


Sermon today at Salem United Methodist Church

Stepping it Up a Notch March 28, 2013

Posted by phoenixhopes in Birthdays, Fitness, Goals, Uncategorized.
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Six months from yesterday I will hit a milestone birthday — Double Nickels. Generally, I’m not much of a birthday person. I don’t need, or even want, a lot of hoopla. I’m ok with baking my own cake, or cooking up some other decadent and expensive food. Although I certainly won’t turn down presents, I don’t expect them, even from my kids. I do look forward to special calls from my kids (although one son has to ask almost every year if my birthday is on the 27th or 28th — it’s the 27th).

I’m not sure why but this year feels different. For some unknown reason, it seems more important. I know it’s still six months away, but I’m starting to think about how I should mark the day. I’ve thought quite a bit about goals to meet before the big day and I finally settled on one: I want to walk one million steps in the six months before turning 55.

A million steps sounds like a marathon, but that would actually only get me about 58,000. Not bad at all, but not a million. When I did the math, it seemed like destiny:

1,000,000 ÷ 180 = 5,555.55556….

Did you catch that? The number of steps required daily is fifty-five, fifty-five. I think it is destiny. Or more likely just coincidence. Whatever, I like it.

This is my pedometer reading from yesterday. Not a bad beginning, eh? Let me share a little story.

PedometerI worked from home yesterday and I must say I was quite surprised when I checked the pedometer about noon and saw there were about 3500 steps captured. Actually I was more than surprised, I was shocked. Usually on my work from home days I’m lucky to break a thousand steps unless I purpose to get outside and move.  I had been a bit more active than normal because this happened…

Coffee Mess

Silly me got distracted and forgot to put the carafe in the coffee maker and had to clean the counter and mop the floor. I was moving more than normal, but certainly not 3,000 steps more. To give some perspective, a mile at my stride is about 2,250 steps. Maybe there are homes with lots of acreage where one could rack up a mile and a half mopping the kitchen floor, but those homes are not my apartment.

I thought my pedometer was broken and clipped it back on my hip. I checked it a couple of hours later and darned if it wasn’t showing 4,200 some steps. Huh, that is really weird. So I tested the thing. I got up and walked back and forth to the window, counting 100 steps. For the record, it is 11 steps from my table to the window. I did NOT feel silly walking back and forth, not at all. I was testing a theory. I checked the pedometer and there were exactly 100 more steps. Again, I clipped it back on my hip, sat back down and went back to work. A couple more hours and a few more pedometer checks and the steps kept racking up. How could I possibly be adding steps when my behind wasn’t even leaving the chair. I held the thing and rested my hand on my thigh, perplexed. And then I figured it out!

I am a knee jiggler. You know, one of those people who simply cannot sit still and constantly bounce their knee? That person who really annoys you when they’re sitting on the same pew at church, bouncing away? Yeah, that’s me. I’ve always been a jiggler but lately it’s been out of control. One of the side effects of a medicine I’m taking is restlessness and this is how my body has been letting that restlessness free. (Another side effect is uncontrollable yawning — I had that one for awhile, too. I didn’t yawn all the time, but if I was the slightest bit tired and yawned even a little bit, I would end up yawning repeatedly and hugely, totally out of control. Luckily that didn’t last very long.) Unless I consciously think about NOT bouncing my knee, it has a mind of its own and keeps moving. The pedometer was counting every one of those knee-jiggles as a step. I could leave it on my right hip, rack up the points and meet my goal early but I’ve moved it to the other side. Now it is really counting my steps, not my knee bounces.

The true total steps from yesterday is probably closer to 1,500 than 6,320 but, just this once, I’m going to let the knee bounces count towards the total. This is a bit of a stretch goal, but not an impossible one. Now that Spring is finally starting to show itself, I can get out and walk. Winter lasted too long this year and I was starting to turn into a couch potato. Time to step it up.

Why I never feel caught up March 16, 2013

Posted by phoenixhopes in Goals, life, Procrastination.
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It’s eleven o’clock and I’ve been up for two hours (woo hoo for sleeping in once in awhile). So far today I’ve accomplished the following:

  • Drank two large glasses of water
  • Drank my daily half-pot of coffee (Mexican Chiapas from Dean’s Beans)
  • Took one batch of yogurt out of the yogurt maker and put another one in
  • Put away about a third of the dishes I washed yesterday (I really hate putting dishes away)
  • Listened to Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me and This American Life
  • Figured out what I’m making for the bake sale at work this week (raising money for a co-worker’s international adoption)
  • Mixed up some marinade (using the fresh yogurt and this sauce) and added chicken. I’m not sure if this will be dinner tonight or lunch after church tomorrow
  • Made a grocery list for the things I need for the bake sale (since I’ve nibbled away at the chocolate chips I thought were in my cupboard
  • Packaged up the “Clean the Refrigerator/Freezer Chili” that simmered away in the crock-pot yesterday into individual servings and fit them in the freezer
  • Caught up on Facebook and e-mail

Whew, I’ve been busy. I think it was the decent amount of sleep last night (plus the fact that the coffee has not yet been diluted with actual food). I still have more that must be accomplished today (or at least by the end of the weekend but it’s better if I get it done today so I have some time this weekend that I can call my own).

  • Mail a package (I’ve already missed the window for mailing from my little local post office. They are only open from 8:30-10:30 on Saturdays. If I don’t get to the bigger post office (in the opposite direction of where I’m going grocery shopping) it won’t get mailed until Tuesday. If I don’t get it mailed today, it will at least be ready to take to the post office. The label is written and the item is in a box, so I’m more than halfway there.
  • Get those groceries
  • Make one of the bake sale items (the other will be done Tuesday evening)
  • Log into work (I’ll either get up early and do this before church tomorrow (and then nap away the afternoon) or work after church)
  • Do some housework (that one never ends)
  • Pick up the library book on hold (Forrest Gump, the novel. I didn’t even know it was a novel before it was a movie until I saw a post on Reddit this week. I was so intrigued it popped to the top of my reading list)

Oh, and I should probably get changed out of my pajamas at some point.

I used to think I was just really bad at time management and honestly, I’m sure there is some truth in that. I make lots of lists, and I like having a routine, but I don’t do well with a schedule. Plus, I generally under-estimate how long tasks are going to take me. When I’m making those lists, I seem to think it’s reasonable for a Saturday to-do list to be twice as long as what I’ve written here.

Today, after I get all that stuff above out of the way, I’m going to spend some time feeding my creative side and sew. Or maybe I’ll get dressed, eat something , run those errands and sew away the rest of the day away. Those other obligations aren’t going away. I need to remember — no one will die if everything doesn’t get checked off the list today.

Who buys food because it’s cute? March 12, 2013

Posted by phoenixhopes in cooking, Finances.
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Apparently, that would be me. Tell me, could you resist these adorable, petite beans?

AdzukiAdzuki Beans look like miniature Kidney Beans. They are about the same color and shape, just half or less the size. Here they are next to some Small White Beans (honest, that’s what the bag says “Small White Beans”).

Adzuki 2I was out with my son enjoying some Indian food and we decided to visit the grocery next door. The store was both wonderful and overwhelming. So many things on the shelves that I had no idea how to use. The smells. The colors. The crowds. The store was pretty busy for a Saturday night, full of families with full carts. I was trying my best not to look like a gawking tourist but I don’t think I succeeded. I was tempted to buy lots of things but used restraint. I came out with a bag of these cute, little Adzuki beans, a box of Cardamom Chai (heavenly!), a jar of Tikka Masala simmering sauce, and some fresh cashew/pistachio candy (meh – I just can’t get used to rose flavoring in food). I want to go back but before I go, I’ll do my homework so I can 1) not look like such a dumb tourist and 2) know that I’ll actually use whatever I buy.

When I got home I went searching for recipes for Adzuki beans and found this recipe for Butternut Adzuki Soup. The soup has been simmering delightfully this afternoon and smells delicious. My plan was to make a half batch since I’ll be the only one eating it but I ended up making a full pot. The Adzuki beans grew much more than I expected when cooked — a scant two cups of dry beans expanded to well over six cups cooked — so I went for a full recipe. Hopefully this will freeze well (a test container going in the freezer tonight and will go to work with me tomorrow) or I’ll be eating nothing but soup for a few days.

I love shopping in ethnic groceries even though I invariably look like a tourist. Prices are generally lower (only $2.49 for two pounds of Adzuki beans) and the variety can’t be beat. Sometimes it can be a challenge to figure out how to fit the new food into my menu. I’m very pleased to have found at least one recipe to use the Adzuki beans. Next time I plan to buy some Fenugreek, but first I need to figure out how I’ll use it. Anyone have a good recipe to share?

Well-prepared or Over-packed? March 2, 2013

Posted by phoenixhopes in Books, Knitting, motherhood.
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I’m out for the day with my youngest boy and I know the day will include lots of waiting around on my part. Currently I’m in the waiting area while he’s in an audition for a college music program. Next comes an audition for the theater program at the same school (well, “next” as in two plus hours later).  When that’s dome travel 1.5 hours south to drop him off at rehearsal in downtown Chicago. I’ll meet up with him again at the performance at four and when that’s done I’ll head home

To keep myself occupied I brought along:


– Two books (nonfiction, the kind one reads in bits and pieces, pausing to consider)

– Three knitting projects (one glitten (glove/mitten hybrid)  that just needs the ends sewn in, one glitten that needs mitten cap finished and then a few ends sewn in, and yarn to start a new Wingspan)

– Notebook for writing (there are a few things stirring that need to come out)

– Three pound bag of Cara Cara oranges (it was simpler to grab the bag than just a few oranges)

So, what do you think? Too much? Just enough? Or might I end up at loose ends with nothing to occupy my time?

Containing my coffee February 27, 2013

Posted by phoenixhopes in Consumerism, Finances, My No Spendy Year.
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Do you know what this might be?


Well, yes it’s a rather used cutting board from Ikea but I mean that black smiley thing. Do you know what that is?

Does this help?Travel Mug

It’s the thread to the lid of my favorite travel mug. The one I take on the train every day. The one that doesn’t leak unless the lid is on wrong and keeps my coffee nice and hot. The one my sister gave me even though she doesn’t drink coffee because she knows how much I like it. That travel mug. With the thread gone, the lid doesn’t seal. I suppose I could still use it but I’d end up with coffee down my shirt every single day. Once is enough to learn that lesson.

My normal morning routine is to make a half pot of coffee, enough for two travel mugs, and then load up this one and my second favorite, the one my daughter brought home for me when she worked a summer in Colorado. I like that one quite a bit but the lid isn’t leak-proof and it doesn’t hold the heat quite as well. I drink the coffee from the number two mug on the way to the train station, then drink from the number one mug on the train. (I first typed “drink number one on the train” and had to go back and edit that line so it didn’t make me giggle.) The coffee in the number one mug is still so hot I can only sip it for the first few minutes.

Now I have a decision to make. Do I buy a new travel mug that doesn’t leak and keeps my coffee steaming hot for a long time, or do I just use what I have? I do have other travel mugs but they aren’t leak-proof.  Also, I think they all have handles and I prefer a travel mug without.

CuppowI also have a few of these great lids that turn a canning jar into a travel mug. I think of them as sippy cups for adults. I used one earlier this week on the day I discovered my favorite mug was broken, but even with the improvised cozy made from my glove the coffee still cooled off too fast. Personally I prefer the Cuppow lids for cold drinks rather than hot but it’s possible I just need better insulation. Maybe I’ll knit up a thick, felted jar cozy this weekend and see if that helps.

At the beginning of the year I said I wasn’t going to buy things that weren’t a real need. Is a leak-proof travel mug a need? As much as I’d like to say yes (so I can buy a new one) I have to say no. I can get along just fine using the mugs I have on hand. If I decide I just can’t live without it, I’ll use my ‘allowance’ and get one in a month or so.


The fog is lifting February 21, 2013

Posted by phoenixhopes in Depression, life, thoughts, Uncategorized.
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I’ve been a bit distracted the past week or so and my writing has suffered. . As my last post indicates, I spent much of the week in a fit of depression. I’m not often hit by those crawl-under-the-covers-and-call-in-sick-to-life spells. There have only been a small handful of times when I just couldn’t face the world. Those episodes usually hit the day after a particularly emotionally grueling issue with my ex or kids. On the other hand, I have for years struggled with a constant, vague unease and even called myself a “high functioning depressive.” I recently found out this actually has a name — Dysthymia.

According to Web MD, the symptoms of dysthymia are the same as those of major depression but not as intense:

  • sadness or depressed mood most of the day or almost every day
  • loss of enjoyment in things that were once pleasurable
  • major change in weight (gain or loss of more than 5% of weight within a month) or appetite
  • insomnia or excessive sleep almost every day
  • physically restless or rundown that is noticeable by others
  • fatigue or loss of energy almost every day
  • feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness or excessive guilt almost every day
  • problems with concentration or making decisions almost every day
  • recurring thoughts of death or suicide, suicide plan, or suicide attempt

One of the main symptoms is this is a chronic condition, lasting for years. I once read a line from Dustin Hoffman where he said “”It’s not that I’m really depressed, I’m just a little bit sad all the time.” (I’m sure he said that much more eloquently–I’m going on memory here and I can’t remember where I read it. I can’t go back and verify and I’m not finding the quote easily online. I did however find this statement that I totally identify with:  “It’s tactile, a green knot in my stomach”. That doesn’t really fit in what I’m writing here but I  couldn’t leave it out entirely. It captures perfectly how I felt for years, so here you go. Now, back to the subject at hand…) I’ve lived with that vague sense of sadness far too long, telling myself that what I felt was normal, or that it would get better soon. Meanwhile the reality was that I trudged through life as though I was wading through hip deep mud.

Last year I decided I’d had enough and talked to my doctor. We worked out a plan to address the depression and it has been working well. At least it was working well until a couple of weeks ago when it was as though someone flipped a switch that knocked all the wind out of my sails. There it was, staring me in the face again. I called my doctor, we adjusted the plan, and here I am, making my way out of the fog.

In the midst of the fog, life has continued marching on. Valentine’s Day, possibly my least favorite holiday, came and went. In my opinion, the best thing about Valentine’s Day is the half-priced chocolate on February 15. Half Price Chocolate Day is a holiday I look forward to eagerly. I confess–some of that chocolate made its way home with me.

I’ll post an update soon on my grocery adventures and the relative success of my no spending money year. Soon, but not tonight as it’s past my bedtime and that darned alarm goes off way too early. Sweet Dreams my friends.

Depression is a hard taskmaster February 14, 2013

Posted by phoenixhopes in Depression, thoughts, Uncategorized.

Depression feels like skimming the surface of my life, knowing there is depth but unable to engage. Able to begin things but unable to complete them because I lose interest or am dissatisfied with the result. It brings my biggest faults to the forefront and hides my best traits. It keeps me off-balance all the time, as if I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. Bad news seems imminent. Those who say “happiness is a choice” cut me to the core. Do you think I choose to feel this way? Yet I wonder… what have I done to bring it on? Is it something I’m eating? Not enough sleep? Do I need supplements? Is this a spiritual problem? Intellectually I know it is not true, but Depression tells me I am a failure. I’m sure I’m about to be fired for not meeting the mark. I want to hide and sleep is ever appealing because I can literally pull the covers over my head. Sometimes even in sleep there is no rest. My dreams are full of anxiety, of being chased and trying to hide. My day is spent putting up a good front, hoping no one suspects and I go home exhausted from the effort*.

Depression is a hard taskmaster.

*This one is partly depression, partly introversion. I’m not shy and like being with people (most of the time) but, as an introvert, it’s also draining.