Friday, August 30, 2013

Random 5 Friday: Exercise and TV

Fence along Route 24 in either Bedford County or Roanoke County, June 22, 2013.

Happy Friday, everyone! I’m once again joining in with Nancy of A Rural Journal for Random 5 Friday, where “you can share 5 random facts about you, your day, your pets, your kids, whatever!”

I want to give a grateful shout-out to my friend Lisa of Two Bears Farm. Lisa had some extra orthopedic inserts and graciously gave me pair, along with a special insert for plantar fasciitis. I received the package Wednesday, along with a kind and encouraging note from Lisa.
These will help me tremendously.
Lisa is a wonderful person and I’m so glad I found her great blog, where she writes about life in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Thank you, Lisa!

I had a physical therapy session on Thursday for the tendonitis in my elbow/arm. No, I’m not really falling apart. I’m just suffering the consequences of an unhealthy lifestyle.
Anyway, I learned some exercises to do to help the tendons in my arm and the muscles in my shoulders.
I’ve been walking at the Y on the track twice this week so far for a total of 64 minutes of walking. That doesn’t sound like much, but it’s the most I’ve walked this year. A combination of a fractured foot and inertia kept me from doing much, so my body isn’t yet used to moving so much. It lets me know, too. I’ve had ice on my heel and my knee today.

After I got home from the Y Thursday (I was off work), Larry asked me to go to lunch with him and his mother to a restaurant in Gretna, a town in the next county. It’s a restaurant that serves heavy, buttery, greasy, fried food on a buffet.
I didn’t need that kind of food. But Larry wanted me to go, and sometimes we do what others want us to do, right? And we had a nice time and a nice visit with his mother.

On the way to Gretna, we passed the business that belongs to a friend of Larry’s and noticed a film crew outside it.
There’s a show on the Discovery channel called Tickle that’s being filmed in Gretna and the surrounding area in Pittsylvania County. It’s fiction but done like a reality show. Larry’s friend plays “Grandpa Bill” in the show.
I don’t like the show. It’s just plain silly. And I wonder if people watching it think everyone in the South acts that way. But I have watched a little to see Bill and to look for recognizable spots in it.

One difference between Larry and me is our taste in TV shows. Oh, we share some favorites. For example, we just finished watching another season of Longmire on A&E—we love that show! And we enjoy some other shows, mostly crime dramas.
But Larry loves science fiction. I don’t. He watches movies on the SyFy channel that I can only shake my head at. We both end up laughing at some of the computer-generated mess and the dialogue in some of the movies.
Thursday night, as I sat writing this post in the room next to the den, I heard this line from one of Larry’s movies: “We have to get past the dinosaurs.” I couldn’t help but laugh and tease Larry about it: “Larry, we have to get past the dinosaurs!”

I hope you all have a great weekend! And to my readers in the U.S., enjoy the Labor Day holiday!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


I’ve been thinking for months about an interview with actor Michael J. Fox that I read in the April/May issue of AARP Magazine. I also found the interview online here.
Fox has Parkinson’s disease, and he addressed its effect on his life in the following passage:

“'There's an idea I came across a few years ago that I love,' he says. 'My happiness grows in direct proportion [to] my acceptance and in inverse proportion to my expectations. . . . That's the key for me. If I can accept the truth of “This is what I'm facing — not what can I expect but what I am experiencing now” — then I have all this freedom to do other things.'”

I’ve been pondering this passage from the interview for months. I wanted to understand it. I intuitively felt that it could be an important concept for me to grasp.
I copied and pasted it in a Word document and kept going back to it.
I didn’t understand how expectations could be hurtful. Shouldn’t we expect certain things to be a certain way? Aren’t we supposed to have expectations of others?

I finally had a realization about this one evening at home.
I was sitting at my computer, playing solitaire, feeling sad.
I had opened up my Word document earlier in the evening and read the Fox quote again.
But then I started thinking about how a person had disappointed me.
The details don’t matter. The fact is that I had expected this person to do something a certain way, and when she didn’t, I didn’t like it.
I felt terrible. I wondered what was wrong with me to cause this person to act a certain way. I wondered why things never seemed to turn out the way I wanted them to. I knew I was indulging in distorted thinking, but I just kept on and on down the negative trail.
Then the pieces came together. I realized that if I accepted the actions of this person—without judging her or myself—I felt a lot better. I could just let go of the incident.
I accepted her actions. I didn’t try to explain it to myself. I didn’t need to think about it anymore.
I just accepted it. And I couldn’t believe how better I felt. I actually felt lighter.

I create expectations based on all sorts of things, mostly on what I want. And usually the expectations are about things I cannot control.
Getting upset over things I can’t control just doesn’t make sense anymore.
Acceptance of what I can’t control, letting go of expectations—I felt it in action sitting there playing solitaire.
Now I just have to keep on accepting.

I’m still pondering this and thinking about Fox’s statement. What do you think about what he said about expectations and acceptance?

Monday, August 26, 2013

Gathering inspiration

Have you ever received inspiration even when you didn’t realize you needed it?
I didn’t go looking for inspiration on Saturday morning, but I got some.

I didn't have any photos of the Y that I could use on the blog, but I'm showing some photos from my usual outside walking route.

I was up early and out taking photographs for a special project we’re doing for the newspaper. I spent some time at the Altavista Area YMCA, the wonderful local Y in our town.
Larry and I belong to Y, but we haven’t been using our membership much lately. It’s one of those things that we pay for every month, but forget about using.
Or, rather, we don’t make it priority to use it.
Or, rather, we drive by after eating dinner out and tell each other, “You know, we really need to go to the Y.”

I got some photos of people doing what they do at the Y—lifting weights, taking a class, using the exercise machines.
I also had a couple of conversations with people about why they exercise.
Being around people working out reminds me of how good it feels when I work out.
Hearing about why others exercise reminds me that people have many reasons for moving their bodies in deliberate ways: to improve their health, to fight the effects of aging, to feel better.

In a recent post, I wrote about my need to lose weight. I’ve been making small steps in eating less, but I haven’t done much on the exercise front except doing the plantar fasciitis exercises.

On Saturday at the Y, I picked up the new class schedules for the fall. On Sunday, I sat down and made out a schedule for my exercise for this week. It includes using the Y.
And if I feel my motivation faltering? I’ll just go hang out with others who are working out and get inspired again.

What inspires you to keep working towards a goal?

Friday, August 23, 2013

Random 5: A look back at back to school

It’s the time of year when children and teens and adults are returning to school. I’ve been thinking about my own school experiences and remembering how excited I always was to start a new year or a new semester.
So my Random 5 this week is about back to school.
I’m joining with Nancy of A Rural Journal in her Random 5 Friday, where, as Nancy says, “you can share 5 random facts about you, your day, your pets, your kids, whatever!”

My first grade picture. My mother made the dress I'm wearing.

I started school when I was six years old. Kindergarten wasn’t available in public school when I was a child, and my parents didn’t send me to private kindergarten. But I learned my numbers, the alphabet, my colors, etc. at home.

I went to school for 21 years straight: first through 12th grades plus four years of college plus five years of graduate school, where I got my master’s in English and worked on (but never finished) my doctorate in English.

I was excited to start elementary school. I rode bus number 41 the first day of school and sat beside a neighbor girl who was in about the seventh grade. She seemed so grown up to me, and I couldn’t imagine ever being that old.

For the most part, I loved school and hated to miss a day. I had perfect attendance in sixth grade and in my senior year of high school.
But in first grade, I missed two weeks of school: one week for the chicken pox and one week for the mumps. This was before vaccines were developed for those diseases.

Me on my family's sofa in our living room when I was in first grade. I had the mumps, and my family teased me about my plump cheeks. 

The year I started school, 1969, was the first year of total integration in my county’s schools. I didn’t know this at the time because my parents never mentioned it to me. I’m glad they didn’t. I’m glad I was able to go to school with children of different races and think nothing was odd about it.

Did you enjoy school when you were a child? Do you ever wish you could go back to school?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Anxiety and keeping up with the news

I have a love/hate relationship with the news. I like knowing what’s going on in the world. I like to feel knowledgeable about what my government and governments around the world are doing. I like to be able to converse about current events.
But keeping up with it all drives my anxiety right up the charts.
War and other violence. Crime. Tragedy. Stories of the bad that has happened or might happen.
I get angry. I talk back to the talking heads on TV. I worry. I mull over the sad stories I hear. I feel helpless.
My reactions to the news go beyond the compassion that I try to have in response to others’ suffering. I make it too personal, and I feel the resulting anxiety and worry.
But lately, I’ve made a change in the way I take in the news.

I used to feel driven to keep up with the news. Part of it was OCD. I was obsessed with gathering knowledge. I would get fixated on a particular topic and think I had to know everything about it.
So I compulsively gathered information, searching the Internet and reading news websites; watching news broadcasts on television, trying to understand what was on the tickertape running at the bottom of the screen while taking in what was being said; reading the newspaper exhaustively, going back and rereading what I thought I hadn’t adequately understood; forgoing listening to music in the car so I could keep up with NPR broadcasts.
I had a sense that something terrible would happen if I didn’t know.
As a newspaper reporter, I of course need to keep up with what’s going on locally. But my search for information went beyond anything I needed to know for my job.

Finally, I got tired and fed up. I realized that keeping up with the news—or at least the way I was doing it—was affecting my mood and my outlook.
And the main thing I realized was that I didn’t have to know everything about everything. I could never know everything anyway. And nothing bad happened if I didn’t know everything possible.

I started experimenting with not being plugged in and tuned in to the news all the time. I worked out a system:

*I check news apps on my phone a few times a day. Two are for local news and two are for national and international news.
*I scan the headlines to get a general idea of what’s going on.
*I read some of the articles that I’m most interested in. I allow myself to skim.
*I rarely visit news websites on the computer. I stick with the apps because it’s quicker and easier to avoid getting distracted by the photos and flashing lights of the Internet.
*I scan the headlines in the local daily newspaper and read the articles that appeal to me. Again, skimming is allowed.
*I seldom sit down to watch a TV news broadcast. If I do, I listen to the first few minutes to catch the top stories, and then do something else.
*I still love NPR, but if a news story doesn’t appeal to me or upsets me, I don’t hesitate to switch to music.

I believe that I have a responsibility to learn about what’s happening in the world. To be a good citizen of the world, I need to understand it and take action when needed.
But my mental and emotional health doesn’t have to suffer because of that.

What about you? How do you keep up with the news?

Monday, August 19, 2013


View of some of the woods along my walking route in my neighborhood.

Thank you for your good wishes for my doctor’s visit on Friday. The doctor x-rayed my foot again and pronounced it 90 percent healed. Not what I was hoping for, but he seemed pleased because it was better than it had been in June.
During my visit, he found a couple of other problems—minor ones, really—that I will have to deal with: plantar fasciitis in my left foot and tendonitis in my left elbow (tennis elbow).
I’m going to learn some exercises to strengthen the right muscles during two sessions of physical therapy, and he gave me some other things to do to get better.

The most important thing I took with me as I left his office was this: I had an opportunity. The opportunity to get strong and fit and become physically healthier.

I have to face the fact that I have let myself go. My muscles are weak and underused. When asked to do what they normally would do, they are balking.
Also a problem is the fact that I weigh too much.
I really like this orthopedic doctor. He draws pictures to illustrate his explanations to me, and he gives me plenty of time to ask questions.
He gave me two lists, one for my foot and one for my elbow. Here’s the one for the foot:

See that phrase third from the bottom? “Weight loss.”
It’s official. I need to lose weight and the doctor has put it in writing.
I’m putting too much weight on my foot with plantar fasciitis. And extra weight is not good for the almost-healed fracture in my right foot either.
The doctor jokingly said, “You’re falling apart.”
The take-home message for me was that I better start taking better care of myself or I will have more problems like the ones I’m having now.

I don’t see this as a burden. I see this as an opportunity to get better and feel better. And if I feel good physically, I’m going to feel better mentally and emotionally, too.

So I’m starting to eat less and plan how I can more systematically eat a healthier amount of food. I’m planning how to make time in my day to exercise.

Starting out on a walk on Saturday morning.

Step by step, I’m going to lose weight and get stronger. I have this opportunity to do that, and I’m taking it.

What is one thing you’re doing now that enhances your physical health? Please share!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Random 5: Healing bones, the weather and a look at the moon

Happy Friday, everyone! Once again, I’m linking up with Nancy of A Rural Journal for Random 5 Friday, where, as Nancy says, “you can share 5 random facts about you, your day, your pets, your kids, whatever!”

I go back to my orthopedic doctor today to see how my fractured foot is healing. I broke it in February, so it has been a long journey. In June, my doctor said he expected it to be 95 percent healed by today. I hope it’s 100 percent healed.

Part of the road in the park where we ride our bikes.

One question for my doctor is whether or not I can ride my bike. I have missed it. Larry and I enjoy riding in the park by the river.
He is going to get his bike adjusted so that he’s not leaning over so much. Doing that causes his leg to go numb because of a narrowing of a canal in his lower back. He was going to give up riding, but he enjoys it so much, he decided to try the adjustment.

Thursday would have been a great day to go bike riding. I had to leave the house early in the morning for an assignment for the paper. The temperatures were in the 50s. Unbelievable in August, but so nice. Practically sweater weather.
This summer has been cooler and wetter than any summer I remember for a while. Look at the following two photos.
The first was taken in our backyard on June 30, 2012. The grass was brown and dry. The leaves on the ground are signs of the derecho that had recently blown through.
The second photo was taken in the backyard on July 14, 2013. The grass is so much greener and softer.

June 30, 2012

July 14, 2013

Do you ever sense that you need an attitude adjustment? I’ve been holding on to a lot of irritation and resentment lately, and it has such a negative effect on how I feel. I’m finding that there are some situations that I just can’t talk about with others or I’ll get upset. But my mind keeps mulling over things.
I’m managing to get some relief by focusing on the moment—when I think about doing it.
Anyway, how do you adjust your attitude as needed?

August 15, 2013

Larry and I went out to eat Thursday evening at about 7:30. I looked up and saw the moon already appearing in the sky, though the sun hadn’t set yet.

Now that’s something lovely to ponder instead of negative things, wouldn’t you agree?

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Reading OCD revisited

The most-read post I’ve written for this blog is one called “Read, reread, again and again: Reading OCD.”
When I check the list of search terms used to find my blog, I often find listed something to do with reading.
I never knew until I wrote that post that so many people with OCD suffer from the compulsion of rereading the words on a page until if feels “right” to move on to the next page.
I used to believe that I was the only person in the world who had that problem.
Reading OCD is one of those OCD symptoms that come and go with me. Sometimes I read unimpeded by any sense that I haven’t read each word “perfectly.”
Other times, it’s a struggle to read, so I just avoid it.
On Goodreads, I set as a goal to read 26 books this year. I set a low goal on purpose, so if my reading OCD kicked in, I wouldn’t totally blow a high goal.
So far, I’ve read 12 books. According to Goodreads, I’m three books behind schedule.
That disappoints me, to be behind schedule. I’ve still got enough “good student” in me to want to measure up, even to an arbitrary goal I set on an online social media site.
More than reaching that goal, though, is the desire to free myself from the reading OCD.

What works best for me is to plow through the pages. I don’t allow myself to go back and reread.
Something I do that helps me to be able to do that is to tell myself that I can go back and reread later if I need to or want to. I delay doing the compulsion of rereading.
After a while of doing this, the anxiety lessens and I start enjoying myself. And I don’t reread.

Reading is one of the chief pleasures of my life. I’m not going to allow anything to keep me from enjoying it.
For your reading pleasure, here’s a list of books that I’ve read this year so far. All of them have been good reads, and I encourage you to check out any that interest you:

Flash and Bones. By Kathy Reichs.
Killing Floor. By Lee Child.
Lessons from the Monk I Married. By Katherine Jenkins.
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. By Charles Duhigg.
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. By Susan Cain.
Bones Are Forever. By Kathy Reichs.
Ransom River. By Meg Gardiner.
Reaching: A Memoir. By Grace Peterson.
Proof of Heaven. By Eban Alexander.
Tripwire. By Lee Child.
Poison Flower. By Thomas Perry.
The Kill Artist. By Daniel Silva.

  Reading is my favorite leisure-time, solitary activity. What’s yours?

Monday, August 12, 2013

Nature doesn’t procrastinate

Procrastination may be a habit common to humans, but I don’t see it in the rest of nature.

Honeysuckle doesn’t wait for everything around it to be perfect before it blooms. It blooms when it’s time to bloom.

Birds move with purpose, even when it’s just around a branch to get to a better position.

The moon rises when it must.

I want to be more like the rest of nature. I need to study its ways and practice blooming, moving, rising when it’s time, even when I don’t feel ready, even when everything around me doesn’t seem perfect.
I have several projects that I’ve been thinking about for a long time, but I’ve taken little action on them.
Anxiety can be an immobilizer, but there are ways to handle anxiety and override its ways. It’s time to get serious about it.
Animals and plants don’t procrastinate. Why must I?

How do you fight procrastination?

Friday, August 9, 2013

Random 5: Building things and meditation

Thank you so much for all of your kind comments on my last post. Your support and kindness mean the world to me!
I’m joining with Nancy of A Rural Journal in her Random 5 Friday, where, as Nancy says, “you can share 5 random facts about you, your day, your pets, your kids, whatever!”

See the haze in the photo? It was so humid, my lens was fogging up.

Larry is making great headway on our raised bed garden frame.
I love how he goes about his work. He did a lot of research beforehand and made a few drawings. Then he figures out things as he goes along. He’s very exacting, precise and thorough.
This is the dirt that forms the bed of our yard. You can see the red clay mixed in.

We’re going to get a load of topsoil to put into the frame for the planting. Fencing will go around the tall posts.
I don’t know if we’ll have time for any winter crops. But planning for next spring is fun, too.

I just finished a spy thriller called The Kill Artist, by Daniel Silva. It was well-written and absorbing. I feel the need for a switch to something a bit more peaceful, though, so I think I’ll be reading a nonfiction gardening book I’ve mentioned before, The Backyard Parables: Lessons on Gardening, and Life, by Margaret Roach. I’m also currently reading The Lotus Still Blooms: Sacred Buddhist Teachings for the Western Mind, by Joan Gattuso.
What are you reading?

Speaking of peace, I am feeling the need to get back to the practice of meditation, specifically, mindfulness meditation, which at one time I was becoming pretty regular at. I let the habit slip away.
I have been allowing negative and angry thoughts to creep in and take over, and I can feel the resulting anxiety and discontent. I need some time to slow down my thoughts and focus on the present.
Do you meditate?

I asked Larry about a year ago to build a meditation chair for me. He looked at some samples I showed him and said he couldn’t do it with the tools and machinery he had.
I think he has proven that he can find a way to build what he needs to. So I’ve asked him again about that meditation seat. Maybe when he’s through with the gardening frame?

When I was at the dairy farm last week on assignment with the paper, I captured one of my favorite shots I’ve ever gotten on the job. I can’t put the photo on my blog, but if you’d like to see a photo that includes a Holstein calf, you can find it HERE.

Thank you for visiting, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Despair and an angel named Sharon

I cried at the bad news. I cried when there was no news. And finally, I cried at the good news.
I’ve cried a lot in the last two weeks.
Sometimes I couldn’t stop crying. The tears just poured out. And one day, the particularly bad day, I knew the tears were part of a larger problem.
I learned once again that physically, I have to be on antidepressants and on the right dose of antidepressants. My depression is a medical problem, an illness.
I wasn’t sure if I should share this story. I don’t want to appear weak. It’s not easy for me to admit how dark life can seem sometimes.
But this is a blog about my journey through life with mental illness. That journey sometimes turns dark. Without warning.
Part of what I’m here to say is that if you feel that darkness, you are not alone. You are not alone. And it can get better.

Over two weeks ago, on July 20, I dropped off the prescription for my antidepressant at the pharmacy. I had run out of refills, but my doctor had given me another prescription at my last visit.
The pharmacist tried to fill it but told me that my insurance company wouldn’t authorize payment for the prescription because of the dosage.
This was nothing new. Periodically my insurance company does this. I take a higher dose than the usual, so every so often, my doctor’s office has to talk with the insurance company and get approval. The only problem is I never know when this is going to happen.
The pharmacist said she would fax the doctor’s office the request for authorization. They wouldn’t get it until their office opened on Monday.
I was OK. The pharmacist gave me a few of the pills to last a few days so I wouldn’t go without while waiting.
By Wednesday, I hadn’t heard anything, so I called the doctor’s office. I was told they were waiting on the authorization.
I won’t bore you with all the details of what followed. In summary, the doctor’s office kept telling me the authorization hadn’t come through. The pharmacist gave me all the pills she could without filling the prescription. The price for the prescription without insurance was exorbitant.
I started taking half my dose to save pills.

I did all I could to hold on, to keep fulfilling my responsibilities, to interact with others as normally as possible.
I found out fairly quickly that half the dose of the medication was not doing the job. My anxiety was sky high. I’d become aware that I was clenching my hands in tight fists. I had a hard time focusing. I had trouble sleeping.
I was simultaneously so depressed that all I could think of was how hopeless my life was. I was sure my life was never going to get back on the right track. I didn’t want to live.

Last Friday morning, I had a panic attack.
I sat on the bed and sobbed. My chest and both arms hurt. The pain made me breathless. I remember thinking that perhaps I was having a heart attack. And I didn’t care.
By Monday afternoon, I decided to do something besides wait for others to fix my problem.
I decided to call the insurance company myself.
I talked with a woman named Sharon.
“We can fix this,” she said after hearing my story and looking at my record.
She called the pharmacy while I was on the phone, then came back on the line and told me again that she would fix it so I could get my prescription. She would call me back, hopefully that day.
“If you can take care of this, you will be my angel,” I said.
“Well, I’m going to be because I’m going to call you back today,” she said.
And she did. She fixed it. I picked up the prescription Monday night.

I learned a lot about self-advocacy during this episode. There’s a lot I want to say about that. But I’ll save that for another post.
For today, I’m just thankful for medication that keeps the scary depression and anxiety at bay. And I’m thankful for angels named Sharon.

Have you received help from any angels lately?

Monday, August 5, 2013

Saturday at the festival

Larry and I immersed ourselves in the heritage of our county on Saturday.
As many of you know, I’m not one for crowds, and I’m not one to jump when I hear the words “Let’s go.”
But I knew I needed to get out of the house Saturday, so I suggested that we head over to Naruna, an area in another part of our county, and attend the annual Heritage Festival.
The festival documents the history of Campbell County and provides fun activities for children, plenty of music and lots of displays.
I’ll let the photos do most of the talking today.

There were lots of old tools and gadgets on display. This is an 1885 egg beater. You turn the lever, which I inadvertently cut out of the photo, and the beaters turn.

A 1903 milk fat tester.

This was identified as a hair pressing comb. I was never very adept with a curling iron. I don't think I would have done any better with this.

I liked the wooden pitchfork on the left.

Old farm equipment was scattered around the grounds.

Tobacco was a main cash crop for Campbell County for many years. My father raised it. I have mixed feelings about this part of my heritage.

Wagon rides behind horses were available.

A display of cornhusk dolls. 

Dancers from the Monacan Native American tribe in nearby Amherst County performed.

One of many quilts on display.

As we were leaving, we stopped to watch a family who started flat-footing to bluegrass music playing in the background. I like the combination of dress shoes, pink boots and bare feet. 

Have you attended any fun festivals this summer?