October 11, 2012 ~ Comments Off

redding

It is really cool when you are reminded of a project from an old job, go searching to see if it was ever used for anything and discover it’s actually being used right now! Looking at my own blog, I noted the link to my design portfolio and decided to take a peek, which led me to the “gamification” elements I created in Photoshop for the Redding newspaper site. Lo and behold, they were implemented … and are live on the site!

Needless to say, some screenshots were taken for gloating quietly to myself and adding to my giant folder of stuff I may or may not ever need to use again to prove my design skills.

October 09, 2012 ~ Comments Off

parents

I’m angry at my parents for getting divorced when I was 2 years old.

This is not to say I wanted to live my life with fighting, spiteful adults hissing and spitting at each other from opposite sides of the house. Nor do I want to think how terrible life would’ve been for them personally, living through that.

But I’m still angry.

There have been a slew of repercussions from my parents’ failing/failed relationship and split. The impacts on my siblings and me are so clear, it’s painful. And they’ve only gotten more striking over time.

Today, though, I’m thinking about parental roles. When parents divorce, they are forced to take on and give up various duties and joys they’ve held over time. In our case (and I’m only speculating here, because I was too young to know for sure) my dad left our home, moved into his own apartment and – during court-mandated weekly dinners and bi-weekend overnights – probably tried to be a more attentive parent than he had been when he was still living with us. He still worked like crazy, but that time at the office affected us much less than when it hurt my mom’s feelings, strained their relationship and left her to wonder why he was there so long every night. My mom, on the other hand, had to pick up a lot of slack. Not only in terms of us kids, but working, keeping things running smoothly, trying to make it feel like he never left.

At the time, my sister was turning 18 and starting college, and my brother was 11. My sister, a homebody like I eventually became, decided to live at home while attending college. She became a second mom to me while my mom dabbled in the working world, at Kmart, the local pharmacy (I loved to help stock greeting cards – one fond memory of that time) and eventually as a preparer at a big chain of tax offices. At that point, she came into her own and made a name for herself doing something she was truly good at. But that didn’t make it any easier. And it didn’t change the fact that, when my sister finished college, met and married her husband and moved away, I was left alone a lot. It wasn’t long before my brother disappeared, too, after being a typical adolescent boy who didn’t want his little sister up in his face every minute of the day.

So there I was, waiting up at night for my mom to get home from late nights at a tax office about 45 minutes’ drive from our house, before cell phones and in the dead of a Michigan winter. In retrospect, it was pretty torturous. And I had no concept of chilling out or not worrying that she might be dead and I might be left alone completely.

Phew. Such horrible memories. Sorry I got a little off track there…

This morning, I found myself reflecting on what it means to be a mom or dad. A man or woman. And while I’m all for interchangeable gender roles and the belief that not every man needs to be a meathead who loves tools and not every woman needs to don a gingham apron and make a perfect roast, there are some things I feel like other people in the world understand about moms and dads that I just don’t, because I never got to see my parents being typical parents, sharing responsibilities and caring for their children as one cohesive unit.

This comes out most strikingly in my inability to trust people and the feeling that I need to do everything myself, otherwise it probably won’t get done at all, let alone properly. It’s not that I don’t trust my husband to do things, but 1) I feel bad asking him to do anything; 2) sometimes I’m annoyed that I have to ask; 3) while TV has taught me about those male stereotypes, I can’t say I fully grasp them because of my lack of real-life experience within a family; and 4) I do sometimes get pleasure out of fixing problems and not having to rely on others to help make it happen.

I also developed a totally skewed, unrealistic sense of parents and family by spending my childhood watching shows like “Full House” and “Family Matters” rather than witnessing a real-life family operate. In fact, the void left by my parents’ divorce and my siblings’ growing up and leaving the house actually caused me to develop my entire definition of family from these ridiculous sitcoms. Better that than today’s fodder of “16 and Pregnant” and “Jersey Shore,” but nonetheless – it’s pretty darn unrealistic. And it makes me feel like a failure when I can’t immediately (or at least within a half-hour) solve problems; have a quick, meaningful chat with my spouse and then hug it out with intense, sweeping music in the background; be the most perfect, caring, selfless human being I know on a regular basis; or keep my house spotless while never missing a beat with my awesome job (eh), perfect husband (he tries) and darling children (none of those).

My childhood and lack of familial interaction also bred in me an unhealthy dislike for children. I look at a cooing, drooly baby and see almost nothing redeeming in the slightest. I try – really hard – to understand and want that in my life. And maybe it’s just because we’re newlyweds who haven’t gotten to that “rut” stage yet, where a change of pace in the form of a clothes-ruining, eardrum-shattering infant might be welcome, but having babies has no appeal. It never has. I’m afraid (because my husband would like to see himself copied onto a kid) it never will. The whole “it’s different when it’s your own” thing assumes you’re not already anti-kid with a probable lack of reproductive success, who will require medical treatment in order to conceive in the first place, which means no happy accidents that change your life (and perspective on kids) forever.

It’s pretty clear my parents’ divorce impacted our family deeply. This lack of understanding of what it means to be a parent – and how cool it probably is – is just one of those results. I’m sure I’ll explore the others as they come to mind and nag at me. Hopefully this particular one I’ll be able to work through before it’s too late to create a Mini Us.

October 03, 2012 ~ Comments Off

anxiety revealed

Love this post from Jen on EPBOT about anxiety. Here’s an excerpt:

I know this is pretty much the worst pep talk ever, but I think this is something you “just do it!” types need to hear: sometimes pushing someone into “facing their fears” only makes the fear worse. And even if it doesn’t, there’s no guarantee they’ll be any less afraid the next time around. Panic isn’t rational. It doesn’t follow logic or common sense. You can’t reason with it or outsmart it – and that’s probably the hardest part for loved ones of anxiety-sufferers to accept.

Read more here: http://www.epbot.com/2012/09/the-enduring-hope-of-someday.html

October 03, 2012 ~ Comments Off

healthy efforts

This blog is becoming something different now. I have entered a phase (let’s hope a lasting one) in which I am aiming to be healthier in all things. I’d like to keep track of these efforts somehow, and this seems like as suitable a place as any.

A while back, I purchased a LivingSocial deal for a local chiropractor, which included a 30-minute massage, X-rays and a digital nerve scan. Having never heard of that last item, I was intrigued and bought it, figuring – if nothing else – $39 was pretty darn good for a decent massage and a peek at the craziness that is my spine.

I used the deal over the past two weeks (the X-rays and nerve scan came first; the massage was on Monday) and have learned some interesting new information about my back issues. Rewinding to the second half of 2010, when I first saw a chiropractor while living in Knoxville, I was diagnosed with scoliosis, mild sciatica and some pretty bad rotation in my lumbar spine that needed addressing. Over the course of about six months, I had regular adjustments, muscle stimulation, massages and even a little acupuncture, but nothing seemed to help my lower back pain and spasms or my growing hip and leg ache. Fast forward to last week and my learning that, while I do have a curved spine, the main source of my issues is my neck and cervical spine, as well as a tilted pelvis. Now, I’m sure the curve is still an issue, but apparently this doctor sees it as minor in comparison. I suppose I would have to visit a third doctor to triangulate the results, but this doctor seems confident, straightforward and honest, so I’m going to go with his proposed treatment plan for the time being.

One thing the doctor mentioned was that the treatments I received in Knoxville were very much pain related, rather than bio-mechanical, whereas his efforts will be almost solely the latter. While there will be pain lessening as bones get moved and pressure comes off nerves, this is not about a pain Band-Aid – it’s about long-term prevention of disc loss, nerve damage and other debilitating effects from my orthopedic shortcomings.

Another super-fascinating thing the doctor explained was the impact traumatized nerves can have on the body. During the nerve scan, I could see the results come up on the computer monitor. He told me green and white readings were good, red was bad and black was off-the-charts terrible. Surprisingly, I had green and white (Go State!) from my mid-back downward, but red galore and one black up in my neck. (Later, when reviewing the X-rays, it was clear where that black came from – more on that in a bit.) The doctor told me that I was one of the calmest people he’s ever met that’s had this amount of pressure on these particular nerves. Apparently (how did I not know this?) the nerves extending from our spine are attached to our body’s various organs and systems. So, when you apply pressure, traumatize or damage a nerve, it impacts more than just that nerve – it can keep that part of the body from functioning properly. So, if a nerve is tied to your heart, maybe there are issues there. I’m not sure how it affects major organs like that, but when I think about the fact that this could be impacting my mood, my energy levels, my stamina, my metabolism, even my lower intestines – if I can chalk any of my issues up to nerve pinching, they make a hell of a lot more sense!

After the nerve scan came the X-rays, which showed some definite weirdness that I hadn’t seen back in Knoxville. While my lumbar spine (lower back) is curved when it should be straight, my cervical spine (neck) is straight, when it should be curved! Apparently the bones are supposed to be tilted at a 45-degree angle in a normal neck, whereas mine are about 6.5 degrees. This has caused a few things to happen: muscle has built up incredibly thick and bunched behind my shoulders as my body tries to compensate for my neck being basically useless for holding my head up; my head and neck have started leaning forward as a result of the tight muscles and flawed spine; and my ribs have shifted upward in weird ways. The X-rays also showed that my neck was angled sideways (toward the left) and my head has actually corrected for this lean and straightened itself over time. Crazy! The lessons learned here: I will be developing a dowager’s hump very early and I will develop disc issues in my neck if I don’t correct this. The doctor said he hopes to see my cervical spine corrected to 20-25 degrees through adjustments and at-home therapy. That would be pretty amazing!

My lower X-rays showed my pelvis is tilted and my lumbar spine is curved/rotated, but, again, my body has started compensating for these things. The doctor said he could barely tell I had such an intense curve by my posture because of this self-correction, which is nice and all, but it’s little consolation. I think he was just kind of shocked to see the issues when he couldn’t detect them that much externally.

The doctor is recommending 2-3 adjustments per week, occasional massages and a rigorous at-home stretching and exercise routine. He asked me to bring someone with me to my Monday appointment to go over the X-rays in further detail and make someone in my life aware enough to keep me accountable for the work I need to be doing at home. He said it will take about 15 minutes a day, but I feel like that’s an underestimate based on assigned stretches from chiropractors and physical therapists past. But I suppose if you add it to 30-60 minutes of regular exercise a day, that’ll be more than enough.

Since my first appointment, I’ve actually already seen some improvements in the way I feel. As always, I’m in a totally unscientific situation, since we’ve also been getting up earlier, snoozing the alarm fewer times and going to bed a little earlier to compensate for Bryan’s new work schedule, but I have to hope it’s not just those changes or the placebo effect making me feel better. I’ve had three adjustments in total, with another scheduled for this evening, so I hope the relief continues. I’ve still had minor sciatic nerve pain, but not nearly as irritating as usual, and I’ve been sleeping so much better most nights (fewer night terrors). I call that a win!

In other areas of life, I’m also attempting to make healthier choices. It’s such an incredible burden on my mind, to try to eat healthfully, make sure Bryan does the same, get both of us exercising enough, avoid heavily processed foods or ones bearing GMOs and pesticide-laden produce – I feel so stressed about it at times. But the thing is, I don’t blame that stress on myself or those cockamamie hippies telling me organic is better – I blame it on the conventional food trade, the fact that it’s incredibly challenging to get organic food at accessible grocery stores anywhere outside the most prominent major cities, the way I was raised to feel like anything more than $2 is too much to pay for a loaf of bread. I want to feel comfortable paying local farmers what they need to grow and (locally) distribute organic crops. I want to find those crops on my grocery store’s shelves. I don’t want to have to decipher whether something that’s labeled “natural” is really anything more than a GMO in sheep’s clothing. All politics aside, I don’t see organic, unprocessed, unmodified eating as a fad, a power grab or a way to stick it to the people by giving them something of no real value beyond what they were eating before. I don’t believe pesticides should be ingested. I don’t see the value in messing around with the genetics of food, especially without telling people about it. And I hate the idea that so many food producers are out there paying people little to no money to wrench their dirty crops from the fields, ship them thousands of miles to sit in a warehouse for innumerable days, before finally reaching my local store where they’ve already begun rotting. /rant

All that is to say that we’re trying to eat better. There will always be the occasional Lenny’s or Tellini’s run, but I’m hoping to see the frequency decrease to almost nothing over time. I’m looking forward to our local Whole Foods’ move to the neighboring storefront, offering more space and less stress for us to shop organic goods. And I’m determined to actually make it to a local farmer’s market soon to sample some real local fare. I can’t believe we haven’t made it after nearly a year back in Memphis (plus years before our move to Knoxville).

Today, I used fresh-squeezed lemon juice (from an organic lemon) and olive oil to dress my salad. It was the first time in a while eating a salad didn’t make me feel queasy from sub-par dressing choices. Even a little too much lemon juice didn’t make me like it as little as I did those other salads! I hope to continue this trend going forward.

Now I just have to get my exercise on track and maybe I’ll see an even greater boost in energy, concentration and happiness – and that, my friends, would be the best change of them all.

October 13, 2011 ~ 1 Comment

starting over… again

I’m going to be pick up here as if I haven’t been away for… oh, more than a year now.

While you might think anything between last July and now is a pretty major change in the status quo, it’s really just been the past week when major changes started happening. I’m going back to Memphis (with Bryan in tow, of course) to start a job writing and editing for Ducks Unlimited. I’ve been gone from there since the first week of January and, in the time since, I’ve had one six-month fellowship with Scripps’ UX department and started one job with the University of Tennessee.

But in all that, I’ve been dissatisfied with my career path. Sure, there were good parts about everything I did along the way. I enjoyed being able to combine numerous different skills in my previous job at DU. I enjoyed tinkering in Photoshop at Scripps. And I enjoyed getting to experience a bit more of the “proper” way of doing front-end development at UT.

The most recent of those experiences, though, reminded me how much I miss the writing and editing aspects of my previous jobs and of my education. As my dad put it, I’ve always been a writer. (Well, ever since my 7th-grade art teacher told me I wasn’t good enough to copy a certain painting for an assignment, but someone else in class was allowed to. That’s when I realized I’d never be an artist. So I decided to be a writer instead.) I started out a poet and short-story writer in middle school, then moved on to blogging in high school and college. And even though a lot of that writing was about me and my life, people still seemed to enjoy it and identify that as my talent, along with my eagle-eyed wielding of a red pen.

So I’ve decided to leave the world of HTML and CSS mostly behind me (though I think they will be valuable allies when it comes to things like being able to perfect press releases before sending them to the masses or posting things online) and focus on those elements of my personality and skill set that I’ve been neglecting. Finding a position at DU that allows me to do this is truly fortuitous—what better way to get your foot in the door of a new career than with a company that already knows and respects your work? And they do. It’s been said and shown time and time again in a number of different ways. And while it means pulling up shallow roots in Knoxville and moving AGAIN, I can’t bear the thought of missing out on the challenge or continue to slog through work I no longer enjoy or think I’m particularly good at in the grand scheme of things (front-end development).

Change is hard. And it’s going to be hard for a while, especially if new and unexpected things crop up along the way. There are plans to buy our first house in Memphis. We’ll be getting married this fall. His family’s trip to New Jersey happens in June. There’s definitely a lot on the agenda for the next year, so I have a feeling I’m going to need every ounce of energy I can sum up and then some. I just hope it doesn’t break us, our relationship or our spirits. As easygoing a guy as Bryan is, things like moving stress him out, and I don’t want my stress to compound his and create a force outside of our control.

But I’m staying positive. There’s a reason for all this, and, if nothing else, I know I will learn a great many things and enjoy being close to the friends and family we left behind in 2010.