Why I Love My Dog(s)

This story is partly about handling severe anxiety and partly about the unconditional love we humans receive from dogs. Sometimes I think we really don’t deserve them. I’m so glad they don’t agree.


So the other night I was on day two of what turned out to be a three day migraine, and as I laid my head down on my pillow in hopes of plunging quickly into a deep and healing slumber, I plunged instead into a full blown panic attack. Yes, I know how these things work. But I was still sure I was going to die.

Fortunately, I’ve learned in the last couple years that EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), or tapping is something that works well for me, so when I realized my anxiety wasn’t going away on its own, I opened the YouTube app on my iPad and did a quick search. Normally I go straight to Brad Yates’ channel because I’ve used his guided tapping videos for anxiety and panic a few times and they’ve done the trick. But for some reason, this time I decided to browse a little, and I ran across a great video by Megan Buer.

Buer’s video begins with an explanation of what is actually happening in your body when you have a panic attack (very helpful), next goes through a tapping exercise, and then wraps up with the advise to the viewer to get up and walk around, stomp your feet, etc., to help release some of the adrenaline your body has been saving up.

Something in this message clicked and I remembered one of my last sessions with my therapist, where she had wanted me to whack a large floor-cushion with a hollow plastic bat. While I was beating the crap out of the cushion, I was to scream and shout at the cushion as if it were my offender and say all the things that were bottled up inside me: all the reasons I was angry, all the ways I had been hurt. Just let it all out.

While I agreed this would probably be an effective way for releasing anger, I was not willing in that moment to do that exercise in front of my therapist. I don’t lose my shit in front of anyone. Not even my therapist. I may bawl like a baby, but I don’t show anger. I don’t scream and shout. (OK, full disclosure…my kids experienced me losing my shit a few times when we were growing up together. But…)

So I went home and did the therapy on my own. It was the middle of the day and I was sitting in my sacred space whacking a cushion with a plastic stick. And it really did help. So I’ve kept that one in my back pocket for when nothing else is working.

So on this night — as I was mid-panic attack — and after completing the Megan Buer EFT video, I decided it was a good time to beat up a cushion.

I stepped into my meditation room, got myself seated comfortably on the floor, and proceeded to whack the hell out of that cushion! And it was helping.

But then something happened. As the static began to clear from my head, I noticed the familiar sound of the doggy door clicking as one of my babies headed outside. I continued whacking. But then I heard something else.

My babies are both beagles; a male and a female. My female is a barker. Several times throughout each day and evening she will launch herself off our living room couch and dash through the doggy door to shout her warnings to…the person walking down the street…or the dog in the yard next door…squirrel in a tree…whatever. This happens a lot. I’m used to it.

My male, on the other hand, is generally quiet, and only joins in the neighborhood announcements in special circumstances (not sure what defines special, but he is selective about which events get him off the couch). My male — Mr. Boo — was my first adoption and has always been mamma’s sweet, sweet boy. My female, aka Miss Missy Miss, is a bit more independent.

And as I was thwacking that stick against that cushion on that night, I began to realize that the alarm sounding in the back yard was different. It wasn’t my outspoken girl. It was my sweet Boo. And he was not just barking. He was howling.

I stopped to listen more closely. There was not a peep from Miss Missy Miss. I popped my head into the hallway and looked down the stairs. Missy was curled up on the couch, looking up at me, confused.

Suddenly, my problem wasn’t such a big problem anymore. Mr. Boo was worried about his mommy and wanted everyone to know things weren’t OK! My heart sank. I ran down the stairs, and as I hit the bottom step, my sweet boy came around the corner, very tentatively, squinting up at me. He had noticed I was no longer shouting and was coming in to see if I was OK now.

In that moment, I was overcome with something different than anxiety. I bent down to pet my timid little boy and reassure him everything was going to be OK. Mommy had just had a little anger to get out, but she was OK now. I sat down then on the couch and hugged and cuddled each of them. They are not official therapy dogs, but they are my therapy.

IMG_9794
Miss Missy Miss (L), Mr. Boo (R) Not the clearest picture, but it’s the only one I have of them together where they aren’t napping.

 

 

 

 

What Is Wrong With Me?!

This story is a bit of a downer, as it describes my attempt to figure out the cause of a host of physical symptoms that began for me several years ago. Could be interesting if you’re going through something similar. Or you might just want to move on to another post if you’re not interested in this type of story. There are also some resources at the bottom that could be helpful if you’ve having a tough time of it.


For the past several years I have experienced panic attacks on a sort-of regular basis. For the first couple years I thought something critical was going wrong inside my body, but none of my doctors could tell me what it was. I went from doctor to doctor, telling my story of dizziness, lightheadedness, nausea, phantom pains in various parts of my body…in various combinations and at frequencies I could never pin down to an event or meal or…anything. I had landed in the ER multiple times over these unpredictable symptoms, and each time nothing was found. I was not only frustrated, I was becoming embarrassed and ashamed. Why was I feeling this way if nothing was physically wrong? And how was I supposed to make it stop if no one could tell me what it was?

The thing that helped me begin to recognize my symptoms for what they really were was a phone call with my cardiologist. I had visited him a couple times over the years in my search for what was wrong with me, always with the same result: learning that I have a strong, healthy heart. That would be great news for most people, but considering how long I’d been searching for a cause of my ongoing discomfort, I looked forward to just about any diagnosis. Just tell me what it is.

On this particular day I was having an exceptionally difficult time with my symptoms and was my at wit’s end. I decided I needed to see my cardiologist right away. So I called to make an appointment and proceeded to state my case with the nurse for why I needed to see the doctor today. She was not having it. I eventually wore her down and she put the doctor on the phone. After hearing me out, the doctor proceeded to suggest to me, very gently and kindly, that maybe the pain I was feeling in my arm and chest that day was…fibromyalgia-related. Oh.

I was, at once, angry, humiliated, and defeated. I have always found my cardiologist to be very kind and compassionate. And his message to me on this day was delivered in the most kind and compassionate manner. But it still stung.

As I pulled myself together in that gas station parking lot, the reality of my situation slowly sunk in. The symptoms I’d been having were – at least partially – something my mind was making up. While I definitely had physical symptoms, my mind was evaluating them and attempting to categorize them, under the filter of my fear response. My anxious mind was so busy working to solve this puzzle that it twisted the reality of my chronic condition into something critical. As my dear friend D says of herself, I can talk myself into a coma. It’s true.

Over time, my emotional state over this not knowing had progressed from anxiety to panic. Of course I had heard of people having panic attacks, but those things happened to other people. Not me. I wasn’t even convinced they were real. I certainly never dreamed they would be something that I, Miss I’ve got Everything Under Control, would ever face. But here I was.

Somehow, in the aftermath of my reality check, the Universe landed me on the doorsteps of a holistic general medical practitioner. These types of practices are difficult to find, even at this time in our world, but I found one that took my insurance and was even located in my area of the city. The catch with this practice was that they required a $300 annual membership for all patients. The claim was that this allowed them to take more time with each patient. I didn’t care the cost. I wanted someone to take a look at the whole picture. I needed to get to the bottom of why I was having these panic attacks. I needed them to stop.

I was assigned to the PA (Physician’s Assistant), and this turned out to be a good thing. She was fairly young, but not so young that her experience would be in question. She was also extremely compassionate. On my first visit, we talked about my problematic symptoms, my blood sugar wellness (I am a Type 2 diabetic) and my thyroid hormone levels (I had had a thyroidectomy a couple years prior). As we talked through all of this, I couldn’t hold back my tears. I was frustrated and tired. I felt I had tried everything. I cried through the entire visit.

As the visit with the PA came to a close, we reviewed her list of recommended supplements, the list of levels she planned to test from all the blood her tech had drawn earlier in the visit, and…she suggested I make an appointment with the psychotherapist who had a office at the back of their building. I was resistant and a little offended at first, but then thought, What I’ve been doing so far isn’t working, so why not? I went home and called to make an appointment.

At our first meeting, I could see this was something I needed and opted to do weekly sessions until I was through my crisis. What I learned over the next few weeks was that what I had been experiencing was PTSD. Yes, I said it. PTSD was something I had always associated with veterans. I’ve since learned this is something that affects all sorts of people who have experienced all kinds of traumatic events.

I had a traumatic childhood, and had been in therapy multiple times in the past, but I had never gotten to the point of having panic attacks until my latest traumatic event: a romantic breakup. I’ve gone through more romantic breakups in my life than I choose to share at this time, and typically I get through them and move on and I settle into my normal life pretty quickly.

This latest breakup was different. Short story is, he was an alcoholic, which I should have known going in, but chose not to acknowledge the signs. Fast forward to three years later when I make the decision to move out. He handles it reasonably well, but then eight months later we’re back together, then we split again, then together again. It was a crazy train of my own making. More detail about why/how this was all happening will come out in a later post…maybe. Basically, he wanted us to remain friends, but he’s wasn’t capable of being platonic with me. And I clearly have boundary issues.

Fast forward again. It’s 3 1/2 years after the initial breakup, and he’s sitting across from me in my backyard after helping me with yard work (his platonic offer). As we’re talking, he’s suggesting something we can do together. It feels like a date. I can feel my chest restricting. I look him in the eyes and tell him, I need you to let me go. He looks me in the eyes and says, I don’t want to let you go. 

Shortly after that I received another drunken email telling me what a bad person I am. I blocked his number and refused to see him again, but I spent the next year or so wondering if he was lurking somewhere. I was afraid to drive through his part of town in case we might run into one another. He was phoning and emailing my daughters to try to get information about me.

I thought I had been managing the stress of this, but obviously not. I had blocked his phone number so he could no longer text or call me, but I kept his email open because, as I have shared with my friends, I want to keep my finger on the pulse of the crazy.

Once I figured out I was having panic attacks, I tracked my symptoms back to the beginning. My first episode happened at work, shortly after I began planning my exit from the relationship (the first time). I think that’s pretty telling. Imagine how much more stress I was carrying around 3 1/2 years later dealing with the same cycle of behaviors.

The thing that is the most disturbing for me about my eventual diagnosis is that none of my doctors would say the words panic attack to me. I had to put those words out there myself. I’ve since learned that unaddressed anxiety can build up loads of adrenaline in your body and cause panic attacks. A body needs exercise, or meditation, or…therapy…to move that adrenaline out. And panic attacks, by definition, come out of nowhere, and often cause you to feel like you are going to die. Even now, while I understand – intellectually – what is happening, I still sometimes feel like…maybe this is the time it’s real.

Since my discovery I have used therapy, meditation, EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) Tapping, and even exercise to help me through difficult times. Every person’s needs are different, so there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. These things have helped me.

So what is the moral of this story? Listen to your body. Listen to your inner being. When you feel like something is wrong, sit with yourself and  breathe. I know it can be hard to take that step back when you’re in the midst of feeling like your world is upside down and you don’t know why. But breathe for a minute, and then ask for help. Talk to your doctor and be open to the idea of therapy. There are so many things going on in the world today, it’s difficult at times to have a positive attitude each day. So allow yourself the space to feel bad when you need to. But if feeling bad becomes the norm, reach out. If you don’t find the help you need right away, try someone or something else. I’m still working through the emotional baggage I’ve carried around most of my life as well as the new things that are added as I move along. It’s a lifelong journey. I’m working on it.

Below are some resources to consider.

Love and light to you!


Best Meditation Apps of 2018 – I’ve tried a couple. This article gives you a legit review of several.

BetterHelp.com – Convenient, affordable, private online counseling. Anytime, anywhere.

EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) – Tapping is another great tool. I use it and I can honestly say, it works!

The Mental Illness Happy Hour – Great podcast (in my opinion). It’s an interview show where all sorts of emotional issues are discussed. It’s not therapy in the official sense, but I do find that I feel better hearing stories about what some other folks are dealing with. Sometimes it gives me validation, sometimes it helps me see that my life is not so bad.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – If you’re feeling really bad and can’t reach out to someone you know, please give these folks a call. You’re a beautiful person and we want you here.

 

 

DREAM: Living In An Upscale House

I’m living in a house with several people, whom I never see throughout the dream, but I know they’re there. There is a “lady of the house” who makes all the decisions. The house is very nice, and I have a nice sized bedroom, very comfortable. One day I come across a new room that is under construction. The space is huge! I peek in the door. It is just a rough frame at this point, plywood on the floors and cutouts where a stairway will lead into the room. My thought is, “Wow! What a great space!” I spot a claw foot bathtub over in the corner and think, “I’ve always wanted one of those!”

As I’m looking in, another resident behind me tells me the lady of the house is showing it to me first. The implied message is that I will have first dibs on the space once it’s finished.

Later, I come back to the space and see that it is almost finished. As I walk through, I think to myself, “It’s beautiful, but someone else has made all the design decisions. If this is to be my space, shouldn’t I have a say?” At the same time, I’m thinking it’s actually okay with me, because I’m going to get to live in this beautiful space!

I walk to the back of the space where there is a door to the outside, which would be the back of the house. When I open it, I see four or five wooden steps that lead down to the beach. Bonus! My new room has a private exit that leads me directly to the beach! I notice there are several people outside on the dunes and there is a large tent. It’s a party, and I’m a part of it! I live here! I feel a sense of being home.

INTERPRETATION

So I know that a house in a dream represents the inner self. Another relevant tidbit is that I’ve just gotten back into doing some work with a therapist. Yes, I’m seeing a therapist and I’m not afraid to say that out loud! It doesn’t mean I’m crazy. It means I’m smart! I’ve been stuck in some old patterns for a long time and I’m ready to move out of them – they no longer serve me!

So the primary message I’m getting from the dream is that I’m expanding in new and unexpected ways and I’m filling the new space I’m creating with some new “upscale” ideas about belonging and deserving to be recognized, accepted and loved.

Something else to think about…Lately it’s been on my mind how I struggle with the idea of living in an upscale house. With the exception of a couple of apartments I’ve rented over the years, I’ve always lived in fixer-upper types of spaces. I tell myself I don’t “need” all that fancy stuff, but I think deep down inside I believe I’d never be able to afford to live at that level. I’m still carrying around a sense of lack where my financial world is concerned, even though I’ve been doing very well for myself for quite a while. I guess I don’t trust it will continue, so I tell myself I wouldn’t want a brand new home anyway because new homes don’t have much character. And I tell myself that upgrading an older home isn’t in my future either. I’m a renter. My current landlord isn’t going to reno the house I’m in, and I refuse to pay for an upscale rental. So. I’ve got some work to do in this area.

 

DREAM: Trouble Letting Go

A little over a year after moving out of a three year live-in relationship with an alcoholic, I found myself still holding on. Having someone to hang out with who was familiar and — when sober — one of the most caring persons I had ever had a relationship with, was something I found very difficult to let go of.

E and I had always traveled well together and we both loved the beach, so when he invited me to join him on a business-related trip to the beach I was all in. I was sure he wouldn’t over-drink at a business function. He had always been very careful about keeping his drinking and professional lives separate.

While on the trip I had a couple days to myself while E was in sales meetings, so I had plenty of time to think about things. I also had a lot of wild dreams on this trip, as I was evidently struggling with the idea of being back in the relationship I had sworn a little over a year prior that I was leaving for good. Following are two of the dreams and my interpretations of them.

Dream 1:

I was in a relationship with someone new. New guy was in my bed. At the same time, I kept the living, talking head of my Ex on my dresser. It didn’t bother either me or new guy. We cuddled and had sex as though Ex wasn’t there. At some point the head on the dresser began to complain. It felt I was treating it unfairly.

One morning I awoke to find the head in my bed – under the covers – attempting to initiate sex with me. I jumped out of bed, grabbed hold of the opening at the base of its neck and swung hard, attempting to fling it back onto the dresser, but instead whacked the face of it against the front of the dresser. My next attempt was more successful — I returned the head to its place on top of the dresser, lying on one side, facing the bed. (This had been its original position.) It was angry that it had been tossed aside in favor of new guy. I told it to stay put. It answered back that it never strayed from the room…at least usually.

That began me thinking that it could be a threat…to me?…to new guy? I began to imagine this disembodied head bopping down the hallway into other areas of my home — surprise! It felt disturbing to me…something that caused me to worry.

Final note: Head on dresser and new guy appeared to be the same guy.

Interpretation:

The alcoholic version of E is resentful that I’m not willing to accept him – I’m cramping his style. I’m still having a relationship with new E (vegan, fitness fanatic) but old E keeps popping up and I have to keep putting him in his place. This makes him more angry and resentful, and consequently more determined to be disruptive.

Meanwhile, I’m feeling anxiety, knowing I shouldn’t be in this relationship at all, but feeling unable to completely end it. At the core I know it’s not fair to either one of us — to me because I don’t deserve to have drunken behavior disrupt my life; to him because by my participation in this relationship at any level, I’m leading him on.

It became clear to me this weekend that E feels everything between us is fine. He asked me if I’d like to live in FL if he decides to pursue an opportunity presented to him by a sales leader on the trip. My answer to him was, “We don’t live together anymore. You need to make that decision for yourself.” I thought it interesting that I felt no emotion around the idea that he might move away from me. Was it because I didn’t believe he’d do it or am I just that disconnected from the current version of our “relationship”? His moving to FL would result in a clean and final cut…or would it? We “broke up” over a year ago and there I was, traveling with him, having sex with him, and still dealing with his drunken behavior, albeit not as often. By morning E had come up with a reason not to pursue the job.

It’s easier to stay together. The work comes in leaving — drawing the line, which leads to heartache, and going through the process of starting over.

 

Dream 2:

I’m living in a very high end condo/apartment that is housed in a mall-like structure. It’s like there are living quarters, a hair salon, shopping — all in one high-rise complex. I am very happy there — really enjoying my life. But I have the sense that someone — or possibly several someones — aren’t happy for me.

At some point I’m pedaling my bicycle up a hill. I’m on my way to visit possibly an old neighborhood of mine to pick something up. I realize after cresting the hill – which was no easy feat, as there was snow or mud or something equally hazardous on the road – that I was going to need a vehicle, possibly a truck in order to bring back whatever I was going after.

I decided that rather than bike back down the treacherous hill to get my car I would prop the bike against the guardrail there and walk down. I begin walking down the hill toward my condo. Then I wake up.

Interpretation:

There are things I’m doing now — and things I want to do — that someone in my life is envious of. This person is very good at sharing her drama with me when I’m in a place of really enjoying my life. She’s in a bad relationship — which is providing her fulfillment at some level — possibly in acting as victim. I’ve been bad to this point about empathizing and attempting to “fix” her life for her.

She phoned me last evening as I was out with E for dinner. My message to her on that call was “You’re the only one who can make this stop.”

I know now that the best thing I can do for her is let her handle it and just be there for her if she decides to make a move. But I also know she won’t be making any moves any time soon. The irony — and sadness — of the situation is that she is having trouble letting go.

Nashville Vintage Wine Train – It’s a Thing!

Speaking of Nashville and all the reasons I love it, one of the best-kept secret events here is the excursion train, specifically, the vintage wine excursion train! If you haven’t heard of it, you’ll want to check it out, and you’re welcome!

All excursions are boarded from the Tennessee Central Railway Museum near downtown Nashville. The destination for each excursion changes based on theme, for example, the train robbery and murder mystery excursions travel to Watertown and back. The Spring Festival and Fall Foliage trips travel to Monterey. I have had the fortune of enjoying several: train robbery, murder mystery, and my favorite, the wine train!

What many people don’t know is, there are two versions of the wine excursion. The first is included on the published schedule at Tennessee Central Railway Museum‘s site. The second is called Wine on the Rails and is hosted by Muddy Roots Records. To purchase tickets to the Muddy Roots version, you must go to their website.

Both versions of the wine train include riding on a classic streamlined stainless steel passenger train, wine tasting on board and live music at DelMonaco Winery in Baxter, TN. At the winery you may also purchase lunch or an additional wine tasting. You may also enjoy a tour of the winery where you can see where all the magic happens.

In November I first tried the Muddy Roots Vintage Wine excursion, which they call Wine on the Rails. The theme is vintage dress, but dressing the part is not required, so I didn’t. In January I attended the Muddy Roots wine excursion for a second time, and decided to spice things up by dressing up this time. Because the trip was in cold weather, the theme was (vintage) Fancy Coat. I have to say, dressing up made it much more fun!

When you take the Muddy Roots version of the excursion, you will also enjoy live music at the winery, and, depending on your train car, you may also enjoy a private performance on the train! Here is a sampling:

So if you’re looking for a new adventure, give yourself the gift of an excursion – you won’t regret it!

DREAM: Recurring Highway Scene

I had a dream the other night that included a highway scene that was strangely familiar. I don’t remember other parts of the dream, only being on this highway.

There were lots of criss-crosses and ups and downs – kind of like a roller coaster for cars. As I drove along the tangle of roads, I got into a wrong lane, which forced me to exit at the wrong place. The only way to fix it was to circle back around the whole mess so I could get back into the correct lane so that I could take the exit that would take me to my intended destination. This loop I had to take took me miles out of my way and cost me a lot of time. I was frustrated.

The general message I get from this segment of dream is that I am off track and running behind.

When I woke from the dream I thought, That highway scene was familiar. I wonder where it’s from? I searched my brain trying to remember when and where in my past I had seen – and driven – that cluster of highway. Was it Binghamton, NY where I spent my mid-20’s to late 30’s? Definitely not. Was it Harrisburg, PA where I spent my teens and early 20’s? Possibly. It had the appropriate feel for that area of the country, but I couldn’t place it in my mind. I Google-Mapped. Nothing.

As I continued to ponder the origin of this memory, it struck me that this felt more like a recurring dream than a real place. And I believe that to be true. Now that I’ve thought about it even more, I am convinced I have dreamt about this jumble of highway not just once, but multiple times over a period of many years, and even though I don’t remember the remaining details of my recent dream, I get the feeling the other bits and pieces of the other dreams were much different. Not because I remember them, but because it feels that way. I am guessing this scene has played in my dreams at least three times, and the first two times were long ago – maybe 10 to 15 years.

What an interesting phenomenon, not just that my mind created this highway system once, but that it has reused that dream segment several times over many years! This is the stuff of…dreams. (Ha!) The mysterious bits and pieces…video clips that are strung together in seemingly random ways that sometimes provide insight into our subconscious – and sometimes just confuse!

Have you had recurring dreams over the years? Have you had scenes replay over a period of years? Do you gain insight from your dreams? I’d love to hear your stories!

DREAM: Nobody Cares What I Want

A few months ago I had a dream that rattled me a bit. It took me a while to get over it and feel comfortable posting it. Here it is:

I was at a house where I was going to meet my sisters and my mother. We were apparently going to vacation together. I had gotten there a day or so ahead of everyone, so I settled into one of the rooms. In this room there was a soaker tub, which is one of my favorite things. (Odd that it was inside a bedroom, but…)

I had gone out on the day that everyone else arrived, and when I came back, I went back to the room I had been using and found that the tub had been moved to another wall in the room and where it had been there was a shower with a very shallow tub.

“You moved the tub?” I said to Mother, incredulously.

“Yes,” she said. “I wanted a shower.”

“Is the tub even connected?”

“No. We don’t need it.”

I cry in wracking sobs! It feels like my insides have been turned inside out. Why doesn’t anyone care what I want?

I know I have to get out of there and be alone for a while. I leave and find myself driving along a street where I am swept into a set of driving tracks much like those on an automatic car wash. There is water rushing through the street. At first I am scared about my car being dragged along in all this water, but then realize it is a sort of amusement park ride. Next thing I know my car is being pulled up a ramp and I’m having a blast riding along and watching the attractions as I pass them by.

Now I’m back at the house, standing in my room. I notice my dressing table is gone. I look around and find it smashed. I address my mother again. “Why did you do this?” She shrugs and smirks, as if to say, “Because I wanted to, so what?”

Once again, I’m feeling heartbroken that nobody seems to care what I want.

INTERPRETATION

What immediately comes to mind is that I’m going through a transition where I am leaving a job I have held for 5 plus years where I built a lot of structure around documentation and process and I  know that when I walk out the door there’s a good chance some – or maybe much – of the work I’ve done will be tossed aside for something better. Of course this sort of thing happens all the time, but I’ve also been struggling lately with the feeling that my team doesn’t appreciate the work I’ve done. We always joke that this type of work is thankless, but to me it’s important, and it’s difficult to accept that others don’t feel that way.

Regarding my going off on my own and having a blast, I am leaving my job to do more artistic work, which I know I will enjoy immensely.

My mother being the antagonist in this dream is fitting. The other parallel to my life is my mother not being concerned about my feelings, and even taunting me with that sentiment at times. A particular scene comes to mind where I had traded something from my school lunchbox for a chocolate Jello pudding cup, something Mother never bought. I was so excited to have successfully negotiated the trade that I saved the pudding so I could savor it after school. Shortly after I returned home, I happened to be passing Mother’s bedroom and caught sight of her eating something in a familiar looking plastic cup. I stopped, aghast, and demanded, “Where did you get that?” “From your lunchbox,” she said, as she joyfully licked the spoon. I stood, frozen, knowing there was nothing I could say or do that would benefit me. Crestfallen, I turned and walked away.

Have you had experiences where you felt unappreciated and uncared for on the job or at home? Did it come up for you in a dream?

Why I Love Nashville (Tennessee, that is!)

There are so many reasons why I love Nashville, but the one that comes to mind today is the accessibility and availability of great talent just hanging out around town and walking the streets just like us regular folks. There are no paparazzi, no autograph hounds.

The general population are generally respectful of the privacy and personal space of the celebrity population here. And because of that, it is likely that at some point you might just bump up against one in your daily travels and possibly even have a nice little chat with them.

Case in point: Since I moved to Nashville in 2001, I have watched as Little Richard was escorted from his penthouse suite at the Nashville Hilton to his tour bus, spied Ray Liotta making a purchase at the Tennessee Craft Fair at Centennial Park, walked past Kid Rock as he exited J Alexander’s Restaurant, had lunch with Kenny Chesney at Chipotle (okay, he was seated at the table behind me, all by himself, but I still count that) and…this happened:

At last year’s Oktoberfest, I had a craft booth for my Melody Erickson Designs business. I was selling jewelry, which included some pieces using guitar picks. Late one night, a couple stopped in, browsed, and decided to make a purchase. As I was packaging their items, the gentleman said, “I see you make necklaces with guitar picks.” He tossed a pick onto the counter in front of me and said, “I’m Dennis Dunaway, the bassist for Alice Cooper. I wrote a book called Snakes! Guillotines! Electric Chairs!, and I had these guitar picks made to promote it.” (So cool, right?)

We finished up and Dennis and his wife headed out to the street. A few seconds later, Dennis returned and said, “I see you make earrings. Here’s another pick so you can do that.”

I thanked him again, and he once again left my booth, but then turned around and came back a second time! This time he said, “I see you make earrings and necklaces. Here’s another pick so you can have a set.”

He then left for good, and I turned to my booth partner and said, “How cool was that!?”

And so, this morning, four months after-the-fact, I stepped into my art studio and saw those guitar picks, still waiting for inspiration. And it showed up. Today I am happy to report that I am the proud owner of this one-of-a-kind set! Thank you, Dennis!

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Yes, Nashville is way cool! I’m glad to be part of it!

My New Breville Juicer

My doctor recommended a juice cleanse. This was in response to my complaints of no energy and feeling generally bad. I’ve juiced off and on for years, but not recently. I’ve never done a cleanse.

I bought juice from Coco Greens to get me started. Coco’s does a three day, re-packaged, cold-pressed juice cleanse. You go into their store and they’ve got all the juices you need in a thermal bag sitting in their fridge waiting for you. They also offer a soup cleanse. And you can purchase juices and soups a la cart if you prefer. They didn’t have any thermals ready when I got there so I bought a selection of juices and soups. Even though the soups are also very much like juices, I felt like I was “eating” a meal when I heated up some soup instead of drinking a cold juice.

At first it was easy, then it wasn’t. But once I got past day three, I began to feel better. I decided to continue – not 100% juices, but at least one juice a day. I loaded my fridge with produce. Then my JuiceMan burnt out. It was a Friday morning. I had just starting making my morning juice and it pooped out in the middle of the kale. Nuts.

Not to be discouraged, I Googled “Best Juicers” and found a site that rated the Breville JE98XL Juice Fountain Plus as “Best Bang for your Buck.” Next stop – Amazon.com! I have Amazon Prime which gets me free shipping, and due to a new delivery option, my brand new Breville arrived at my door at 10:00 a.m. Sunday morning! Life is good!

Today was my first chance to use my new juicer. I had purchased a bunch of veggies for juicing prior to the burnout, and while waiting for delivery of the Breville I had a gallon growler filled at the I Love Juice Bar to carry me through. So…by the time I got to juicing, my produce had been in the fridge five days – it had to be used. Instead of looking up recipes, I decided to juice all the produce I had on hand in one big batch.

Turns out, I like juicing a larger quantity. I’ve always juiced a single serving at a time, believing that the nutrients are best when fresh. But…juicing a single serving takes almost as much time as juicing a larger batch, and I’m more likely to drink juice if it’s handy.

What you’ll see below is apple, carrot, spinach, kale, romaine, beet, cucumber, lemon, grapefruit and ginger. I like to go heavy on the ginger because I like the taste.

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I had enough produce to fill the pitcher twice. I did the kale, romaine, beets, a cucumber and a couple apples in the first pitcher, when poured it into a gallon jug. I finished up with the remaining produce.

As stubborn I was about getting started on this, I have no desire to go back to eating three solid meals each day. I have much more energy now, my mood is better and I am no longer suffering from fatigue. Have I lost weight? Um, no. But that’s fine as long as I feel better.

I ended up with about 1/3 of a gallon of juice, which will last me through my mid-morning juice tomorrow.

The aftermath: It does make for a lot of dishes – another argument for juicing a larger batch!

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I really like my new Breville juicer! It’s much quieter than the Juiceman, and it is built for bigger batches. It has a larger feed tube, so I was able to put the apples in whole (they were small). I followed the user’s guide suggestion to line the pulp container with a plastic bag. What I didn’t do – and should have – was check the pulp container for fullness after filling the pitcher the first time. When I was all done and took the machine apart to clean it, the pulp had backed up in the chute and there was a big ball of it remaining in the filter cup. Lesson learned!

I’ve been at this a few weeks now, and while I no longer have cravings, I kind of miss them! But – feeling good is so much better than having a craving for something that will make me feel bad! The plan I’ve been following is:

  • Before Breakfast: Large glass of water with the juice of one lemon (I sometimes add Stevia to make it less tart.)
  • Breakfast: 16 oz juice
  • Mid-Morning: 16 oz juice
  • Lunch: 16 oz juice or salad
  • Afternoon: 16 oz juice
  • Dinner: Soup or salad
  • I also drink LOTS of water throughout the day
  • Additional Snacks/Refreshments: Pumpkin Seeds, Various Nuts, Hot Tea, Coffee

I am not going to label myself a vegan or even vegetarian, but I am having good results on this plan. And while I plan to continue eating this way into the foreseeable future, I’m sure there will still be a juicy burger or some chicken wings happening on occasion!

Final Thoughts on My South Pacific Adventure

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Gosh! What a crazy, scary, EMPOWERING trip! At a time when I was feeling broken, I made a drastic change in my life, and “launched” that change by hopping a ship to Fiji!

In the year or so leading up to this trip I had been feeling less than inspired at work. I had worked for five years for a really great company and was doing work I loved, but somehow it wasn’t satisfying anymore. I was having trouble getting up in the mornings and I would return home each night physically and emotionally drained. I had also been struggling with some physical symptoms that had me wondering if I would ever feel good again. I knew I was in need of a change in my life, but wasn’t sure what that would look like. Making the decision to do this trip was the first step.

Going through the exercise of planning the trip helped me begin to look forward to things again. As scary as it would be, I knew I needed to quit my job. I had been thinking about making a change anyway, and to do the trip right I was going to need to take much more time off than I had left in my PTO bank. I also didn’t want to feel the pressure of “what I’m coming back to” at the end of the trip.

One thing leading to another, I decided that since I would be leaving my job anyway, I’d give myself a year to do whatever I needed to do to feel better. I didn’t know for sure what was causing my physical symptoms, I only knew I needed to fix them. But that wasn’t all. Feeling tired and unwell all the time meant I wasn’t spending time with my two loves, art and writing. I decided I would go on my trip, and then I would spend the rest of my “year off” creating art and writing.

Even many of my closest friends don’t know this, but writing has always been my first love. I haven’t shared that a lot because of old tapes in my head that tell me “you can’t make a living as a writer,” and “well, I hope it’s at least cathartic” (i.e., nobody would want to read your dribble). Rubbish! I’ve been sitting on a draft of my memoir for more than ten years. Time to dust it off!

The story I told on my way out of  my job was that I was leaving to pursue my art. I told that story because I felt it would be more readily accepted than, “I’m going to write.” To most people, that would not compute. “How will you pay your bills?” sigh. Well, now I’m saying it. I’m going to write!

Back to the trip…

While traveling on my own in a foreign country did cause some additional stress, it also forced me to think about things in different ways. It broke my patterns. I couldn’t run to my safe place and hide. I had to find my way around. I spent 24 days figuring things out for myself and making decisions for myself without consideration for someone else. I tried new things. I started conversations with people I didn’t know. I began to feel less anxious and more powerful!

Okay, I’ll be honest. While on the ship, there were times I would seek out the safety of my cabin, but mostly I was out experiencing. I slathered my body with mud in Fiji. I danced on the pool deck. I made friends with a wonderful Ukrainian couple from Melbourne. I watched a glass blowing demonstration and had wine and cheese on the upper deck. I donated money to the casino. I sat at the stern of the ship after dark watching as the foamy tail of our departure reached back to meet the reflection of an invisible moon.

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Now, two months later, my trip is a surreal memory. Admittedly, some of the euphoria has worn off as real life takes over again, but I am finding the energy to do the deep work of fixing myself. Through working with a therapist, I have discovered that most of my physical symptoms were stress related. Turns out I have some grieving to do.

These days, I do spend time on my art, but I spend equal amounts of time meditating and writing. Rather than pushing myself into a specific direction, I’m listening to my body and going where my heart leads me.

So…I’ll continue to “do what I do” for the next few months and see where I end up. I would love to continue writing and creating art as my primary activities indefinitely, but if I must go back to working for someone else, I know I’ll be better prepared to handle the ups and downs that go with it.

This trip has helped to set me on a course of self-discovery and healing. And so, as I wrap up “the story of my trip” I raise my glass to toast my new life, whatever it turns out to be!

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