Oooh, 2019.

2019. Jeez oh man. I realize that the way us humans divide time doesn’t really mean anything, and if you’re having a bad year, the year ending certainly doesn’t mean you actually get to start fresh, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t happy to…well, start fresh.

I’m sure I’m being a bit melodramatic, but 2019 was the worst year I can remember in a long time. I’ve said many times before that at least since moving to Delaware, each year has been better than the last, and that’s been true…until 2019. This last year was a real stinker.

A quick note – I’m writing this strictly for my own records, as kind of a year-end journaling activity. The state of the world is by no means lost on me – things are scary, bleak, and incredibly upsetting. That said, I’m only focusing on my own little world here – but I do not in any way intend to imply that my problems even come close to the problems the world is facing as a whole.

I know it’s not fair to claim that the ENTIRE YEAR was bad. There were plenty of good – no, great – moments. We went on an amazing cruise! I finally got a new job – the position I’d considered to be “my dream job” for several years! I got to visit my family multiple times, and stayed in a gorgeous new hotel on the lake each time! We learned A LOT. There was plenty of good folded in to what felt like a heavy, stressful bummer of a year.

It started in January – I had been told towards the end of 2018 that a new position was being created for me at work. This was a long time coming – I had been kind of stagnant in my role for at least a couple of years, and had been told multiple times by multiple people that I was working above my level, but was essentially told to sit tight because “something good was coming.” So I sat tight, was told point blank that I was being given a new role that was being created specifically for me…and then that role was given to someone else. So that was disappointing. I was told that it had nothing to do with me and was all due to office politics, but this started a several month cycle of roles (mostly ones that I didn’t really want, if I’m being honest) being dangled in front of me, and then snatched away. When I’d ask for feedback for what I could do better to succeed in the future, I was given nothing but positive lip-service, and claims that my rejection had nothing to do with me.

Finally, around springtime, a role that I had applied for in the summer of 2018 and hadn’t gotten opened up again, and the hiring manager sought me out to tell me it was more or less mine if I wanted it. This was amazing news – this role was in Marketing, where I had wanted to move for years, so I jumped at the opportunity. And it’s an amazing gig with even more amazing flexibility. The people I work with are great, leadership is great, there’s tons of room for advancement, and I’m learning so, so much. But it’s also a VERY STRESSFUL ROLE, particularly the specific project I’m working on (it’s a longterm project, with no end in sight), and I’ve been experiencing crushing imposter syndrome since I’ve started. My accomplishments feel amazing, but are almost immediately followed by various setbacks – some avoidable, some not. Training was very minimal, and I have zero experience. I constantly feel like I’m on the precipice of failing. I’m hoping this will get better over time, but I’m living in an almost constant state of panic. So that’s the career-related part of what made 2019 rough.

On to the various…I was going to say disasters, but that’s definitely melodramatic. Let’s just say “incidents.” In February (Valentine’s day, actually), right smack in the middle of my rejection cycle at work, I had a very scary warning light come on in my car. It was one of those bright red “GO TO THE DEALERSHIP IMMEDIATELY DO NOT PASS GO DO NOT COLLECT $200” lights. So I go to the dealership, and they don’t know what’s wrong. Of course I drive a VW, and of course it’s the dealership, so of course they need to run multiple diagnostic tests and order parts that my car may or may not need, which cost a fortune. I have absolutely no doubt that they did their best – I don’t feel like I was bamboozled or that they were being shady in order to charge me more – but after just under $1K in tests and unnecessary parts (most of the bill was for tests, which is bonkers), they discovered that the only issue was that, during my last oil change, an off-brand oil filter had been used, and it was all mangled up and needed replaced. I JUST NEEDED AN OIL CHANGE.  Now, in the grand scheme of things, ~$1K isn’t that big of a deal, and it’s not lost on me how fortunate I am to be able to say that. However, I was already not in a great mental place at the time, so I had a bit of a breakdown (especially during the time where I didn’t know what was wrong, and was picturing a $10K repair or something).

So then, the house. Our downstairs toilet had had a relatively minor leak for a while – the floor would often be wet, but it was nothing that felt like an emergency. Sometime during the year (probably around March), it had started to get worse, so we decided to take action. I don’t remember the order of events, but long story short, we found out that there was massive damage to our floors including a buttload of mold, and when we had an insurance adjuster come out, he (very regretfully – seriously, I thought the guy was going to cry) told us that ZERO PERCENT of the damage was covered by insurance, because it was “slow damage.” Basically, we suck at life and should’ve fixed it right away, but because we didn’t, we were now solely responsible for what would probably end up ACTUALLY being $10K in repairs. The mold ended up not being toxic THANK GOD, and we were able to stop the spread of it using industrial fans and dehumidifiers for several weeks, but we ended up needing to replace the toilet (which wasn’t a big deal, it needed to be replaced anyway), and will need to completely rip out and replace that bathroom’s floor at some point before we sell the house. So that wasn’t great, AND it was 100% our own fault, which felt very shitty. I guess at least it was a learning experience.

And then there was the OTHER water leak. I’m still not totally clear on how this happened, but in I think February, our water bill was $500. It’s normally like $30. I alerted Jeff, and we found out that our outdoor faucet had been running since…I don’t know, a long time. We think that the lines had frozen at some point during the winter, but then we had a warm snap and they unfroze, causing a huge leak. This was easily fixed by turning the water off, but it ended up costing us two months of $500 water bills. Another financial loss caused by being big stupid idiot home owners.

I realize that everything so far (other than my career stuff) has relatively minor financial setbacks caused by our own stupidity, and that our privilege is glaringly obvious in that we were able to deal with all of this stuff without issue. And that’s totally valid, but that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t stressful to deal with, and it felt like issue after issue after issue. Just please know that I do recognize how fortunate I am, and I definitely realize that so many people have it so much worse.

Anyway, moving on to what was actually the worst part of what was already an exhausting year…poor Jeffrey’s health. Around mid-year, Jeff decided to follow up on a few (what he thought were) minor health issues (as a sidebar, this is the exact reason I’m terrified of going to the doctor – you go in for something you think isn’t a big deal, and pandora’s box opens and suddenly you’re on death’s door. Not that Jeff is or was on death’s door, and I know this is an idiotic fear…moving on). So Jeff goes to his GP for what was initially ongoing stomach issues – he’s had various gastrointestinal issues since I’ve met him, and they’ve never been able to figure out what’s wrong. And that part didn’t change – after exhaustive testing (including two endoscopies, and various ultrasounds and CT scans), they still haven’t found anything wrong with him, but he’s continued to have symptoms (mostly bloating/discomfort) on and off for over 10 years. He was on Accutane as a teenager, and I blame that.

So he had to have a ton of tests done on his stomach which was unpleasant and stressful (mostly to me, being the basket case that I am), but on that first appointment, he also casually mentioned to his GP that his hip had kinda been hurting for a couple weeks. Now, we were almost 100% convinced that this was due to his sleeping situation – we had switched out our mattress with the guest room’s crappy memory foam mattress over a year ago (don’t ask me why). Also, our bed had broken several months prior and we couldn’t be bothered to buy a new one, so we had jankily fixed it, and it had been crooked/sagging in the center since it had broken. His GP agreed that it was likely due to poor sleeping conditions, but ordered a x-ray just to be safe. In the meantime, we also finally replaced our bed.

So then the x-ray came back (by this time, it was mid-summerish and his hip hadn’t stopped hurting despite the new bed), and the results were more or less “you’re probably fine, but there’s a tiny chance you could have this condition called avascular necrosis (or AVN), so we’re sending you for an MRI.”

So he gets the MRI, and low and behold…he does, in fact, have AVN. AVN is a rare condition in which the blood flow to the hip is cut off, causing the bone to die. It causes pain that progresses with varying speed which causes mobility problems, and can eventually lead to your leg completely giving out, potentially causing your femur to break. They don’t know what causes it, and there’s no cure – it eventually requires a full hip replacement. He was diagnosed with this condition in both hips, and they initially tried to wait it out (he was told to use crutches for a few months, and when that didn’t help they recommended him to take it easy to see if his inflammation reduced), but his pain got worse instead of better, and he decided to have his right hip replaced before the end of the year (his left hip is still holding strong for now, fingers crossed).

So, on top of everything else that had already occurred/was already occurring, this whole ordeal with Jeff’s hip was, of course, extremely upsetting. He felt awful because he felt broken – he couldn’t walk long distances, and when he did walk, he had a severe limp. I just wanted him to feel better, but was also terrified about the surgery – even though his surgeon is extremely talented and did a lot to assuage our fears, it’s major surgery and that’s scary. But the surgery went perfectly, and now, almost exactly a month post-op, Jeff is well on his way to complete recovery. He’s still limping, but he doesn’t even need a cane anymore – the recovery time has been shockingly quick. Of course, this also cost thousands of dollars…by fitting the surgery in before the end of the year, the cost was much less than it would’ve been otherwise (due to the ridiculous amount of tests/scans he had throughout the year, Jeff ended up hitting his out of pocket max), but all in all it ended up being a pretty expensive year. Of course it was all worth it to have Jeff healthy and confident there’s nothing lurking below the surface.

So! 2019 was a year. Although I know the idea is in and of itself pretty dumb, I’m still confident that 2020 will be better. I’m doing everything I can to lessen my stress at work (although if I’m being completely honest, I think a lot of that is unavoidable), and I’m planning on starting therapy to manage the stress I do have better. Jeff is, fingers crossed, healthy, and the surgery is behind us. (Although there’s still another one at an unknown point in the future…but hopefully it won’t be this year. And even so, at least we know what to expect now.)

I do have a few minor resolutions: although I’ve tried and failed before, I want to regulate my sleep schedule and start waking up earlier. I’d like to go to bed and wake up at a relatively similar time throughout the whole week including weekends, give or take an hour or so at night and a half hour in the morning. This is the year I’ll make it happen! I’d like to reduce impulse purchases, and spend more money on experiences and less on things. And, on a related note, I’d like to learn to stress less about money. We’re comfortable and extremely fortunate to earn what we do, and I stress way more than is necessary about the amount of money we have or do not have in the bank. We have enough to cover emergencies and are regularly saving, so I want to worry less about the state of our finances, give back more, and be less materialistic. Having grown up without a lot of money I struggle with scarcity mindset, and I’d like to try to correct that way of thinking.

That’s about all I have to say for now – I write these (particularly this year’s post) not to dwell on the negatives of the year (or brag about the positives), but so that I’ll be able to look back and remember (and laugh!) I’m excited to see what 2020 holds!

 

 

Funny Story…

So, about that last post. It’s all true, and still valid, but…I just found something out that slightly alters my perspective.

A big part of my personal experience with depression is fatigue. When I’m going through a bout of depression, I get super lethargic and succumb to what I call “depression naps.” Recently, I’ve been feeling EXTRA lethargic, and even if it doesn’t start out feeling like depression (and it just feels like I’m extra beat for whatever reason), once I lay down I end up feeling depressed almost no matter what. My body has learned to associate daytime sleeping/excessive rest with being depressed.

I was actually starting to get a little concerned, because the severity of my sleepiness was starting to feel abnormal. I consistently get plenty of sleep at night, but no matter how well I had slept the previous night, it was starting to feel like almost every day, I was getting hit out of nowhere with this intense wave of sleepiness (plus, depression fatigue doesn’t feel exactly the same as actually feeling sleepy to me). So of course, my hypochondriac brain immediately goes to “there must be something wrong with me.” Was it mono? My thyroid? CANCER?!!!!

It all came to a head the other day – I was visiting my parents in my hometown, and we went to check out this huge comedy museum that recently opened. It was the middle of the day, I had slept wonderfully in my hotel room the night before and had slept in a bit (but had gone to sleep pretty late, so I ended up getting my average amount of sleep – around 8 hours), and the Comedy Center was super interesting, but all of a sudden I felt like I had to sit down and could barely concentrate on the exhibit I was looking at. I started to get freaked out – there was no explanation for my being SO fatigued in the middle of the day. I had just eaten lunch, so I shouldn’t be hungry – what was going on??? The fatigue passed relatively quickly, but I was shaken.

Fast forward to today. I noticed my eyes getting a little itchy, and realized it had been about 24 hours since I had taken my daily Claritin. For some reason, my bottle of pills was sitting on the dining room table where Jeff had been playing puzzle (his favorite hobby), so he observed me downing my meds. “You know that’s gonna make you sleepy, right -” he said, “it’s Benadryl.”

Confused, I squinted at him. “Huh? Nuh-uh, it’s Claritin.”

“Uh…no, I think the ZYRTEC is in the bathroom. I’m pretty sure that’s Benadryl.”

I looked down at the bottle in my hands, befuddled. Sure enough – it was generic, store-brand Benadryl. I’VE BEEN TAKING BENADRYL EVERY SINGLE DAY FOR THE PAST…I don’t know, at least 3 months. We typically have a variety of allergy pills in the house – I generally prefer Claritin and Jeff prefers Zyrtec, but I can take either of the two interchangeably – they’re both non-drowsy, so we typically just buy whatever’s on sale. But Jeff gets terrible seasonal allergies, so he usually supplements with Benadryl. I’m extremely sensitive to Benadryl (or any other medicine that causes drowsiness), so I avoid it like the plague unless I have some sort of emergency (like last year when I had an allergic reaction to my new moisturizer and my face swelled up like a beach ball). I had unwittingly run out of my normal allergy medicine, and had been taking this off-brand Benadryl exclusively ever since.

I don’t know why I thought this particular bottle was loratadine, but everything suddenly clicked into place. I had also been hit with a wave of sleepiness the previous day driving home from New York, and I realized it had hit me about 30-40 minutes after taking my allergy pill. I begun to think about my daily sleepiness over the past few months, and realized that indeed, I’ve been getting sleepy shortly after taking my daily “Claritin.” The thought that the two could be related didn’t even cross my mind.

SO! I’m an idiot. I feel a lot better though, knowing that what I thought was weirdly severe depression (or cancer) was actually just a side-effect of taking freaking BENADRYL every day. It doesn’t change the fact that I’ve been depressed recently and I need to make some changes, but man oh man…I guess the moral of the story is, read the bottle before taking a mystery pill every day for three months.

Oof.

Emo City

BOO! It’s the ghost of blogger Jessi, coming to haunt you.

Clearly, I don’t blog anymore. Blogging’s not really a “thing” anymore, is it? I mean, it’s still a “thing,” but it’s changed into something else – influencing and sponsorship and whatnot. Not really my jam.

Anyhoo, I’ve hit a stubborn bout of depression recently, and writing always helps me to feel better, so…I figured I’d write a little bit. Plus, as I’m painfully reminded TWICE a year (I still own two URLs), I’m still paying for this little corner of the web. What happens if I stop paying? Does my blog disappear, or does it just revert to the basic WordPress format? I’m not sure, and apparently don’t care enough to find out.

Nothing is catastrophically wrong, though I’d be remiss to say this year hasn’t been a bit of a shitshow in the Raum household. Originally I wrote out everything that’s gone wrong this year, but I deleted it – that’s not what I meant this post to be. Do know that everything is fine with our relationship, no one has any life-threatening illnesses, and everything is fine with our jobs (actually, mine is better than ever, after a lot of frustration earlier in the year). Just a lot of minor/moderate issues added up.

ANYWAY. One of the most frustrating things about the depression I’ve struggled with on and off for my entire adult life is that even if things were going perfectly, I’d likely still be depressed right now. I’m sure that everything that’s been going on this year doesn’t help, but I’m pretty confident that my depression has more to do with hormones than with external issues.

I think that when I get depressed, it’s usually a perfect storm/vicious cycle situation. While I admit I should definitely talk to my doctor about potential medication, I know that the biggest determining factor of my mental state is how active or inactive I am at any given time, and I’ve been extremely inactive for the last few months. Add that to what’s already been an anxiety-ridden year (my anxiety levels are definitely tied to depression), and you’ve got a big old batch of depression brewing. And even though I KNOW that exercise will make me feel a million times better, it’s extremely difficult to motivate during a bout of depression. All I want to do is lay down and sleep, which makes me feel WAY MORE depressed and crappy, but sometimes it’s all I can do.

Here’s what always happens: I’ll be feeling good, being active 5-6 days every week, and being productive. Then I’ll go on vacation, or get sick (or both), and my routine will be broken. I’ll still be feeling good though, so I’ll tell myself that I can “take a break” and relax, and I end up enjoying being able to sleep later or veg out on the weekends, so I get out of the habit of moving my body consistently. And then it’s super hot out, or super cold out (these depressive bouts almost always happen in the dead of summer or the dead of winter – I can’t remember a time I’ve been depressed in the fall or spring, or during the holidays), and I just don’t FEEL like being active. Eventually, those happy relaxed feelings turn into boredom, and I start feeling guilty for not being productive (not necessarily physically, but for not doing more around the house, etc.) And then, before I have the chance to course correct, those feelings turn into depression and it’s next to impossible to pull myself out. I never get to the point where I have suicidal thoughts or anything like that – I still know, intellectually, that I love living and that there are SO MANY things that make me happy and that I’ll eventually snap out of it, but depression for me is very physical and it’s hard for me to rally.

It’s so frustrating to know this about myself, and still fall into this cycle. I HATE feeling depressed. It’s such a frustrating, maddening feeling. And I know it’s likely medication would help, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about the side effects of said medication. Since I know how drastically exercise improves the way I feel, I tell myself that I can avoid medication by just maintaining my physical activity, but I NEVER DO. On top of everything, I feel guilty for being depressed “for no reason” – I know how lucky I am to live the life I do, and although I know I shouldn’t feel this way, I feel guilty for feeling crappy. I feel bad for Jeff who 100% supports me and gives me all the slack in the world, but I know he doesn’t fully understand.

Here’s another thing: I’m SO lonely. I have Jeff, and I’m so lucky I do, but I have very little social interaction outside of him. It’s mostly self-inflicted, and another vicious cycle: my social anxiety has gotten so bad that I rarely enjoy socializing, but the less social I am, the worse it gets, and the more awkward I feel around people. Aside from that, I’m one of the only people my age I know without children, so I feel like I don’t have much in common with the people I consider friends anymore. I don’t feel like I have a lot to add to the conversation. I constantly feel left out. I kind of feel like I’m back in middle school.

I realized the other day that it’s been exactly 7 years since I felt this bad. In the summer of 2012, I went through a terrible bout of depression that almost caused me to ruin my relationship – I didn’t know myself as well then, and blamed the way I was feeling on Jeff (when in reality, it had NOTHING to do with him). Luckily, he’s an angel from heaven and was INSANELY patient with me, but it was a bad summer. Anyway, after realizing that, I did some research and found out that there are all these theories that you go through a major period of change every 7 years. I don’t know how much I buy into all of these theories, but it also hit me that 7 years before THAT, I had had ANOTHER awful year (but to be fair, it was almost entirely caused by my sociopath ex – although it could be argued that had I known myself better, I wouldn’t have put up with it)…I don’t know, it just seems like a pretty large coincidence.

All this to say: I know I’ll come out on the other side eventually, probably soon. I do feel somehow that this is cyclical, and that I’m feeling some kind of inner growing pains. But there are things I need to do to pull myself out of this, and moving my body is the first step.

My depression is drastically worse on the weekends (actually, it really mostly only exists on the weekends – I feel fine during the week, which is depressing in and of itself), and so I’ve decided that the key is to get myself out of the house, FIRST THING on Saturday morning. I’m seriously considering doing a morning fitness class every Saturday since that would kill two birds with one stone, but I know that’s easier said than done as long as I’m still depressed, so right now I’m just going to commit to getting out – whether that means finding a farmer’s market or going for a long walk, I just need to get myself out of the house. I’ve been hesitant to do this because historically, weekend mornings at home have been my favorite part of the week, but my routine just isn’t doing it for me anymore and I think it’s adding to my depression.

On a related note, I need to wake up earlier on the weekends – I’ve been sleeping in until 10:30 for a LONG time now. No judgment to anyone who happily sleeps in – if sleeping late made me happy, I wouldn’t have a problem with it. However, sleeping in DOES NOT make me happy – I’m happiest when I’m waking up early, and I haven’t consistently woken up early in probably 4 years. So, I’m going start going to the gym before work again – I don’t start work super early, so that makes it harder to wake up early when I DON’T work, but if I’m consistently getting up early to go to the gym, it’ll be easier to get into the routine. Logistically I won’t be able to do this for a few weeks, but I’m committing to it.

I guess that’s it – just getting my thoughts written out helps a lot. I’m pretty sure no one will see this, and if you happen to, I’m sorry for the super emo post – I wasn’t really intending to share with anyone, but hopefully if someone does see this and feels the same way, you won’t feel so alone. Cheers to autumn approaching (that always makes me feel happier), and to a better 2020!

 

2018 Recap/Thoughts

I’m sure it’s just hormones (or something along those lines), but I’m feeling very emotional…I’m having a particularly difficult time letting the holiday season go this year. It could also be due to the fact that Christmas was so different for the first time in ten (!!) years – instead of traveling to see my family, we hosted Christmas. Don’t get me wrong: it was lovely, and I look forward to continuing this tradition (and making new ones!) for years to come…but, as with any new tradition, it felt different, and the end of the year really seemed to sneak up on me. Plus, for whatever reason, this is the first year my holiday decor hasn’t felt like a hodgepodge mess, and I’m going to be really sad to take it all down.

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Anyway…moving forward! 2018 wasn’t incredibly monumental for my little family, but at the same time, it feels like things took a shift in the overall sense. We decided to officially begin trying to start a family (which doesn’t feel like a major step since we’ve been discussing it for so long, but in actuality is, of course, HUGE). We took a look at our finances, and made headway in saving more and leaning on credit less. We finally made progress with our landscaping, and (FINALLY) completed step one in fixing up Jeff’s office space (which will eventually become the nursery if everything goes as planned, and in the meantime can finally be used functionally as work space/a second place for guests to stay). While no major changes were made to our everyday life (well, mine – Jeff started a new job), 2018 was about setting ourselves up for the future.

We traveled to Florida, Cape Cod, and the Poconos, and took several day/overnight trips to Philly. Speaking of Philly, Jeff started at a new company in the city, and was introduced to commuter life. I had a couple of different opportunities within my own career fall through, but learned a lot in the process (and will be transitioning into a new position – along with a promotion – within the first quarter of the new year…hooray!) I conquered some pretty major fears, and put myself in the position to be more proactive about my health going forward. I took a solo road trip to my hometown to visit family. I feel like I accomplished a lot of personal growth in 2018…I’ve gotta say, I’m pretty proud of myself.

I went into 2018 with some pretty major goals, and I’m happy to say I conquered (or at least made progress with) most of them. I feel I made major progress with my most daunting resolution (prioritizing my health) – for as long as I can remember, I’ve had a paralyzing fear of doctors/anything medical, and I actually went through with several health screenings in 2018. Once I ripped the bandaid off, it became much easier to face minor medical issues, and I actually sought treatment for multiple (again, minor) illnesses throughout the year. I realize this sounds a little ridiculous for an adult to be proud of, but it was a pretty momentous accomplishment for me (and it’s what allowed us to confidently start trying for a baby).

My other goals included bringing less stuff into our home/purging unwanted items, getting our finances in order, exercising consistently to manage stress, taking care of my possessions, and being kinder to myself, and I feel I at least somewhat made headway with each item. I did great with purchasing less for the first half of the year, and while I do still need to do a major purge of unwanted household items, I cleaned out my closet and started selling clothes and shoes on Poshmark, and got rid of a lot of junk (and started setting aside unused stuff that’s still in good shape for a yard sale next year). I exercised relatively regularly…I hope to be even better about it this year, but I wouldn’t call last year a total fail. The only goal I didn’t really accomplish was “taking care of my possessions,” but in interest of my last goal “being kinder to myself,” I’m going to call 2018 an overall win, and continue working on everything on last year’s list going into the new year.

We’ve set 2019 up to potentially be a pretty huge year – we have some big plans for our house (we’re starting to get into “let’s make sure our house is ready to sell, should the opportunity arise” mode, although I personally am in no hurry to move), including finally rebuilding our huge wrap-around porch this summer along with our neighbors. I have some pretty major career changes coming, and plan to work on some long-overdue professional development. I’d like to travel as much as possible (possibly including a solo trip overseas). And of course, we hope for 2019 to be the year we welcome our first child – or at least create him or her (ha)! I also have the usual minor resolutions – be more consistent with physical activity (again, still), work to regulate my sleep schedule, be kinder to my hair (specifically, I want to learn how to air-dry without looking like a disaster, and keep heat-styling to a maximum of a few times a week).

Overall, 2018 was pretty darn good to us. I hope for more of the same for 2019, and once I get over this weird hormone slump (or whatever it is), I’ll be ready to take the new year on! Whatcha got for us, 2019?

Just a quick note –

Last year around this time I wrote about feeling panicky about life changes (career, health, parenthood, etc…). I’m happy to report that a year later, I’m nothing but excited for what’s to come, and I feel ready to embrace whatever life throws at me. Bring it on.

A Strange Development…

So, I’ve always (at least as long as I can remember) gotten the WORST PMS. Irritability, crushing anxiety, loss of energy, acne…you name it, I get it. About a week before my period hits I start noticing EVERY TINY IRRITATION is making me want to throw things, and this feeling of impending doom starts to creep up for no reason whatsoever. I’ve gotten pretty good about recognizing it for what it is over time, so I try to take these feelings with a grain (or really, a huge chunk) of salt, but it’s unpleasant nonetheless.

Well, not to jinx myself or anything, but my chemicals seem to have shifted over the past three or four months. At first I noticed I was having less physical evidence of PMS (my breasts weren’t quite as tender – this was a new development by the way, I had only been introduced to the misery of a week of boob pain within the past year or so – I wasn’t seeing as much hormonal acne, I wasn’t getting quite as much brain fog), but then I noticed that…I wasn’t WILDLY ANGRY? This is pretty easy for me to notice due to my job – I interact with the public, which can be pretty irritating as it is – and I immediately noticed that I wasn’t ready to fly off the handle right before my period hit. And now, here I am 4 days before my next period is due to arrive, and I’m practically elated for no particular reason today. I’m seriously in THE BEST MOOD. No anxiety to speak of, Jeff’s not bugging the crap out of me (bless him for dealing with the PMS monster for the past 10 years), and I feel relatively energetic. I have a few minor symptoms that my lady time (yuck, sorry) is encroaching, but man…I don’t know what this is, but I’m not hating it. (Please no one tell me that this is a symptom of some terrible terminal illness…if it is, I don’t want to know thankyouverymuch.)

BLESS UP!

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In Defense (?) of a Solo Road Trip

I went to visit my parents this weekend (my mom, having lived in Central PA for the past 15 years, recently moved back to my hometown in Western NY, where my dad still lives). Jeff wasn’t able to/didn’t want to take off work (ever the workaholic), so I embarked on the 6 hour drive on my own. I’m not usually one to drive lengthy distances by myself, but this trip reminded me of what a delight a solo road trip can be.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good car trip with Jeffrey – we’ve perfected the singalong (we have our harmonies down pat at this point), and it’s nice to have someone to chat with. I also love a road trip with friends, of course. But there’s something so refreshing about a nice, long trip with nothing but your thoughts and your music – no one else’s taste to consider. Your own snacks. Your own Podcasts (if that’s what you’re into). Your own route. Your own stops. The possibilities are endless.

For me, this meant a lot of time to think – about everything. Things that don’t matter. Things that do. The past. The present. The future. That sounds kind of deep and serious, but it really wasn’t – sometimes it’s actually fun to just think about whatever comes to mind, uninterrupted. Despite my anxious tendencies, very rarely did a stressful thought pop into my head. Go figure.

This also meant a renewed love for my music. Remember how I’ve said on multiple occasions that I’m in a major music rut? Well, all it took was 12 hours in the car by myself (and a little solo hotel time to boot) to renew my love for a whole plethora of music, plus discover some great new jams. I think this is partially because local driving (where I typically listen to the bulk of my music) is often distracted – only long enough to listen to a few songs at most, and I’m often only half-listening, while thinking about daily tasks. During an otherwise silent 6-hour drive, I’m able to fully immerse myself in the music (and/or sing at the top of my lungs).

On that note: I’m really digging Grizzly Bear’s most recent album (Painted Ruins), and discovered that I prefer the songs with Ed Droste on lead vocals, rather than the ones headed by Daniel Rossen (in case anyone was wondering). Also, I’m surprisingly pretty into Florence and the Machine’s new album…I’m not sure why I’m so surprised since I’ve enjoyed most everything she’s put out in the past, but there you have it. I originally checked it out because she’s coming to Philly in October with Grizzly Bear as her opener, and I REALLY WANT TO SEE GRIZZLY BEAR LIVE, but could take or leave Florence and is it worth the cost of a ticket to basically just see the opener? Okay, now I’m just rambling. But anyway – take a solo road trip if you get the chance. Very enjoyable.

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Some Updates

I always seem to mention various plans/life things and then leave them hanging, never to return. I figured I’d try to remedy that with a few updates, this time specifically relating to this post I wrote back in March…

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Reading:

I finally climbed back on the old book wagon! This seems to happen during the summer, since that’s when we do most of our traveling, plus pool days. I recently finished The Woman in the Window (so good) followed by Sharp Objects (not as good, but I wanted to get through it before watching the HBO series). I also read a novel called The Kiss Quotient, which is outside of my norm in that it’s not a thriller and is more “chick lit” ish. I actually really enjoyed it though, and I think my next book will be another light, more humorous read (although I’m itching to start I’ll be Gone in the Dark).

Work:

Still kind of in a rut here – the opportunities I mentioned in my last post actually ended up being one opportunity that fell through. That’s okay – it’s been a pretty laid back summer, which has been nice, but I’m itching for a new challenge.

Listening:

Still in a major rut. Someone help? I’m so, SO sick of all my usual music, and Spotify seems to just recommend the same 15 songs I’ve been listening to for the past 2 years. I’m going on a mini solo road trip to visit my family next weekend, and I’m not loving the playlist I’ve created for myself…fingers crossed that I come across at least a little something new before then!

Wearing:

As predicted, I’m loving light, flowy skirts for work and ripped denim shorts with simple t’s and tanks on the weekend. Of course, I’m already itching for fall (I already snagged this cashmere sweater in camel during a killer sale), but nothing beats the ability to slip into my trusty Birkenstocks and be out the door in 2 seconds flat.

Watching:

We’re deep into our weird summer viewing habits. As always, we’re loving So You Think You Can Dance and have been watching the aforementioned Sharp Objects, but we’ve also been re-watching the Joe Schmo Show (I told you it was weird) and The West Wing, inspired by Bradley Whitford’s appearance in The Handmaid’s Tale (which I’m super bummed is over).

Sleep/Mental Health:

Every single summer I’m reminded of/shocked by the wild difference in the way I feel in the warmer months compared to the winter months. I know I get Seasonal Affective Disorder. This isn’t something I forget about, but I also deal with low-level depression and varying degrees of anxiety year round, so I tend to forget just how much better I feel during the summer and fall through the holidays. I’ve been naturally waking up earlier without having to do anything to consciously adjust my schedule (although I’d still like to wake up even earlier on the weekends, but my kinda late work schedule makes that difficult since I prefer to wake up shortly before leaving for work), and I just feel more energetic and clearheaded, despite working out less.

Home projects:

We still haven’t dug into anything inside, but we finally had some real landscaping done outside, and it’s a major breath of fresh air. We had landscaping done last year as well, but the company we chose (recommended by…the company themselves on Nextdoor) did a pretty crappy job and it ended up looking just as bad as it had started within a month. This year we used a different company, and while it cost more than double what we paid last year, it was 1000% worth it and looks infinitely better. We got rid of all the weeds/plants lining our driveway and replaced the mulch with grass seed, and had all the hostas and various other overgrown plants removed in the back and replaced with fresh mulch. I’ve also been trying to make our porch look decent (we’ll need to completely rebuild it down the road), and have been making an effort to do a little yard work every evening (the leaves in our yard are out of control, and we have a ton of mature trees that are beautiful, but drop huge chunks of bark constantly and make a big mess) to keep things looking nice. Fingers crossed!

Drinking:

Lots of coffee with Nutpods still! I’ve also been digging Startbuck’s new cold foam drinks, particularly the (apologies if I butcher the name) Salted Cream Cold Foam Cold Brew (phew). And I’ve been enjoying a spiked seltzer every here and there – so refreshing on a hot day! I bought some Smirnoff brand spiked seltzers in Cape Cod to stock our hotel room’s fridge and kinda expected them to suck (being Smirnoff brand – I chose them because the variety pack included a rose flavor that sounded intriguing), but they were surprisingly tasty! I especially enjoy the watermelon flavor…and I normally hate watermelon flavored things.

Writing:

Uh…basically not at all (obviously).

Wanting:

Honestly, not much – I’m pretty satisfied at the moment. I’m looking forward to fall, but I’m not wishing summer away by any means, and we have another mini vacation coming up in August for our anniversary (it’s a super dorky one, too – stay tuned!) Just trying to enjoy the warm weather and sunshine while it lasts.

 

 

 

 

 

Travel tips from a bad traveler

Oh, hello! Yes: I am, in fact, still alive (and well)! And we just got back from our trip to Cape Cod.

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It was wonderful, but I’ve realized something over the past couple of years: we’re (the Raums: Jeff & I) not good travelers. Despite exhaustive planning (on my end) and good intentions (on both of our ends), we generally don’t know what the hell we’re doing when we vacation. It seems easy – relax. Do whatever you want. Eat all the delicious food. Swim. Repeat. But, for whatever reason, I always feel a bit…lost. And end up worn out and exhausted, instead of refreshed.

So, in interest of making myself a better traveler and helping those who may feel the same way (hopefully you don’t, but you never know), here are some tips that I’ve learned the hard way – a kind of “what not to do” travel guide.

1. Don’t overestimate how much you can eat.

This one is really as simple as this: for the love of god, remember you’re a human! Listen. As Jeff solemnly stated the other night while dining at the Lobster Pot – not as an insult – “You [I] can EAT.” He speaks the truth – I really CAN put it away. But I tend to plan my trips almost SOLELY based on food, and end up committing myself to eat more food than is humanly possible to consume in a day. And that’s without factoring in drinks, and we all know that liquid FILLS YOU UP. This ends up making me feel bloated and sluggish, which makes walking around less than pleasant. Definitely do some research and figure out your must-haves, but if you’re used to eating three meals a day and maybe one or two snacks (which is the case with me recently), remember that you’re going to feel like garbage if you attempt to eat literally NON-STOP every single day. Don’t feel bad if you can’t get to every single restaurant you’ve read about. You can always go back another time if you want.

2. Maybe eat a vegetable; DEFINITELY drink some (lots of) water.

On a related note, if you typically eat relatively healthfully in real life, your body’s going to be peeved if you attempt to eat nothing but butter, cheese, bread and ice cream on vacation. I’m all for indulging on vacation and would never dream of trying to follow any sort of healthy eating plan while traveling for pleasure, but maybe eat a salad here and there, or maybe a piece of broccoli. And DO NOT forget to drink water, especially if you’re drinking a lot (of alcohol). Dehydration will ruin a vacation faster than you can say “Ugh, why do I feel like a bucket of discarded fingernails and fish heads?” I tried to get ahead of this this time by buying some yogurt to keep in our mini-fridge and eat for breakfast, but mostly failed. Oh well…next time!

3. Don’t feel guilty about downtime.

I know that it’s easy to feel like you should fill every minute of vacation time with fun and out-of-the-norm experiences, but some of our favorite vacation memories have been watching garbage TV in our hotel room (we are who we are). If you’re constantly going going going, you’re GOING to end up completely exhausted by the third day of vacation. If your vacation is three days long, fine…but if you’re going somewhere for, say, a week, you’re going to need to relax at some point. Whether that’s lounging with a good book or sleeping through dinner and waking up at 10:30 PM to watch Craig Ferguson on the “American Channel” in Mexico while eating room service cheeseburgers (true story, and one of my most treasured memories), enjoy your downtime and don’t feel like you’re “wasting your vacation.” We spent more late evenings than not this past trip watching Shark Tank in bed, and frankly, it was glorious.

4. Don’t try to be a sun goddess if you’re not one.

I’m constantly torn between wanting to bask in the sun (the amount of sun exposure I get DRASTICALLY affects my mood and general disposition) and protect my poor, mid-thirties skin from sun exposure. And I DO slather on high-octane sunscreen before hitting the pool or beach (or anywhere else I’ll be getting more than a couple minutes of sun), I wear SPF on my face every single day without fail, and I try to remember to bring a few hats when I travel somewhere warm. But then I get there, and I forget just how BRUTAL the sun can be. I’ll lay on the beach or by the pool for 10 minutes and start thinking “Holy shit, the sun is ACTIVELY TRYING TO HURT ME!! This actually HURTS MY BODY!!” I don’t know how people lounge on the beach ALL DAY, but if I spend more than a few hours in the sun, I’m BEAT for the rest of the day – even if I’ve been in the shade.

5. Don’t force yourself (or your partner) to do things you don’t enjoy “for the gram.”

On a related note – don’t do things you don’t enjoy because it feels like you “should.” For example: Jeff and I aren’t really beach people. Jeff doesn’t like sitting in the sun, and doesn’t really enjoy the ocean (unless it’s SUPER CLEAR, bath-like, tropical water). I really don’t enjoy sand, and lugging everything onto and off of the beach just isn’t my idea of a good time (the juice is NOT worth the squeeze for me, generally). I can get into the beach for a while with a big group of friends, or if I’m at a resort or hotel with private beach access with chairs and umbrellas, but if it’s just me and Jeff and we’re schlepping all of our stuff to just sit there for a few hours and then drag a ton of sand into our car when we’re done, I’m not really into it – I’d rather hang by the pool or elsewhere and read or whatever else I’d being doing at the beach. This has been hard for me to admit to myself because I was a MAJOR beach baby growing up (but on Lake Erie, which is much more low key than the ocean), and people in Delaware are ALL ABOUT salt life. I’m definitely in the minority around here, but it’s just how it is. I like the beach ATMOSPHERE – I love an ocean view, and I’m all for a trip down south to wander the boardwalk or eat some seafood, but the beach itself just doesn’t do much for me. That said, I always feel pressure to do at least one “beach day” when vacationing somewhere beachy – we did it in Cape Cod, and we did it in Spain. While I can’t say I necessarily regret it, the beach experiences definitely weren’t my highlights of either trip (not counting the untouched beach we boated to in Spain – that sort of thing is a definite exception to this rule). In the future, I’ll definitely prioritize a hotel or rental with a sweet pool setup over beach access, because it’s what we prefer and that’s okay.

6. Don’t buy crap you don’t want just because you “need a souvenir.”

I mean, this is pretty obvious. I personally haven’t done this in years, but I definitely fell victim to the “souvenir trap” before I started traveling more regularly. Pretty much anywhere with any tourist population is going to have 15 million crappy souvenir stores…and I’m not going to lie, I have always and will always go into them and look around, because it’s fun. But the stuff in those stores is usually poorly made, overpriced, and garish looking, and it’s not something you’d ever buy anywhere else. If you want to bring something home, try going off the beaten path to a locally owned store selling things that are genuinely cool and unique – stuff you’ll actually use and/or display when you get home. We typically still buy some kind of ridiculous souvenir because our parents genuinely like those kinds of things (and our friends get a kick out of them), and I decided a while back that I was going to start collecting magnets when traveling (after noticing that I didn’t have enough magnets for my fridge, and the ones I did have were a random assortment of local advertisements and other ugly crap), but other than that I try to find more unique shops and support them instead if I feel like shopping.

7. Be good to your body.

I’ve kind of already covered this, but for me, this means exercise. I’ve never once successfully exercised while on vacation despite ALWAYS packing running shoes and a sports bra, but I honestly think it would make me feel better to go on a short run before starting my day. Not only would it make me feel slightly better about eating all the everything for the rest of the day, but it would provide some peaceful alone time and a chance to see a different side of our travel destination. I’m always a little worried I’ll inadvertently overdo it and end up sore, and have used it as an excuse to skip working out altogether, but a 1 mile run (or even a brisk walk or short hike) isn’t going to hurt me in reality. I’m committed to giving it a go on our next trip.

8. Research rainy day activities in advance (and be realistic about it!).

Almost every trip I’ve been on has included at least one rainy day, and I almost always end up stumped as to what to do. When we went to Savannah, it rained almost the whole time we were there. I knew it was going to in advance (I’m an obsessive weather checker), and I had researched a bunch of things to do, but the things I “decided on” were mostly things we definitely weren’t actually going to do: visit museums (we’re not museum people), travel out of town to do a brewery tour (we weren’t renting a car), shopping (I’m not going to drag Jeff around various shops all day, and I’m not realistically going to spend an entire afternoon on vacation shopping). It rained all day one of the days when we were in Cape Cod, and we ended up spending most of the day chilling in our hotel room reading, then driving to the next town to get Duff Goldman’s favorite lobster rolls. It was actually a pretty great day, and I’m glad we saved our mini-excursion for a day when walking wasn’t in the cards.

The last thing is less advice and more of a crowdsourcing attempt: how do you guys ward off spending guilt when you’re traveling? Is this just a me thing? These days I always budget for travel and even have a separate “Vacation” savings account, so I have plenty of money set aside to spend while traveling. It’s not like I’m using credit cards and going into debt, or spending money that was earmarked for something else, but I always feel cringe-y about the amount of money we spend on vacation. Is this just how I am as a result of being broke for so many years? The only way I can think of to prevent this is to only to all-inclusive resorts…don’t get me wrong, I love an all-inclusive vacation, but they’re pretty limiting and I definitely want to travel to places other than the Caribbean. Christ, that sounded gross…this is absolutely a “check your privilege” situation, but nonetheless – I guess it is what it is. Any tips would be much appreciated (or, y’know…feel free to tell me to kick rocks). Cape Cod recap to follow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plastic Paranoia

Being the neurotic and anxiety laden person I am, I’ve begun to really start thinking about the amount of plastic we’re exposed to on a daily basis, and the negative effects it has on our health. While I’ve come to accept that some plastic exposure is just going to happen (I’m not about to start eliminating every type of food or beverage in a plastic container), I figure I should at least do what I can to limit my family’s exposure to harmful plastics.

Although most decent quality plastic containers are now BPA-free, I’ve read lots of credible articles claiming that BPA-free plastic can still produce negative, potentially cancer-causing effects. With that in mind, I’ve decided to make some changes in my home:mwga-17-a17_2

I already don’t typically drink bottled water – I typically use filtered water from our fridge, or the water machine at work. But I’ve now swapped our plastic Nalgene sports water bottles with aluminum S’well bottles for both myself and Jeffrey (that one was a no-brainer – S’well bottles may be a bit heavier and a tiny bit less convenient than plastic bottles, but they keep water cold FOREVER).

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I’ll be replacing our mismatched plastic Tupperwear with a set of glass containers. This one hurts a bit, because they’ll take up more room…but it’s for the best, and I won’t have to deal with the ugly, stained, half-melted (I put them in the dishwasher knowing full-well I’m really not supposed to) mess of containers I currently have. This set comes with a good variety of sizes and gets high ratings on Amazon.

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No more plastic cups…I can’t get rid of ours (Jeff refuses to drink out of a real glass unless we’re having a dinner party or something), but I’ve stopped drinking out of the plastic cups we stole from the movie theater (yep) in favor of using a real glass (we have this set). I actually originally did this less for the health concerns and more because the plastic cups were starting to pick up a funky dishwasher detergent taste…yum.

So, it’s not much, and I could be doing a lot more, but these few changes make me feel a little better about what I’m putting into my body. If anyone has any other (realistic) ideas of ways to reduce plastic exposure, send ’em my way!