Friday, April 29, 2011

Bittersweet: The bane of my life

Not to be melodramatic, but it has taken up an inordinate amount of my energy lately. 
When we moved into the house, the street front was bordered by a low, wide and kinda scraggly hedge. To build our fence we reduced the width of the hedge, but I wasn't ready to totally scrap it - even though a neighbor offered to bring his brushhog in and do the job. (Boy, do I regret turning down that offer.) 

After watching the "hedge" grow last summer and realizing that it was primarily a horrible, aggressive vine called bittersweet that had been pruned into a semblance of a hedge, I decided to rip it out and overhaul our street front beds.  To that end, a few months ago I attacked the remaining bittersweet "hedge." I yanked, tug and dug vines for 2 days, plus some.  There's nothing like pulling out long, tangled roots for a sense of accomplishment. 
Here are the vines:
(Somehow, the picture doesn't do them justice.) 
I don't have a picture of the pitted dirt that was left there when I stepped away from the project, but Better Homes and Gardens would not have been proud. Nonetheless, I let the wasteland sit until yesterday. Then, with the weather suddenly warming, I leapt into action. 

I plan to to replace the hedge with the wide bed of hostas and mums that were previously in front of the it. The first step was to get the ground ready for transplanting. 

A co-worker loaned me her "Mantis" rototiller and yesterday I started out. Running the Mantis was like walking a little energetic dog; bouncing and sputtering about to my great amusement. Unfortunately, it easily got clogged/tangled/choked by the multitude of roots still left in the ground and I probably could have used a bigger model. The whole process wasn't pretty. 

But by this afternoon, here are the fruits of my labor

And here is the bed, ready for the hostas, etc to be moved back 10 feet into it.
Isn't that nice? 

It would be even nicer to have hired someone to do this for me, but there are 2 reasons I didn't. First off, I'm a near pathological DIYer. Secondly (and more importantly) we need a new sewer system and that is going to take all the landscaping money. Yes, that is correct: New. Sewer. System. 
Aah, homeowner bliss. As I write, we are not supposed to be putting anything down any drain in our house because it could easily "bubble up" (our plumber's words) in our back yard. 
When is this new system coming? We don't know. All we know is that it is Friday night, the weekend is here and we can't flush our toilets, take showers, wash clothes or run the dishwasher. Thank goodness Murray's parents live only a mile away. 

Monday, April 11, 2011


It's not pretty, nice or easy. It's like the common cold of mental health these days. Hard to treat, lingering, off-putting and generally unattractive.

I've stuggled with depression for many years, off and on. I am so grateful for the kindness of my friends when I don't return calls, emails, letters or other generous gestures because I'm in a funk. I am blessed to have them in my life. And my amazing husband, who cheerily trucks along when I'm acting like a Cymbalta commercial. He does the laundry, cleans the kitchen most nights, helps put the kids to bed, empties the garbage and does a million other helpful things around the house. Did I mention he also gets up with the kids in the morning and usually has the coffee water on by the time I stagger out?

I don't takes medications for depression. I've found some treatments within my control that work well. For me, a good analogy is a to treat it as someone else might treat a propensity for type 2 diabetes. Prevention is key. I know that if I don't take care of myself, I will go into a big black place and need to take medication, but if I do the things that work for me, I can keep healthy.

Everyone has activities/people that fill them up emotionally as well as things that drain them. And we all empty and fill at different rates - unfortunately some of us empty faster than others. To keep myself from emptying quite so quickly, here are some things I use:

Exercise. This, for me, is the biggest factor. I beat this drum a lot. Everyone benefits from moving - in many ways. 'Nuff said.

Healthy relationships - also a biggie. I have friends who have know me since I was born: that's a long time. Unfortunately, a side effect of being nomadic means that I've dropped out of their orbit. I'm like a comet now - I zoom by sporadically - which is not conducive for building community or mutually supportive relationships. I haven't given up on those foundational relationships, but I want to put more into them for the long term. Additionally I want to invest in the friendships I have near me. As adults it is harder to make new friends, (than, say, in the dorms at college) but not impossible.

Spiritual practice - spending time with God. I'm obsessive about running by myself in part because it's on of the few times that I have alone to talk to God. Doing 5 minutes (10, 15, whatever) of meditation has never worked for me. But praying and running: that works. (Which means it's a double whammy when I don't exercise)

Productivity - even small things - like hanging a picture I've wanted to get up - help immensely. While it can take a huge effort to get it together to do it, the satisfaction of finishing one thing rebounds me into others and builds on itself.

I'm also a believer in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Basically this theory is that your thoughts form your mood. When you change your thought patterns you can change your depressive cycle. That said, depression, with its lack of self worth and low energy, is a challenging place from which to start developing new thought patterns. But it is a helpful strategy for me.

Light - Seasonal Affective Disorder is a real thing, and winters are hard. Get a full-spectrum light, get somewhere sunny once a winter, play outside every time the sun is shining - all those things.

There's no magic bullet for curing the common cold, nor depression. But my hope is that other people who struggle with it will find their right mix to get and stay healthy. And I want to be a support for those people in my life who need it.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

These are quality problems

Yesterday morning, I was up at the crack of dawn to run 10 miles with my running partner. I don't normally function at that hour, but 6:30 was when she could fit a run in, so 6:30 it was. When the alarm went off Murray asked if I wanted a Dr.'s note excusing myself, which made me laugh enough to get out of bed.

Greg, my mom's husband, has a quote: "These are Quality Problems." I'm alive, strong enough to get up and run, have put in the work to run 10 miles, have a great running partner who is willing to slow down to my pace and I have a hot shower waiting for me back at the house. My aching muscles, gasping lungs and all-over misery - these are quality problems. I should be so lucky to feel my muscles, work my lungs and pad slowly down the beautiful country roads.

I hope you have some quality problems too.