10 Things I Do When I'm Not Feeling It


I think, like most people, I've always had a touch of anxiety and depression. The human condition, I suppose. When I was younger I really, really, struggled with how to control it alone and often felt sick to my stomach and had a lot of trouble sleeping (I complained so often about my stomach they tested me for an ulcer... in kindergarten). Since then, though, I've gotten much better with a variety of strategies, since I "don't have time to go to therapy" and "don't want to take medication" (I think both of those things are really great tools and that everyone sort of have their own "recipe" for feeling better when it comes to mental health). 

I listen to the podcast "The Armchair Expert" and Dax Sheppard constantly references a list of ten things that he turns to when he's not feeling his best, so I thought I would do the same and share. It's nice to have a quick list of go-to actions when the moment strikes, and it also helps me feel in control over my feelings, day, and life.

1. Plan something fun for the near future: People always ask me why I'm so busy, and there are two answers. One is that I really just like experiencing things outside of the house and the other is that when I'm feeling down or a little pessimistic I'll sit down with my calendar and schedule something fun to look forward to. It's an instant mood booster.

2. Work out: I do some sort of physical activity for at least thirty minutes 5-7 days a week. Sometimes it's intense like a run full of hills and sprints, other times just a walk and maybe some ab work. Working out makes me feel so much better and I always can tell if I miss more than a day or two by the bad mood that results.

3. I get productive: Feeling lazy or like I'm not accomplishing anything bothers my greatly. I'll tackle a few things on my to-do list, get some grading done, or organize a cupboard. My need for productivity is probably a problem sometimes, since I have trouble relaxing, but I think it helps more than it hurts.

4. See a friend: I am fairly social; I like to have plans with friends two or three times a month during the school year, on top of getting to work every day with one of my best friends (and lots of other colleagues that are now friends). The other day I was extremely cranky when I woke up (that was more due to being tired than anything else), but after a breakfast date when an old friend I felt a million times better. 

5.  Go outside: A walk around the neighborhood, taking Sawyer over to the duck pond, laying in the backyard, a hike, time at the beach, hanging outside while Sawyer draws with sidewalk chalk.... being outside cheers me up. I think it's a combination of the sun/fresh air, but also being removed from whatever is possibly bugging me inside (feel overwhelmed, an argument with my husband, etc...). 

6. Reading: This is probably obvious, but allowing yourself to temporarily be transported into someone else's life is a nice distraction. 

7. Journal Writing: I have kept a journal since I was seven-years-old and it's a great place for just venting or worrying as much as I want. 

8. Caffeinate: I am a very tired person and have been since I had my kid. It's basically just my permanent state of being, and while I have adapted on one level, there are days where I'm just more exhausted than normal and it makes me more anxious. At this point I indulge in Starbucks or whatever else I can find to give me a boost. 

9. Create: This may be cross-stitching, working on my yearly family photo book, blogging, doing a house project, or helping Sawyer do new decorations for his door. Baking and cooking is also a surefire mood booster.

10. Play with Sawyer: Although he does factor significantly into my exhaustion and sometimes frustration, he is hilarious and fun. Everything is exciting to him and he's content to just run around making up games. 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Apparently it's Friday... and I normally do this on Wednesday. Summer brain, I guess?

1. I have started trading in my sugary breakfast cereals for two eggs on toast with Trader Joe's Everything but the Bagel Seasoning. It's delicious, and quick enough, but still sad. I get to have cereal as a snack later in the afternoon (as opposed to several cookies), but... not the same. I have started tracking my calories and while cereal is actually pretty low-cal it's not filling and I'm always hungry two hours later. 

2. I got a few new books the other day in the mail, using the measly $5 off Amazon Prime Day coupon as an excuse. I got copies of Meghan MacLean Weir's The Book of Essie, Visible Empire by Hannah Pittard, My Year of Rest of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh, and a book about Alzheimer's, since my grandmother has it and I know that there's a genetic factor.

3. I just finished Letters to a Young Writer by Colum McCann, which I absolutely loved as a teacher and someone with aspirations to someday write a novel. I hope to maybe do a post on it in the near future. I am about two-thirds the way done with The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti, which has me completely hooked.

4. Today my brother and I took Sawyer to the beach and it was a nice few hours in the sun (but man does it tire me out!). Sawyer is slightly terrified of water, though, so he spends most of the time in the sand, which is fine too. This was the third time I've been to the beach this summer, which is probably more than I've been in the last four years. Sawyer is old enough now to where it doesn't feel  like a huge hassle full of diaper bags and worries of sunburn and sand eating.

5. Yesterday I decided to paint an accent wall in our guest bedroom. So I did. It's nice how you can do something like that for less than $50 and really change the look and feel of a room in not a lot of time.

6. I finished a cross stitch projects (see above) that I've been working on for a year and I am so glad it's finished. It's a beautiful pattern, but it got a little monotonous. 

7. I miss Sawyer's scholastic book orders. I need their summer hiatus from the program to end. 

Banff National Park Vacation

[Lake Louise]

If you ever have the opportunity to spend some time in Banff National Park (Alberta, Canada) immediately jump on it. The four days we were able to spend in the park were absolutely breathtaking and exceeded my expectations tenfold. We spent some time in Calgary, too, which ended up being a beautiful city as well. Here are some pictures and excessive thoughts from our time there:

Sawyer and I stayed overnight at a hotel by LAX, since we had a morning flight and I didn't want to stress over the morning traffic. The hotel valet temporarily lost my car, which made for a very stressful fifteen minutes (I actually growled "find my goddamn car right fucking now" at a valet, quietly so Sawyer couldn't here, but still... I was so mad), but once we got parked and settled into the terminal the rest of the trip was an absolute breeze. We flew into Calgary (three hours), got our rental car, and then stayed in a hotel by the airport. 

I packed up the kid and the car by seven-thirty or so and we drove almost two hours to the little town (village?) of Banff, in Banff National Park. It was raining a little bit, but by the time we ducked into the visitor's center for maps and bought an umbrella at a little store it had stopped. I didn't have much planned for the day, but was very eager to see Lake Louise, so we drove the forty minutes to the satellite parking lot to take a shuttle up to the actual lake. It was absolutely breathtaking, even when cloudy! The glacier was visible and the water was perfectly turquoise (rock flour + glacier water + sun's reflection). We hiked a bit around the lake for awhile and then drove back to Banff for a snack, and then a half hour back to Canmore, where our hotel was. I super-duper lucked out and our regular room was upgraded to a HUGE two-bedroom, two-bath, full kitchen, suite at no extra charge, since our room wasn't ready. It was crazy. We drove around Canmore and found a really good pizza place and stocked up on some groceries to minimize eating out breakfast and lunch, too, which ended up being a great decision. 

[Moraine Lake]

[Hiking around Emerald Lake]

[Emerald Lake + a rare Sawyer sighting]

[Takkakaw Falls]

Prior to traveling I booked an all-day bus tour through the park to sort of give us an overview of what was there and to help ease the driving/parking pressure on me. It turned out to be a great choice! We saw Moraine Lake, Lake Louise again, Takakkaw Falls, the Spiral Tunnels, Lake Emerald, where we were able to hike around for almost 90 minutes, and the Natural Bridge. Sawyer got a little antsy here and there on the bus, but it wasn't too bad, considering we were on and off so often. The bus picked up and dropped off right around the corner from our hotel in Canmore, which was perfect. The driver and tour hostess were really knowledgable and fun, so I actually learned a lot.

[Athabasca Glacier]


This was probably my favorite day in terms of what we say. We got up early and drove up the Icefield Parkway (one of the world's top ten drives) into Jasper National Park to tour the Athabasca Glacier and to walk over the Glacier Skywalk. Along the way we stopped at whatever looked beautiful- like Bow Lake, Crowfoot Glacier, and other spots along the drive. When we arrived at the Glacier we took a regular tour bus five minutes across the street to the base of the glacier and then a special six-wheel drive bus onto the actual glacier. We were allowed almost thirty minutes to walk out on the ice, which was absolutely amazing. I didn't think I'd be so impressed, but I really was. Afterwards we went to the Skywalk, which was a glass U-shaped bridge that allowed you to see 1,000 feet below. Heights don't bother me, but Sawyer didn't love it (I was proud of him- he didn't cry and went over the whole thing). Afterwards we had hot chocolate while getting one last look at the glacier and then drove back to Canmore. 

[View from Sulphur Mountain in to Banff]

This was our las chance to hang out in Banff, since I had to check out of our hotel. We took a gondola up to the top of Sulphur Mountain were we hung out for quite awhile (they had lots of different platforms with something like 500 steps total combined). We had lunch back in Banff (I had some excellent poutine) and then we took a bus out to Lake Minnewanka for a cruise around the water. We were able to hike around for awhile, too, and I let Sawyer throw rocks into the lake for almost thirty minutes (he loves doing this so very much). After exploring that area we went back to Banff and I started the sad, sad drive back to Calgary, where we stayed at the same hotel as the first night.

[Calgary Tower]

[The boys loved this]

Saturday we hung out around the hotel room for a few hours in the morning, since we were both really tired from being on the go everyday. Sawyer was getting far less sleep than normal and no naps, and I was just tired from nearly a week of solo-traveling with a four-year-old (I wasn't getting less sleep, but we were getting 15,000-20,000 steps a day and it's just gets a little draining being 100% responsible for your kid in unfamiliar places). After a late breakfast we drove to downtown Calgary to meet with Brie and her son! Brie and I have been blogger/Instagram friends for over six years, so I knew we had to meet in person since I was in her town. They took us to Prince's Island Park, where we saw the Peace Bridge and let the boys play. We walked to the Calgary Tower, which was really neat, and then had dinner together. It was the perfect end to our trip! Our sons are the same age, so it was fun to watch them play while we were able to catch up in person. 

I once again packed up all of our stuff and we drove to the airport. We had an uneventful flight back to LAX, where I had to schlepp our stuff from terminal 2 to terminal 6 parking- if you've never been there just take my word for it that it's a long way to begin with and even worse in 90 degree heat with a luggage cart and a kid. And then Southern California officially welcomed me back with a $205 parking bill for 6.5 days. 

A few things to note:
- Many, many people want to know why my husband didn't go. The answer: he has a demanding job that is hard to get away from and he also has a very real fear of flying. He is supportive of me taking Sawyer places, though, so it works out.
- The Calgary airport (YYC) is the best airport I have ever been to. It's clean, spacious, has pre-boarding comfort dogs that roam the terminals, has pre-clearance customs (so you don't have to clear in the US- the flight was treated as a domestic one when we arrived), a family security line, and volunteers to help out. 
- We didn't travel with a tour company; I chose to do some tours and activities in Banff, but it was just Sawyer and I most of the time
- My entire Canadian experience was amazing- it is the cleanest place I have ever visited. The bathrooms were pristine, there were hand sanitizer everywhere, I saw no trash by the side of the road, etc... You can tell that they take a lot of pride in Banff and Jasper.
- This was the first major trip Sawyer and I have taken together, but we've done quite a few car trips to Yosemite and Modesto, so I know his travel strengths and weaknesses! We had a few new LEGO books, the iPad for the plane and longer car distances, and snacks to keep him occupied. I didn't stress about bedtimes or serious nutrition, but I did make sure to keep the order of the different steps of his bedtime the same, which I think helped him go to sleep at night. 
- I tried to take my normal level of organization and then double it. When I packed for him each outfit went into a separate ziplock bag, which then housed the next dirty outfit. I planned out what we were going to do the night before each day and mapped our schedule backwards so that we were able to get to tour spots and times with plenty of wiggle room (feeling like I am going to be late makes me very anxious). I had a bag with me at all times that had bandaids, wipes, tylenol for both of us, an extra change of clothes, our passports, and cash. I also kept a folder at the hotel with copies of our passports, birth certificates, my driver's license, our flight information, the rental car agreement, and all tour confirmations. 
- When it came to the airports, I checked basically everything except for a backpack for each of us with no liquids (so the car seat and two suitcases). This made going through security and walking around the airport so easy! I am definitely going to get TSA Pre-Check soon, though.
- I tried not to set either of us up for failure. Sawyer can go happily on little sleep (for a kid) and can endure long distances in the car, but he can be a really picky eater (especially on the road). I made sure to buy snacks he liked at the grocery store in Canmore and the makings for PBJ, which he ate for lunch every day. I knew I would need at least an hour to myself every night after he slept to unwind, so I tried to put my phone away and read every evening (between that and the flight I managed to finish a little over two books). I also tried to let him know what was going on; if I needed him to give me a second to figure out directions I told him instead of snapping at him to be quiet. If I was worried about getting all of our stuff packed up I would give him jobs to keep him out of the way. I think traveling with him like this actually helped our communication skills, in a way. He was also forced to be more self-sufficient, like when he was cruising through LAX with a backpack on and rolling his own suitcase. 
- I had to really step outside my comfort zone and accept little offers of help, whether it was to take pictures of us, hold doors open, or even a little luggage transport cart in Calgary that whisked us off to our rental car in 1/4 the time it would have taken to walk (those volunteers are persistent!). 
- I tried to remember that this was a really special experience- that meant being patient, making stops to just look at the scenery, buying someone a few stuffed animals, taking excessive pictures, and being really thankful that we had this opportunity. 

Travel Daydreams

This might seem a bit ridiculous, since I'm about to leave for a week for Canada, but I'm already starting to think ahead to future summers and wonder where we'll head next (as long as this goes well). During that window of time when I had a full-time job and was childless I was able to go to some great places (Italy, Hawaii, the Caribbean, NYC, etc...) and it finally seems like it's time to get back out there. Here are some places I have my eyes on for possibilities for the next few years:

New York City- I have mixed feelings about returning places when traveling, but I really want to take Sawyer to do the sleepover program at the Natural History Museum. I might combine this with maybe a few more stops in New England (probably Boston and then maybe somewhere on the coast in Maine), as opposed to spending more than two or three days in the city. As long as nothing catastrophic happens, I plan on this one for 2020. 

Somewhere tropical- I love the idea of an all-inclusive family-friendly resort on maybe Turks and Caicos or Jamaica. My husband's work demands doesn't necessarily open him up to travel plans, so I think I'd maybe take my mom with us so that I could have some time to lay on a beach alone with a book for a few hours. I'm really tempted to do this next summer, but we'll see what the budget looks like (I think my plan is  a big trip every other year). 

Seattle/PNW- Another return, but my first trip was for a work trip so I don't fully count it. 

London/Germany/Switzerland- A trip like this is probably the furthest one out, since European travel with a kid is just... a lot. A friend and I have been tossing around the idea of going together (without Sawyer), so that's a possibility too. 

Yellowstone- This one I could see being a real possibility for early next summer, although I'm still sort of stuck on the tropical thing... Also a possibility, and in the same neck-of-the-woods is Glacier National Park.

What about you? What's high on your travel wish list? 

So You Want to Talk About Race

I was first introduced to the term "white privilege" several years from a friend/colleague via text, in a conversation that started out with him criticizing the dress I had on, saying it was "WASPy." I liked my dress and didn't really see it as "WASPy" and told him so- this led to a conversation where he decided to talk extensively about my privilege. I was a bit befuddled and was admittedly defensive, since I felt that all of my struggles growing up without much money, a father who killed himself, moments of emotional struggle, and the burden of college costs on my own shoulders were being completely invalidated. He kept repeating that my whiteness was my great fortune and that everything I had was because of it. It was awkward, unexpected, and, frankly I felt hurt since all I had done was wear a dress I liked (for reasons of privacy I will say that he is not African American, nor is he white). 

Here's the thing: he was right on lots of levels. I didn't understand that at the time, since the term "white privilege" and the slogan "Black Lives Matter" hadn't come to forefront yet and I wasn't exactly familiar with looking at race in this way. Sure, I knew racism definitely still existed and I was morally and socially opposed to (and horrified by) it's presence in the twenty-first century. But I hadn't done much to learn more, so I was definitely not ready to listen to him in the way that I am now. I think about this interaction often, and my feelings about it have evolved since. I've moved from hurt to basic agreement (although I still think the conversation didn't need to originate from how I dressed and would have better been done in person). I'm not really sure what motivated the person to start this sort of interaction, but at the end of the day he was correct: while there have been many obstacles in my life I am still white and have benefitted from our country's inherent racism. It's like people who are born tall: they can reach the things on the top shelf while others cannot. It's not my fault, necessarily, but there are things I can do to make a difference, just like tall person needs to help the shorter people get things out of the cabinet. 

Here's where So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo comes in, a text I had heard about a few months ago and just finished today. Oluo has basically written a primer for white people who want to learn to be better. For people who want to learn how to converse about race, make a difference in a society that is set up to benefit white people, and reduce their chances of committing microagressions, instances of cultural appropriation, and even more harm. She is honest, firm, and isn't afraid of making her white readers uncomfortable. I read the entire book with pen in hand and underlined passage after passage- here are a few that really hit home:

"Disadvantaged white people are not erased by discussions of disadvantages facing people of color, just as brain cancer is not erased by talking about breast cancer. They are two different issues with two different treatments, and they require two different conversations" (18). (This is what me from a few years ago who was just learning about white privilege needed to hear). 

"Often, being a person of color in a white-dominated society is like being in an abusive relationship with the world" (19). 

"It's the system, and our complacency in that system, that gives racism its power, not individual intent" (28). (This is something I need to work on).

"And if you are white, and you don't want to feel any of that pain by having these conversations, then you are asking people of color to continue to bear the entire burden of racism alone" (51). 

"When we are willing to check our privilege, we are not only identifying areas where we are perpetuating oppression in order to stop personally perpetuating that oppression, but we are also identifying areas where we have the power and access to change the system as a whole" (65). 

"Being privileged doesn't mean that you are always wrong and people without privilege are always right- it means that there is a good chance you are missing a few very important pieces of that puzzle" (66). 

"Our police force was not created to serve black Americans; it was created to police black Americans and serve white Americans" (91).

"Affirmative action is a crucial tool if we want to mitigate some of the effect of systematic racism and misogyny in our society" (114).

"When our kids spend eight hours a day in a system that is looking for reasons to punish them, remove them, criminalize them- our kids do not get to be kids" (133).

"The problem with appropriation is primarily linked to the power imbalance between the culture doing the appropriation and the culture being appropriated. The power imbalance allows the culture being appropriated to be distorted and redefined by the dominant culture and siphons any material or financial benefit of that piece of culture away to the dominant culture, while marginalized cultures are still persecuted for living in that culture" (147).

"Microagressions are small daily insults and indignities perpetrated against marginalized or oppressed people... that cumulative effect of these constant reminders that you are "less than" does real psychological damage..." (169).

"You are not doing any favors, you are doing what is right... Your efforts to dismantle White Supremacy are expected of decent people who believe in justice. You are not owed gratitude or friendship from people of color for your efforts. We are not thanked for cleaning our own houses" (210)

Oluo offers suggestions at the end of her book, that encourage acting, not just thinking and talking, since action is what will really make a difference. Some things that I plan on doing:

- continue to donate money to groups like the ACLU, SPLC, and Planned Parenthood
- vote diversely and purposefully (not just being satisfied with party lines, but seeing who is running within the party) 
- get involved in schools (clearly I am already involved, but I need to do better there- I am in a position to let students talk and grow)
- speak up when safe (for me this means when my students are "just joking," when I reads comments of those I know on social media that are offensive, or even if I see something at, say, the store)
- not be afraid to ask friends questions and accept their answers (I am fortunate enough to have many amazing friends from a variety of backgrounds)

This book was a good reminder, refresher, and eye-opener in many ways. Oluo provided plenty of personal anecdotes that illustrated her points well and reminded me that I will never truly get it. I can be open to conversation, I can do what I can as a white woman to bring about change and fairness, I can try to imagine what it's like using my personal experiences as a woman, but I will never understand what it means to be black in America. And while she didn't explicitly address this topic, this also reinforced the idea that I need to be mindful of how I raise my son when it comes to race and social differences. 

I will conclude this by saying that I am actually really thankful for my friend who took issue with my dress. It was sort of a turning point that started an important self-reflection process. I am not perfect, and I am sure I've done things or said things or thought things that I haven't even realized are wrong, but I want to be better. Books like this help me to be more mindful of who I want to be and what I want this country to be like. Oluo also reminded me that it's okay to screw up when trying to discuss race- it's when you quit talking and listening that the problem really begins. 

This book is important. Read it.