Just Clean It – Day 2

Yesterday was day 2 of the Just Clean it Challenge. Kendra challenged us to work on the living room. She emailed a huge list of cleaning tasks and said to pick five. Here are my five:

• Dusted the entertainment center
• Cleaned behind entertainment enter
• Vacuumed cat hair from inside living room heater vents
• Vacuumed couch
• Vacuumed underside of the couch

Cleaning the heater vents took the longest because I had to figure out how to remove the covers and then how to put them back on. There was a massive amount of cat hair in there! So gross and probably not very safe.


Before


After

It’s not a huge change but I’m happy. Everything has been dusted and straightened. Someday I hope to declutter our DVDs and video games but that’s a bigger effort and will have to wait.

#JustCleanIt

This week, I’m joining a five day cleaning challenge hosted by Kendra from Mother Like a Boss. I’ve attended one of Kendra’s free webinars and thought that she has some great advice. So why not join a quick cleaning challenge?

Kendra emailed a list of cleaning tasks and challenged everyone to choose five and spend five minutes on each task. It’s amazing how much I got done in just those 25 minutes. These are the five tasks I chose:

• Clean out expired and bad food from the fridge
• Wipe down refrigerator shelves (warm water and soap works just fine)
• Clean out junk drawer
• Sweep the kitchen floor
• Make a natural deodorizer with a cup of baking soda and 5-10 drops of your favorite essential oils. Put the baking soda in a small glass dish, add the oils and mix gently. Leave out to deodorize the kitchen and keep it smelling lovely. 2 minutes of your time well spent.

I feel like I’ve accomplished something today and I’m so proud of myself!

Happy Un-Birthday to Me!

Happy Un-Birthday to me!

Sabbath was super busy with non-birthday events. Our entire church volunteered at a local nonprofit for two hours in the morning. Then we had lunch and a wonderful social time at a friend’s house. Power nap in the afternoon. And then my daughter had her first Homecoming dance in the evening. There was no time to celebrate my birthday!

Instead, I made plans ahead of time to celebrate on Sunday. It was a day full of my favorite things!

Coffee at my favorite coffee shop

Three different kinds of cheesecake!

A favorite movie

First fire of autumn

Thai food from a new-to-us restaurant. The green curry was amazing!

Even though I celebrated a day late, I made sure to do many of my favorite things. It was totally worth the wait!

Birthday musings

Today was my 36th birthday. I don’t mind, really. When I talked to my mom this afternoon, she mentioned that I’m almost 40 years old. I’m not sure how I feel about 40 but I’m ok with 36!

I feel as if birthdays are a sort of reset, a chance for a new start with new resolutions and goal planning. I love New Years for that very reason. I know that every day can be a chance to make good decisions and work toward goals but there’s something special about defined dates to do so. First of the year. First of every month. My birthday.

I really don’t know what specific goals to choose for my birthday. My days are still so variable, struggling with depression at times, anxiety other times, and a seeming inability to allow myself to feel happy. I cannot predict my ability to be productive or embrace self care or even feel a smidge above just daily survival. Each day is different and it can change so quickly. I am slowly learning to quickly jump on any motivation, any drive toward feeling productive or doing something positive.

So in general… I would like to work on these goals.

Health – making healthy choices as much as possible. I have gained a lot of weight the past three years from stress eating, wrenching my knee last summer, and low motivation. I need to make good choices as much as possible as I go through my day. More water. More mindful food portions. Healthier meal selections. More exercise. I could make 15 goals from this one general idea but I really just want to be more mindful and do my best moment by moment. Right now, that’s all I can ask of myself.

Spiritually – I am really floundering here. I attend church every week. I pray over every meal. But I still feel distant from God. I tried joining a Bible reading group last month and only made it through Genesis. I struggle to read the Bible. I would like to read some memoirs of people’s spiritual journeys and see if I can learn from them.

Home – Here I actually have a very specific goal! I want to jump start my FlyLady routines again. I have a long standing habit of my morning and evening routines (hurray for wins!). I need to add in the weekly and monthly cleaning schedule so that I feel my house is presentable. A clean, uncluttered home really lowers my stress levels.

Emotional health – I have a specific goal here as well. My therapist has me working through a PTSD workbook. Right now I’m supposed to be writing a narrative of my life story. Assignment – Write your narrative. My response – Where do I start? These extremely general instructions left me floundering and I have made zero progress in the past month. A dear friend sent me a book for my birthday that guides you through writing your narrative! Now I have a specific place to start.

I’m also toying with the idea of getting involved in a (very) part-time volunteer position or starting my own business so that I can set my own hours. My therapist wonders if I have so much down time that I get stuck in cycles of negative thinking and thus contributing to my depression and anxiety. It’s quite possible that if I get involved in something for a few hours a week, I’ll find some purpose outside of my life and thus feel better.

All of these things together feel like massive changes and are rather overwhelming. But I remind myself that I don’t have to tackle all of them at the same time. Small changes here and there, embracing those moments when I feel like I can come up to breathe… those moments may make a big difference and help with my healing.

Happy birthday to me! I hope that when I revisit this post on my 37th birthday, I’ll find that life has improved, that I’ve been able to make some positive changes that will enable me to better find my place in the world and maybe even make a difference for someone else.

Small victory – dining room table

I conquered it! It only took three days but I was able to completely clean off our dining room table. I didn’t just move the piles elsewhere. I sorted, put things away in their permanent homes, scanned paperwork, paid bills, and basically processed every single item that had accumulated over the summer. I am so proud of myself.

Next up… this small corner where paperwork tends to multiply.

One small step at a time and I will conquer the chaos.

Coming back to life

My daughter returned to school last Thursday. Not so coincidentally, I suddenly started coming back to life. Full time parenting drains me; I really have no idea how parents of littles can handle it. Having almost six and a half hours to myself every weekday is such a blessing and so very needed.

My motivation and energy levels are still minimal. But I feel like I’m coming back up for air. The difference is startling and makes me painfully aware that I have some emotional work to do. I shouldn’t (there’s that word my therapist doesn’t like – shouldn’t) lose all emotional energy and drive when my daughter is on school holidays. I put everything into parenting her and leave nothing for myself. To have that time during school hours to recharge, to spend time doing things outside of parenting, is vital to my well-being. Hopefully someday I can figure out how to survive both during school and during holidays.

Last week I started working through the backlog of my email. I finished on Sunday. I’m happy that I was able to unsubscribe from a few more newsletters, respond to personal email, and delete everything that I really didn’t need. My inbox is now at zero emails and I’m hoping to stay on top of it.

I also finally scanned all of the photos my daughter brought home with her from Taiwan. She has photos of age four or so through the end of her time at the orphanage. My goal is to create and print a photo album for her, merging together her time in Taiwan and her time with our family. I would love to give it to her for Christmas, but I also know how unlikely that is. I would love to be able to complete it that quickly, but it’s hard to predict how much effort I can make from day to day.

I’m also putting a priority on decluttering a couple key areas of the house. Over the summer, the dining room table turned into a complete disaster. That surface has almost been reclaimed. Maybe tomorrow? My clothes closet has also gotten extremely messy and it’s difficult to find things in there. Getting some of these things done will hopefully reduce the anxiety caused by clutter, which will in turn allow me to focus on some of my healing.

I want to find healing. I am slowly gaining determination to find healing. I still struggle with anxiety and sometimes with depression. I still have PTSD. I am discovering some buried and some not-so-buried religious trauma due to negative religious foundations. I really, really want to find some confidence and self-worth. I want to let go of my need for control and my perfectionism fixation.

Life can be more than survival. I need it to be more than survival. One small step at a time, right?

Thoughts and dreams

Today I met with a couple of dear friends over coffee and we had a thought provoking discussion. The nice thing about being an introvert is that when you get together with someone who is open to deep discussions, you can skip a lot of the small talk and dive into thought provoking topics.

One of my friends asked me what my dreams are. Over the last two years or so, I’ve completely stopped planning for the future. Our adoption and parenting journey has been so rocky that the future is unpredictable. I could make plans at this point but it is highly unlikely that they would come to fruition. There’s just too much trauma and the effects of trauma in our home.

In addition to a lack of planning for the future, I’ve forgotten how to dream. Because I feel so out of control in regards to the day to day, I don’t know how (and lack the emotional energy) to dream about the future. We have to parent based on our daughter’s current emotional status and that leaves little room for planning.

But maybe I should start dreaming again. Maybe that will provide some hope in the day to day. I worry that dreaming again will frustrate me if I feel like the dreams are completely out of reach. But maybe they will be motivational to make some changes and encourage me to control the things I can control.

I’m not sure if anyone is reading my blog anymore but I want to start posting again. Maybe sending my thoughts out into the world will help me connect with others. As my friend Julie says, we need to be willing to ask. So here goes – I need bosom friends. Maybe my words will touch someone and we’ll share our thoughts about life. If not, at least I started reaching out again. That is encouraging.

Nutberg Drinkable Meals – a review

Normally I am only requested to review books but Nutberg reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in reviewing their drinkable meals. Yes, please! I browsed their website and was thrilled to discover that Nutberg has created a drinkable meal that is all natural ingredients, healthy, and vegan. Vegan! It’s so hard to find convenient meal options that are vegan.

When I opened the package and showed my husband what I had received, he immediately commented that these look like MRE’s. The presentation could be more pleasantly designed but the information and instructions printed on the package were incredibly easy to understand and follow.

I decided to try these flavors in order of expected enjoyment – highest to lowest. We started with Cocoa, then Classic, then Banana. The directions stated that I could blend each packet with either water or milk. I chose almond milk because I always use almond milk in my mochas. Almond milk adds more flavor and substance to drinks than plain water does.

Cocoa flavor

I expected that we would like Cocoa flavor the best because chocolate is always best! Unfortunately, I couldn’t really taste the cocoa flavor.

Jeff – “Yuck. It needs a sweetener.”
Me – “It has an ok taste but the texture is too grainy. I could drink maybe half of this with my meal but not as a full meal replacement.”

We were unable to drink the entire serving.

Classic flavor

Jeff – “It smells sweeter than the Cocoa flavor. The smell reminds me of cinnamon oatmeal. Of the three, this one was my favorite.”

Cassandra – “Classic flavor is also my favorite of the three, even though it seemed like I was drinking my morning oatmeal!”

We drank an entire serving. The flavor was fine but the texture was off-putting after half a cup. We drank it at 10:20 in the morning and waited to see how long it would satisfy, especially since the meal was 560 calories with the added almond milk. After three hours, we started getting hungry for our next meal. I was surprised at how full I felt for the first two hours, very satiated but not overly full. The Nutberg website stated that you would feel full for 2-3 hours and my experience slightly exceeded their promises!

Banana flavor

My husband hates bananas so I didn’t tell him what flavor this was until after he had tried it. I didn’t want to bias him against the drink. Surprisingly, he couldn’t tell that this was banana flavored!

Jeff – “It’s palatable but doesn’t taste much different from Classic flavor.” When I told him this was Banana, he said that he could detect a hint of something different but didn’t think “banana.”

Me – “I agree with Jeff’s opinion but thought maybe I could detect a hint of banana.”

Overall, this was not a huge success with our family. The Classic flavor was ok but it’s not something that I would want to drink on a regular basis. I could see keeping a couple packets in my cupboard in case of a food emergency. I think these are worth trying at least once, especially if you’re looking for a meal replacement.

Thank you so much for Nutberg giving me a free product to try in exchange for an honest review!

Deadly Proof – A book review


Deadly Proof
Rachel Dylan

As far as modern Christian fiction is concerned, this is one of the better novels I’ve read. Kate is a fairly realistic character, a woman lawyer who struggles with depression. She obsesses over her career, immersing herself in her work for long days to cope with the emotions that rise when she has downtime. Kate genuinely cares about her clients and works hard to ensure they receive the justice they deserve.

I did struggle with Kate’s attitude toward her clients. It came across as if Kate would only accept clients who she believed were genuinely innocent of any wrongdoing. I don’t know enough about the law industry to know if it’s possible for lawyers to only accept certain clients, especially when they work in a firm and have other lawyers above them in the pecking order. Kate switched from defense to prosecution because she wanted to protect those who had been wronged. But what about those individuals who had been wrongly accused of a crime? Don’t they deserve a lawyer who believes in them?

The legal aspects of this novel were extremely well explained. The author took care to explain various laws and court procedure but was able to explain things without talking down to the reader. This is difficult to do well! I appreciated that. I have read a few legal thrillers and have watched a LOT of legal thriller television and movies. So the novel didn’t teach me anything new in that area but I also didn’t feel as if I was wasting my time reading legal explanations for the lay person.

The romantic relationship was a bit… sappy. Landon’s character was slightly girly. He is a former Army Ranger and yet his internal thoughts were not very manly. He came across more like a romcom lead than an ex-military private investigator. This made the relationship development seem cheesy and unbelievable. It felt more like how a woman daydreams about a man’s thoughts toward her rather than how a man actually thinks.

Overall, Deadly Proof was a great read! I just put the second book on hold at the library and can’t wait to read other novels by the same author.

Thank you to Bethany House for a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion!

The Nephilim Virus – A Book Review

First of all, I owe a huge apology to both the author and the publisher of this book. Life got crazy, I wrote down the wrong date for the blog tour, and now I’m late in getting my review published. But I wanted to make sure I honor my commitment, though it’s late, so here goes.

The Nephilim Virus, written by John T. Prather, is not my normal choice of reading material. I generally gravitate to historical fiction, Christian contemporary romance, or nonfiction. However, I’ve really been wanting to branch out in my reading, choosing other genres in hopes of finding some new favorites. When I saw this book available as a review copy, I decided that it was a good choice in my attempts to branch out.

Nick Reese wakes from a three-year coma to find the world he once knew is gone. An ancient virus has infected two-thirds of the world’s population, turning humans into either incredibly intelligent super-humans or large and indestructible animalistic creatures. For the survivors, there is no government, no antidote, and no safety. With the help of a beautiful hematologist named Faith and a man they call the Commander, Nick must survive long enough to discover the origin of the virus and learn how his blood could hold the key to a cure. But he has to do it while being hunted by the infected. And failure means the extinction of the human race. (description from Prather’s website)

The Nephilim Virus is an intense book! It is entirely plot driven and the action never stops. I’m a mom to two teens (demanding and time intensive parenting for sure!) and yet I could barely put the book down. It was suspenseful! I had to keep reading to find out what was going to happen next. Was Nick going to find the other virus survivors? Was he going to be able to save the human race or was life hopeless? Events kept happening, never a dull moment in Nick’s life. I felt the novel sacrificed character development for constant plot development, but that may be more common in the thriller genre.

My only real criticism about the novel is that the ending felt entirely too rushed. Until the last 25 or so pages, I thought for sure that this was going to be a series. Then all of a sudden, the novel ended and everything was wrapped up. A sequel might have been a good idea to help the ending feel more realistic. I’m also curious if this book was written with the intent to bring it to film. The chapters were short, quick scenes that advanced the plot. Dialog was short and snappy. Since the author is also an actor, I can easily see how he could write the book intending it to someday be on the big screen.

I am definitely glad that I read this book. While supernatural thriller will never be my favorite genre, The Nephilim Virus was definitely worth the read. It’s an adventure story that kept me at the edge of my seat.