Anxiety Is A B*tch

It often comes out of nowhere. But tonight, it is triggered by heartburn and exhaustion.

I know my triggers, but sometimes I miss the cues. I listen, but sometimes not close enough.

It’s nearly one in the morning. I ought to be asleep, but I’m not and I am yawning as I type.

Self-care is most important when dealing with anxiety. Slowing it down, pausing, and giving the body what it needs to deal with the anxiousness. Do NOT feed the anxious mind. Do NOT feed the thoughts. It’s anxiety, trying to push itself in further, which in turn causes panic. Do NOT allow it to go there.

Arm yourself with tools to combat it; arm yourself with supportive family and friends. And remember, you are not alone.

And now…Sleep calls. It’s a necessity to rest. Good night.

Eggplant Cravings

I’ve been wanting to make Eggplant Parmesean for some time now, but let me be honest. It’s not easy to find good eggplant in Georgia. It’s one of those “hit or miss” sort of vegetables ans half the time, they are either over-ripe or close to it. And an over-ripe eggplant isn’t any good.

Today’s adventures had me out and about, searching for eggplant. It was really a day I’d planned to remain home, after an early morning rise and outing to the Veterinary Clinic, I wanted to stay in, relax, study and watch Netflix. The eggplant was calling me and I gave in.

First stop: Aldi. I needed to get my cheeses anyways and had hoped I’d also come upon some fresh eggplant. No such luck; they never carry it on a regular basis anyways but it was worth a shot. The cheeses are much more inexpensive at Aldi and just as good, so it wasn’t altogether a wasted trip. Next stop: Publix. Fingers. Crossed. (And possibly my toes as well.) I nearly over-looked the few they had, but they were perfect and off I went with four, and some POMI Chopped Tomatoes as well. POMI is the only brand I’ll use; they come in a carton and nothing is added, not even salt. They are less-acidic and full of flavour.

Armed with all my ingredients, I set off home to begin the dish.

Ingredients:

9×12 baking dish, 2 medium-sized eggplant (be sure they are firm, not brown and a lovely shade of purple,) homemade marinara sauce, 8 oz shredded parmesean, 8 oz shredded mozzarella, salt 🙂

1. The first step is to slice your eggplant, maybe a quarter inch thick or so, lay out a row in your baking dish and lightly sprinkle with salt. Cover the first layer with paper towels, and repeat until all the eggplant has been sliced and lightly salted. This process will dehydrate the eggplant, removing any water from it so the eggplant isn’t soggy. Skip this step if you do not mind soggy eggplant; you’ll still need to slice them, however.

2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

3. Begin by lightly lining the baking dish with your marinara. Add a layer of eggplant, a layer of sauce and a layer of cheese. Repeat until you have 3-4 layers.

4. Cover with foil and bake 45 minutes.

5. Allow it to cool 10-15 minutes and serve.

Dehydrating the eggplant 🙂

Bird Watching

What do I do in my spare time? Well, I typically do not bird watch, however, we had a surprise visit from a beautiful hawk this week.

He perched right up on the railing on my deck and kept an eye on his prey for at least fifteen minutes. We stayed indoors, looking out the window, not wanting to scare it away.

My hope was to capture it in flight; I should have known better. It finally flew off, down to catch its prey. Lunch was served.

Sitting still for awhile, watching nature in its natural habitat is soothing, peaceful. I think I’ll do it more often.

Reading is Fundamental

In my spare time, I love (LOVE!!) to read. You’ll always find me with a book in my hand (or handbag if I cannot hold it at the moment.) The point is, I am always reading.

It sucks at the moment that the library is closed for two weeks. Fortunately, I do have a few books on hand to read.

I recently watched the first season of Locke and Key, after learning it was written by Stephen King’s son, Joe Hill. Omg! I was hooked from the first episode. He is his father’s son. I decided to check out one of his books from the library, Heart-Shaped Box and I am so glad I did! It’s an older novel, but it has me completely engaged. Scared, nah, not really, I’ve grown up a lot since reading the majority of his Dad’s novels. It’s intriguing; I can visualise clearly the story. It’s engaging. I’m three-quarters of the way through it; I can’t put it down. It’s a page-turner for sure.

I’ll have to add Joe Hill to my list of authors to read. Hopefully, he’ll write many more. He’s talented in his own right. And I’m thankful I took the chance on this novel (the title is what caught my eye.)

Have you read it? What did you think?

More expensive is not always Better

Let me preface this blog by saying:

  • 1. I am by no means a makeup artist.
  • 2. I am most definitely not a makeup artist.

I do, however, know what makeup I like. And I do know that while I will spend a reasonable amount of money on makeup, I won’t spend a fortune.

My eyes must be done before I go out. Eyeliner and mascara are a must. My eyeliner of choice is NYX Epic Ink Eyeliner in black to line around the top of my eyes and below, ELF eyeliner, also in black. (My mascara brands may vary.)

This past weekend, I dug deep in my makeup bin and found a black eyeliner by Este Lauder. It’s a pencil liner with a smudge sponge on the opposite end. I thought with it being the weekend and all, I’d try a different look (I tend to go with the winged eyeliner look primarily.)

I went for a more soft, sort of smokey eyed look. What I got within minutes of stepping outside into the hot, humid day was a melted mess of eyeliner on the top lids. Even the $3.00 ELF liner on the lower eye held up better than the almost $25.00 Este Lauder eyeliner. It’s not waterproof and it melts, smudging all over my eyelid. I was disappointed to say the least. There is no way I ought to have to reapply a $25.00 eyeliner as often as I did. I gave it a go three days in a row with the same results.

I think I’ll stick with my current combination, the NYX eyeliner is waterproof and glides on smoothly and runs less than $10.00. It lasts all day, despite the humidity. For far less than half the price of the Este Lauder liner, I can have eyeliner that lasts all day.

So as you see, more expensive is not always better. The proof is in my three day trial results.

Black & White

I write. I blog. And I take photographs, both digitally and using 35mm film (yes, it still exists.)

I’ve recently been shooting more frequently with film. It’s my very first love when it comes to photography. I taught myself. This was pre-youtube and google. You either read a book (I didn’t), had someone teach you (I didn’t), or you played with the settings and figured it out (I did.)

While Photoshop and Lightroom can create all sorts of effects, I haven’t found it able to recreate the feeling of a true grainy, black and white film shot. And even more so, the anticipation of the results. Nothing instantaneous in the world of film. You shoot. You develop. You hope you got the shot. There are no do-overs when it comes to film.

Either you got it or you didn’t. Either you understand the inner-workings of the camera or…you wing it, hoping for the best. There are no LCD screens to peek at here. Pure. Film. Pure. Knowledge.

(Logo added in Lightroom)

Nail polish…Anxiety

Ladies, please tell me I am not the only one who begins to feel a little anxious when I walk into the nail salon and the nail technician say, “Pick out a colour.”

There are three billion colours to choose from? How is a girl to narrow that choice down? For a long time, I was doing french manicures on my toes and finger nails. Then, winter came along with closed toe shoes and I decided it was time to choose a colour. I could literally stand there forever, staring at all the pretty colours, choosing two or three or four. Oftentimes, to ease my anxiety (sometimes the simplest choice will trigger it) I will have my technician choose. And she always chooses the right colour for my toenails. Always.

Thank you! My wonderful nail technician for easing my mind a little. After all, a pedicure ought to be relaxing.

-Eating my way through Chicago

Chicago, Chi-Town, the Windy City, call it what you may….the food there is incredible. I may not look like I’m much of a foodie (5′ tall, 98 lbs – sorry to get a bit “personal” here, ha!)

I absolutely love Chicago; it’s a beautiful city, filled with many tasty-licious foods. Having just been up in Chicago a few months ago, I wanted to break the tie between Giordano’s and Gino’s East deep dish pizza. I swore that Gino’s was “better.” (Better is all relative, personal preference if you will.)

A little back-story on how this challenge began between the two restaurants. Upon arriving in Chicago in July, on our very first night there, we ordered in. Exhausted, we patiently awaited the arrival our deep dish personally designed pizzas from Giordano’s. Mine was….well, good but somewhat dry. On our final night in Chicago, we met up with my cousins, Frank and Betty, for a Chicago-style deep dish pizza dinner at Gino’s East in downtown Chicago. Not only did we endulge in their deep dish pizza but I had the absolute best thin crust pizza I’ve ever had at any non-Italian pizza spot.

 

 

Upon my return to Chicago this month (October,) I was determined to have another go at Gino’s delicious deep dish pizza as well as Giordano’s (in the restaurant this time.) It was time for a tie-breaker decision.  Would it be Gino’s East or Giordano’s for the win?

 

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For the record, after dining at Giordano’s two nights in a row (because the first night, their pizza completely won me over, perfect amount of sauce, tasty ingredients, perfectly crisp buttery crust…..) there was absolutely no need to go back to Gino’s. Giordano’s pizza is perfect. I can’t vouch for their thin crust….but their pan pizza is mmmm, mmmm good.

When in Chicago, do as the Chicagoans do….eat deep dish pizza (and Chicago hot dogs at Portillo’s by all means…..)

Just Enough

Just enough is no longer enough.

Often times we allow ourselves to do or accept “just enough.” It’s never completely satisfying.

When does “just enough” become no longer enough? When does minimal effort become more?

Just enough will never fully be enough. We can only fool ourselves for a little while into thinking it might be.

If we only give just enough, if we only accept just enough, a part of us will remain empty, unfulfilled. Go for more.

It IS a Disease

Nothing may get me wound up faster than someone saying that depression and anxiety are not a disease. They are indeed a disease, an invisible illness, one many struggle with alone because of this statement. This simple statement is what causes such a stigma when it comes to mental healty and illness.

If you have never struggled with either, if you don’t understand it’s an illness, may I make a few suggestions to you.

1. Approach those you care for with compassion and patience whilst they are battling. It often feels like they are being pulled deeper into the depressive abyss when all they really want is to climb out into the light.

2. Please understand, no matter the cause of the depression and anxiety, one cannot simple “snap out of it” overnight. It may require medication. It most definitely requires intense counselling and therapy.

3. No one wants to be depressed. Many times, it can be difficult for the one struggling to understand the whys and make sense of it. They feel “crazy.” If they cannot make sense of it, it’s difficult to explain to where it makes sense to those who’ve never been in their shoes.

4. Don’t offer up advice. While it’s well-intended, it isn’t often received well. Being present. Listening. A hug. A smile. An uplifing word. Prayers. It helps. Be a support but ask how you can support. You cannot fix it/them.

5. Patience. Compassion. Empathy. These are vital.

I have suffered countless times with depression and anxiety. Many (many!!) years of counselling have gotten me to a place where I feel strong enough to do it on my own. I monitor my emotions closely. I monitor my thoughts. I know my anxiety triggers. I still have my moments when I feel like I am sinking and I reach out to those I trust to help keep me in the light, to help me stop the anxiety from taking control.

Depression. Anxiety. Mental illnesses. They are truly a living hell.

**** I am not a counselor, therapist, psychologist or psychiatrist. I can only share my experiences.

Masks + Gloves = 2020

It’s the first of December. Yeah. Already.

What will we remember about 2020?

1. How abruptly we went from going in to work and school to working from home and virtual school.

2. Masks became the norm. Prior to 2020, if you wore a mask in public, people looked at you sideways. Now, they look at you sideways if you don’t. (Yes, I’ve given people the “evil eye” for not wearing one indoors in public.)

3. Everyone’s wearing disposable gloves. Everyone! And let me tell you how quickly you can go through a box of 100! Really fast, if you use them properly. (i.e. Don’t reuse them and don’t wear the same pair all day, it’s called “cross-contamination.”)

4. Lock-downs. Restrictions. Curfews. Almost makes it sound like you’re reliving your teenage years again, using those three words.

5. Hand sanitizer is everywhere! And we use it constantly. I wasn’t a germaphobic…but I think we’ll all continue to be more cautious and clean.

6. Lack of… toilet paper and cleaners! (Add sanitizer to the list too!) People bought truckloads of it! And are still stocking up. Can you blame them? Be considerate and think of others.

2020 will be an unforgettable year, that’s for sure. Who’d have thought?

And let’s not even get started on the political drama…we’ll save it for another time.

Please be safe. Stay well. And virtually hug one another.

*Survivor*

It’s the last day of October, Halloween. It’s also the last day of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

For a long time, I considered myself a victim; it wasn’t until the more recent years that I realised I’m not just a statistic, I am a survivor, with a story to tell.

I can’t tell you the number of times I tried to leave, only getting as far as the mailroom in our apartment building, where I’d sit and cry, hoping, praying someone would see me amd ask questions. No one ever did. I always went back. The fear was just too great. When the abuser constantly tells you, “If I can’t have you, no one will…” You believe that. The fear is slowly instilled from the beginning of the relationship.

If it were so easy to leave, many would earlier on. But sadly, it’s not. Unfortunately, many become statistics after they leave.

We need stronger laws and sentences for those who abuse women. When I went to court against my abuser, they sentenced him to mandatory anger management classes and I received a restraining order, a piece of paper telling him he could not come withing x amount of feet of me. He never broke that restraining order but stalked and followed me constantly.

A few physical scars remain and I’ve been in and out of counseling for the past 26 years. The emotional abuse is the most difficult to heal from; and I honestly wonder if you can ever completely heal from it?

Remember-You are NOT alone. Reach out to a trusted loved one, a domestic violence hotline. And most importantly, remember-it is NOT your fault.

TheHotline.org https://www.thehotline.org/

NCADV https://ncadv.org/get-help

I am a Survivor

Twenty six years ago, I left. But that was not the end.

Leaving an abusive relationship is never easy. You’ve been beaten, threatened for years. The fear of leaving, of being stalked, harmed or even losing your life is real. Once the abused person leaves, it angers the abuser. In my case, it lead to stalking. Sure, I had a permanent restraining order and he was given mandatory anger management counseling….but what good did that do. I was stalked. And whenever I’d call the police, there wasn’t anything they could do; he never actually broke the restraining order.

I was fortunate. I survived. I still have the scars. And while I have healed, the trauma never seems to completely go away. I feel comfortable enough now to share my story, bits and pieces here and there without becoming emotional. But the residual affects remain.

You are NOT alone. Please know that. And most importantly, it is NOT your fault.

I’ve never been one to share my feelings, not in the spoken word nor in the written. I hate being vulnerable.

I once dated a guy, it was a comfortable enough relationship. I remember telling him I loved him a year into our relationship. His response was that he didn’t. I carried on through the relationship for a few months or so; we shared a journal in which we’d share how we felt. I don’t know what happened to said journal but it was safer to some degree than speaking them out loud.

I built walls for many many years. I let very few in. And those that I have allowed in, I cherish them. I feel like it was easier when I kept my feelings and emotions all bottled up. Honestly, I would prefer to feel so much less than I do. Yet, I can’t change who I am…as much as I try and as much as I want to.

Maybe I can build smaller walls…

You Are Not Alone

There are days when I struggle, with anxiety, with my emotions, with depression. I hide it well.

But when people know you, truly know you, they know. Recently, I had a friend reach out. They did not say much, but it was all I needed to hear. They said something like, “I see you. And I am here, if you need me.” Those few words meant more to me than I can say. When you feel like you are sinking, just knowing that someone is reaching back to grab onto your hand, it’s a life-line.

So for those of you who are struggling today, I’m here, if you need me, you are not alone.

*** October Is….

It’s the first of October. It is also the beginning of Domestic Violence Awareness month.

Domestic violence affects everyone, not only women but men and children as well. 1 in 9 men have been victims of severe physical domestic violence. 1 in 4 women have been victims of the same.

I’ve shared my story before. I’ll share it again ans again. It’s worth being vulnerable if it helps one, if it educates one.

I was 17. I was a senior in high school. I had low self-esteem and was insecure. And I was angry because I’d just relocated to Colorado Springs from San Vito Air Station, Italy, where I spent my middle and all but one of my high school years. I felt uprooted and was longing to go “home.”

On Peterson Air Force Base (Colorado) I met my would-be abuser. He had also gone to the same school I did in Italy; there was common ground there. We connected. We dated. We became a couple. We became engaged and moved into an apartment together when I graduated from high school. Throughout all this time, my girlfriends told me to leave. I did not. When we moved in together, I lost all contact with my friends as well as with my family, for the most part.

The abuse began in subtle ways. Belittling. Comparing me to other young women. Name calling. Remember, I already lacked confidence and had low self esteem so manipulation came easily. What had seemed like paradise was really a living hell. There were plenty of red flags that I did not know as red flags.

Emotional abuse. Mental abuse. Physical abuse and finally, sexual abuse. I won’t leave you with all the details…at least this time…but my life was a living hell. I hear some of you thinking right now, “Why didn’t you/she leave?” I wish it were that easy to “just leave.” I did, finally, after my abuser held a knife (a really large one) to my neck one night. Yet, there would be more hell to come….even after leaving.

I am not a victim any longer, I am a survivor, one who plans to tell her story over and over again, even if it means reliving it. I am not so sure one can ever fully heal with the traumas of abuse. The physical scars remain but the mental scars are so much worse.