A place for random thoughts, ideas, and fun!
What really goes on in Amy's brain? I'll use this space to share more about myself and my interests, journal some of the more exciting goings-on in my life, and work through some of the writing ideas and dilemmas I'm wrestling with. Enjoy!|
Movie Review Mondays . . . if you watch a film after reading a review, please come back and let me know what you thought!
|It’s very difficult to know whether or not to welcome a new med into my life. Over the past several months I’ve started taking a handful of new medications, in an effort to deal with some frustrating but not life-threatening issues.
Have I been sleeping better? Yes – off and on. I’ve started and stopped so many different medications, as their efficacy declined. I have yet to find a physician who is interested in dealing with the issues BEHIND my life-long battle with insomnia. The first doctor I ever spoke with about my insomnia said “take Benadryl.” I was stunned. I’d just told him I had been struggling with insomnia MY ENTIRE LIFE, and his response is that I should take Benadryl? This was many years before I would even accept the idea of taking a medication to help me sleep. It was also the last time I visited that particular physician.
The one sleep specialist I saw did not know what do to with me, since I did not have sleep apnea.
I have major sensory issues that prevent me from getting comfortable, and startle me awake. I also struggle with getting my brain to shut down. This is what the sleep doctor wanted to focus on. But without dealing with the sensory issues, getting my brain to settle was irrelevant. I liken it to being ticklish – when I’m tickled, my body reacts. I don’t have a rational moment to respond. The same thing happens with other sensory stimulation. My heart starts racing, and I’m in alert mode. Everything bothers me – sound, vibration, the feel of a crease in the pillowcase, a stray hair, something cooking at the other end of the house, the light through the seam in the blinds or under the bedroom door. I sleep with a fan for white noise year round. But it has to be perfectly steady white noise, because a wobble (think the sound of a jet engine) will drive me insane. It’s ALL I will hear.
So meds . . . they can help settle my brain and ease my sensory issues enough so that I can get to sleep. Until they stop working. Some work better than others. Some leave me groggy or grouchy the next day. Some have other side effects. My current doctor has brushed aside my concerns that I’m taking 3 different medications that increase my appetite. THREE. I have no chance against the menace of the kitchen. I was in tears in Kohls last week, trying to buy myself some clothes that fit. It HAS to stop.
So I’m fighting the meds. I’m weaning myself off of my sleep meds, and will speak to the physician who prescribed the 3rd one next month.
Last night was really rough. I kept hearing someone moving around, somewhere in the house. At 2:30 AM I was still awake. And I still have not completely weaned myself off of the meds. I am NOT looking forward to the next few weeks.
|I saw a Facebook post from a friend of Dr B’s, a few days ago. This friend had traveled across the country to be with her mother and two little brothers for Christmas. No reason other than the mother’s unstable mental health was mentioned for the reason, but Dr B’s friend was writing from a train station, having been kicked out of her mother’s home, and disowned. At Christmas. After traveling across the country to be there.
I know this person. She is a PROFOUNDLY GOOD person. Every time I see her Facebook wall, she’s raising money for another charity, doing a bike race or other competition. Last year she traveled to Haiti to work with the displaced children, and she’s returning again this year.
So what, I wonder, could possibly cause a mother to disown such a remarkable young adult? I don’t know her whole story, but I’m going to make a small mental leap and an assumption, knowing her and knowing that she and Dr B have much in common. Perhaps I am incorrect. In the end, it does not matter, because this blog is about all people who find themselves in that position, at this time of year or any other time of year.
Whether R’s sexuality or gender fluidity are in any way related to the reason she was forcibly ejected from her little brothers’ lives or not, there are so many people that live that particular nightmare.
Parents, grandparents, life-long friends – how devastating it can be to find out that these people do not in fact love you unconditionally . . . but quite definitely with strongly delineated conditions. Why does this happen? People do not understand, people cannot accept, people point to antiquated belief systems that back up their hatred and their justification for turning their backs on someone they thought to love forever.
Tough love? Give me a break. You will NEVER change who someone is by giving them an ultimatum. The only thing that accomplishes is crushing fragile spirits, and destroying budding new lives and selfhoods.
Dr B thanks me quite often for being an amazing mom. While that means the world to me . . . I simply cannot fathom being any other way. Acceptance, encouragement, and unconditional love – those are the foundations for healthy futures.
We cannot eliminate things we do not understand from the world, simply by eliminating them from our lives. How much better it would be to embrace the unique footprint that each of us has on this world, and open our minds to the opportunity to learn something vital.
|I think I’ve written before about how down I get during the winter holidays. Part of the problem, of course, is Seasonal Affective Disorder. I was SO hoping that moving to California would eliminate that issue, but no such luck. It’s been glorious and sunny for the past several days, but I’ve been huddled inside, gloomy and shivering under a blanket. My body EXPECTS to be gloomy and cold this time of year. Somehow I have to retrain it. My full spectrum light wasn’t doing me much good, so I stopped making it a part of my morning routine. Perhaps I should start using it again and see what happens.
But back to the holidays . . .
I’m just working part of this out in my mind as I write. Parts I already knew and understood, but I’m having a revelation as I sit here. I have ALWAYS felt resentful during this time of year. Regardless of the fact that I strongly believe everyone has the right to their religion and beliefs, I resent the fact that, at this time of year, in the United States, everyone is assumed to be Christian, and to celebrate Christmas. Growing up, we did Christmas art projects in school, we sang Christmas carols in music class, and exchanged Christmas presents. If there wasn’t a Jewish mom to come in and tell the class about Hanukkah, it was utterly ignored. And, of course, my mom was not that mom. I did go into my kids’ classes for many years, to tell the children about the different Jewish holidays. I stopped when we moved. I’m not entirely sure why.
So resentment about the presumption that I celebrate this holiday hits me strongly. This year I became irritated about the Christmas ornament exchange in Monkey’s classroom. And yet, I had not gone in to teach the class about Hanukkah. Monkey DID bring in dreidels, as well as a couple of stories for his teacher to read. So that made me happy. But an ornament exchange? Surely my child is not the only non-Christian in the class. I felt uncomfortable though, saying something to the classroom parent, who was organizing the party. Why? Well, my husband is not Jewish. We have a tree. If I made a stink, I’d feel like a hypocrite, despite the fact that we do the tree for Bob. Not for us. So I asked Monkey if he wanted to participate in the ornament exchange. He said yes. We have a little red bell on the tree now, as a result.
Of course every time Monkey’s class does ANY kind of party, I have to provide special food for him. Pizza party? Off to Patxi’s I go, for Monkey’s cheeseless “sauce pizza.” Each parent is supposed to send in a small amount of money to cover the cost of party food. I figure since I spend double that to make sure Monkey has food, they can toss him a juice box without my paying up. Ooh, off topic, another kettle of resentment entirely.
Resentment hits me in the stores, as well. The shops are crowded, which I don’t do well with on the best of occasions. Everything is a Christmas display. It was less than a week ago (if you’re keeping track, Hanukkah ended on the 3rd of December) that I saw the wee Hanukkah display, tucked away on a top shelf at CVS. Oooh, that’s handy. I usually buy something Hanukkah-related, out of principle, if I see it in a store. A thank you for carrying items related to my holiday token, perhaps. But also a reminder that they should CONTINUE to carry these items in the future. Look – someone’s buying them! We need to have them again next year! I didn’t see anything in that sorry little display that I felt compelled to buy. Cheap candles. More dreidels (I have approximately 75). Fakey plastic menorah. Nope. No thanks.
I want to make clear – I do not resent those who celebrate Christmas. I know it’s an exciting, and all-consuming time of year for many people, and if anything, I resent the fact that I can’t find myself feeling that sense of excitement.
Well, you know what? Maybe I do . . . not resent those who celebrate the holiday, but when I see a photo of a Jewish friend wearing an ugly Christmas sweater, I have to ask myself . . . why? Do they feel the lure of being a part of this season, or are they selling out, in an effort to fit in? Probably I need years of therapy to deal with this.
Ah well, in a few days it will be over.
|Do you ever have a dream that just sticks with you, long after you wake up? It can affect the entire tone of your day, as you walk around still pondering the feelings this dream left with you, or mentally chewing on the meaning behind a particular dream.
I woke up this morning with just such a dream knocking at my brain. Nothing earth-shattering or momentous (I still have a few from years ago that I remember with that vivid degree of detail) but something about this dream is holding on and not letting go.
I was with a group of people – I’m not entirely sure who they were. But there were a few small children, including one little girl who was very much a free spirit (or poor listener?) . . . in any case, there were these burners. Gas stove type burners, but low where she could access them, and they had single flames shooting upward. Her little friend (brother?) was nearby, and my brain says perhaps she wanted to impress him, or be near him. In any case, she did this sort of swinging leap/climb OVER the flame. And no one around her paid her any attention. I pulled her aside afterward and told her that I was worried, that what she had done was dangerous, and that she should not do it again or she could get badly hurt. A few minutes later, this man (don’t think he was related to her in a familial sense, but perhaps in a more clan-like sense) came up to me and basically told me to mind my own business.
So I’m stuck wondering . . . was this dream a cautionary tale about getting too involved in the lives of others? Was it a commentary on my concern for parents who let their children run wild without limits? And HOW the heck did she manage to get over that blue gas flame without hurting herself!? It was half as tall as she was!
|Well last night turned out to be all sort of fun I was not anticipating. After having a super low energy and low mood day, I still managed to make it to our local wine bar for Karaoke night. Now you MUST understand that, for me, Karaoke night involves having a drink or two, eating some tasty food, and listening to others sing. I don’t sing in public. Heck, I don’t sing in private. Occasionally in the car if the radio is on, but since I never turn on the radio of my own accord, that is rare indeed.
Somehow I ended up at the mic, singing Puff the Magic Dragon with a friend. And crying, of course. And then, as if that wasn’t enough, I ended up going up with Bob, later that evening, and singing City of New Orleans. I don’t even know how it happened. But I felt good.
Woke up during the middle of the night, smelling pasta. That was the end of it. An hour and a half later I finally settled myself back to sleep.
So today was going to be a good day. Bob and I had planned to see a matinee together – what a treat! Of course, waking up and seeing that the weather in Philly is deteriorating, and that there are travel advisories for tomorrow, set me into an AM tailspin. Tried to contact Dr B about rebooking the flight for TODAY, but no answer. No answer, no answer. Finally, it was too late to even consider any of today’s flights. We will have to hope for the best for tomorrow morning.
So we went to the movie . . . and I cried. And cried. This is NOT the right time of year for me to be watching sad movies. I wanted to see this film, and it was fantastic, but had I known how sad it would be, I would NOT have gone. I know what I can and cannot do this time of year. Watching anything sad is simply out of the question.
Came back to the house and just needed to sleep it off. Now I’m tired and grumpy and anxious about the weather. I need another dose of whatever hit me last night at Swirl.
PS – I HATE trying to figure out how to write “dos and don’ts” . . . nothing looks right. Argh.
|Depression is an insidious disease. It wraps lethargy and gloom around the hidden places inside of you, reaching out tendrils until you’re thoroughly entrapped. Deep chill burrows into bones, while incoherent fog swirls around the parts of your brain usually reserved for rational thought, rendering you incapable of expressing the very reason for your mental immobilization.
For me, winter has always been a harbinger of depression – the chill goes deep within me, and coupled with the long, dark times, the two bring to my mind that deepest and darkest of realities - death.
I fight it before it arrives – going out of my way to make fun and exciting plans to ward off the gloom. I unbury my full spectrum light, to keep the darkness at bay. And yet it finds me, sneaking into my bones when I am otherwise occupied, curling into my psyche while I think I am resting and replenishing my resources.
As I write, buried beneath the warmth of a fleecy blanket, the chill causes my insides to quiver. How far can I bury myself? At what point am I not caring for myself, but enabling the depression to wend its way deeper into my soul?
At what point do I wonder whether the medications that are intended to help lift me from the fog of depression are actually pulling me further downward? Sleep, a blessed and coveted event in my life, becomes the end all and be all. I yearn for the oblivion that it can provide, and yet when I awaken I am no less burdened by the specter of my depression.
Activities that once brought me joy leave a dry and unpleasant taste in my mouth; will I some day feel the desire to pick up a book and read again? No doubt. At times, reading can provide a life line when I feel disconnected, and provide a world in which to live, when my surroundings seem unpalatable. But not today . . . not today.
I huddle beneath a blanket of crimson, hoping to chase the chill away; hoping that I can convince myself to emerge from my fleece cocoon and find a way to live the day.
|I am an introvert. There’s no question about it. I always have been. I don’t do well in large groups. I am utterly overwhelmed when placed in a room filled with people, particularly when they’re all taller than I am (which would be just about every room except for perhaps an elementary school classroom). I tend to be an observer when in large groups, because I have always struggled to insert myself appropriately into conversations. Loud noises and crowds overwhelm me and give me anxiety.
And yet. Every year, I look forward with great anticipation to our annual holiday party. The house, filled with people, all talking and laughing at the same time. Children running around making a cacophony of sounds (okay, that part I’m never thrilled with, to be honest). Room after room, cluster after cluster, conversation after conversation. And I love it.
So I’ve been pondering what it is that makes our holiday party different than every other social occasion in which I participate.
I think there are several things that make it stand out for me – first, the sense of being surrounded by the people I care about – the people who care about me. As alone as I might feel at other times of the year, during our holiday party I know that each of those people chose to spend their time with my family and myself. It’s a wonderful feeling. Particularly now that we’ve moved, although it truly has always felt this way. The holidays are such a difficult time to be 3,000 miles away from home. We have cultivated many new friendships in California, and this year I had the opportunity to introduce many of them to my dad and stepmom, who are visiting and were at our party on Saturday evening. It was such a joy to share our friends with them.
I also think that there’s a sense of control over the situation. My friends, my home, my recipes. Creating the setting and the foods, preparing favorite recipes and finding new ones to add to the menu, and turning my home into the perfect party location. Finding ways to turn the evening into something that everyone who steps through the door will enjoy.
And perhaps, as well, it’s the sense that as much as I dislike the cold and winter, and tend to be somewhat of a Scrooge when it comes to the winter holidays, this is our tradition – this is what we have chosen to do, molded into our own blending of winter holidays, and share with the people we care about. It’s a warm ray of sunshine in an otherwise bleak winter, for me. The Hanukkah candles and the Christmas tree, shining brightly and welcoming everyone into our home and our holiday.
In my home, everyone gathers around while we light the Hanukkah candles. I don’t have the sense that I always had as a child of being so very different, so very odd in comparison to my friends who all celebrated Christmas. Yes, for some people who attend our party for the first time, this is also their first time experiencing the lighting of the menorah. But that’s all right. They usually express gratitude to me for allowing them to share in the tradition, and for teaching them something. This year I marveled at just how many voices I heard in the room, singing along with the blessings as we lit the candles.
I also have to mention how very fortunate I feel that we have friends who travel from across the country every single year to join us for our holiday party. It is difficult to feel sad and lonely when I know I have such people in my life.
The day I suggested to my husband that we begin the annual tradition of our holiday party was an excellent day, indeed. I am already thinking about the next one.
|As I’m cooking up a storm in preparation for our holiday party tomorrow, and I’m smelling the wonderful scent of freshly baked kugel, I thought perhaps it was time for a Foodie Friday blog post!
“What is kugel?” you may wonder. It is basically a baked pudding or casserole type dish with Ashkenazi Jewish roots. A kugel usually has a starch base – noodles or potatoes are traditional, and matzo kugels are often made during Passover. Kugels can be sweet or savory, and everyone has their own favorite recipe.
Here is mine:
Lokshen kugel (Noodle Pudding)
1 lb cottage cheese (low fat is fine)
3 cups sour cream (even a little less will do; again, low fat is fine)
¼ cup milk
½ cup melted unsalted butter, divided
4 to 6 eggs, depending on how rich you like it (I always do 6)
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla (really . . . I use more like a full teaspoon)
1 lb broad or thin egg noodles, cooked
2 cups cornflakes, crushed
3 to 1 ratio mixture of sugar and cinnamon
Grease 9x13 inch baking dish. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large mixing bowl, combine cottage cheese, sour cream, eggs, milk, ¼ cup of butter, sugar, and vanilla. Mix with cooked egg noodles.
Pour mixture into baking dish. Combine crushed cornflakes with cinnamon and sugar, and sprinkle over top of kugel. Drizzle the remaining butter over the top.
Bake for 1 hour, or until lightly browned. May be frozen and reheated.
|I recently made the decision to attempt to blog nearly every day. So of course I’m now attempting to stretch my brain and come up with enough topics to fill 365 days. This in turn led me to think about the process of blogging, why one chooses to blog, and why one chooses to include certain topics or contents and leave out others.
For myself, I made the decision to keep up with my daily blog after finishing NaNoWriMo a few weeks ago. Regardless of whether or not I’m editing, or working on another project, or beginning to plan out a new story, blogging keeps me in the habit of sitting down daily and writing.
It can be a challenge coming up with new and different ideas on a regular basis. Several years ago, I tried doing Movie Mondays, and Foodie Fridays, in an attempt to add some structure to my blog and therefore increase the likelihood that I would actually add to it. Of course, that rests on the assumption that I have a new recipe or film to blog about, so that went by the wayside fairly quickly.
There are topics that some people choose to highlight in their blogs for a variety of reasons. Some of them I would not touch with a ten foot pole. Regarding other topics, I will likely sit down and spend some time regurgitating my internal thought processes onto my computer.
My final thought for the day relates to the blogger’s personal purpose. Do I blog for myself, or do I blog for others? I think for most people, the answer is that it is a combination of the two. I blog on topics of interest to myself, with the hope that others will either learn something, or find something to relate to, or simply find my writing entertaining. One can only hope.
|As many of us begin, or continue our holidays of conspicuous consumption, it brings sharply into focus those for whom this holiday season is not particularly merry or bright.
A friend of mine in a private Facebook group got up the courage and wherewithal to leave her abusive husband the other day. She and her children are struggling so much, as they each cope with the trials that come from such an uprooting, with no where to go, and no one to count on.
I’ve been thinking about her a great deal over the past few days.
Today I drove up to Target, and at the entrance to the parking lot was a woman with 2 small children – one in a carrier and the other in a stroller. I don’t know her story. I don’t need to know her story. All I need to know is that she needed help. Before I went in and filled my shopping cart, I ran to the café and purchased 2 containers of milk, 2 juice boxes, 2 fruit squeezes, 3 bananas and 2 packages of freeze dried fruit. And a paper bag, so I could give her the whole bundle. I ran out and gave them to her, then went back in to do my own shopping, filling my cart with a few pieces of clothing for myself, a couple of new notebooks for Goldilocks, piles of groceries, and prizes to give out during our holiday party slipper contest. As I pushed my overflowing cart back out to fill up my vehicle, I noticed that the woman and her 2 children were still there. I grabbed the second box of Cheerios I had purchased, as I was tossing the groceries into my trunk. As I pulled up, I opened the window and handed her the box.
My husband occasionally takes the kids on road trips, and that usually leads them to a McDonalds, because we know their chicken nuggets are a safe food for Monkey to eat. If he sees someone outside, he’ll invite them inside and buy them a meal.
I’m not writing this for accolades – I’m writing it because I think it’s so important to remember how fortunate my family and I are. The very fact that it was such a simple thing for me to do – buy some extra food, and give it to someone in need – means that I am fortunate indeed. Not everyone is so fortunate. We may not know their stories, but if we can fill a belly, or bring a smile to a face, I think it is an honor to do so.
What can each of us do, this holiday season, to bring some cheer to someone in need?