Saturday, December 31, 2011

Month in Review: December

December started off with a bang. Our small group from church has a 'social' night in between books and we offered to have everyone over to our apartment for a make-your-own-pizza party a la my birthday parties growing up (thanks Mom)! I took a shortcut and bought pizza dough from Whole Foods, but I did let it rise and then tossed it and baked it myself.

We provided pizza crust, sauce, and cheese and each couple brought over 1 or 2 bowls of their favorite pizza toppings to share. Once everyone arrived, we took turns building pizzas and broiling them until the cheese melted. We had salad to munch on while they baked, so I think everyone had a lot of fun and it was very interactive. It was funny, though, that somehow the 'couples' small group ended up divided: girls at one table, guys at the other :o)

My Dad's home-grown and homemade Norton wine was a hit!
 And then we were busy from there on out:

-I started the weekend premium position at work.

-Ross made a new dining room table and mirror for us.

-I had a ridiculous headache that started on-and-off in October, started to stick around in November, and grew persistently worse throughout December to the point that Advil and Tylenol wouldn't touch it. I had a CT scan, an MRI, a trip to Urgent Care, lots of tears, and no answers. Thankfully, it started subsiding by the end of the month but I did have sobering moments when I thought I'd live with it the rest of my life. I have a new, tiny, tiny understanding of what it must be like to live with chronic pain. And I'm so grateful that I don't.

Hmmm things don't look nearly as chaotic as the feel up there!
-Interviewed for and GOT a Teaching Assistant position at school! It's going to be a huge responsibility, the the opportunity is a tremendous blessing.

-Thanks to many, many prayers and efforts (prayer works!) and despite all my busy-ness (or, perhaps, because of it?) I started to feel happier. And lighter. And I'm so grateful.

-Saw many of my favorite NICU grads and they're all thriving at home.

-Went to my Aunt Theresa's winter solstice party after work and ate my weight in cheese balls and toffee. They days are already getting longer!!!!!! (there aren't enough explanation points in the world for this statement)

-Finished all of my stats assignments. So far I have a solid A! Whether or not I keep it depends solely upon the effort I expend studying for the last test.

-Finished my Nurse Leadership binder for work. This was a year-long project attempting to prove that I am a professional nurse and I deserve a place on the clinical ladder. We'll see.

-We went to an Ugly Christmas Sweater Party with our small group. So fun!

Part of our White Elephant gift. Delicious!
Gift Exchange
Trying to draw "Deck the Halls"
Love this group
-I got Facebook Timeline and I like the look of it (okay, I mostly just love looking at that panoramic sunset from a kayak trip in the Florida Keys for our 1 year anniversary). But I hate that I now have proof that I've been on Facebook at least weekly since 2006.

-I cashed in an early Christmas gift (thank you Mom and Dad) and joined a gym again!!!! (again, there aren't enough explanation points)

-Went to Amarillo which is wonderful, but driving through Oklahoma City always makes me realize we're so close to Ft. Worth, yet so far away on those trips.

-Had a White Christmas in Texas.

-My family (minus Tommy) came to town after Christmas so we got to hang out a lot.

-Went to Hibachi with my Aunt Karen, Uncle Pete, and cousins for the first time in years.

He knew we were getting a kick of how high he kept stacking the dishes!
 -Rang in the New Year... asleep. Because it was my year to work NYE and New Year's Day.

Monthly Goal Evaluation:

This month I wanted to get into the routine of working out again. Six days a week was overly ambitious on purpose, and I'm more than happy to report that I averaged 3-4 workouts a week. I did a lot of weight training (Tone it Up videos, Jillian Michaels 6 Weeks to 6 Pack Abs, and a Lean Legs and Lean Arms Pyramid I found on Pinterest) and was pretty sore they day after a workout-- especially after the Lean Arms Pyramid. I missed workout out on the days I wasn't able to, but I feel like I'm definitely headed in the right direction and I'm ready to kick it into higher gear now that I have access to a gym and classes!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Feliz Navidad

This day last year, I was practically having a heart attack myself as I coded a baby before 8am. Today, thankfully, is much more mellow. Remember the reason for the season!


Friday, December 23, 2011

Naming Rights

I see a lot of babies on a weekly basis. I go into withdraw if I don't snuggle someone between 2 and 6 pounds at least once a week (I love my job)! Consequently, I've heard a lot of baby names. And to be perfectly honest, I've made fun of a few. But the ones I've seen aren't anything compared to these. Too funny!

P.S. I'm still ridiculously sore from Body Pump. It's the good kind of sore, but I was walking across the unit like a cowboy yesterday and today. Eek!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Pump it Up

My gracious and generous parents have contributed to the get-Therese-back-in-shape fund for Christmas and on Monday, I eagerly went to Costco with a friend and grabbed a 2 year membership to 24 Hour Fitness for $319. If my math is correct, that's just over $3 a week. AMAZING!!!

I went with a friend yesterday to walk on the treadmill for a bit and today I went to Body Pump. I have been wanting to go to this class like crazy for a while now. It's a group weight lifting class very similar to the 24 Lift classes I was taking at the gym in Ft. Worth.

I'm actually really proud of the strength training I've been doing at home lately and it allowed me to more or less keep up with the class today, but the only way I'm going to get in 1 hour of strength training at a time is if it's in an encouraging environment with someone telling me what to do next and that's exactly what Body Pump is. I'm hoping to go twice a week now.

What I love most about strength training is, well, the feeling of strength that it gives me. Not just externally, but internally. Whenever I've gotten in a good routine with weights, I'll jokingly flex and ask Ross if he can tell I've been lifting weights. He always laughs but then says yes. But one time he said, "I can also tell you've been lifting because you're more confident." SO TRUE.

Here are some beginner's tips and a great summary of Body Pump from a few other blogs I read. Like Olympic snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler says, “It's not about being sexy but about being strong and powerful and showing girls it’s OK to have muscles. … And that strength and power is beautiful.”

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Blessings I Don't Deserve

On Wednesday, I interviewed for a Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) position at school. On Friday, I found out that I got it!!! I didn't have high hopes because the position is to help as a lab and clinical instructor for the ABSN students-- advanced track adults who already have one degree and are switching to nursing. AKA people twice my age. The staff was asking me if I was tough enough for that and I think I kind of wavered in my answer. Of course, I'd rather teach traditional undergrads.

Needless to say, I was shocked when I got the letter of invitation to take the job. I said yes and of course suffered a minute of indecision after that. I'm going to be so busy, but I'm excited about that for once. I think it'll be good for me!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Just Like That

...and just like that my last Saturday of freedom ended (I stayed up 'til after midnight enjoying it though). I am now on weekend premium for the next 6 months. SO excited about the paycheck and the more predictable schedule. (I've been working every other day since Thanksgiving and it's driving me crazy). I'm less excited about having to say no to things like friends' baby showers and birthday parties. But we're praying that we use the extra money responsibly and we no longer need it in 6 months.

At least my Saturday went out with a bang! One of the couples in our small group had an Ugly Christmas Sweater party and Ross and I were happy to celebrate the season with friends! We went to Salvation Army a few weeks ago and got some ugly sweaters... but they're not very Christmas-y.

At least we gave one of the most desirable (most-stolen) white elephant gifts! I seriously contemplated stealing it for myself when we got the chance, but I didn't. I know the final recipients will enjoy the hand-made caramels thoroughly.

Thursday, December 8, 2011


It's a good day when your therapist tells you, "you're under some stress but I can tell you're really happy."

*Insert stunned silence here*

I am now in 'maintenance' therapy sessions now instead of 'let's sort through all of your problems' therapy. The reality is that even if my problems are mostly first world problems, depression screws with your mind and anxiety beefs up even the smallest issues and it doesn't take much for everything to spin out of control.

I'm a little stunned to be in this place. Suddenly I've been booted out into the open and depression is no longer a cloak I can hide under. I kind of like it. I remember busting into tears when I first met my therapist and she said, "I've been there and I am here to tell you that you will get through this. It is possible to have a life beyond this. There is hope."

I know there's a saying that goes, "I'm too blessed to be depressed." This saying has always frustrated me because I feel like it should be true. I am blessed beyond measure and I don't deserve any of it. I serve a loving God and with 20/20 hindsight, I can see why every single thing has happened the way it has this year and over the course of my life.

But depression is an animal. It puts blinders on either side of you and a dark cloud above you and a deep canyon in front of you. I remember reading something once to the extent of, "they say exercise is good for depression, but if you're really depressed then you're just walking around the park, depressed." THAT IS SO TRUE. Depression can be a beast and even if I can't see him and I'm not looking for him, I know he'll show up at the slightest sign of weakness. But now I have a toolbox full of knowledge and support to kick him to the curb when he threatens to stay a while.

I will say that for someone in the throes of depression, medication, when appropriately prescribed and followed up, can be a lifesaver. In Eat Pray Love, Elizabeth Gilbert says that once she was on the right meds, "quickly, in less than a week, I could feel an extra inch of daylight opening in my mind. Also, I could finally sleep. And this was the real gift, because when you cannot sleep, you cannot get yourself out of the ditch-- there's not a chance. The pills gave me those recuperative night hours back, and also stopped my hands from shaking and released the vise grip around my chest and the panic alert button from inside my heart."

I always had the problem of sleeping too much when depression was at its worst, although sleeping isn't always restful. But the panic button she speaks of? I'm quite familiar with it. What's most important is that she then notes, "those drugs were part of my bridge to the other side." It's probably possible to get to the other side without them if you're willing to use prayer, exercise, diet, lifestyle changes, and counseling right away. But oh my gosh that's a lot of energy to expend when you're depressed.

For me, medications took the edge off and allowed me to function, but I never felt like I was able to thrive. I was so proud of myself for coming off of antidepressants by my 25th birthday. Then thanks to my therapist, I got through last winter without them and I have high hopes for this winter as well. I'm not saying I'll never need them again, but right now I'm in a very good place without them. And after a year of growing closer to God, improving my relationships with others, and visiting my therapist regularly, I finally feel like things are changing... for the better! I was sick of being stuck in the same cycle month after month, year after year. I don't want to speak too soon, but this is the first year since I high school I haven't felt like playing A Long December on full blast and bemoaning:

The smell of hospitals in winter
And the feeling that it's all a lot of oysters, but no pearls

I can't remember all the times I tried to tell myself
To hold on to these moments as they pass 

Yet this is the year I feel like truly, maybe this year will be better than the last. In fact, that song came on the radio the other day and I actually switched the station instead of turning it up. That's huge. It's not the winter that makes you laugh a little slower and talk a little lower, it's depression.

I think Elizabeth Gilbert also captures the wonderful answer of a God who will always answer when you cry out to him: "I'm here. I  love you. I don't care if you need to stay up crying all night long, I will stay with you. If you need the medication again, go ahead and take it-- I will love you through that, as well. If you don't need the medication, I will love you, too. There is nothing you can ever do to lose my love. I will protect you... I am stronger than Depression and I am braver than Loneliness and nothing will ever exhaust me."

There is hope.

In the spirit of Elizabeth Gilbert, let me say attraversiamo. "Let's cross over." I am ready now. Do what you will.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

December Goal

My November goal was to just get on the computer once a day for mindless Facebook and Google Reader entertainment. It wasn't perfect, but I do feel like I've cut back and it's more of a habit than an addiction. They best days are when we're out and about and I'm fully busy and entertained by something other than my computer.

I'm excited for my December goal! I wanted to give it a week and see how it was going, and I think it's going to be pretty realistic. I got totally knocked out by this head cold/sinus infection/viral irritation. Not sure what it is, but it's only marginally better after 3 weeks of antibiotics. All I know is that my head hurts and breathing is hard. Add to that the fact that I barely worked out in November and I'm in a sad state compared to September.

I want to get back into exercise, but the headache/breathing difficulty keeps me from doing anything too intense. My goal is to just do some form or exercise 6 days a week to get into the habit of making it a priority again.

Don't think I'm trying to overcompensate or make an unrealistic plan. By 'exercise,' I mean at least 5 minutes of any activity that makes me think, "hey, this is hard. The easier thing would be not to do it." Actually working up a sweat and maintaining an elevated heartrate is most ideal, but not necessary (especially on days I work). It's December 6 and I'm 5 for 6 so far :o)

Who wants to join me?

And how do I get rid of this headache?!

Monday, December 5, 2011

With Thanksgiving

WOW I'm almost 2 weeks late with this recap. I got a nice little break over Thanksgiving, but since coming back I haven't had more than 1 day off in a row. I actually don't have a lot of pictures from Thanksgiving, but I do have lots of warm memories.

I am beyond blessed that we got to go to Omaha and have Thanksgiving lunch (delicious and gluten-free) with my mom's side and then holiday cheesecake (homemade, best thing ever) with my dad's side that evening. I saw almost everyone on my list. It's been a while since I had such a social holiday vacation.

We took family photos at my grandma's house before lunch and here's what you get:

Ross, Daniel, Tommy, Bobby, Mom, Dad, me
 Awkward. Speaking of which, here's a video of my on the day after Thanksgiving when Ross and I took my parent's dog for a walk (I do love the walkability of their neighborhood even though I don't love Omaha weather).

I'm sure you're laughing too hard right now to read more anyway, so that's all I've got!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

With Open Arms and Open Eyes

I'm very receptive to December when it begins like this!

I'll take greenery wherever I can find it!