New Year. New Reflections.

I’ve gone back and forth this week, debating on whether or not I should write some long post, as one usually does this year, about reflections and resolutions and changes. But, it just didn’t feel right at the moment. Between the end of what was arguably one of the worst years on record for many people (but not all. Let’s honor that.) paired with turning the big 4-0 yesterday, my mind was flooded with random thoughts of what I should say, or shouldn’t say.

It felt impossible to process the grief of this last year, while also trying to welcome in a new era in my own life. I couldn’t do it. So I will say this. I am not one for resolutions at this stage in my life. Are there things that I want to change or achieve this year? Absolutely. But they won’t define me. So, I will keep my goals at bay, and hope for the best. Additionally, in retrospect, this year was painful and difficult for me personally, as it was for so many. It brought on new challenges, a mental health crisis of my own that sent me over the edge and into new depths of despair (not to sound dramatic) that I have never experienced before (midnight panic attacks? That was new.) paired with an overwhelming feeling of … what do I do? How do I get through this?

This isn’t unique to me, specifically, but it was challenging. Being a single parent. Figuring out how to work full time and get kids through distance learning. Selling a home that I loved and leaving a place that I always thought I wanted to be. Moving halfway across the country and having kids that hated it … again. Balancing loneliness and sadness and anxiety while trying to keep my shit together for my kids (which, really, only made my anxiety worse). But even in the worst of times this last year, there was goodness in my life. It’s easy to dwell on the negative … I’m REALLY good at that.

But this was a year where despite all of it, I felt really, really loved. I had a therapist (who I miss dearly) who believed in me. I had a doctor who listened to my concerns and BELIEVED ME when I said I wasn’t thriving, and helped me get on the right medications. I had friends who sent me grocery money when I was panicked after the initial shut down, because we were on the free meal program at school and suddenly I was making three meals a day. Through the year I’ve received random venmo payments with a simple note of “get some coffee, on me.” I’ve had family who let me stay with them, while we figured out our new roots here, and who have taken the boys on a whim so I can have a moment to breath. I received a beautiful wreath for Christmas from someone I love dearly. Today, I received a book in the mail from a dear friend, simply because I commented after she posted it that it was one I wanted to read. I have so many examples like this that I am choosing to focus on.

And MORE than anything, friendships that were already so important to me have grown even more deeply as we relate to the struggles we are all going through. Somehow, through all of this chaos, those friendships are deeper than they ever have been, which makes all of this so, so much easier. I’m so, so grateful for the community of people who I love and can trust. Who text or call daily, and who let me be me, unapologetically.

It hasn’t been all bad. It’s really, really hard for me just accept simple gestures … like, really hard. I don’t do it well. But this year humbled me in a lot of ways, and forced me to just say “ok” and “thank you.” But right now, I’m honoring the good that did happen in the last 12 months. I am forever grateful for the people in my life … there is SO MUCH WORK that needs to be done, personally, and I’m ready for the challenge, but I need to acknowledge the insurmountable amount of love that I have felt from friends and family this year. I have two boys who love me dearly, and all the support a girl could ask for.

So there you have it. Happy New Year, friends. ❤

Living with Depression

One of the things I really struggle with day to day is living with depression. The pandemic doesn’t help, as I’m sure so many others can relate to. My brain is mush … truthfully, I’m even struggling to write down these words, because while normally, I can write OK, the concentration it’s taking me right now is difficult.

It’s been a long year, hasn’t it?

As a single mom of two kids, trying to survive during a global pandemic has been a challenge. We’ve had a LOT of changes. The move from Colorado to Washington. Learning to deal with the PTSD that has come from leaving an emotionally abusive marriage. Figuring out what I want to do next with my life. The rain … so much rain (which, for the record, I normally love. But it’s quite a shock after coming from 300 days of sunshine that is Colorado.) We tried homeschooling, which wasn’t working, and so now my kids are back to distance learning through our local public school. Plus, throw in working full time from home, in a job that is demanding, and I feel like, most days, I am about to snap.

It’s a struggle, most days, to even get up and get out of bed. Did I brush my teeth today? I definitely didn’t brush my hair. Did I feed my kids breakfast? Have *I* eaten anything? My waistline is telling me I haven’t made good, healthy choices, as evident by the 25 pounds I’ve gained this year and the lack of clothing options that actually fit, that I currently have in my closet. It’s been brutal, and I’ve been drowning. Not treading water … drowning.

So, a couple of weeks ago I did something drastic. I gave my notice for work, with no backup, and no plans to go back to another job just yet. This is a super privileged thing to do … thanks to the sale of our Colorado home earlier this year, and tax money that I will receive, I am fortunate enough that I can take some time off and really focus on what needs to happen in my life. For one, getting my kids through school; our district will likely be distance learning for the entire school year, unless things drastically change. Secondly … I have to take better care of myself. I’m tired of feeling like we are just coasting through life (and I know … global pandemic.) I am trying really hard, and my friends keep reminding me, that I need to give myself grace. We have been through a LOT. I have been through a lot.

But at some point, I need to pick myself up, and at least TRY to be a good mother for my kids, and a good PERSON for myself. The basics, you guys? They are hard. I literally just SURVIVE most days, and while that’s ok, I don’t want to risk falling deeper into this dark hole that I already am.

So today I created some sheets that I printed out and tacked to my wall. They literally include basic shit like “brush your teeth” and “drink water, not alcohol.” Upon googling and hopping on pinterest. I found MANY free printables like this, which shows me that, I’m not the only one who struggles to do the day to day. But I also ordered some chore charts for my kids, because I’ve realized my bad habits due to depression are rubbing off on my kids. How can I argue with them when they want to stay in the same clothes for three days, when I’ve done the same? We are all in this together, and I need to be a better role model for them.

Another thing I’m working on is journaling … or, in this case, blogging. I type much faster than I write, and I don’t really love writing in a journal. So my goal is to write nightly, and do a check in. So if you’re here, you get to have a little glimpse of my mental state these next couple of months (unrelated … I just heard my oldest yell “that’s great teamwork!” to my youngest. They are playing minecraft, and I love seeing these little moments of them getting along and working together. Ok … end side note).

Anyways … blogging. My depression really fucks me up, in a way that I constantly tell myself I’m not worthy. Or I’m a bad mom. Or I’m not good enough to find someone who will love me the way I deserve to be loved. Gratitude and positive reinforcement has not been a strong suit of mine, ever. So I’m going to work on that. It’s on my list, to write things down daily. One thing I’m grateful for. Every day. Because I need to really start seeing the GOOD in my life instead of always dwelling on the bad.

So, welcome to my personal journal. It’s on my list to write every day, so we will see what comes of this space. I’m tired of being tired, you know? As we all are … but I really need to take the steps to be a better human, and a better mother.

Here we go.

Welcome to the PNW.

You know how you always hope to continue with something, and then you don’t … and then six month have gone by and you haven’t spoken a word. That’s about where I am right now.

I had really great intentions with this space. Mostly, I just missed blogging. I was really into it about 15 years ago, when it was popular and everyone was doing it. Most of my dearest friends to this day are women that I met through the blogging community. I missed writing. Writing has always been very therapeutic for me, but I don’t have the patience to sit down and journal on a regular basis.

But as I’ve gone down the COVID spiral, I’ve realized more and more that I need to do better about taking care of myself, and doing what makes me happy. Writing makes me happy. So just maybe, I can make this more of a priority?

Let’s take a step back.

My last post was in April. WOOF. Boy oh boy has a lot happened since then. We were right at the beginning of COVID and lock down, and not really sure what was happening. And then it all just sort of went sideways from there. I was incredibly overwhelmed from working from home full time while also getting two small children through the last months of school, also from home. We went 96 days without a break from each other, and it broke me. The stress of everything, the panic of not knowing, the anxiety in cleaning groceries and the worry that washed over anytime we HAD to leave the house (which, wasn’t for about two months, honestly, before we ran any sort of public errand) brought me to my knees. I had a mental break down. I was waking up every night with panic attacks around midnight. I was coping in all the wrong ways because I didn’t know what to do, and I was a mess. Trying to hold it together for my kids, keep my job, and continue on in a time when it just wasn’t really possible to do it all.

AND THEN I decided it was too much, that I couldn’t do this alone anymore, so we sold the house and the boys and I moved back to Washington State, where I was born and raised, and where my entire family resides to this day.

Bye bye, Colorado. Hello Washington.

We have been here a couple months now, and it’s not been without it’s own challenges. I am still working from home full time, and we opted to homeschool instead of tackling virtual learning through the district (for a lot of reasons, that I can go into later). My mom lives a mile down the road. The rest of my family and my best friend of 25 years all are within 10-20 minutes away. It was the right choice, and while it’s different (waaaay more expensive here than in Colorado. I miss my large house and large yard), having even a couple more resources has been hugely beneficial to my mental health and the happiness of my family.

So here we are. Living a completely new life, in a new (to my boys) state. My 800 sf apartment is VASTLY different than my beautiful 3200 SF home (first world problems, I know. I’m happy to have a roof over my head) and the mountains are further away than we prefer. We traded the daily access to the mountains for daily access to the pacific northwest beaches, and honestly … it’s been an OK trade. We hike when we can, are outdoors as often as possible, and really can’t complain about the rocky beaches that are five minutes from where we live.

It’s been an adjustment, and will continue to be just that. The lonliness of COVID is very really, and I still struggle with my mental health daily. But we are doing the best that we can, and hoping for brighter days ahead.

I want to keep this space, and I want to utilize it more. Even getting these thoughts down helps, and I want to make more of an effort to verbalize my thoughts and our changes on a regular basis. We will see if I can actually stick with that. I sure am going to try!

Sunday

I want to write about my experience so far being at home, solo, with two small kids. My experience, actually, has been quite good. Definitely not without it’s ups and downs, and our world is about to change as the boys go back to school for distance learning … I’m not quite sure how we will fit it all in, with me working full time as well, but we will figure it out.

In the meantime, being stuck in my house all the time (well, the general vicinity) is making me long for my freedom. Even for me, three weeks is a long time. I’m as much as an introvert as they come, but this is pushing my boundaries a bit. I’ve been (finally) going through thousands and thousands of photos, editing a few here and there, and wishing we could leave even our county (which, is not advised here in Colorado. The smaller counties and mountain towns are not equipped for this disaster … hell, what city it? … so, we are just doing our part) and I came across my Ireland photos.

So, on this Sunday evening, I leave you with this photo of one of my most favorite countries. I’ve been debating on what I should do with all of these photos. We were able to visit 15 or so countries in our time there, and a sweet friend of mine is urging me to write a travel blog, or something. I don’t quite know yet.

But in the meantime, here is Dunguaire Castle near Galway.

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Happy Sunday, friends!

Social Distancing & All That

I read something recently that said, write things down during this time. Remember your feelings during this time, but also remember the good. I loved this advice. As someone who used to write a lot, I’ve been battling my feelings — good and bad — while we’ve been on lockdown. So, here we go.

So HOW are we doing? It would be difficult to get everything in one blog post, but here is what I can tell you now. We are in Colorado, which means we are on week three of no no school (distance learning starts next week), and under a stay at home/shelter in place order. And it’s been … interesting. I feel the best way to do this is just get caught up with where we are, and then go from there. I guess?

For those that don’t know, I’m a single mama to a 6 & 8 year old boys. My family all lives in Washington state, and my ex husband is out of state as well. So, it’s just me. Social distancing, while I fully support it, is hard in these circumstances. My tribe, who I rely on for so many things, is not accessible physically these days. Emotionally? Yes. Physically … no.

I’ve had a lot of dread and panic these last few weeks, wondering “what if.” That dread was so bad that my anxiety, which I can normally manage on my own, was out of control. What if I get sick? (news flash: I did.) How am I going to get groceries without endangering my kids? I am working full time remotely (something I had to fight for initially), and I am grateful for that … so many of my friends are without jobs in this time … but how am I going to get a full day of work in while also making sure my kids get the education we need?

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But you know what else? There are a lot of positives in this, too. At least, things that I’m working on seeing. I’m getting more time with my kids. Our time is better QUALITY as well. Our mornings before all of this was chaotic. It was fast paced, and hurry up, and get ready. Our evenings were usually the same. Rush to pickup from daycare. Rush to do homework. Rush to eat dinner. Very little quality time together before bed. We lived for the weekends, but we were so exhausted that there never seemed enough time to catch up or really do anything. And while we can’t leave the house (well, we shouldn’t. That’s a whole other argument), we’ve got more snuggles, less fighting, and way more love (not that we were lacking in that to begin with, but you get it). We lay in bed in the morning, snuggled together, talking and laughing. There is less fighting. Less yelling. More compassion and ease. We have an easier path during our day. This time with my kids is everything I’ve been wanting this last year. Everything I’ve been missing is being given to me. While there is still a lot of chaos (again … still working full time and kids), we’ve been forced to slow waaaaay down.

And I am grateful for that.

This is still scary times. We should not minimize that. There are precautions that we need to be aware of, and we need to take this time seriously, and do our part. Being a solo parent, I still carry a lot of fear with me every day, but I am trying to find the good as well.

Hello Again

Well hello again.

I have this tendency when blogging in recent years to start a new project, feel like I can ONLY write about that one topic, and then lose interest. Which, is pretty much what happened last year. I also got divorced, went back to work full time, and completely fell into survival mode.

And now I’m stuck at home. Thanks, COVID-19! (But for reals … stay home, people. Sheesh).

So … here we are. I’ve got some extra time on my hands, and truly was feeling like I needed an outlet for all of my thoughts.

Stay safe, friends. Glad to be back.

My Weekend in Moab

Last Wednesday, at approximately 2:00 PM, my divorce was finalized in the eyes of the law. It was emotional … more so than I thought it would be, as I had truly come to terms with this direction in life a long time ago. I’ve started the process of moving forward, and grieved the loss of my marriage a long time ago. Truthfully, probably before I even spoke the words of what I wanted back in November.

I found it slightly ironic that my first full day of independence as a newly single women just happened to fall ON Independence Day. The universe has a way of playing tricks on us, to remind us to laugh despite the sadness and hurt. Knowing it was a four-day weekend off of work, and knowing I didn’t want to sit around the house alone all weekend, I promptly went out and got buzzed on Wednesday night with my good friend, and then packed up my car Thursday morning and drove to Moab, Utah.

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Moab had LONG been on my list of places to visit and hike. I’ve heard such great things from those I know that have visited, and I knew there was something special about the town. Arches National Park alone was somewhere I was dying to see. I spent two nights in a truly unique environment, soaking in the wonders of the world, and finding myself once again.

I want to write about all the things I did individually (I visited Dead Horse Point State Park, Arches NP, Canyonlands NP and Black Canyon of the Gunnisons NP on my way back — all deserving of their own novel here!) but what I can say is this:

For the past year or so, every time I hit a trail, my mind was constantly stressed. It was frustrating to want to be somewhere, to release my anxiety and truly be “at one” with my surroundings, but it rarely ended up that way. My head would race with questions. What was I doing with my life? Why was I so unhappy? What kind of mother was I? What were the consequences of my actions? Question after question after question.

But not this weekend. This weekend, for the first time in as long as I can remember, I was able to hike and truly be a peace with my surroundings. For the first time in a long time, I felt JOY and RELIEF, while also taking in a deep appreciation for what I was experiencing.

For the first time in a long time … I felt like myself again.

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I cannot wait to share this experience in further detail, because truly, every park I visited was different than the others, with it’s own experience and awakenings of such. But I will say this … Moab is a magical place, that’s for sure. A small town, with so much appreciation for it’s surroundings. It was beauty that I had not seen before, and I truly look forward to the day when I can go back — hopefully sooner rather than later!

Coming back on Saturday night was difficult, not only because my vacation had ended, but because it forced me to face the reality of what is next in my life. But I’ll say this — I am 100% up for the challenge. I believe the universe will guide me in the right direction, and continue to show me that this IS the path I am meant to be on.

And I cannot wait.

July

This past weekend, I flew to Seattle to drop off my kids with my mom for the next month. While I’m very excited about the solo time, it’s also very lonely. It’s amazing how you get used to the noise and the chaos, and even though it frustrates me to no end some days, I would absolutely rather have that then be alone all the time.

But in the mean time, I’m working on enjoying the downtime and making a plan, both for some much needed rest, but also to check off some things from my list. My plans for this next month have changed a bit, in that I officially have zero idea how I am going to spend my time. I freelance on the side, outside of my regular job, and single parenting has meant I am extremely far behind on some projects I’ve been working on. So priority number one has been getting caught up and to a place where I don’t feel so stressed with work-related projects. I spent Sunday afternoon catching up with some life-related necessities, after I got back in town, and last night (Monday) dove head first into the long freelance to do list. Tonight will be more of the same. Not having to pick up kids after work means I get home before 5pm, and as long as I have ample motivation, I plan to spend a good five hours of work tonight and tomorrow getting back to a better place.

Number two is making sure I take care of myself after that, and when the fun begins. I had plans to go to Moab over fourth of July weekend, but budget constraints (hooray single mom income!) just didn’t make it possible. So now I’m trying to figure out exactly what I want to do. I have a tent, a dog, all the emergency gear, so I’m debating heading out and doing some dispersed camping for a night. I’ve been invited to hike a 14’er that weekend. My saved trails in the AllTrails app is also getting quite long, so I may work on just tackling some of those. The idea of being alone for four days after my divorce is final isn’t super appealing. At least being alone in my house. So my goal that weekend is to just stay busy.

Outside of that, once I get caught up with freelance projects, my goal is to hit some of the local trails in the evenings with the dog. The blessing of where I live is that I can be on a trail by 5:30 pm after work, and get a good solid hike in. Short hikes during the work week. Longer hikes on the weekend.

Outside of THAT … I have walls to paint, furniture to paint, yard work to do and projects around the house to get done. I’d like to plant some more Colorado friendly but pretty bushes & plants in my front yard and through the river rock.

Essentially — I’m here, and I’m moving, but only because when I don’t move, the loneliness sinks in quite a bit.

What’s on your to do list for the next month?

Rocky Mountain National Park

Last summer, I was able to hike through the Rocky Mountain National Park, near Estes Park, Colorado. I had been there many times before — as a grad student living in Denver, back in the day, RMNP was a frequent place to visit, when we needed a break, and needed to get out of the city. And, on the rare occasion that I was able to come back to Colorado over the years to visit, heading up to Estes & RMNP was an absolute must for me. To this day, it remains one of my most favorite places, and a beautiful escape from life. I don’t make it up there as often as I would like, due to the longer drive, but if you are ever in the Denver area, head to Estes and the park. It’s worth it.

I’m on a personal mission to visit as many National Parks as I can in the coming years. The boys & I visited the Great Sand Dunes NP for the second time over Memorial Day weekend, and I have solo hiking trips planned for both Arches and Canyonlands the first weekend in July. Black Canyon in Gunnison and Mesa Verde will be next on the list, merely by proximity (and therefore, checking all the National Parks in Colorado off my list) with other’s like Yellowstone, Grand Tetons and the Grand Canyon to follow.

Last year’s visit to RMNP was a special one for me, as it was the longest hike that I had done to that date, and definitely the longest one I had done solo. As hikes go, this one has been hard to beat in terms of sheer beauty. If you want to be at one with nature, get into the mountains. While the trail I had done was rated as “moderately trafficked,” there were very long stretches of time where I didn’t see a soul. In fact, I was able to sit next to the most gorgeous stream, with the most gorgeous view, alone for almost an hour while I enjoyed my surroundings, meditated, and soaked it all in. There were three lakes along the trail, and most hikers it seemed turned back after reaching the first lake. Running into people happened less and less the farther I went.

This hike taught me a lot; for starters, I had the wrong shoes, but what’s a girl to do. (serious lesson learned on that one. My trail shoes are NOT meant for distances longer than 5 miles!) I was physically exhausted, because while the length wasn’t anything substantial, the elevation gain was consistent through the entire hike. Mentally, it also gave myself a lot of clarity. When you are hiking for 7 hours (I stopped a LOT to enjoy the surroundings), and you are alone, you cannot help to think about everything under the sun. It was an eye opening experience for me, personally, and as a hiker.

These photos cannot possibly do this trail justice, as the beauty I witnessed was unlike anything else. I know this is only one trail in a very large park, and I look forward to getting back to RMNP in the future to explore other areas, as well as camp, but I find myself longing to be back near something this beautiful. I haven’t done a trail this long since this one last July, and that’s hard for me. Full time single parenting, plus working 40+ hours a week again, really has decreased my ability to “get out and go.” My boys are still pretty young, and long hikes like this just aren’t possible, but I look forward to the day they are.

All in all, being in this space was a life changing experience, and I cannot wait to explore this park, and other’s like it, more in the future. We are so fortunate to live where we do, and have easy access to this kind of beauty. After exploring Europe for three years, I made it a personal goal to explore our own country more as an adult, and make sure my kids knew what kind of opportunity we have in our own backyard.

But in the mean time, I’m going to reminisce about the splendor that was this trail!

And Here We Are

Well.

Here we are.

It’s been a hot minute since I wrote, and I have so many hikes to catch up (both in posting and actual hiking) but life has been incredibly chaotic these past few months, and getting any kind of momentum has been hard to achieve.

Last month, I went back to work full time after being a primarily stay at home wife/mom for the previous five years. It’s been a challenge, to say the least, but the biggest hurdle has been doing this 100% on my own. Our divorce is quickly coming to a close, as we just await our final hearing, and my husband has moved out of state for his new job.

Divorce has been funny. It’s amazing how massive life changes will make people run for the hills and out of your life. Don’t get me wrong — I have some pretty amazing friends and family who have been incredibly supportive of my decision, and it has actually brought me closer to friendships that had faded a little over the years. For that I’m grateful. But it’s been shocking to see those that I thought would be there suddenly end up fading into the background, never to be heard of again.

And that’s fine. I have zero hard feelings about it. Truthfully.

Divorce is hard. Not only on the individuals going through it (it hasn’t been pretty, that’s for sure) but I think when people just don’t understand, they don’t feel they can be supportive. There was no abuse. There was no infidelity. It just WASN’T … and I don’t owe the ins & outs to anybody. So when they aren’t living it, and can’t see it for what it was, they can’t find a way to be supportive. That’s my guess at least.

We were very good at putting on a front. From the exterior, we had a great relationship. Many of the people that I have slowly started to tell have been shocked. Even six months after I initiated this, a majority of the people in my life still don’t know, and that’s OK. Above all else, there is mutual respect for each other, and while I am generally a “share all the things” kind of person, this needed to be private, while we worked through it all.

I also think there is the issue of loyalty as well. Lines have been drawn, whether we asked it of our friends or not (spoiler: we didn’t). When you have a 15 year long relationship, a lot of  mutual friends happen. The need to choose sides, I think, is there, and it’s been obvious that I’ve been on the losing end of that choice a few times these last few months.

And that’s OK.

So here we are. The final chapter. I’ve done the solo mom thing before, thanks to life with the military. I haven’t done it while working full time, and it’s exhausting to say the least. But this is the hardest part of this point in life, and I know that we will find our groove, find our routine, and find the path that we need to be on. It could be worse. It can always be worse. So for now, I’m finding gratitude in the day to day, in my boys, and in a good co-parenting relationship with their father, while also giving myself some grace as I navigate these new waters.

Onward, for sure.