The right therapist makes all the difference

Therapy has proven useful to me at a few key points in my life that needed an extra assist to find my footing. I benefited greatly from putting aside ego and finding the help I needed. Please feel encouraged to do the same if you are doing some mental gymnastics on your own to deal with whatever is on your mind. There is a better way! Finding the right therapist can make a big difference in your experience, so I wanted to share with you a couple of times I researched and found the therapist I needed to move forward. What I found with each use case was that in therapy, one size does not fit all. It is always prudent to shop around.

First a quick background and a reminder…

A reminder: I am not a doctor. I am not offering medical advise. I am sharing my own experience of finding the right therapist for my personal mental health needs. For medical advise you must contact a doctor.

I have a minor in psychology purely because I’ve always been fascinated with people’s psyches. I did not take psych classes in college with the plan of going into the field rather I knew I would do well in them as electives because reading about this stuff really was no chore to me at all. Therefore, after 6 years of college, I graduated with a minor in 3 areas of study, english, history, and psychology. What’s the common denominator? Reading! All three of those studies revolve around reading and that is something I don’t mind doing at all.

Anywho, I wanted to start with pointing out that I have several years of studying psychology at the colligate level under my belt and I still had to be told by a doctor that I was dealing with clinical depression. Sometimes, despite ourselves, we are blind to reality and need profession help. I certainly was. I’m grateful that my primary care physician saw the writing on the wall, as I cried to him in his office telling him I just didn’t feel good but couldn’t figure out why, and sent me to see a psychologist. I was 22.

Finding out I was depressed was shocking to me. That sounds silly but it was. I always considered myself happy, lucky, healthy, loved, etc., so to hear that I was depressed sounded counterintuitive. BUT, it also felt correct. I knew that something was different about the way I’d been behaving and the thoughts I’d been wrestling. It wasn’t my normal moment of sadness or disappointment. It was a long and enduring sadness. I did not want to do anything, go anywhere, see anyone. I was eating constantly to soothe the sadness and that resulted in gaining 100 lbs in one year. That’s right. You can read that again. A hundred pounds in a year and I wasn’t skinny to begin with.

It was like a door was unlocked when my doctor said, “You are suffering from depression and there’s help available”. I could hardly wait to find a therapist and start my journey out of the darkness. I started by calling my insurance to see what it covered and where to look for a therapist. There were 100’s in my area and this is where the shopping begins.

The right therapist makes all the difference in your experience. It is important to take your time and research the psychologists in your area to find one who specializes in what you are dealing with but that is just one thing to consider. You definitely want to see a therapist who treats depression if you are dealing with depression but there will no doubt be several in your area to choose from so the hunt does not stop there. You also need to find someone you are comfortable with and if possible someone who comes recommended by a medical professional or a trusted friend.

I found out quickly that therapists are nuanced just like regular people. I know, crazy right?! What I mean is, therapy involves you talking extensively about personal and private experience. Sometimes you do exercises that unlock memories buried deep down that erupt very primal emotion. Sometimes you have to tell your deepest darkest secrets that solicit worry, fear, shame or guilt. It can be an amazing experience that brings you to a new level of personal inflection and understanding but it is also very revealing and exposes your truth to a total stranger, so doesn’t it make sense that you might feel more comfortable with one person than another just like you do when choosing a mate or friend? What’s my point? Trust and comfort with the person sitting in the chair across from you is critical to allowing these raw and necessary talks to happen.

I “interviewed” three therapist the first time I sought the help of a professional and each psychologist was completely different. It only took one session with each to determine if I would be back but I knew that if I didn’t feel a connection with the therapist, I would not be able to open up or be real with them in our talks. This process was hard. It was emotional. It was time consuming. It took patience, repeated emotional exposure, and endurance. But, boy was it worth it!

Once I found the right therapist, the road to healing was paved and the work could begin. Its not my place to tell you what to look for in your own personal search. Your criteria is likely very different from mine or the person to your left, but I am hoping to highlight that your do not have to settle when you look for mental wellness help. Try another therapist. Ask friends for referrals or read reviews online. Do not settle. This one tip will make a world of difference in your experience. You are worth the work, so do it!

As I mentioned, I’ve sought the help of a therapist a few times in my life. After my first time doing the research to find someone I felt connected with, I felt more confident in the process when I was tasked with doing it again even though I was looking for a different type of help. Depression led me to seeking help the first time and even my second time. However, my most recent time has been to examine my compulsive eating.

The process for finding a new type of therapist was similar but I wanted to bring this up to highlight the point that there are therapist who specialize in different disciplines. This time I started my research online because I was looking for something less general and more specialized. I wasn’t even sure what I was looking for existed so I wanted to start my journey privately and the internet offered an easy way to do that.

The internet helped me find a therapist who worked with people to remove the diet mindset and make peace with food. If you are looking for something very specialized like this, the internet is a great tool to aide you. I tried asking friends and doctors for referrals but due to the highly specialized nature of my topic, they didn’t provide any good leads. My point here is that you might have to do different types of research to find a specialized therapist than you would when looking for one who treats depression or anxiety. And it’s important not be discouraged or give up if one road seems like a dead end.

Again, I am not giving medical advice. That should come from your doctor. I’m only offering you insight into the first steps you might take to find the help you need. My pro tips are to test out several therapists until you find one that you click with and to use different research tools depending on the type of therapy you are looking for. These two things will help set you up for greater success in your therapy.

Nowadays virtual therapist visits can open up even more doors to find even the most specific of mental wellness therapies so don’t let lack of options stand in your way. The world is available online and you deserve the help.

Best of luck and please take the time you need to take care of yourself!

Perpetual Poppycock 4

Dear Perpetual Poppycock,

Its a new year! 2021 is off to a good start and I’m excited to see what it has in store. I am setting my expectations pretty low, but have some pretty exciting goals lined up. I’ve always been one to aim low and always be impressed rather than aim high and always be disappointed. Ha, thats probably another neuroses I need to explore, but for now it serves me so I keep doing it.

Before I launch into my new exciting goals, I wanted to take this opportunity to thank 2020 and bid it farewell. The past year was exceptional on so many levels. The pandemic changed everything and not all of it was for the bad. I finally lived my dream of working from home AND was given the opportunity to homeschool my kids. Both of those tasks were wonderful and I hope, hope, hope to continue them!

We were all forced to slow down and find simple pleasures around us. We connected with neighbors, cherished our loved ones, and found happiness in less. All of this was a very positive experience for me and my family. I rarely felt deprived or punished by the quarantine and only suffered a manageable amount of anxiety as I learned to navigate the new world armed with a mask and sanitizer.

The sad parts of 2020 did not overshadow my grateful heart. I’m alive and my family is healthy. The pandemic, election drama, and unknown economical terrain are not what I will remember most about 2020 but they were the catalyst I needed to clearly see my priorities. Thank you 2020 for the opportunity to live and learn!

Now onto a new day! Here are my 2021 goals in no specific order:

  • Go back to my therapist – I know I need a good bit of help with clearing up my scattered thoughts and perspective so I’m going to invest a little money in my mental health to insure the rest of my goals are given a chance to thrive. Perpetual poppycock is real and tends to roadblock my forward momentum. This one thing will go a long with with making sure I am self aware enough to overcome whatever I do to sabotage those efforts.
  • Keep blogging – I have wanted to blog for a long time. I plan to make this a priority and even launch a couple niche blogs to highlight topics that I’m excited about.
  • Body power up – I love to exercise. It has always been a pleasure and not a chore for me, yet I tend to let it get pushed to the bottom of my list every day. This year I want to keep it towards the top in order to feel better and stronger. Getting the pep back in my step is important to me. And as a small side goal, it would be nice to be able to run 1 mile without stopping.
  • Paying off bad debt – I am within 12 months of paying off my bad debt. This has been a long road to whittle down the 80k of debt we had but its one I’m proud of traveling and have learned A LOT from. This will be one of my niche blogs. Debt and budgeting are a language I’m fluent in and have navigated for years. I want to share all I’ve learned.
  • Cooking videos – Ok, ok, I know I am so late to the game but I LOVE the cooking videos on YouTube and want to make some! This will also be a niche blog and just a fun way for me to share some of my favorite recipes.
  • Launch a product line – I know I’ve already mentioned this but I’ve started a business with my siblings. We have two product ideas we want to bring to the market and this will be the year that happens.

That list gives me the tummy tickles. I’m so excited to get going on all of it. I hope to continue to homeschool my kids for the foreseeable future and continue working from home for the awesome company thats employed me for the last 20 years. I would be so grateful for that.

Wish me luck! 2021 will be a year for the books…or blogs as it were.

Perpetual Poppycock 3

Dear Perpetual Poppycock,

It was a fantastic Christmas weekend! We tippy-toed slightly outside our bubble and had immediate family over for the holiday. It was so much fun! Now we wait the 14 days to make sure no one falls ill before we can breathe a sigh of relief.

I don’t take these jaunts outside of our regular day to day lightly. We are doing as much as we can to ensure we don’t become infected or infect anyone. I’m sure some of it seems overkill to several but its what we are comfortable with so that’s what we are doing at the moment.

I’ve enjoyed the mental vacation that leaning into intuitive eating brings. It is actually a big tool for reducing the perpetual poppycock that plagues me most days. One of the principals of intuitive eating is to remove all judgement around a food choice. That means ALL judgement. It’s harder than it sounds.

A good example of the poppycock that happens when I make a food choice would go something like this. I’d like to eat something, but what? Am I hungry or am I eating for fun? So what if its for fun?! So what do I want to eat. I want to eat that last piece of pizza. But what if my kids are hungry later and they want pizza? I would have caused them to be deprived of what they want and that would in turn cause me to have uncomfortable feelings because I caused them the discomfort of deprivation. Not to mention the whining that will come when I tell them I ate the last piece. And pizza isn’t the healthiest choice for someone of my size. So maybe I’ll have a sandwich. What kind though? I would want a peanut butter and jelly sandwich but that’s just as bad as eating pizza. So maybe I should go to the store and get a salad. Why don’t I buy more salad stuff. That would make this easier if I had everything readily available to eat. Isn’t a salad a better option? But I don’t want to have to go to the store. I should have planned better. I guess I’ll just snack on these leftover Christmas candies. They are going to go bad and I can’t have them again until next year so I better eat them while I can. Its not ok to make Christmas candy any other time of the year so its now or never. I should only have one though. But I’m going to eat 4 because that is when my head and taste will be satisfied. Great, now I’ve eaten 4 big candies. I might as well eat the pizza too. I’ve already blown it.

That is not an exaggeration. My thoughts run wild with every thought about anything and ESPECIALLY about food. The rabbit hole after rabbit hole that I fall through makes it hard to see the path below my feet. So when I say I get a vacation from the perpetual poppycock when I practice actual intuitive eating the path is a much more navigable one. It goes something like this. I’d like a piece of pizza. I’ll eat one. THAT’S IT! Do you see the difference, LOL? It’s such a relief.

And the win goes beyond not dealing with the thoughts. Because I had the piece of pizza, I am not eating other things in confusion while trying to scratch the wrong itch. It’s amazing the difference that makes when you do it consistently.

I’ve also managed to make some to-do’s off my list removing some of the perpetual poppycock that is very similar to my struggles with eating. I bought new dining room chairs and playroom chairs. This has been a 4 year struggle.

I have always struggled to spend money on things that seem overpriced. Chairs are a great example of that. I’ve been buying cheap chairs for decades trying to not “overspend” on them. Instead of just putting a little more money into the purchase to buy what I actually wanted and getting a quality product, I buy lookalikes that are poorly made and cheap, resulting in new chairs 3 times over the last four years. Let me do the math for you. I spent $600 over the last 4 years on chairs that fell apart and looked ragged, causing emotional strain because they aren’t the end result I wanted in addition to the cost of replacing them.

All I had to do 4 years ago was invest a little more up front and I would have loved the chairs and they would have lasted much longer. Its just a constant struggle in my head to choose what I actually want and be ok in that choice. I don’t know who needs to hear this right now, but its ok to want what you want and then to give yourself that exact thing.

Between practicing intuitive eating for the past several days and buying some beautiful, quality chairs I wanted, my mental exhaustion has greatly diminished and I’m happily relaxed for a change.

This trend will be my goal for 2021. I’m feelin’ fine.

So, we are starting a business

My siblings and I have decided to start a business. We have a few products in mind and an unbridled drive to be productive that we are hoping will spell success! I want to invite you to follow along as we figure out the steps it takes to start a business and how we get our product from concept to market. So here we go!

The very first thing we did was talk through our product ideas. That seems obvious, but it’s a step I encourage all of you to take. When I say we talked through our ideas, I mean we really discussed each product in great detail and picked two that made the most sense to try first. Doing this one thing was important because it sets the stage for organizing the sprints we will take to move our ideas forward.

Let me take a minute to discuss what a sprint is. This one habit will be very helpful in moving your business forward. In my full time job, I play many, many roles. One of them is project manager and business/product developer for the products that company produces. I am bringing to the table several years of experience that I HOPE will help us as we are creating a business of our own. You might also find this process helpful. It’s easy to incorporate and really keeps the wheels on the track.

At my full time job, I practice a project management method called Agile. Its an alternative project management style to the traditional waterfall method, that is more iterative and allows for adaptability of a project as it moves along the development cycle. An agile project is broken out into sprints that are usually 2-week intervals. Each sprint focuses on solving one goal but don’t let that scare you. I don’t mean that we pick a goal of “build the product” and then only have two weeks to scramble around to get that done. That would be overwhelming and probably result in a very poorly built product. A “goal” for a sprint can be a much smaller piece of the puzzle. The team can focus on one goal together or each team member and have their own goals for a sprint.

An example of a sprint might be, setting a goal of filing the paperwork needed to start a business. So the first sprint might only be 1 week and might need input from all members to complete. The sprint would include the research on how to file a business license, deciding on a name for the company, gathering the necessary information needed, raising the funds needed to pay for the process, and submitting the application. That sprint might start with a kickoff meeting to go over who will work on what and then include a 5 minute check in meeting (by text if that’s what works or on a group call, etc.) every day to see what has been done and what remains to be done. Participants can voice concerns, questions and needs as the sprint progresses so that everyone is informed and has had input along the way. The “goal” is complete by the end of the sprint and at that point it’s time to choose the next goal to focus on for the next sprint of the project.

Using sprint cycle helps manage project roadblocks because you are able to adapt the next sprint to meet the needs or obstacles observed in the current sprint and there are never any big “gotcha” moments that could derail progress. I’ll go into more detail about Agile in another post but for now I wanted to encourage you to give your project a little structure right up front by setting some small, achievable goals and executing sprints to help mark them off the list.

Now, back to my initial meeting with my siblings/business partners. We spent a few hours in person over a couple of beers and then a couple weeks in texts going over our ideas. Some of the questions we asked and tried to answer are below. Remember we decided on two distinct products to start with.

  • What does it look like?
  • What materials we are hoping to use?
  • How will people use this?
  • Who are our customers?
  • What variations should we offer?
  • How is it shipped?
  • Do we offer it in stores or only online?
  • How much do we charge?

After spending some time on each of these questions, we were able to create our first set of sprints to propel us forward.

Our first sprint was to file paperwork to form an LLC and become equal partners in the business. That process was simple and I’ll cover that in the next post. We are now set to do business together and will be able to file taxes accordingly. Moving on to our next phase soon. Stay tuned.

Remove the illusions of obstacles and just do it, already

I love to exercise. I love to work up a sweat and move. Some of you are tempted to stop reading right now because you are the exact opposite and believe I should be committed after those two sentences, but this concept I’m about to go over can be applied to anything, not just exercise. So please keep reading!

Every day I have the desire to exercise. My body feels better when I make movement a part of my routine but the benefits don’t stop with the physical. It clears my mind and helps me synthesize my thoughts and emotions. Doing this one thing for myself a day allows me the feeling of accomplishment. I love exercise and see its value, however that does not mean that I have found a way to remove the mental gymnastics it takes to get past the perpetual poppycock obstacles that often get in the way of the rewards I reap when I exercise.

Perpetual poppycock can get in the way of anything you want to do, even the most loved and satisfying to-do’s on your list. Exercise highlights this for me very well so I’m using it as an example here but you could replace it with writing, reading, cleaning, shopping, etc. and the concept is the same. If you are dealing with perpetual poppycock you know exactly what I mean. The reasons and excuses you can’t do the thing you really want to do seem to rain down from above like Niagara Falls!

You don’t have time to exercise. You should be cleaning the bathroom instead. You don’t have a gym membership so exercise isn’t as affective. You aren’t sure what exercises are the absolute best to do so you shouldn’t bother doing anything at all. You are not strong enough to do those exercises without hurting yourself. You don’t have the right gear to exercise. You aren’t wearing the right shoes. You will look like a ding dong if you exercise outside. You don’t have enough room to exercise inside. Your kids might interrupt you during your routine. The list goes on, and on, and on. All of these reasons stand in the way from you and good feelings of physical exertion and success you will feel if you just do it already!

I know, so well, how crippling it can be to deal with the thoughts that stand in the way of you actually doing the things you want to do and living the life you want to live. I’ve been letting these thoughts stop me my entire life. Its been a struggle and I’ve let decades go by with that same record playing in my head. But no more! This blog is about overcoming those thoughts and beating the cycle! Making a different choice, one moment at a time is all it takes to baby step my way out of the insanity.

This morning I was able to do three sets, of three arm exercises, in my pjs, while waiting for the coffee to brew. Oh, and I also fit in 10 minutes of floor yoga stretches before that! This would normally be IMPOSSIBLE! Exercise, in my pjs? No way, that isn’t the right attire. Lift weights in the kitchen with only a few minutes to get it done? Heck no! That isn’t going to make a difference so why even bother. Do some yoga without watching an instructor to make sure you are doing a good routine and using the correct flow? What, are you crazy?! Everyone knows that yoga is only legit if you do it with an instructor.

Blah! That is all crap! Before that perpetual poppycock got the best of me, I started the coffee and walked straight over to grab a set of dumbbells. I let my thoughts be, “something is better than nothing”, and “bad things won’t come from standing here doing a few sets while I wait so why not?” And with that, I was able to spend about 12-15 minutes doing something that makes me feel good and gives me that baby step it takes to complete the marathon. It was a total success and I’m starting the day with a sense of accomplishment.

The point is, if I let the thoughts start, they will take my gumption and hijack my day. Those thoughts are not trying to help me in any way. They are simply a barrier between me and my best life. Stopping the perpetual poppycock from robbing me of this is my plan.

Exercise is one example, but it applies to everything for me. Even writing this blog is a challenge. I have to work hard to beat all the thoughts that try to tell me to give up or not try. I’m currently fighting a 7 year old boy who has interrupted me at lease a dozen times in this one paragraph! It would be so easy for me to just shut this laptop down and jump every time he says “mommy”, but I’m determined to complete this post. 🙂

My point is, dealing with perpetual poppycock is exhausting but you don’t have to beat it all right now. Just try one moment at a time and you’ll start to see progress if you can keep the wheels on the track more often than not. No one is perfect, but we can strive for the things we want and the efforts will have results. Good results. Keep trying!

Perpetual Poppycock 2

Dear Perpetual Poppycock,

I’ve been heavy since the age of 9. I started overeating and put on weight making me look and feel different than my peers. Athletics and a busy schedule kept me from becoming extremely overweight but the propensity to get there someday started from the very beginning. I have always loved food and eating.

It wasn’t until late college that I really gained weight to the point that I was physically suffering. It was the perfect storm of happenstances amplified by my first real heartbreak. Pain and lethargy from the extra weight set in and along with it came depression. In one year, my already heavy body, gained 100 lbs and I’ve held onto most of that since.

Recognizing my depression at that time was key. It was very hard to see it on my own and I’m thankful for the therapist who set me on the path to healing. I got help for the depression and used medication to catapult me back to a life I wanted. The weight and depression had robbed me of my social life and I was dealing with social anxiety for the first time. Thankfully medication did the trick to boost my mood enough that I could regain some of what I had lost to the depression. I was on an antidepressant for a year.

The thing that medication didn’t change was the weight I had gained. My new physique remained and I’ve pretty much been “morbidly obese” since then. That brings me to the point of this post, my breakthrough. I’ve finally remembered how to let go of the rules and fear around food!

Over the past 20 years of being “morbidly obese” I’ve lost weight several times. Never more than 40 lbs but still I’ve managed to lose that much on more than one occasion. Most of those successes were due to a diet. The diets did their job but only for a moment.

Keto, low carb, calorie restriction, fasting, you name it, I did it. And they all worked according to their claims. I lost weight and saw the physical results I desired. It was fleeting, of course, because in case you weren’t already aware, diets are short term fixes. But once upon a time, I unlocked the door to embracing my love of eating to bring personal understanding and compassion into my life, and my second real heartbreak.

Heartbreaks can be big life disrupters. I know the two big ones I’ve had were the launching pad for me to a new phase in life. I do not take them lightly and have really grown to appreciate the work they force me to do on myself when they happen. My second heartbreak was a doozy. I again sought the insight of a therapist to help me listen to my feelings and love myself through them. It’s during this time that I was introduced to intuitive eating.

Intuitive eating was a totally new concept to me then. It seemed way too simple to be real. This post isn’t about intuitive eating exactly but I will go into that another time. If you can’t wait for me to unpack that topic in what will likely be the longest post of my life, you can read the the book that changed my perspective forever. It’s called Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. For now I just want to explain a piece of it.

Giving myself permission to eat without fear or judgement, even from myself, was and is transformative. I removed all rules and threats of restrictions from food. Doing that changed everything for me. Again, this post isn’t about intuitive eating exactly so I can’t go into that much without spiraling off the point I’m hoping to make but I just wanted to give you an idea of what the concept is.

After doing a lot work healing my relationship with myself, I enjoyed some of the best years of my life. I was able to just relax and the result was a renewed enjoyment of moving my body and a greater appreciation of the food I ate. This brought physical strength and a slimmed down body but neither was my goal when I decided to work on intuitive eating. Again, read the book! The outcome was that I started eating food I wanted and enjoyed when I was hungry and I didn’t eat more than I needed because I knew my next meal was available anytime I wanted it and it could be whatever I wanted it to be. I ate when I was hungry and only until I was no longer hungry.

The hardest part of reaching this level of food normalcy was that I had to let go over the thought and desire to lose weight. Now if you are like me, you have been dreaming about losing weight your entire life. Everything you’ve ever wanted is probably tinged with the thought that if you just lost weight it would be possible. Like extra weight is the reason for everything bad in your life and the barrier from everything good. That extreme way of thinking was exactly why it was difficult, to say the least, to let go of wanting to use intuitive eating to lose weight. It seemed impossible at times.

After some focused effort to remove the perpetual poppycock plaguing my thoughts about losing weight, I was able to stop letting weight loss be the monkey on my back and just live. Wow, what a huge relief that was! I really did embrace who and what I was and just gave myself permission to put thought into other things I wanted in life that had nothing to do with weight loss. Exercise became a right not a punishment and I LOVED it. Eating became necessary to live and not my reason to live. Delicious foods were in every bite I took but eating for fun was far less frequent. Instead I was eating when my stomach actually needed food to process and I chose foods based on taste and nutrition. Crazy!

As the years went on, I fell in love for the third time in my life and that love created two of the coolest people I know. I’m now a household of four and still madly in love with the people in my world. My husband and kids are my highest life achievement and my number one priority. I’m lucky beyond words! However, I’ve also realized that I really do mean they are my number one priority, at the cost of my personal health and mental/emotional stability. I think this is known as #momlife.

I’m a full time working mom of two school aged kids and with the onset of the pandemic, we have been homeschooling them to better fit with our schedules. This is actually a dream come true for me. Working from home and homeschooling the kids was always a goal so I totally recognize the bone life has thrown me. I’m loving every minute of it and thankful we’ve remained healthy while so many others are suffering but this has brought on more responsibility and less time to allow myself. That shift has put me back on the slippery slope to eating for comfort/self care, (not all self care is healthy, its whatever you are doing to make yourself feel better and sometimes thats an unhealthy choice) and dieting to combat the extra weight that has piled back on.

You might be tempted to think that because I have been granted something I really wanted that happiness would make me treat myself better and that stress would be gone from the scenario but I will correct that thought here. Happiness comes at a cost for me in the form of guilt and fear due to a lifetime of thinking I don’t deserve happiness (that is a topic I’ll explore another time). AND stress is still very much a part of this new world I live in. My job, even though I love it, is extremely demanding and homeschooling is adding many hours of work with the kids to the awake hours of my day. Stress on some levels is greater now than it was before the pandemic.

For the last three or more years, I’ve been yoyo dieting again to try and lose the weight I’ve regained. Same list of offenders as far as diets go and they have all worked again. I’ve lost weight but regained it right back. The goal has 100% been to lose the weight. Realizing the flaw in these repeated efforts has taken me a while to figure out but it led me back to the book I read years about about intuitive eating and now I’m finally ready to do the real work again. My breakthrough is that I forgot what I learned all that time ago. Giving myself grace and loving myself is where “health” thrives for me. Understanding that patience and freedom from judgement give me the tools to find my way through stress, bad thoughts, and hard times, is where my work needs to be. Not on losing weight or shaming myself for wanting to eat more than I need.

For a lot of people these thoughts are obvious. I’ve read those words hundreds of times from others who’ve experienced the enlightenment that comes from living them, but until they embed themselves into actual understanding, they are just words. I’m happy to say my memory of this understanding has resurfaced and now the work can begin to treat myself with the same love, time, and respect I give to my most important people. The perpetual poppycock of dieting is hard to shake but I’m going to write my way through it.

Perpetual poppycock 1

Dear Perpetual Poppycock,

It’s December. It’s Thursday. A typical day of work and school for all of us. Nothing notable to report but I could talk for hours about all of the thoughts and feelings today provoked just the same. They are countless in number. But I’ve had a break through that needs to be documented.

This is going to be my first journal entry so help me, God. The perpetual poppycock I’m struggling with trying to write a single solitary journal entry is crippling, so I am posting this no matter how terrible it reads. This is my triumph. Anyone who is also a PP suffer knows what I’m talking about.

To recap our current situation, it’s month 10 of the pandemic in the US. My house has been playing by the rules as much as possible. We have a bubble and we pretty much stick to it, with the occasional jaunt out or visit with family. Frankly, I’m pleased as pickles with so much about this way of life but it feels scary to say that out loud. I don’t like to tempt fate in either direction. To tell the universe I’m happy seems selfish. Also, calling attention to happiness has always scared me. Like the moment I say I’m happy something bad will inevitably happen. I hope that is not the case.

There is a lot to be afraid of right now, but I’ve been living a couple of my dreams and its AMAZING! On one hand theres the virus, economy, politics, the mental health decline for members of our community, the unknown future of our children post pandemic quarantine, the list of bad goes on and on. Those are heavy topics.

Instead of giving into my fears of those heavier topics, I’m focusing on all the good that I’ve lived this year. I am working from home and homeschooling my kids. We are THRIVING in both choices! It is an absolute dream come true to be able to wake up each day, accomplish so much for my job AND be able to homeschool my kids at night, with the help of my mom. The days are packed to the brim but I wouldn’t change a thing about it.

I wake up, shower, walk down the hall, and start each day with so much peace. My mornings are a joyous start to the day instead of the MMA fight they were before March. Now we all wake up and welcome the day rather than dread it. Even the kids are voicing how happy they are with our new life. It feels dreamlike sometimes.

I don’t state those things lightly. I actually struggle with how lucky we are during such a hard time for all of humanity. And here is where the perpetual poppycock kicks in and tries to steal my joy. Just to restate the perpetual poppycock melee, my thought tracks constantly hijack my ability to evolve or live my truth. Each and every goal, decision, idea, opinion is riddled with thoughts that squash any actionable items I could do to baby step my way towards my desired end result. Its like I’m constantly running as fast as I can but the ground never moves under my feet.

You would think that living a couple of my dreams would mean less stress and greater joy but the reality of pp is that my stress level is quite high and my joy is tinged with the stain of worry. Its ridiculous! I’m stressed about being happy! Who the heck does that? Well, I’m determined to stop. I don’t know how but I’m going to figure it out.

The breakthrough today was a promise I made to myself to start a journal and I’m fulfilling that now. This journal might be the key to helping me focus my thoughts enough to synthesize and take some action. Today I am happy to have the chance to live a couple of my dreams. I LOVE working from home and homeschooling my kids. It’s everything I hoped it would be!

Another year, another reminder…

Dear Perpetual Poppycock,

Today was my annual physical with my gynecologist and per the usual, I got yet another reminder that I have not changed. I’m still overweight, and on the brink of a diagnosis, or two, pertaining to the toll too much weight takes on my body. Some things, I, never change. And that, ladies and gents, is my reason for this blog. Perpetual poppycock is chronic but I’m determined to beat it.

I really enjoy my doctor. We have a fun! I mean, what isn’t fun about getting naked with a stranger and having them feel you up in the least sexually pleasant way possible? “Hi Ashley, lay back and be still while I shove a cold metal device inside you that is essentially a car jack for your vagina. Then I’ll smoosh your boobs around in circles, one at a time, while we talk about hair color.” I jest, but really, she is the coolest and if I have to make out with a woman once a year, I’m glad its her. I have a thing for smart, witty babes.

Each year when I see her, we gab about the kids and world events, and she respectfully answers my questions when I ask about missing periods and long chin hairs. Is it normal to go 130 days without a period? Does it still count as peach fuzz if its black and an inch plus??

The truth is, I know what the problem is. Of course I do! Anyone with a web enabled device and a few minutes can find the most likely suspect of whatever ails them. In my case, I’ve had decades full of experience and the internet, to give me a pretty in depth education on whats is lurking in my shadow. And the fact that this, saint of a doctor, hasn’t lost her mind having the same conversation with me every time we meet, is a true triumph of her character. To paraphrase, I have presumed PCOS and insulin resistance, as a result of my diet and lifestyle that has resulted in an oversize body, irregular periods, sporadic facial hair changes, and the list goes on and on.

My primary care doctor echos the advice. Try to cut back on carbs and sugar. Move a bit more. Its consistent, gentle, and wise advice that I’ve been told by my care providers for at least 30 years. They are sticking to their guns here and I’m clearly the one not changing. This perfectly highlights my point. Poppycock excuses are perpetual.

To overcome this entire situation, all I need to do is cut back on carbs and sugar while incorporating exercise. That’s it. Not 7 pills a day or scary surgeries to fix something thats broken. Its just a change in how I eat and move, yet I can’t seem to do it. Why is that??!

Today as I was leaving our annual tryst, it really struck me how chronic this perpetual poppycock is. I have been letting this broken record play for over 3 decades. The excuses and reasons and fears and failures are as predictable as lipstick on a quarterbacks cock. Is that a saying? (shrug) I have not changed. Progress is my greatest foe.

The take away from this year’s reminder to make some healthy changes that might prolong or improve my quality of life, is that I will suss out the perpetual poppycock thats blocked my success so far, by writing about it in this blog. Maybe this will help me unlock the pandora’s box of possibilities to make a concerted AND consistent effort in the area of my personal health. And so my journey to next years appointment begins.

Top 5 reasons why I budget

Budgeting is not the sexiest thing we could talk about but it is one of the smartest. If you aren’t already budgeting your money its time you took a good look at your finances and make it a monthly, if not daily practice. Budgeting will help you reach proximate and long term life goals. Whether you are paying off debt, saving for your first home, treating yourself to a fun shopping spree, or just trying to cover your expenses each month, budgeting is the way to make it happen. Removing all the excuses and perpetual poppycock standing in the way of making this one task a habit is the key to reaching those goals. Do not wait another minute. Here are my top 5 reasons why I budget.

1. Paying off debt

I learn lessons the hard way and often more than once per lifetime. This brings me to my first reason why I budget. I am paying off debt, with purpose and plan for the second time. I have many posts about debt so if you are struggling, you are not alone. I’ve been there and its no fun. Budgeting is the key to helping me stay on track to pay off our hefty debt (80k in bad debt not counting our mortgage and cars, eek!) while continuing to pay for our routine life expenses.

To help you jump through all the perpetual poppycock that will try and stop you from starting your budget allow me to list some of the excuses that came to mind for me before I finally broke the cycle and started budgeting.

  • I know where my money is going so I don’t need to budget.
  • Budgeting will tell me I can’t spend my money the way I want.
  • Its my money, I’ll do what I want with it.
  • Budgeting isn’t going to help me because I don’t make enough to budget.
  • The debt is too far out of hand, I’ll just ignore it and eventually I’ll stop living beyond my means and the debt will go away.
  • Budgeting seems hard.
  • I don’t know how to use spreadsheets.
  • I don’t have the time to balance my budget.
  • No one I know budgets.

Do you hear yourself in any of those excuses? I know its hard to break free from thought tracks like that but it can be done! Stopping the perpetual poppycock that stands between me and my best life is the reason I started this blog. I am fighting the excuse that stand in the way of living the life I want and documenting it for others entertainment! Good fun!

Back to the first and most important reason for me to budget, debt. Without having a budget, paying off our debt would not be possible. I’d continue to spend money without really knowing how much was going towards actual need verses senseless want. I want to be clear when I say senseless want. Budgeting does not mean that I am not allowed to buy items that would traditionally be listed as a “want”. Budgeting means, I acknowledge that I’d like to spend some of our money on “want” items or experiences, and properly allocating the money to those things in the budget. The senseless “want” I’m referring to is the thoughtless purchasing that happens unconsciously. We will go into that another time but note, there is a difference.

If you are living in debt, a budget is necessary to helping you overcome it and really start living. Don’t wait. Let’s start your budget now!

2. Accountability

As noted earlier in this post, I am not great with money. In fact, I’ve been in bad debt twice in my 42 years and its taken a lot of hard work to get out of it. I’m terrible with money. Luckily, there are ways for people like me to learn to live with money and stop being as terrible with it.

Budgeting creates built in accountability. Once you make a budget, you must answer to it whenever money is spent. If you buy groceries, the budget must be notified. If you go out on a date, the budget needs be told about it. If you replace the dishwasher because it unexpectedly stopped working, the budget will definitely need to be informed.

The only way a budget will work is if you tend to it. Mid-month I start working out the details of my next months budget. For example, in mid December I’ll be working on January’s budget. This gives me time to plan for the known expenses early on to see how much wiggle money I will have to put towards entertainment, activities, birthdays, long distance planning like summer vacations, and of course putting a little bit aside to make sure I have at least 1k cash in the bank for those emergency situations like the dishwasher I mentioned in the previous paragraph.

Accountability from budgeting will help you cross off the finish line and achieve the goals you have set. Don’t let it feel like a chore. Think of accountability as your personal cheering section in the budgeting game. Each time you update your budget, its screaming your praises for staying on track. This is a helpful tool and will ultimately give you the positive reinforcement you might need to keep going.

3. Knowing where my money is going

There is something very satisfying about knowing where our money is going. Once I started budgeting 5 years ago and started consciously spending, I really gained an understanding of my spending habits and liked knowing what our money represented. Maybe this is what adulting feels like, and despite popular opinion, it doesn’t suck.

When I was spending unconsciously, we had a lot of stuff. We had rooms full of toys, gadgets, technology, clutter, etc. But if you asked me to tell you what I bought to end up in tens of thousands of dollars of debt, I probably would have starred at you blankly. The reality of spending willy-nilly is that none of our “stuff” resulted in a feeling of pride or satisfaction beyond the initial high of buying something. It was just a pile of homogenous things that we had.

A great example of how meaningless everything was, is I actually did one of those things that parents always threaten to do when their kids leave toys lying about. I would walk around the house, pick up toys and toss them straight in the trash if they were left out. AND THEY NEVER EVEN NOTICED! That’s because they had more than they needed and as a result nothing was valued. Things have changed a lot since then and I’m not sad about it one bit. We still want everything we see, but we don’t buy it unless we have the money and have deemed it worthy of the exchange.

Budgeting has made us put value on things we buy beyond just the price on the sales receipt. Every purchase represents the cost of that item AND the compromise we made to allocate money for that purchase in our budget. There is always a trade up. I don’t consider it a trade off because the feeling of making conscious decisions is so good, it definitely doesn’t feel “off”. Deciding to buy a new bike means we might not get to eat out at our favorite restaurant that month, but we make that decision and doing so brings added value to the choice we make. This is such a nice bonus, do not think lightly of it.

4. Creating good money habits

The more good habits I can create around money, the better my future will be and the more my kids will have to mimic in their own lives. As mentioned before, I am not naturally good with money. It takes work and commitment. I have made budgeting a habit and years later, I’m still doing it.

Budgeting has pointed out some “bad” money habits I’ve worked on changing. I use the word “bad” only to illustrate the contrast to the word “good”. They are not evil and sometimes we do budget for those “bad” habits because we want to. My good and bad list might be completely different from yours. That’s the beauty of budgets. They are unique to the spender. This is not meant to offend or make you reflect negatively on your own budget. It’s just to highlight things that I’ve put thought into and wanted to change.

I have already told you the benefit of added value to items we actually do buy that results from our budget choices. That is the first change I wanted to make when we started budgeting. The goal was to pay off debt but the changes we needed to make to have money to pay off debt meant we had to start planning to buy “things” and not just buying everything we wanted.

The result of this budget habit has made everyone in our house very aware of their belongings. I’d like to say that means the kids treat everything they own with respect and care but that would be a lie. The yard is scattered with nerf bullets most days and barbie still leaves her cloths scattered in rooms they don’t belong. The difference is, when I threaten to toss them if they aren’t put up, the kids know I mean business and replacing those items once they’ve been thrown out will require more work on their part. They are learning that money doesn’t grown on trees.

Another habit I wanted to change was eating out for every meal. That can really add up to a lot of money for a house of 4! I LOVE eating out and am not the best cook despite my cooking videos and Pampered Chef status. The truth is I have to follow recipes and watch lots of cooking videos to be able to make a delicious meal, but its totally doable if you want it to happen!

I knew that breaking the habit of spending so much money on eating out was important to help achieve the goal of paying off our debt. Over the years I’ve learned how to plan for eating out enough to feed our bellies and our entertainment appetites. The good news is that this habit actually isn’t hard to make because its fun to plan! I look forward to padding the restaurant budget to include things like birthday dinners and date nights. Its satisfying for my socially hungry soul and my ravenous belly.

The last money habit I’ll highlight in this section, that budgeting has taught me, is saving for the unknown. I still don’t have a lot of money saved but I do have enough squirreled away if something breaks unexpectedly or one of us is sick and needs medical care. This one new habit has brought me so much peace. Being able to pay for life’s curve balls and plot twists reduces stress that would otherwise wreak havoc on our household. Make it a habit to budget and a habit to save!

5. Technology makes it easy!

This is really the best reason to start budgeting. Technology and smart people around the globe have come up with some really awesome tools to make budgeting a no brainer. They’ve removed the hard work and paved the way for your budgeting success. Search the web for budgeting tools and you will see all the pages of suggestions. You can also search for FREE budgeting tools if you want to save some money. I’ve used both kinds and both have their pros and cons.

When I first started budgeting I used paper and pencil. I would write in a notebook what I was planning to bring in as income and what I was planning to pay out as expenses. I always used pencil because, as you go through a month there are often changes to your budget as the days unfold. Remember, a budget is not a one and done concept, especially if you do a zero budget like me.

A zero budget is just a type of budget that accounts for every cent of income so you always know where each penny is going. When you make a zero budget and still have money left to spend after you’ve planned for everything, you can’t leave that money unnamed. You can put it in savings or a Christmas fund but you can’t leave a balance. The purpose is to teach you to always know where your money is and how much you spend.

Once I moved further into my comfort zone with my budget habit I tested a few different spreadsheet options and was thrilled with how easy it was. Here is an example of a free option I found on the web. https://www.simple.com/blog/zero-based-budget-template

After my first year of budgeting I finally found what I’ve been using and continue to love to mange our household budget. I use the Dave Ramsey web app, Every Dollar. There are two options with this online tool, a free and a paid version. I started with the free version which is the same as the paid with the exception of linking bank accounts.

When I first started using EveryDollar, I did not feel it was a smart use of my money to pay for the tool because I was very far in debt and really needed to focus on putting every extra cent towards paying it off. I didn’t mind manually entering my transactions in the free version once or twice a week. It only took a few minutes of my time and kept my budget on track.

Once I felt like it made sense to make the investment and start using the paid version of EveryDollar I upgraded and was able to link my bank accounts. Just like accounting software, this automatically added my transactions into the budget and all I had to do was put them in a category to be deducted. It was a time saver and really stepped up my budget process.

I don’t regret using the free version for a while but if I had it to do over again I would have started with the paid and it would have been money well spent.

There are other options I’ve heard of over the years that do something similar but I have not tried them. Mint.com and Quickbooks are two that come to mind.

The point is technology takes the hard would out of the equation. Don’t let lack of experience hold you back from starting your budget. Find a tool that will make it as easy as it can be and start today!

After the last several years of budgeting, I’ve been able to pay down all but 30k of our debt and we are on track to pay that off completely in 2021. I am 100% positive that budgeting is what has gotten us to this point and we’ve grown so much from this experience. It’s my goal to not only pay off debt for the last time but to start an actual savings account that will make retirement a possibility one day. I know we can do it with the help of a budget!

Start yours now and let me know how it’s going. I’m no expert but I will cheer your efforts on!

Food, you aren’t the problem

Perpetual poppycock and the topic of my weight go hand in hand. I constantly dream of a lighter body and yet the perpetual poppycock surrounding the actions to make that dream come true is compulsive.

The way I feel about food is the way I feel about most things. More is better! That, is a gross generalization. There are of course, nuances to this idea but it usually applies. I’ve overindulged more often than not, resulting in a heavy body teetering on numerous diagnoses, many missed experiences, and several fears about the future. Eating brings me joy in a way that feels necessary. I don’t want to use the word addiction here for reasons I will explore later but some might choose that word for their own struggles and it would make total sense.

I eat for all the reasons that you’ve already heard a million times. For joy, warmth, heartbreak, entertainment, fear, stress, fun, sadness, loneliness, love, boredom, procrastination, the list goes on and on. Luckily, I am also fairly active and very independent so my weight has not become more than I can manage. Once you cross that threshold of not being able to move I believe your weight gain grows exponentially. I’m grateful I have not sustained an injury or some other situation that would cause me to become immobile. That would prove troublesome.

I’ve always loved food and consequently blamed it for how I look and feel. The thoughts sound like, I am fat because of food, period…end of story. I put on weight because of food. I kept extra weight on because of food. I am not losing weight because of food. My health is struggling because of food. I/My…fill in the blank with any statement and end with…because of food. These statements fit. They always made sense. The problem with blaming food for my weight is that it allowed me to be a victim and not be responsible for actions. It’s easy to make 1000 statements about myself ending with “because of food”, but that would only enable me to continue to blame something other than myself for they way that I am.

These thoughts totally allow the perpetual poppycock parade to roll untethered and that results in nothing changing! If I keep saying, food you are the problem, the poppycock echoes the idea that I can’t fix it so why put any effort into it. This totally lines up with my typical behavior of maintaining status quo and not changing anything. The problem with that is, my goal is not to be overweight, unhealthy, and unfit for the remainder of my life. I do not want to end up so unfit that I can’t do various life activities. I do not want to stay overweight and eventually end up with high blood pressure and/or diabetes. I do not want to grow old and regret that I never really tried to get my body into a strong enough shape to be useful to my kids and grandkids. 

So what do I need to do to change the future? What do I need to do to reach my goal? How can I change the talk track, or perpetual poppycock, to open the door towards actual growth? That is exactly what I’m trying to figure out!

Acknowledging the problem is an important first step, so that is what I’m doing. Food, you aren’t the problem! I’m not a victim of food. Food is not hurting me on purpose. 

I’m going to work on listening to my thoughts and identify any that put the blame or control on of my behavior on something other than myself. I think this will help me gain awareness of how those thoughts affect my feelings and drive my actions. My action item for this first blog post is just to gain awareness and feel my feelings. From there I will define next steps. 

Homework: To stop the perpetual poppycock that removes my responsibility in efforts to reach my goal of being strong and healthy, I will work on identifying the things I say to myself that point to food as the problem and feel the feelings that are sparked from the thoughts.