Food Anxiety.

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David came with me to the grocery store today, and while we were shopping he delivered a very sweet compliment about my cooking and how much he appreciates me making food for us. I certainly appreciate his rave reviews, because the truth is that I am very self conscious about my cooking abilities. I am not creative in any sense of the word when it comes to preparing food. Some people are naturals. They throw things together and experiment with herbs and spices and all sorts of goodness and make a wonderful meal, but not me. I hesitate. I follow recipes to a T. (This does, however, make me a good baker.) I am royally afraid of fucking up. (And what’s the worst that could happen? We order a pizza? Not such a disaster.)

I’ve been getting so much better. I am more willing to try things, to alter a recipe, to be more loose in measuring ingredients. But I remain a closeted cook. I pretty much only cook for David and Kennedy. David always compliments the food, but really, that guy eats anything so it’s hard for me to accept it as an endorsement. If anyone outside of the usual run of family requires entertaining, chili is the default. I’m good at that, and everyone likes chili.

On top of that, I cannot figure out how to feed a Texan. I have had to stray from my comfy Midwestern standards of casserole dishes and whipped cream-covered fruit salads. Potlucks down here terrify me. The food is delicious, but unfamiliar. What do I bring? I need to find my thing, you know?

Please know that if we ever invite you over for food, I’ve put more thought into that meal than the average person would. Praise accordingly.

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So…Is That a No?

From: April
Sent: September 19, 11:26am
To: Jury Room
Subject: Exemption Question
 

Hello,
I have been summoned for jury duty on October 7th and I am requesting exemption. I have a stepdaughter who is 9 that I take to school and pick up from school because my husband works far away from our home. I do not think this qualifies me as a “legal guardian,” but I am, however, the primary person that handles my stepdaughter’s transportation to and from school. Can you please let me know if I qualify for exemption?

Thank you.

From: Jury Room
Sent: September 19, 12:32pm
To: April
Subject: Re: Exemption Question
 

Fill out the juror info form and sworn affidavit from the bottom of the summons.  Mail or fax it to us.  You can go on the e-jury and do the same thing.

Remember, you are swearing to this.  You do NOT have legal custody.  So, I would say that husband is ultimately responsible for getting child to school.

 

Brain Science.

I’ve been seeing a neurologist for over a year now. You would think at this point, knowing this, people would stop asking me if I’m “drinking enough water.” (“That can cause headaches, you know.” Thanks. I know. And for the record, water is pretty much the only thing I drink.) But I know they are concerned and just trying to help.

I’m in week 3 of Biofeedback Therapy, my next adventure in migraine management. I was sent to Baylor Pain Management Center to meet with a biofeedback therapist who gave me quite an education on the brain and how pain works.

Chronic pain happens when the brain forgets to turn off the “pain alert” system. It can also occur when the body is still in recovery from the pain. The brain eventually learns to expect pain to be there, and sort of gears up for it even if it’s not going happen. You can train your body to stop chronic pain through learning to control your parasympathetic nervous system, which counteracts your sympathetic nervous system, or stress response (“fight or flight”). You are taught to slow down your breathing, heart beat, muscles and organs. You do this through breath control, mindfulness practice, and other relaxation training.

A more skeptical person might think this sounds kinda hokey. Glorified relaxation training. But, there are a lot of institutions that are paying more attention to the mind-body connection (thankfully) because of recent studies. I’ve always been a believer in a more holistic approach, so I am optimistic about this treatment. When paired with prescription medication, it is proven to decrease severity and frequency of migraines by 70%. I’ll take it.

During my appointment, I get hooked up to a computer that measures my breathing, skin moisture, shakiness, and skin temperature. I watch the levels of each of these on a screen, and during training I can see my body reacting in real time (try to “breathe naturally” while watching it happen on a screen!). I get a relaxation lesson and some reading material, and then I have to practice the relaxation techniques twice a day for 20-30 minutes. Generally I will meditate in the morning, then in the evening I will listen to one of the guided relaxation CDs that my therapist gives me. Occasionally I fall asleep during the session, but she assures me that I’m still getting something out of it.

It takes about 3 months of practice to affect a change in pain. So, here we go. If nothing else, I had a few good naps.

32 Things To Do Before I Turn 31.

My thirtieth year is upon me (in a couple weeks), and I have big plans. BIG PLANS. Ok, maybe not all-caps big, but slightly more ambitious than last year. But 30 is a big year, right?

If you’re making a list like this, it’s important to have a good balance of easier-to-achieve activities and some moderately challenging goals. I have never come close to finishing a list, but I don’t worry about it so much. I have to invest a little bit more of myself into it this year, and if I don’t finish every item at least I will have done a few really awesome things.

1. Visit Marfa, Texas. Dammit.

2. Attend a cooking class.

3. Visit the Perot Museum of Nature and Science.

4. Stop eating so much crappy food.

5. Learn how to handstitch leather.

6. Go camping.

7. Take a hula hoop fitness class.

8. Take a belly dancing class.

9. Take more photos on overseas trips.

10. Draw every day.

11. Take an encaustic painting class.

12. Try a new restaurant every month.

13. Attend a coffee cupping class.

14. Make a friggin’ pie.

15. Bring reusable bags to the grocery store.

16. Read The Great Gatsby (again) before the movie release.

17. Play the violin more.

18. Visit the Kadampa Meditation Center in Arlington.

19. Start going to the Zen center again.

20. Write to somebody in power (i.e. a congressman) about something important to me.

21. Run a 5k

22. Make something to sell (leather or art).

23. Volunteer for something (an event or a cause).

24. Paint the bathroom…again.

25. Get rid of excess.

26. Learn about more local music.

27. Go to the Grand Prairie Farmer’s Market.

28. Create an installation piece.

29. Take an improv class.

30. Take a boxing class.

31. Meatless Mondays.

32. Be more generous.

Unfinished Business.

It’s time again to reflect on how bad I am at finishing things. Before I looked at this list, I was certain I had finished most of it. Apparently I forgot what I put on this list, because I’ve been running around doing a bunch of things that are not these things. (I completed 11 out of 31, which is about a 35% success rate, in case you are wondering.)

1. Shoot a gun. I am not at a loss for people offering to take me out to shoot a gun. In Texas. Surprise surprise. I’m kind of scared! That’s why I put it on the list, but I think I procrastinated on this one.

2. Master an incredible apple pie recipe. I did look up a lot of pie RECIPES on Pinterest. (Damn you, Pinterest!)

3. Finish and go live with my website. Nope.

4. Meditate, meditate, meditate. I very proudly increased my frequency of meditation this year. To just about every day.

5. Create an illustration for a local event/publication/something. I’ve been illustrating David’s short stories. He’s probably tired of me dragging my feet on these each month, but I feel so out of practice. Some of these turned out better than others. Despite my insecurities, I think for these purposes, I’m going to count the Short Story of the Month illustrations a win.

6. Get a Coroflot page up. Nope.

7. Ride a horse. I TOTALLY did this! If you are looking for an adventure in the country, I highly recommend Sleepy Sheep Ranch. We rode horses, drank wine, and ate steak by a campfire with some superb Texans. It was A BLAST. And for my first time on a horse, I think I did okay. I got a little nervous when my horse kicked another horse. Wouldn’t you?

8. Wear at least one piece of jewelry every damn day. I did make an effort, but I don’t know if it happened every day. Who cares. This was a dumb goal anyway.

9. Get a new tattoo. I did not get a new tattoo, but only because it’s not in the budget right now. Especially since we did Number 10.

10. See Lady Gaga in concert. Yes. And it was effin’ weird. And awesome.

11. Take a ride in the karaoke cab. Sad face.

12. Start planning a European vacation with my new husband. We kind of started talking about this, and we had an opportunity arise, but it’s just not in the budget this year. Alas.

13. Acquire some rainboots. No rainboots for me.

14. Acquire some cowboy boots. The guy that sold me my boots was VERY shocked I was not from Texas. (He was not shocked at all.)

15. Go to the drive-in. Nope.

16. Visit a new place in Texas. I counted Waxahachie, even though it’s not exactly what I had in mind.

17. Get Jason Kidd’s autograph. And maybe Dirk’s. Oh, Jason Kidd. You broke my little heart this year. And not just because I didn’t get your autograph before you abandoned me.

18. Smoke a cigar. This one is so easy. Why didn’t I do this? I could be having a cigar right now.

19. Go to the top of the Bank of America building (tallest building in Dallas). This was a dumb goal too. Are you even allowed to go to the top of that building?

20. Go to Marfa! (This is a separate trip from #16). It’s a big joke between me and David how long I have wanted to go to Marfa and how we haven’t been there yet. I’ve wanted to go since before I met him. I’ll put it on next year’s list…and every list after that until it happens.

21. See more art. Eh?

22. Make more art. Never enough.

23. Regularly blog projects/drawings/art. I tried to do this, but it was mostly through Instagram. I’ll count it.

24. Plant some bushes. Poor, sad little yard. It keeps the burglars away.

25. Reduce clutter. A little.

26. More figure drawing. No.

27. More physical activity. Yes.

28. More books, fewer magazines. Kind of, but not enough.

29. Teach a class. No.

30. Take a class. Yes.

31. Own my thirties. My thirties are here, and henceforth I own them.

100 Days of Meditation

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4. Meditate, meditate, meditate.

For many years, I’ve been a sporadic meditator. I’ll go a few weeks meditating every night and then stop for a while, or get on an every-few-days schedule, or sometimes not meditate for months. I’ve been to three different Zen centers in three different cities and was never in place long enough to be a regular member. It’s become important to me to make this practice a part of my daily routine, and I think I am finally there.

In September, I found out about a “100 days of Meditation” group on Facebook, where the 100th day landed on January 1, 2013. I used it as a superficial excuse to get into this habit once and for all, and I have succeeded in establishing a regular routine for myself as a result. Before I started, I was perusing the internets to see if I could find any discussions of meditation habits and so on. I found an article on Zen Habits where the author advised that in order to build a routine you should only commit yourself to meditating 2 minutes a day. Ha! I obnoxiously thought about how pathetic that was, and I could do AT LEAST 5 minutes per day, and work my way up from there. So that’s what I’ve been doing. I’m now up to 15 minutes per day, working up to 20 but not pushing it. If I am extra tired, I allow myself to meditate for less time, because it’s not really that fruitful anyway if I am sleepy.

The photo above is a screen capture of my meditation timer app, the day I hit my 100th day of meditation. I’m still going. The best part about all this is that I am gaining a little bit of my willpower back. I learned that once I started something, and once I was so many days in, I did not want to miss a day because I had already made it so far. (I even had to meditate at the airport one night in order to make it. You do what you gotta do). Sometimes I give up on myself a little too easily, and sitting every day has helped with my follow-through. All in all, one of my best accomplishments on my “31 Things” list.

Now Taking Recommendations.

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I discovered that I’m just a few hundred frequent flier miles away from two round trip tickets to Europe! Neither David nor I have ever been. Though I’m sure it’s hard to go wrong no matter where you go, we’re thinking Italy. Pasta, pizza, wine, and the Renaissance. Sounds like a party.

If anyone has any “must see” or hotel suggestions, or any other general Italy-related knowledge sharing, please send them our way!