April 18 - December 31, 2021


April 18, 2021
» milestone blogiversary

Twenty years ago today, I started my first website.

And although none of my online ventures have "went viral" -- not even close, actually! -- writing for an Internet audience has offered pleasant distractions and learning experiences.

Best of all, it's given me a proverbial voice. Even if no one reads every word, just knowing that they could has made me feel as if I've been heard.

Many thanks to you, dear reader, for listening. It has meant more than I can say. :)


November 24, 2021
» the new normal gets newer all the time

Yet again, excerpts from recent letters to Michele do double duty as a recap of happenings so far this year.

___________________________________________

» That Guy » February

* In reply to your questions, no, I haven't seen him or heard any news about his personal life. When he crosses my mind, depending on my mood, I'm either hopeful that the pandemic is keeping him single... or I relive the hurt and embarrassment at how past encounters (so! clearly!) indicate that he doesn't think of me as a romantic option. :winces:

* I was pondering how, with the aspects we appreciate in our current TV dreamboats, someone might deduce that our ages are somewhat past the teen years. Which is fine with me! Our experience has helped us more clearly define what we're looking for -- and that's a good thing. :) I'm even starting to filter song lyrics through that point of view. Like when I hear Bruno Mars claim that he'd "catch a grenade for ya." Well, thanks, but in my book, the height of romance would be for a guy to simply pay attention when I talk and respond with a modest bit of interest.

» That Guy » June

* I did see ____ ... I can honestly report that I got *no* butterflies or other silly notions. I've accepted that he doesn't like me "that way," and I have no hard feelings about that. Actually, it's freeing! Had he been nearby, I believe I could've managed the same, conversational "Hey! How are you?" that I would have with almost anyone else.

* [Later that week] I was able to test what I wrote above, "I could speak to ____ like I would to anyone else." I was passing by where he was standing, and as I was *right* next to him, I got a bit choked on my sip of water! :BLUSH: Not exactly my proudest moment, but I was only slightly embarrassed -- and then I shook it off. I casually looked at him and said, "Excuse me." I even added, "Good morning." (Yep, as I would've with anyone else.) As I recall, he returned the greeting, and gave a sympathetic look as my light coughing continued, as I walked on.

Apparently, it's true: without butterflies, I can be almost normal. Almost! ;)

___________________________________________

» Mind + Body » February

* Part of my emotional stress comes from making assumptions based on present circumstances: "Oh no! It looks like my health issues are starting again, just like last year at this time!" And that stresses me out more than I can express, thinking of going through all that discomfort for another year... But I'm trying to take it one day at a time, since (as the Bible said) all worry does is cause more harm.

* I made that reminder after a string of highly emotional days. As you said, I feel so, so irritable. Even more so when my family keeps doing things I've -- repeatedly! -- expressed issue with. On my angriest days, sheer exasperation sends me (as you said years ago that your guy would do) grumbling under my breath, often with my back to them. "Oh you're interrupting again?! What a SURPRISE! WHY DO I EVEN BOTHER?!?!!" :( I know that's not helpful. In that moment, I just don't know what else to do.

* My health issues of late can be summed up as "more of the same." Some of the ones from this time last year are making another appearance, as are some that first popped up ten years ago. It may sound strange, but I'm comforted when I remember, "Okay, I've had this symptom before," probably because it reminds me that it didn't last forever. #SighOfRelief Plus, I'm encouraged that the repeats from last year have, so far, been very mild.

* Looking at past occurrences, the worst outbreaks of My Condition have also been times of extreme stress. Which makes sense. As I wrote in my cost-of-worry blog post, recently when I start to get frazzled, I remind myself that panicking will only make it worse. And I know that's true, so I find a way to at least change my focus.

» Mind + Body » October

* As I said in my Facebook message September was BUSY, and it coincided with -- or perhaps it prompted! – a 40s flare up, and so I spent much of the days feeling frazzled: nervous and overwhelmed.

* At least for now, I'm fairly upbeat because I've finished a few tasks, and made definite progress in a few others. :-)

* You mentioned feeling emotional as well. Do you notice any patterns in your feelings? I sure do. Starting from several years ago, I can track recurring outbreaks in which, for several days at a time, my mood/thoughts default to a theme. Such as...

..."Bad brain" where I repeatedly lose my train of thought
...Feeling completely lonely and unheard
...Obsessing over some small thing
...Overwhelmed, like there's so much I need to do, want to do, and I'm not putting a dent in any of it.
...Guilty (often follows overwhelmed) that I can't do anything right, like I'm letting everyone --and God! -- down
...So, so annoyed at nearly everyone
I could go on, but you get the idea.

___________________________________________

» "Look up, Child" » June

* Yesterday, I attended the Sunday morning service at church, for the first time since March of last year. Around 70 people have been meeting regularly... but I was waiting through the month of May, to monitor how coronavirus case numbers progressed after many places relaxed their mask mandates.

* Happily, a downward trend has continued. The church plans to start Sunday School next week, and I knew I wanted to go to that. I decided to return one week early. And I'm so glad I went! I've sorely missed being around people who, like me, want to share about the trials and triumphs in our spiritual journey. (I love my family, but they are not exactly big with the encouragement.)

* To that end, since March of this year, I have been attending church service on Wednesday night. (With only a dozen or so people, it seemed like a good way for me to ease back into being around crowds, lol.)

* We have been watching through the TV series "The Chosen," which is about the life of Jesus. We watch an episode, then discuss it. I enjoy hearing the comments: it all reminds me of many hours of pleasant diversion reviewing TV shows for my websites. :D

* When they first announced the plan to watch that show, I recalled that movie The Passion of the Christ -- and wasn't sure what to expect. But, whereas the movie was (majorly!) intense, this show is thoroughly engaging. It's as if I'm right there in the Bible history... and I'm seeing parts of it like I never have before. WOW! <3 <3

* Wednesday night, we watched episode 5 of The Chosen. I know I'm repeating, but that show is SO good. I'm completely taken with its depictions of the apostles and Jesus. I admit, before this I've pictured them (and others in the Bible) as perpetually somber and serious. But that series depicts them with distinct personalities -- and insecurities -- and engaging in pleasant banter... and having fun. This is a view of them I've absolutely needed!

___________________________________________

» Pit of Random » February

* A weather update: our region was clipped by that multi-state arctic blast! Widespread ice earlier this week, then 5 inches of snow Wednesday night, with multiple nights of low temps in the teens. :shivers: Our bathroom pipes were frozen for one day; thankfully the kitchen water stayed unfrozen, and the power stayed on.

* I'd been needing a new nightshirt, and -- obviously inspired by our cat chat -- I got one with sweet kitties on it. You can see it at this link.

* At least I'm having some success chipping away at my organizing efforts. 8) Recently, as an update to my (shamefully neglected) photoblog, I posted an example of the file drawer labeling that I'm working on. I love how readable those labels are... if I could only decide on what categories/titles would be most helpful, I might actually get that project finished! Anyway, the picture is here: chezannegallery.shutterfly.com/1196

* I recently discovered that my work computer added a dictation feature (as in, I talk and it types what I say)... and I've been like a kid with a new toy. :D I used it to transcribe the ideas I'd written on paper to start this email, and I've been dictating things related to my job duties. For years, I have been curious about text-to-type software, as a less-laborious way to make my paper writings [journals, fanfic] electronic. Alas, it's not perfect. I had to edit: insert sentence breaks, punctuation, some capital letters... But overall, I'm calling it a success. Simply getting the words typed is a huge start.

* Not only is it a valuable tool, but speaking words and having the computer print what I say on the screen is *so* validating. :applause:

» Pit of Random » October

* The highly-touted "new normal" continued to evolve when [my cell service provider] notified me that a phone upgrade was necessary due to upcoming network changes. So, I decided to join the ranks of smartphone users. Having to learn a new device while I was so busy would threaten to stress me out... but then, I'd calmly remind myself, "simply take it one piece at a time." And navigating the phone has been much more intuitive than I expected, so YAY!


December 30, 2021
» keep calm and make room

My 2020 lesson learned was, "I can avoid a lot of frustration if I hold my plans with a loose hand."

The lesson stemmed from my complete frazzlement when trying to plan for shopping at the very empty grocery stores in 2020. I'd regain some perspective by acknowledging that a divergence from my list might be necessary – and if so, it is totally do-able. "If they're out of my favorite cereal in this trip, I can get this other one, and then I'll check for my favorite in a later visit." Before long, I could even look at it with a sense of adventure. "Who knows, maybe I'll discover a *new* favorite!"

Since then I heard a phrase that further defines the concept for me: make room. And the application of it is proving to be equally freeing in other areas. For example, when I make room....

...in my timetable. "I need the information I requested from Joe, but if he forgets, I'll ask him again. While I'm waiting, I can work on this other part."

...for my family to communicate honestly. "If you don't want any of the soup I made, I'm okay with that. I'd rather you say, 'No, thanks,' than to take a bowl and throw most of it away."

...for less than perfection. Is it that she doesn't listen to me? Or is it that she doesn't listen (and subsequently react) to my satisfaction, 100% of the time?

...for misinterpretation. Lately, unexpected twists trigger my negative emotions -- ones that repeatedly prove to be unfounded. I need to pause, not panic. Look again. This may not mean what I think it means.

I'm not sure when I began striving to eliminate every variable, but the tendency to over plan surely grew during my five years at a job in which I was expected to stay on top of everything.

It shot to unhealthy levels after the pandemic started, no doubt from desperation for some kind of control among the chaos. It's an understandable response -- but not a beneficial one. The preoccupation with trying to nail down future moments was crowding out my capacity to appreciate the present ones. Not to mention, it is super stressful because it's unending - an impossible task!

Limiting my plans to more of a near-future notion is also contributing to growth in my faith journey. With less of an eye on my own agenda and expectations, my excitement is building as I realize that I ain't seen nothing yet!


December 31, 2021
» a year in review - 2021

1. What did you do in 2021 that you'd never done before?
bought + used the O'Cedar QuickWring bucket and mop, donated through gofundme, got hacked -- or at least spoofed -- on Facebook, had a home invasion of big black ants, ordered food to go from Rosie's Mexican Cantina, owned a smartphone, signed up for Evernote (quickly lost interest), spied a few termites in the kitchen, started freezing bread to make it last longer, "buttered" mashed potatoes and grits with Greek yogurt, tried canned chickpeas (liked them!), tried canned artichokes (that's enough of that...), tried Haribo chewy Star Mints (a new favorite), tried the Spiced Pumpkin Pie Cliff bar (was more spice than pumpkin)

2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
For 2021, I attempted to improve communication with my family. They reciprocated in some ways, and that inspires me to persist in the effort.
For 2022, I want to "live loved." Reflect on the ways God loves us -- me! -- and identify its handiwork in my life. Then, live securely in that love, especially in the way I respond to others.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
No.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
In August, the coronavirus took the life of a long-time family friend. :*(

5. Where did you travel?
mostly to the store for necessities, although I did venture out to the nature trails at Rainbow Mountain

6. What would you like to have in 2022 that you lacked in 2021?
a long-term job outlook, so that I can move forward with plans for my own home

7. What date or event from 2021 will remain etched upon your memory?
the 20th anniversary of exchanging emails with my friend, Michele

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
being content to wrap up my efforts when I discern where enough is indeed enough

9. What was your biggest failure?
A few of my undertakings -- worthwhile things that I very much want to do -- blindsided me with extremely challenging moments. I was further stunned by my horrible attitudes in response, and by how long they kept resurfacing.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Illness, yes. The "couple dozen recurring ailments" that cropped up last year are still flaring up. On the bright side, I see definite improvements, and so they are less "concerning."

11. What was the best thing you bought?
A new smartphone. It started as a necessity due to upcoming changes with my provider, but I quickly warmed up to the convenience of the features I gained.
Runner up: a new Gotham non-stick skillet, for cooking eggs

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
One person who was -- repeatedly! -- truly interested to know what I have to say on a certain topic, and another who expressed an appreciation for a comment I shared in our Bible study group

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
I was beyond disappointed that the people I'd most expect to listen to me, didn't. It happened time and time again, and it made for a very lonely year, overall.

14. Where did most of your money go?
household expenses, particularly to paying people to work in the yard (totally worth it, btw)

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
A dictation feature, as in I talk and it types what I say. I've tried the options on my home computer, but apparently that microphone is insufficient. Happily, on my new phone, I can transcribe notes to a Google document -- and I've been like a kid with a new toy. The resulting text isn't perfect because some words get lost in translation. But even that's a win because most of the mistypes amuse me greatly. For example,
ME: "... analyses..."
TEXT ON SCREEN: "... and now the seas..." xD xD

16. What song will always remind you of 2021?
Probably "My King is Known By Love," which I learned this year after rejoining the church choir. The song's warm description of the love of Jesus continues to resonate with me, and it is now one of my favorites out of all the ones we've ever done.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
Happier or sadder? happier
Older or wiser? (arguably) wiser, feeling as if I've learned a valuable lesson or two
Thinner or fatter? judging by my clothes, about the same
Richer or poorer? probably richer, because working from home means I purchase gasoline every few months instead of nearly every week #HighFive

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
recognizing specific ways in which I need to declutter (both physically and emotionally), and then doing it

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
resented my family obligations

20. Did your heart break?
Yes.

21. How did you spend Christmas?
While waiting for our Christmas activities to begin, I worked on these questions and did a load of laundry. My mom, sister and I opened our gifts around nine-thirty, after I set up our low-frills video camera. I took pictures of our decorations and gifts, and made lunch. With the temperature near 70 degrees, even my cold-natured self could enjoy a long walk outside with only a light jacket. ("Have yourself a balmy little Christmas," lol.) The fam and I ended the day watching DVDs.

22. How will you spend New Year's Eve?
I had a holiday from work. With the temperature again near 70 degrees, I went outside for a walk. I ran errands, did chores, and finished these questions. The fam and I watched DVDs, and then rang the new year in as we typically do: sleeping.

23. What was your favorite TV program?
The Chosen

24. What were your greatest food discoveries?
"The greatest" has to be the delicious organic Indian products by Food Earth. But my breakfast experiments produced some notable contenders: cottage cheese on an English muffin, and mashed sweet peas spread on French bread toast with shredded chicken

25. What was the best book you read?
I'm still savoring "Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen.

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?
a pre-owned Norah Jones CD for $0.50 now has a prominent place among my easy listening replays, alongside Johnny Mathis and Kenny G

27. What did you want and get?
to meet safely again with my church family, and again reap the benefit of their encouragement

28. What did you want and not get?
two of my loved ones seem to be on a detrimental path due to unhealthy habits

29. What was your favorite film?
I didn't see many, and not one of those merits a mention here.

30. What did you do on your birthday?
The theme this year was "a few of my favorite things" (yes, shamelessly stolen from Christmas-time). Lunch was my new-this-year favorite prepackaged food: Vegetable Biryani. Supper was my long-time favorite restaurant food, Rosie's fish tacos. The day included some of my preferred pursuits, such as hiking at Rainbow Mountain, and socially-distanced shopping.

31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Feeling unheard has been a long-time struggle for me. Recently, I'm attempting to not take people's inattention so personally. I mean, I don't hang on their every word either, right? Still, the practice would have been more satisfying if it hadn't so often taken the form of withdrawing into a sad, "Why bother?"

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2021?
Working from home again this year, I wear slacks (or a nice pair of yoga pants) during business hours, to help keep me in Work Mode.

33. What kept you sane?
While I was paralyzed much of last year by fear of the unknown, recognizing that God is working even in the unexpected is developing my "eyes of faith." I'm pressing on despite feelings that threaten to stall me. Sometimes I'm even able to look forward with a sense of adventure!

34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
I mildly fancied a few TV characters. Jonathan Hart and Jim Rockford each made an appearance in a sweet dream in which I was so comforted because I simply knew they liked me. In every episode of The Greatest American Hero, something about Bill and/or Ralph appeals to me. A lot. :)

35. What social or political issue or news story stirred you the most?
I'm still limiting my news intake, but from what I heard, my main takeaway is that people must've found a way to get paid every time they use the word "booster." #WearingItOut!

36. Who did you miss?
my former supervisor, who was transferred to work on another contract in October

37. Who was the best new person you met?
Kimberly the hair stylist. I shared my desire to chop off my grown-out pandemic hair, and she was so enthusiastic about my "transformation"

38. What changed the most in your life this year?
In addition to this list of ways my new normal gets newer all the time, I accepted a new role at church, where we gained a new pastor and our choir leader is taking a sabbatical. At work, staffing changes have left me as the only one on my project.

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2021.
Make room. It made such an impact that I felt compelled to elaborate.

40. A quote that sums up your year:
"If you dwell on your own feelings about things rather than dwelling on the faithfulness, the love, and the mercy of God, then you're likely to have a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Our feelings are very fleeting and ephemeral, aren't they? We can't depend on them for five minutes at a time. But dwelling on the love, faithfulness, and mercy of God is always safe." ~ Elisabeth Elliot


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