June 01, 2020

A Guest Post That Has Me Fan-Girling: The Author of My Favorite Running Memoir

You guys... I can't even tell you how excited I am about today's guest post!

I wrote about an audiobook that I listened to when I did my three month goal of running three miles three times a week (3-3-1). From the very beginning, I was completely hooked. I could not believe how relatable the author was!

Starting as a depressed, overweight, unhappy, middle-age woman, she takes you on her full journey as she becomes a runner. (She actually has bipolar II, the same as I.) She describes every challenge along the way, starting as a very self-conscious walker/runner (she was too embarrassed to run, so she took her dog along to pretend she was walking her dog, and then she'd do little jogs here and there).

I don't want to turn this into a full book review (I wrote more thoughts on this post), but I want to say that YOU NEED TO LISTEN TO OR READ THIS BOOK. (Amazon affiliate link)

 I really loved the audiobook version, because I listened to it while running, and it kept me motivated.) If you are a runner, or are hoping to be a runner, or are in the middle of your running journey, you will find this book to be relatable, inspiring, uplifting, and emotional. Or even if you are interested in mental illness/mental health, you'll enjoy this book as well!

Without further ado, I am thrilled to introduce the author of my favorite running memoir, "Depression Hates a Moving Target: How Running with My Dog Brought Me Back from the Brink"... Nita Sweeney!

Katie generously invited me to write a guest blog post about how running gets easier. After I thanked her, I had to laugh. I mean, I wrote a book about dragging myself off the sofa and out the door, right?

Her question made me ponder. Does getting yourself to go out for a run become easier after you’ve been running for a while?

Yes, and no.

Yes, because you prove to yourself that you can run by running.

Yes, because after a while, you learn what works and what doesn’t work for you.

Yes, because these actions become ingrained and running becomes an integral part of your life.

At least that’s how it worked for me.

Back in 2010, I started “running” by jogging for sixty seconds in a hidden ravine. I leashed up Morgan, our yellow Labrador, so the neighbors would think I was just exercising him and wouldn’t laugh. I had to prove to myself that I could run, and I had to do it by running. There was no other way.

Here, Nita is running with Scarlet; sadly, Morgan (the dog in the book) passed away in 2017.

By starting small and building on gradual progress, I convinced myself I could run. I proved it by showing up again and again. I learned what worked for me, and, over time, those habits became ingrained. I built momentum, expertise and confidence. Running became a natural part of my life and I identified as “a runner.” I came to wonder why I hadn’t begun so much earlier.

So, yes! It definitely got easier.

But sometimes, life gets in the way. That’s where the “no” comes in.

In the months before my running and mental health memoir, Depression Hates a Moving Target: How Running with My Dog Brought Me Back from the Brink was published, the demands of completing and marketing the book increased more than I could have imagined.

As a result, I cut back on running. Instead of five runs a week, I dropped to four, then three, and eventually, just two. And yes, I find it ironic that, after writing a book about how running helps me stave off anxiety and combat depression, I cut back on running.

Once the book had been out for five months, I was still only running two days a week. The low moods and heart palpitations crept back. I needed to run more. So, I signed up for two races many months away, hoping the training plans for those would provide structure. I also began doing low heart rate training to keep my stress hormone levels low.

Then, during the second California leg of my book tour, when I had five readings in three days, my husband, Ed, came down with pneumonia which caused a heart attack which landed him in the hospital where they discovered severe triple vessel disease which required open heart surgery after he first got over the pneumonia.

And yes, I wrote that run-on sentence on purpose because that’s exactly how it felt.

Ed, Nita's VERY supportive husband, sporting a sweatshirt he wears to all her races!

The bypass part of the surgery went well, but he came out of surgery unable to swallow. After two weeks in the hospital, he was sent home on a 24/7 gastric feeding tube. With little or no warning, life transformed me from an award-wining author and marathoner into an accidental home health aide. We had actual home health aides, the trained and licensed and certified kind, but only for a few hours each week. The rest of the time, he required my care.

And then there was that little matter of the pandemic.

Both of my races were cancelled.

I had little time and less motivation to run. Two days a week turned into zero. I stopped running altogether.

Thankfully, Ed is headed toward a full recovery. And we’re privileged to live in a neighborhood where I can run safely. But that time off from running made me feel like a beginner again. It was as if I’d never run a step before. Neither my wall full of medals nor our Labrador retriever, sitting in front of the closet where we keep the leash, were enough to get me out the door.

But remember that book I wrote about how to get going when you’re stuck on the sofa? Thankfully, I’m still marketing it. Even more thankfully, race directors on podcasts ask me questions like, “How did you get going when you were stuck on the sofa?” Their questions remind me and that restores some of my confidence.

Nita finishing her first 5K race, Steps for Sarcoma, in 2010

Here’s the tricky part. I don’t know what will work for you. You must figure that out. Instead of telling you what to do, I’ll offer some questions that might help:

Do you need structure? Enlist some friends. Promise someone you’re going to run X number of miles or for X period of time. Text them and say, “I’m going out now. Don’t text me back! I’ll text you when I’m done.” You’ll owe them an explanation if you didn’t run. Peer pressure can be wonderful.

Do you thrive on challenges? There are so many virtual opportunities. Dare your friends to set new distance or pace goals. Ask them to train hard while you do. Or pit yourself against a bunch of random strangers in an online group. If you need that adrenaline pump, find it.

Do you need to help others? Many charities offer virtual 5Ks or other challenges to support their causes. Find one that touches your heart and send a few bucks their way to provide the incentive you need.

Do you need a change? How about a new running route, a fresh pair of shoes, or running at a different time of day. Some people benefit by changing it up. If you can safely drive to a park or trail you don’t normally use, that might entice you to get out the door. Or the new kicks might be just the thing you need. Whatever it is, you’re worth it.

Or maybe you need to choose a goal so small you can’t fail. This is where I was.

Even as Ed recovered, the trauma of our experience alongside so much worldwide trauma wore me to the bone. I was exhausted and frail. I didn’t have the willpower to train hard or push myself to a PR. The new shiny thing didn’t lure me and I already had oh so many pairs of shoes.

Knowing this about myself, I eased back into running by putting on my shoes, jogging around our basement, and calling that a win.

And guess what! As I moved from slow jogging in the house to trotting around the neighborhood with the dog, it’s gotten easier! Consistency built momentum and confidence, the same way it did when I began running so many years ago.

And now, I can’t wait to get out the door.

Nita while running her first full marathon

Nita Sweeney is the award-winning author of the running and mental health memoir, Depression Hates a Moving Target: How Running with My Dog Brought Me Back from the Brink and coauthor of the writing journal, You Should Be WritingNita coaches creatives in writing and meditation, blogs at Bum Glue, and publishes the monthly email newsletter, Write Now Columbus. She lives in central Ohio with her husband, Ed, and their yellow Labrador retriever, Scarlet.

May 31, 2020

Things I Can Do Right Now To Feel Better About Myself

I don't know what the deal is with my mood lately--one minute I think I'm hypomanic, and just hours later, I feel depressed. I might be in a "mixed state" of bipolar, which is basically having symptoms of both hypomania and depression at the same time.

Yesterday I felt super energetic and was very productive around the house. Today, I have had no motivation to even move. I watched a lot of YouTube videos about using a serger--it's super overwhelming, but I hope that once I start playing around with it, I'll understand it better.

Anyway, I started thinking of little things that make me feel better about myself. Some of them are really ridiculous and others are more meaningful, but either way, they are things I can do pretty much at any time and feel a little happier about myself.

* Style my hair and wear make-up; dress in "real" clothes and not just yoga pants and a sweatshirt (looking better makes me feel better about myself in general)

* Tweeze my eyebrows (I'm terrible at keeping up with them, so I feel gross when they are unkempt)

* Go for a run (I always feel better after a run--especially if it's a relatively hard one)

* Clearing out my inbox (it's extremely rare for me to catch up on email, but when I reply to several emails, I feel much better)

* Clean my house (I don't like the actual cleaning part at all, but when I have a clean house, I feel infinitely better). By the way, my house is NEVER as clean as the photo below! But that was when I was taking "after" photos of when I remodeled, so I cleaned extra good.

* Completing a task from my "To Do" list (I love crossing things off of lists, and even if it's something I really don't want to do, it makes me feel better to get it done)

* Actually writing a "To Do" list (when I get everything written down, it feels less overwhelming--like I can tackle one project at a time)

* Play a game with my family (we all enjoy it and it makes me feel good about spending quality time with them)

* Take a shower (including shaving my legs) and then putting on a fresh cozy outfit

* Fix something that needs fixing (anything from mending clothes to fixing a wobbly chair leg, etc)

* Painting my nails (I never paint my nails, because I can't go an hour without chipping them, but I feel good when they are done)

* Taking care of paying bills and getting all of our finances in order (I love having all of that straightened out and it feels good knowing that we're on track with our budget)

* And finally, writing a blog post! (I always have anxiety about trying to think of something to write, so when I write a post, it's a relief of that anxiety--and it feels good)

I want to keep this list in mind so that when I'm having a "down" day like today, I can choose something on the list to give me an instant pick-me-up.

What are some things that make YOU feel good when you're feeling bad about yourself?

May 30, 2020

Parenting is Hard Sometimes!

I'm feeling much better today! (Despite the way I look in this spontaneous selfie that I literally took just now when I realized I don't have any photos for this post!)

It's a long story as to why I was upset yesterday. I'm not sure if Eli would want me to share ALL the details (nothing serious--just about baseball) so I'll just write the gist. Basically, as a parent, you want your kids to be happy more than anything else. Eli is very shy and I'm always trying to get him to step outside his comfort zone to fit in and make friends.

I LOVE that he marches to the beat of his own drum and doesn't care what other people think, but I still worry about his happiness. Baseball has been tough--he started on this travel team during the middle of the winter season and all of the other kids have been playing together for years. Eli is the "newbie" and none of them go to his school. (If *I* was in that situation, I would be a complete nervous wreck)

Eli played in his first tournament with them yesterday, and it almost felt like a "try-out" to see if he's good enough to play in future tournaments. I was SO nervous for him! It didn't go as well as we'd hoped, and my heart was just broken in a million pieces for him. (It didn't help that the kid who batted right before him hit an over-the-fence home run with two people on base... talk about pressure!)

It wasn't "just a game" to me--I had spent a couple of years trying to get him on this team, and I wanted everyone to see just how good he is. I wanted him to feel like one of the team.

Unfortunately, he didn't get to play catcher (which is his usual position--and he's an AMAZING catcher). I came home and just went in my bedroom and cried. It sounds so stupid, I know. I just want him to be happy--he's the most compassionate, loving, KIND kid that I've ever known (and I'm not just being biased).

Anyway, I got a good five hours of sleep (that's more than I've been getting lately), and today I was pretty productive. I hung a sheet of drywall (yes, just one, but it took a while to maneuver it in the right spot). I also cleaned out our drawer full of office supplies and a couple of other totes that have office supplies in them--I love to organize drawers and shelves! It looks so much better. (I should've taken a before and after pic)

I took Eli to the Metropark to go fishing with a friend (this is his first time seeing a friend in months!). They were outside and fishing at least six feet apart, so I felt comfortable with it.

I've also been working on the Runs for Cookies Summer Run/Walk Challenge! It should be ready to post soon. This will be the fourth annual--and THIS TIME, I really really want to finish it! Haha. It's my own challenge and lots of people do it, but I have yet to complete it.

I think I'm going to do it a little differently this year. I may do a point system and the person with the most points will get a prize (an Amazon gift card or something like that). Or maybe I'll come up with a few prizes. I'm still thinking it over.

I've really been in the mood to organize, so tomorrow, I think I'll hang a sheet or two of drywall in the garage, and then spend the rest of the day organizing things that need it. Eli has another baseball game in Toledo tomorrow night (it starts at 8:30!) so it'll likely be a late night.

I'm not sure if he'll get to play tomorrow, but I hope so--please think positive thoughts for him that he blows them away with his talent!

May 29, 2020

Just a plain old bad day

I'm really not in the mood to write a post tonight. I had a bad day in general, but this evening has been even worse. Just feeling overwhelmed and stressed.

So, I'll just share a few cute photos.

This is Duck, who just prior to the photo was sleeping in the cup holder of the treadmill. He heard me get the camera and he woke up. But it was so cute!

Here is a picture of Chick, who decided that the best place to take a nap was inside of Joey's toy box.

Another picture of Chick--I love how cats turn their heads upside down when they sleep like this!

These are the geese that live across the street. One of the goslings got trapped on the other side of a fence that leads to a pump house, and the mom and dad were going crazy. Eli came home and asked me if I could help get the gosling free to join his family. I walked down the street and by the time I got there, the little gosling had made his way out and all was good. They swam away, and I took this photo as they did.

Here is my sweet Phoebe. She still doesn't like me very much after getting the kittens, but she's definitely getting better. One of the reasons I was upset tonight was that Phoebe wouldn't come to me like she usually does when she senses something is wrong. If anyone is ever crying, she goes to that person and cuddles on them. Well, she didn't come to me today, and even after I tried really hard to get her to come to me, she wouldn't. It just made me feel worse. I really hope that she's back to normal soon. I miss her.

Joey was eating his breakfast this morning and the kittens were kind of fascinated to watch him. They have their own water bowl, but they like to drink out of Joey's. So they were drinking from his bowl while Joey ate, and then they just watched him, hahaha.

Duck was especially curious to see what Joey was eating. Duck is a little piggy and is always looking for food!

Okay, I'm going to bed now. I'll try to write a post tomorrow when I'm in a better mood!

May 28, 2020

Help! I bought a serger...

Several weeks ago, I decided to finally splurge on myself and buy something that has been on my Amazon Wish List for a long time--a Cricut Air Explore 2 machine (Amazon affiliate link). I love to design t-shirts and I was told this would be a great way to do it myself.

Usually, I would create a design using a Photoshop-like program. Then I would email it to a local sports supplies shop, who would print it out on vinyl for me and then press it onto a shirt that I supplied. It was simple, but a little pricey.

Here is an example... Anyone know what TV show this is from?  :)  (I made this for Eli for Christmas--it's his favorite TV show!)

After receiving the Cricut in the mail, I let it sit in my living room, unopened, for a couple of weeks. I watched videos and read websites about it, but I just didn't feel confident about it--I felt totally overwhelmed.

Ultimately, I decided to return it. While I do create the occasional shirt design, I don't know that I would use it all that much to make it worth it.

After returning that, I decided to re-spend the splurge on something else that has been on my Amazon Wish List for a very long time... a serger. I love to sew, but I usually just do simple things (lately, I only really used it to mend clothes).

When I started making the face masks, I remembered just how much I really miss sewing as a hobby, and decided that maybe it would be worth investing in a serger. I remember using one in sewing class in high school and I thought it was the coolest machine! But I hadn't used one since then.

I'd been checking Amazon frequently to see if the price was going down on the one that I wanted (Brother 1034D--for some reason, Amazon isn't stocking it now--maybe it was the last of the model?). It had been $200 for the longest time, and that particular day, it was $185. So, I decided to go ahead and buy it.

At $200 (or $185, in my case), it's obviously not a top-of-the-line machine, but it was the best seller on Amazon for sergers and it got a ton of good reviews, so I figured it'd be a good way to see if I like it and use it often.

The problem is, now I don't know what to do with it!

I've watched several YouTube videos, but they don't really explain well what the best uses of it are. When I used it in school, I just remember loving that it made the raw edges of seams inside clothing look finished and more professional.

(Our first project in sewing class was a pair of pajama pants--which is a standard first project, of course!--and I was so impressed it the machine)

I'm very excited to get started with it, but I have no idea what to do with it! So, I thought I'd ask here... do any of you use a serger? What are your favorite ways to use it? Are there any particular projects that you think would be a good "starter" for someone working with a serger? Is it something that I can use to help me mend clothes (seams that have come apart, hemming, etc)?

Also, are there any accessories that are a "must have" for a serger? It's kind of funny, for the last 30 years, I have only ever used a sewing machine with the standard presser foot--I've never tried anything else! So I'm excited to try some new things.

Anyone with advice about a serger, I'd love to hear it!

May 27, 2020

The Best Video I've Seen All Year!

Over the last couple of days, SO MANY PEOPLE have recommended this video to me (which I've shared at the bottom of this post). Being a crazy squirrel lady, I can totally see why. A very high-tech squirrel obstacle course? YES.

It's kind of a long-ish video (about 15 minutes), but it's totally worth the watch! I was a little impatient at the beginning when he was talking about bird feeders, but it really highlights that squirrels are serious problem-solvers.

I love that not only is the video adorable and very clever, it shows that squirrels really do have their own personalities and they are very smart. We currently have about six that are "regulars" around here--squirrels that we've named and that visit us daily or at least frequently, and take nuts from our hands.

It was interesting in the video where the videographer mentions that after several tests to see what nuts squirrels like most, they always chose the walnuts. My squirrels are the same! I've offered peanuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios, pecans... but their very favorite is the walnut.

If I have time to sit outside and hand feed them, then I'll give them the walnuts in the shell (their favorite). Or, if they come to the door and I am busy, I'll just leave them a little handful of the shelled walnuts.

I have a squirrel "lunch box" on my deck that I always keep filled with raw, unsalted peanuts (in the shell) so they can come take them as they wish. And the birds can't get into it.

Anyway, the squirrels all have their own personalities, and it's so fun to see their personalities come out as we get to "know" them. And they are super smart! The whole video shows just how smart squirrels are.

Thank you to all of you who thought of me when you saw this! (I would totally love to make a squirrel obstacle course, but that is just a whole level of skills that I don't have right now--all those contraptions!

May 26, 2020

Van Life?!!

My friend Adam, who I met the summer before 10th grade when I moved to a new school, has been talking for years about wanting a "tiny house" or living out of a van. It was actually a running joke among our high school friends. Adam moves frequently, so I could totally see him doing it, but I honestly never really thought it would happen.

Several months ago when he came over to visit, he again brought up the topic of living in a van. The idea was so crazy to me and I couldn't understand why anyone would want to do that!

I asked a trillion questions (where will you shower? where will you go to the bathroom? for the love of God, where will you park the van every night?).  In short: 1) his gym or friends'/family's houses; 2) public restrooms or a special "van life" toilet-thing; and 3) a friend's house who he pays monthly for parking and wifi--it's conveniently located close to his job.

At the time, I had no idea that "van life" was a thing. When he left, he told me to search #vanlife on Instagram and check out those photos to get an idea of what he was imagining.

Well, I fell down a huge rabbit hole and was completely immersed in this way of living. It's amazing! People have van interiors that are nicer than my house--hardwood floors, beautiful shelving, creative storage, etc. At one point I actually thought, "If I was single, I would totally want to do this!".

Adam asked our friend Paul, who does carpentry, to remodel(?) the back of an old van that Adam bought from a friend (who gave him a great deal). He didn't want to spend a fortune in case he decides a few months down the road that he doesn't enjoy "van life". If he really likes it, then someday he said he'll upgrade to a bigger/nicer van.

Paul go to work on gutting and remodeling the van:

Paul finished the van and Adam was excited to show Jerry and me, so he came over this morning for a little while to give us the (very brief) tour (and answer lots of questions). I was amazed at how great it looked! From the exterior (which I should have taken a picture of) you would never guess that the interior is so stunning.

My parents stopped over for a minute and my dad called it a "Van Cave"--hahaha!

Paul framed the entire skeleton of the van with wood paneling and added shelving, a sink, cupboards, a bed that has storage underneath, a vent on top, and a wall/door that opens to the front of the van. As long as he has wifi, Adam can even stream Netflix and Hulu and all that to a TV! I was super impressed, to say the least. Paul did a great job.

While the idea of it is such a novelty to me, I honestly can't imagine actually living that way. I'm not one who desires a huge house, but I would miss the space--probably because I share it with a husband, two kids, four cats, and a dog. Adam is single and has no kids or pets, and this is a dream of his that he's been talking about for years. So I'm thrilled for him!

I want to give a shoutout to my friend Paul, too--he does beautiful carpentry work, so if you're in the southeast Michigan area and are looking for updates, I highly recommend him! You can see lots of his work on his company's Facebook page (Wiggins Custom Carpentry) and on Instagram @paulwiggins1000.

May 25, 2020

Just Some Random Photos

I hate that I start every post with "there is nothing new to write about!" but that's just how it's been lately. With the COVID-19 quarantine, my days are pretty much the same every day, so there isn't much to write about.

Our governor in Michigan has extended our "stay-at-home order" until June 12th. It just keeps getting extended!

Anyway, I haven't taken a ton of photos lately, but here are a few...

Even though Estelle hasn't totally fallen for the kittens, she's at least tolerating them now. And this morning, she and Duck were very interested in watching the squirrels as they came onto the porch and begged for walnuts (only to go bury them in the yard).

Here is a photo of what the garage walls/ceiling looked like before I started working on it...

These are the soffit vents I had to install on the ceiling right above the walls...

And then this is after installing the soffit vents and insulation. The next step is the drywall on the ceiling.

I'd been wanting Eli to cut his hair short for a LONG time, but I don't force my kids to cut their hair unless they want to. Their style is their own. But Eli suggested a deal with me one day--he'd let me cut his hair short if I'd take him to the Metropark and stop at the bait store on the way. I felt so guilty, and I asked him over and over if he was SURE... and he said yes, it was fine. He wasn't going to be seeing his friends anytime soon anyway.

Here is Eli before his haircut...

And here is his "after" cut. I love the shorter hair!

He looks so grown up. I still can't believe how fast the time goes by after having kids.

Of course, I have a trillion "sleeping kittens" photos...

Tucking in with Jerry for the night:

Chick is SO relaxed... I wish I could sleep this soundly!

Duck was super sleepy when I brought him to Eli, but as soon as he saw Eli's colorful stuff, like his Rubik's Cubes, he was wide awake.

I get a lot of photos of the kittens sleeping with Jerry because I stay up so much later than Jerry does. The kittens love to sleep with him! They go up there all on their own after Jerry goes to bed. And of course they are there all night long--which is one of the reasons I get very little sleep!

I happened to be wearing a cat t-shirt today, and Duck was ALL OVER me--super affectionate, rubbing his face all over my face and hands. And then he finally fell asleep like this:

Brothers. They almost always nap together, cuddled up like this:

Chick came and kicked Duck out from his spot on my lap, and then Chick just stared at me adoringly, hahaha. At this point, I had to pee so badly... but as all cat owners know, you learn to hold it when cats are on your lap!

Tomorrow, Jerry is off work and I'm hoping to get some serious work done on the garage since he'll be home to help me lift drywall onto the drywall lift (no, that's not a typo). The drywall lift will elevate the drywall to the ceiling, so that I can screw it into place, but I can't lift the piece of drywall onto the actual lift itself.

I'm so excited to start getting stuff finished in there! I've been taping and mudding here and there as I go, so it's less to do after the drywall is in place on the ceiling.

I hope everyone had a great weekend!

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