What I Know Now

Depression has been a companion of mine for a long time. I don’t think this comes as a surprise to anyone who’s been reading my blog over the years, as I have talked about it plenty before now. But adding new motherhood to the mix of full-time work and regular, everyday stressful life pushed my depression into another dimension that I honestly wasn’t prepared for.

It’s taken me a while to find my rhythm again. But now that I am, gratefully, in a better head place, I want to share some of the things I’ve learned to keep myself at my happiest and most functional in this life stage. So here we go.

  1. Paying someone to deep clean my house is worth every penny if it means I don’t a) stress about needing to do all the things I hate doing, like scrubbing the bathtubs and the kitchen floor, b) have to nag or passively-aggressively try to get my family to do it, or c) feel resentful that I have to do everything myself. It’s two hours I get to spend playing with Jack in the park instead of rage-cleaning, and I’m much less hateful at the end of the day. A total first-world luxury, but it’s a win-win all around for us.
  2. I need equal parts fun and productive time. You would think that spending the entire weekend playing around would leave me feeling refreshed and happier about going back to work on Monday, but oftentimes the opposite is true. If I get to Sunday night and feel like nothing at all has been checked off my to-do list, I panic and feel like I have to go into DO-ALL-THE-THINGS mode so I don’t start the week off feeling like I’m already behind the 8 ball. I thrive on routine and structure, and it makes me grumpy to not feel like I’m organized at the beginning of the week. So each weekend I try to reserve at least a small amount of time to meal plan and grocery shop, catch up on putting all the laundry away, and generally pick up the house. If nothing else gets done, that’s ok, as long as these essentials are checked off the list.
  3. I have to get out of the house. When Jack was first born, the thought of going anywhere with him was incredibly overwhelming. It didn’t help that I was also exclusively pumping, and trying to work around pumping-feeding-napping schedule was exhausting. But then to get all of the stuff together to get out the door, man… it just seemed like too much effort. But the thing is, if I stay home too long, my depressive-leaning brain gets self-destructive. I start to feel sad that I don’t have plans, or lonely that I have no one to hang out with, or hopeless that my responsibilities are taking over my life. So even when it’s a lot of work, I have to go somewhere for at least part of the day, on at least one of my days off. Even if it’s just to grab a coffee and go for a walk. I have. to get out. of the house.
  4. I need something to look forward to. As much as I thrive on routine, feeling like I’m stuck in a rut of just doing the same things over and over again can lead me to feeling depressed. So something I’m trying is to every once in a while – say, once a month or so – put something fun and out of the ordinary on the calendar. Going to a baseball game. Taking a trip. Going camping. It keeps the monotonous days from feeling so hopeless, because I know something fun is coming up. And I need that.
  5. I need regular time alone to do the things that I want to do. People think that being an introvert means being shy or quiet or antisocial. What it actually means is that I need to be alone every once in a while to recharge my batteries. I need quiet time to sit with my thoughts, to do something creative, or to work on something that interests me. It doesn’t have to be much – maybe just a couple of hours – but once I’m done I’m always happier and more fun to be around.
  6. Needing medication does not mean that I have failed. Honestly, I have probably needed to be on antidepressants for a long time. I have spent most of my life cycling through periods of deep darkness countered by what felt like fleeting joy. I always thought that if I just did the right things – eating well, exercising, getting enough sleep, getting enough time to myself to recharge – that eventually I would be alright. But when postpartum depression snuck up and slapped me in the face, I realized that a) it was highly unlikely that I would ever be able to do all of those things all of the time and b) that even when I was doing all of the right things I was often still depressed anyway. And now that I am on an appropriate dose of medication, I finally understand just how bad my depression has really been all along. I mean, I always knew I was struggling, but now that I’m no longer filled with unfounded anxiety and dread and hopelessness I can finally see all the ways those unmanageable feelings had ruled my life for so long. I can see how illogical so many of my thoughts and fears had been. It was as if I had been wearing blue-tinted glasses my entire life, and, now that the shades are off, I can finally see how dark it had been all this time. That’s not to say that everything is perfect all the time… not at all. But I’m no longer waiting for something terrible to follow anything good that happens in my life. And I finally have the energy and desire to do the things I already know I need to be doing, which as anyone with depression knows, is half the battle.
  7. Another thing I’m learning? Like really learning? That life is always changing, and so too must our approach to it change. What works now may not work in a year or five. As an ISTJ (hello Meyer-Briggs!) who would inherently love nothing more than to figure out a solution to any problem just one time and use it forever, it’s hard for me to adjust to the idea of fluidity. But I’m finding that flexibility is key. I must keep my eyes and my mind open to new ideas for how to handle life’s ever-changing ways. Changing and growing and learning are not signs of failure – they are signs of maturity. Trade worry for trust… it will all be okay.

If you’re struggling right now, I hope you can find the time and resources to figure out what you need, so you can help yourself. Everyone is different, and so too are each of our needs. And taking time to reflect, being honest, and asking for what you need are not selfish acts. You don’t need permission to take care of yourself.

Love and peace…

…Jess

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In Real Life: Week 34

Happy Sunday, friends! We had a busy, fun-filled week 34! Let’s take a look…

We spent Sunday afternoon eating pizza and talking fantasy football with Pato.

The deep dish was pretty dang delicious.

Pato always makes good restaurant suggestions.

Even if he is a dirty hippy who likes IPAs.

This salad was BOMB.

Seen while walking downtown.

Then Monday was the first day of school! Had to make pancakes for my boy, of course.

Pikachu was ready to rule the school.

I tried to get him to let me take his picture next to the school’s bear statue, but apparently 5th graders are too cool for that.

Did you see the eclipse?

We did.

Even though we weren’t in the path of totality like my Idaho friends, it was still pretty cool! It got noticeably darker and cooler, and there were some pretty cool shadows to be seen.

My colleague went to Idaho to view the eclipse, and brought a taste of home back for me. I do love me a good spud bar!

Somebody must have been feeling generous that day.

Goofing off.

More and more, I think he looks like me.

My current badass bookmark.

There have been so many pretty flowers in my life this week.

Waiting patiently for wedding rehearsal to start.

Bump me, bro.

GIANT palm tree.

Rehearsal dinner digs. Yum yum.

Couldn’t resist hopping in Auntie Critto’s pool with the other kiddos.

I wish I could grow succulents without killing them.

Josie was braiding everybody’s hair just for funsies. She did this in like 5 minutes. AMAZING. I need her to come over and do my hair every day.

Let’s get this party started!

It was such a gorgeous day.

The newlyweds!

The cool kids.

The groom’s 9-year old son was the best man. It was too cute for words.

Also too cute for words? This guy.

LOOK AT THE BOW TIE.

AND THE SUSPENDERS.

And the shoes! Squee!

Chrystal thought of every detail, including putting together these awesome coloring and activity books for the kids!

Can you believe she drew this herself? She’s so talented.

The flower girl and all the guys wore coordinating Vans.

I may have had a bit too much wine.

Such a pretty cake!

I loved all the rustic details.

It has me thinking about renewing our vows so we can have a big party, too.

So much love!

BFFs.

Fancy wedding food.

Mom and brother of the bride. And one very tired baby.

Weddings are exhausting.

So pretty!

Too cool for school.

Everybody had a great time.

Ladies, let’s get into formation.

All of the heart eyes.

 

How was your week? I hope it was awesome! See you next Sunday…

In Real Life: Week 33

Happy Sunday! It’s that time again…

Stealing a little introvert time between loads of laundry.

Downtown.

I love that California is rife with Mexican style.

We solute you.

Hello there.

Stay cool, Captain Underpants.

Mama’s little water baby.

Getting some fresh air.

Now that all three of us specialists have the Asthma Educator certification, we decided to spring for the fancy lapel pins!

Check out that pink crane!

Playing with filters again.

I’ve got my eye on you!

This looks like a fragrance ad.

Both of these photos are from last spring. I’m pretty sure I was only a few days pregnant when I took them.

This bear looks like he’s had enough of your shit.

Epic rainbow makers.

Light refraction is cool, yo.

I missed how quiet the hospital is on the weekends.

I can almost hear it echo just by looking at this photo.

C’mon baby… you know you want to.

Suds.

I was tempted to buy this until I saw the $40 price tag.

I wonder how old these trees are.

The hospital has a player piano. One of these days I’m going to sit down and pretend I’m the one playing it.

Close up.

“Mom! What took you so long?!”

Artemis wants in on bedtime snuggles, too.

Goodnight, miss kitty.

What are you up to in week 34? I hope it’s good!

Much love,

-Jess

In Real Life: Week 32+

Happy… Tuesday! As I mentioned, last week’s photo recap was delayed because we were camping. But fear not! The photo dump is here!

Last Monday was kind of the Monday of all Mondays. I wound up having to take a sick day from work to watch the kiddos, and managed to spill my coffee all over my work bag. And then this little princess decided to throw up her breakfast all over Robbie’s desk chair. When it rains it pours, right?

I tried to make the most of it, and kept busy during nap time by making banana bread. My recipe makes two loaves, so I made one with walnuts and one with chocolate chips.

Here’s the before…

…and the after!

I also made homemade totchos because I really wanted to eat my feelings that day.

In hindsight, I guess it wasn’t so bad. The boys and I got to goof off all day, and play around with the new Instagram filters!

How adorable is this?! Sorry if anyone’s ovaries just exploded.

It’s true, I am pretty smitten with him.

Do these ears make me look fat?

Then when Robbie got home from work I ran off to get a much-needed pedicure. Happy toes!

I updated our fridge with new photos this week! I was only able to fit like a quarter of the photos I wanted on there, so I took a bunch to work and redecorated my desk space, too.

Truth.

Jack’s been doing lots of big-boy things this week! Like trying to stand on his own…

…loving on the kitties…

…and enjoying some corn on the cob! Well, not really… I just gave him my cob to play with after I was done with it. I wish I had gotten a picture of him gnawing on it, though, because it was sooooooo cute!

Taking a picture of me taking a picture of him.

Progress.

Nobody looks good in a bunny suit.

Time to go camping! My tetris skills are strong.

It was long drive to Tahoe, but the boys were real troopers.

Lake Tahoe is absolutely gorgeous. Photos don’t do it justice.

I’ve never camped within walking distance of town before, but being close enough to walk to the lake made me not care about how cheesy it was.

At first I thought that getting Jack his own kiddie-sized chair was a dumb idea, but clearly it was totally worth it.

He wasn’t too sure about going to sleep in the tent, though. He didn’t want to miss any of the fun.

Look up!

Working up the courage to get all the way in. The water was pretty cold at first, but it actually got much better once you just got it over with.

We spent lots of time swimming. I wish we could spend every afternoon there.

Jack was tired and unimpressed by the cold water.

I didn’t mind too much, though. It was pretty nice to just sit on the beach and relax with him on my chest.

The sand was impressively black, too.

Perks of being so close to civilization…

…ice cream! The salted caramel was divine.

Baby approved of mint-chip, too.

Reflection. (Please ignore the fact that you can see me taking the picture, lol.)

Since we were right there, we decided to hit some of the casinos for buffet dinner and games one night.

Pretty sunset.

Camping baby!

“But we don’t want our picture taken…”

Home sweet home.

I am always happy to be the camp cook. And it was nice to finally try out our backpacking cookware!

Look at that smolder… these two could be Calvin Klein models.

Pensive Pato.

Action James!

My little explorer!

Not a big fan of Josh, though, much to our amusement.

Chillin’.

Seriously. Could not get enough of the lake.

Apparently old lift chairs make good benches.

Walking through life together, hand in hand.

We tried to go on a hike to Angora Lake, but found that too many people had had the same idea and there was nowhere to park. So we stopped at the lookout on the top of the ridge and enjoyed the view for a bit instead.

Family photo time!

C’mon… act like we like each other…

The Stenders, circa 2017.

Ride or die.

I totally made Robbie pull over just so I could take a picture of this pretty meadow.

Hershey’s with Almonds makes a good s’more a great s’more. Next time I’ll go big and go for Reese’s peanut butter cups.

Alex helped me finish a bunch of word searches.

I’m so used to the danger being extremely high that I was almost shocked to see Smokey toning it down to only moderate.

It comes in cans?!

The fixin’s for dutch oven dump cake!

Step 1: REMEMBER TO PACK A FREAKING CAN OPENER.

Step 1.5: Get resourceful.

Step 2: Dump in the pie filling.

Step 3: Dump in the dry cake mix.

You can totes get creative and mix and match whatever combo of pie filling and cake mix you want. Cherry-chocolate, and strawberry-yellow cake are also excellent combos.

Step 4: Dump in the Sprite/7-Up (one regular-sized can or ~12 ounces). Try to pour it somewhat evenly over the dry mix. DO NOT STIR.

Put the lid on, and BAKE!

This was our cake after about 1 hour of baking. I haven’t made it in a while, so I’m not sure if I didn’t use enough briquettes or if the temp was affected by the fact that my dutch was separated from the charcoal by a grate… anyway, it’s usually a little more done than this. But that’s ok. It’s usually somewhat underdone anyway, and it was still tasty. Plus no eggs means no salmonella to worry about!

It’s camping, so it’s totes acceptable to follow cake with more roasted marshmallows.

On our last day, we decided to let someone else do the cooking (and the dishes) for breakfast.

My little boo bear.

Then it was time to hit the road again. So many lakes!

We took a short detour to meet Robbie’s dad for lunch.

I scrubbed and scrubbed, but I still couldn’t get all the black dirt off my feet. Oh well.

Phew! That was a lot of photos!

Now it’s back to reality… time for grocery shopping and ALL OF THE LAUNDRY.

Keep it real, friends!

-Jess

In Real Life: Week 31

Happy Sunday! Let’s take a look back at week 31…

I kicked off Sunday by praying at the church of bacon.

Amen.

Mmm.

I wound up meeting that psychic for coffee last Sunday.

She didn’t tell me anything truly Earth-shattering, but it was still a really positive experience.

I went to the beach afterward to process our conversation.

One thing she did tell me was that my divorce from 4 years ago is still holding me back.

And she’s right. I still hold a lot of guilt and shame around that.

She told me to say this prayer as many times as I need to…

“I hurt you. I’m sorry. Forgive me. Thank you.”

…and to send him love and light whenever he crosses my mind.

And so I do.

I’ve come so far in the last 5 years. I have too much good right in front of me and in my future to let the past hold me back.

Amen.

I wanna know who Bud is, and what fun things he’s up to.

Nature always finds a way.

Tiny feet were here.

On point.

Sunday grilled eeeeeats.

Jack has been so needy lately, but I can’t always just sit and play with him. So I strapped him in on my back for the first time, and he was pretty happy to be my little Yoda.

I’ve been trying to spend just a few moments each morning in quiet reflection.

I am…

My mantra.

I actually tore these pages out and hung them on the board behind my computer screens at work.

Trying to combat the negative energy of an office mate in a bad mood.

Forgot to put dinner in the crock pot before I left for work. So I settled for In-n-Out on the way home. Bummer.

Jack has been doing all kinds of big boy things this week! Like riding in the stroller without the car seat…

…and rolling over to sleep on his belly!

I was so shocked when I came in and found him like this. He had rolled over all by himself and fell asleep that way. A huge milestone for a kid who still hates tummy time!

I grilled an epic teriyaki pork loin this week. I nailed the marinade, and then reduced it down to make a thick sauce that I brushed on during the last 10 minutes of cooking. SO GOOD.

Nice work, World Market.

My little water baby.

Scotts Valley has had a display of local art in random places all over town for the last two weeks. I thought this one outside the library was particularly cool.

Amen to that.

Friday night we were reminded of just how true that is.

Our friend, Logan, was in town, and we met him and his family at the beach for dinner and a campfire.

The boys and I had a great time having sand fights and digging for sand crabs.

That is, until James put a handful of sand down the back of my shirt which then wound up down my pants. Butthead.

We watched this group of amateur sailors trying to get their boat out to sea, and were amused at how all but one of them fell off before they left the harbor.

And James was pretty stoked that we got to see the O’Neill catamaran coming in.

There is something so cleansing about putting your feet in the ocean.

The sunset was breathtaking.

Mama’s beach babe.

Daddy’s too.

The harbor was stunning in the evening light.

The next day we went on a little adventure in San Jose.

We ate at this little hole in the wall BBQ place that I happened to find on Yelp.

And holy smokes was it good.

The pulled pork was so tender that Jack could eat it, and he loved it. He was pretty fond of the potato salad, too.

We stopped to do a little shopping for our camping trip next weekend, and I felt like I had fallen into a wormhole and wound up back in Idaho.

Bass Pro Shop has a fish-themed bowling alley with a seafood restaurant.

Even though the decor was impressive, still just… WTF.

We did a dry packing run to see if we could fit all of the stuff in our Jeep. Thankfully, it looks like we’re gonna be fine.

I’M SO EXCITED ABOUT CAMPING, WHOO!

Perfect at the end of a hot day.

Then today we took Logan for a hike!

The redwoods never disappoint.

Even the rocks are dreamy.

Sometimes I expect this tree to start moving and talking to me, a la Lord of the Rings.

Hello, little buddy!

And because we believe in balance, we followed our hike by getting burgers for lunch.

I love any place where I can watch the kitchen work.

Life is too short to not get the milkshake.

How was your week 31? What inspired you?

We’re going to be camping next weekend and I intend to be totally off the grid, so week 32 will be delayed until we get back. But I’m hoping to have some epic photos to share, so it should be worth the wait!

In the meantime, have a great week!