November 9, 2017

Tea Cup & Mug Exchange Reveal 2017!

I had such a great time participating this year! I wish I had taken a picture of the package I sent out, because the mug was so pretty and I had so much fun picking out items to send with it, but I'm looking through October and September pictures and I can't seem to find any. Oh well!

A really sweet girl named Irene sent me a package FILLED with cute things, along with items she (and her sister!) had hand-made!


This is what it looked like when I opened the package up - see that floral tape on the box inside? That was on the outside, too. The whole box was wrapped up in fancy tape, it was such a bright package to receive. :) And of course the card is adorable and appropriate.



I'm not going to go through every single item, but some highlights are the crocheted coffee cups and the "be still & know" magnet. It's on my magnetic white board by my door where I'm reminded of it every day - so appropriate for my life right now.







This is the awesome mug I received - front & back. The Bible verse is Psalm 91:4. It came with chocolate, packets of hot chocolate, and a homemade cappuccino mix (that I need to get the recipe for, it was delicious).



I had so much fun participating again and look forward to next year as well!!

October 2, 2017

October Vibes

Mums were on sale at Shop Rite yesterday, so I picked up three plants and figured I could find a place for them somewhere!


We haven't had anything in this cute bench planter in a while, so I brushed it off and popped in some mums and a yard sign, and put it by the front door.


In my opinion, this mailbox needs aesthetic help - I really want to sand and paint the post, get a new hanging number, clean up the box around it, etc.  But for a start, I planted some mums by it!  It looks kind of silly; I think it needs a couple more flowers to round it out.


I put the last plant by the end of the path to the front door.  I would love to add more going up the path, but the garden isn't in good shape, so maybe in the spring I'll put some work into it and have a better looking flower garden next year.



The golden hour was really nice for taking some pictures after I watered them.  Afterwards, I had cider and cookies. Really buying into the whole autumn theme here. :)

I feel like the trees have stayed green longer this year, but maybe it's just my imagination.  I'm excited for when all the trees look like they're ablaze in orange, yellow, and red foliage.  But for now I'll continue to enjoy the healthy summery leaves we still have before they die and are gone!

Also, I went shopping for the "Enchanting Rose Tea Cup & Mug Exchange" and packed up the box - I'll ship it tomorrow. And today I received my own package!  I'm going to wait to reveal what was inside until everyone in the exchange receives their tea cup/mug, but here's a sneak peek:

September 28, 2017

Wondering About the Future

It's been awhile since I sat down and rambled.  Let's talk a little bit about God's plan, what the future holds, what the purpose of life is... Spoiler alert: I get super excited when I talk about the unique plan God has for each of us.

So here's me right now: I'm currently a full-time college student.  I graduated a couple of years ago with an associate's degree from community college, and transferred last year to the University at Albany's fully online Informatics bachelor degree program (with a concentration in Information Technology).

My "classroom"

It turned out to be a really great path for me in a lot of ways. First of all, it's in state, so my tuition isn't as high as it would be if I went out of state or studied at a private college. Second, it's online, so I'm living with my parents while I study, and I don't have to commute to class.  I do pretty well with online classes, maybe because I was homeschooled and I'm used to the independent studying. Third, Informatics is a great program for a future librarian! It's a broad study of applications of information science/technology. My concentration is a little bit divergent from my area of interest - I.T. is very technical, of course, and although I love to use computers, I'm not especially tech-minded - but it is definitely going to be useful in the future, and the skills I'm learning in my I.T. classes are really rounding out my resume.

My idea right now is to finish my bachelor's degree, then look into getting my master's degree in Library and Information Science (so that I could be a "real" librarian). But I'm not making any concrete plans for after graduating UAlbany, because as I've realized in my life, the paths I take tend to diverge at the very last second. :)  Everything always comes together in an unexpected way.

My desk, where I spend a lot of hours every week.

I'm definitely not a career-minded individual.  If I don't go on to get my master's degree, I won't be incredibly disappointed, because as wonderful as the idea of being a librarian is, I don't feel a pull to be in it full-time.  I like where I am right now - part-time library job, full-time online student, living with my parents at home - and in the future, I don't see myself jumping right to a full-time library job as a career.

The calm before the storm of high schoolers come to hang out at the library after school program for teens! I supervise. :)

I don't mean to sound lazy or like I don't have aspirations: I do.  They just don't necessarily pertain to a career.  I love being a library clerk, and with more education, I'd love to be able to apply for other types of higher paying part-time library work in a more specific field, like reference librarianship, head of circulation, school librarianship, or maybe something technology-related.  On my own time, I would love to do freelance work in some way - maybe illustration or writing - or owning/helping run a small business... I don't know.  I just don't see myself having my schedule revolve around working for someone.  I like to work, but I'd rather spend more of my time working at home and in my community, instead of at a full time job.

I'm a big fan of home.

I guess if I had a life verse, it would be 1st Thessalonians 4:11-12: "...Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody."


Not to say if some day I was working full time I'd be unhappy!  I trust that I'm being prepared for whatever is coming around the bend, and God won't put me somewhere that I'll be miserable. :)  And not to say I really want to be a housewife, haha.  It's just something I've been thinking more about, as I get closer to finishing my degree, and as I see what other people my age are doing.  There are so many different directions to take that sometimes I feel paralyzed with the options!  But the more experience I have with work, school, and responsibilities, the more I realize that the things I feel pulled towards aren't for nothing.


I used to be worried about somehow accidentally removing myself from God's will, or taking wrong turn and falling behind, or not knowing which choice to make between to good and godly choices and picking the wrong one.  But I don't anymore.  I know that as long as I'm walking in the Spirit, God's going to be there with me in all the choices I make.  God works individually in each person, and He's working in my life individually.  I don't fit neatly into a category and neither does anyone else.


And yeah, in the past and at some point in the future, I know I'm going to take my own way for a little while and make a choice that doesn't fall in line with what I know is the best way, and I'm going to be sorry, and I'm going to have to ask God to come into it and work things out, and I know He will.


We're uniquely qualified for our mission fields, and God is there with us.

<3

September 24, 2017

Commence the Seasonal Activities

No, the weather hasn't gotten the memo that it's fall now, but I'm not complaining. Visiting an apple orchard in 80 degree weather is fine with me. Fun fact: the Hudson Valley, where I live, is known as the Apple Belt of New York!

My mom and I were both hanging around while everyone else was at work yesterday, so we decided to visit nearby Barton Orchards. It's always PACKED with people coming up from NYC for the day, and it's a liiiittle more commercial than the farms that I usually prefer to visit, but we had a great time.


This is where you walk in. That bridge is for the goats to get from the pen on one side to the other. I think it's hilarious that the goats get to be so high up.



From where the orchards are, you can get a good view of the farm from higher up.  You can see the mountains in the distance - I think that's the West Mountain State Forest.


Hay ride was as expected... Itchy and uncomfortable. But it was a good way to get a tour of the farm!


Pumpkins! They don't have any to pick, but they're all laid out in the field to choose from.


We didn't pick any apples, but we went into the store and bought some baked goods, fudge, cider, and apple crisp mix. They sell mostly local items. On the farm there is also a bakery, ice cream station, donut shop, coffee place, etc. All kinds of stuff to buy! It feels a little bit like a fair. There's even a bar:


I couldn't leave without trying the hard apple cider they had on tap, so to get out of the heat for a while, my mom and I shared a cup of cider and listened to the country music blaring in the tap room.


I went for the Stella Artois hard cidre, which was amazing! Highly recommend, gets my seal of approval. :)





I picked up a bag of apples from the supermarket on our way home (yes, after spending the afternoon at an apple orchard... sue me) and finished the day by making an apple crisp with the mix we bought at the farm.

NONE of the pictures I took of the finished product look appetizing, unfortunately, but I promise it was good (and it was super easy to make).

Hope you're all having a wonderful Sunday! I'm busy with school and work this week, but I hope to keep up my blogging streak as much as I can. ;)

September 22, 2017

Fall In Love

I'll hold onto summer as long as I can, but once the first day of autumn is here, I'm ALL ABOUT fall!

I always work on Fridays, but I just so happened to have switched with a coworker and had the day off. I also didn't have much homework because a couple of my classes are on a break for Rosh Hashanah. I had almost a whole day free, and since it's been such a gorgeous day, I tried to take as much advantage of it as I could!

This morning my mom and I went on a ~10 mile bike ride on the rail trail. I am out of shape and my legs are killing me now...





Soon all those trees won't be green anymore!!  The Hudson Valley is known in New York for having beautiful foliage during the fall. According to the map below, we'll see peak fall colors in mid to late October (right around the time of my sister's wedding!).


Later, I went to a hair salon and got highlights for the first time ever. Here's before, during, and after!


Actually I think the stylist said that the technique she used is "balayage," not straight-up highlighting.  It took a really long time to do (almost 2 hrs.), and it's almost an ombre look; I'm very happy with it!  Supposedly it will get even blonder after a few washes because the toner dulled it a little. It was super expensive - about four times as much(!) as I've EVER paid at a salon - but it's well worth it, and since the blonde doesn't reach my roots, I won't have to go back for touch-ups.

This afternoon, I played outside with my dog, did a little bit of homework, brought my sister to Bible study, and now I'm back home catching up on my blog reading list and preparing to take a math test.

Anyway, even though the weather has been beautiful and the warm days will continue into next week, I've fully embraced the season and have pulled out my sweaters, flannel shirts, boots, and scarves. I've tasted my first maple-pecan iced coffee and pumpkin muffin from Dunkin' Donuts. I've gotten my fall hair-do. Up next is a trip to Fishkill Farms and maybe a hike out in the Catskill mountains when the leaves start to turn.

The knowledge that the days are only going to get colder from now on and that the leaves are dying and that summer is OVER is maddeningly depressing but thank God for the little things we do to enjoy the season!

So what's your favorite part of fall? Do you have any personal traditions? What do you expect autumn 2017 to bring? I'd love to hear from you :)


September 20, 2017

Anxiety

From reading previous posts, maybe you already know that I'm on a mini quest for handling an anxiety problem. Here's a little insider knowledge on that corner of my life, in case there's someone out there who can relate, or wants to hear that there's a person out there who knows how you feel.

Early last year, I started to struggle more and more with anxiety. I initially didn't do anything to address it besides pray about it, and then pretend I was fine. It kept getting worse the more I pushed it down.
Eventually it started manifesting in physical symptoms, so not only was low-key I in a constant state of worry, I was also losing weight, having trouble sleeping, couldn't relax, was nauseous a lot and had stomach cramps, my hair was falling out, etc. etc. etc.

And this was just on a normal day. Anything outside of my routine of going to work and coming home got harder and harder to do because of how awful I felt. I started avoiding a lot of things that I knew would make my anxiety worse. I started skipping church, avoided social situations, didn't really do anything outside of going to work and coming home. Of course I had good days and bad days, but generally my default state was being anxious.


I tried to do what I knew was right and trusted God and prayed about being anxious (Philippians 4:6), but once I was done praying, I didn't really listen for direction, I just bottled all the feelings up and hoped for Him to dissipate the anxiety miraculously.

Eventually God kind of struck me with the realization that I was claiming to be trusting Him with my anxiety problem, when really I wasn't - instead:
  • I was prideful: I didn't want to admit this was an area I was seriously struggling in
  • I thought it would be perceived as others as a spiritual failure if I reached out to a doctor for help
  • I hated going to the doctor and was afraid to make the appointment
  • I was scared that I'd be told that "This is nothing that can be fixed, this is your life now"
I also realized that praying isn't the actual end solution for problems; God's the one who gives wisdom, instruction, and direction. And yes, sometimes he's solved my issues supernaturally - but a lot of the time, he uses situations that I pray about to put me in a situation where I can grow and learn through doing, and uses the people and place that I'm in to bring me to Him.

"Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know." - Jeremiah 33:3

So, anyway, long story short... I finally made a doctor's appointment, and prayed for wisdom about what the doctor would tell me.

Treatment


After hearing my story and how much I'm struggling physically with the effects of anxiety, the doctor recommended a therapist and some resources (which I'll get to in a minute), but she also put me on an antidepressant called Paxil for a month. It's a "selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor" (SSRI); basically it's function is to keep serotonin (which keeps mood regulated) in the brain for longer.


The side effects for the first few weeks sucked and apparently it can take months for it to start working.  Then when it's time to stop taking it, the withdrawal is horrible. It wasn't worth it for me and I had no peace about continuing to take it.

After my month's prescription was up, I asked the doctor to suggest something less potent, and not addictive. You've probably heard of Xanax, which is in a class of anti-anxiety drugs called benzodiazepines (or "benzos").  It's fast-acting and very effective, but because of this, it is also extremely addictive. My doctor suggested it as a short-term solution, but I said I wasn't comfortable with taking Xanax regularly, so she prescribed Buspar instead.

Buspar is a little inconvenient because it requires taking 3 pills per day, but I have way more peace about taking it (as opposed to Paxil) because there are almost no side effects, and there is no risk of developing dependency on it. It does not work quickly, and it doesn't make a drastic difference in my anxiety levels, but it takes enough of the edge away that I can handle it and get used to doing things again, little by little. (I did go to the recommended therapist once. The therapist gave me some really good tips, but it was a really expensive session, so I just used it as a jumping-off point and I never went back.)

Baby Steps


Taking medication is not the solution, but it is an aid for being able to concentrate on facing what makes me scared, and learning how to retrain my mind and prevent it from getting into anxious cycles.


Breathing


I learned how to control my breathing when I'm starting to panic, like when I'm in a crowd. There are different ways of doing it, but the way I do it is breathe in deeply through the nose and count "1 2 3 4" slowly and evenly, then breathe out "1 2 3" while letting my muscles relax. It sounds simple, but it's a really good thing to concentrate on when my mind starts gearing up to go into full-blown escape mode.



Doing Hard Things


One way that I have been trying to "get back into things" is by reconsidering every invitation I want to reject.  When I say "No" to something, it gets a lot harder to say "Yes" next time.  Every "Yes" I say helps me towards being more comfortable with what I want to be able to do. For instance, it was REALLY hard for me to get in the car with anyone other than my parents. One time, my cousin was going to drive when we went out for ice cream - I wanted to say, "No, I'll drive," but that just makes it harder on me in the future, so instead, I gritted my teeth and sat in the passengers seat for once.  It was hard and I was uncomfortable, but next time, that "Yes" will be easier.


I used to go to church 2-3 times per week  - Sunday morning church, Wednesday night Bible study, and college & career group, etc. It's daunting to think about all of a sudden going to church 3 times a week again and stressing out that much, but I set a goal of making it to at least Sunday morning worship service every week. I have not succeeded well with this - one time I walked into the sanctuary, got too overwhelmed, and just went and sat in my car to read my Bible instead - but it's a goal I can reach.


Know What You Need to Hear


This is by far the hardest thing to do, because it deals not with what I'm physically doing, but with what I'm thinking and telling myself. The running commentary going on in my head seems like it's true at the time, but a lot of the times, it's not - I'm  my own worst enemy, and I love to worry. If I'm not worrying, I feel like I'm not prepared.  So it's been a real exercise to make sure I'm ready to counter the poisonous thoughts I have, but thank God it's been working. I like this quote from Pinterest (hopefully no one is offended by the first curse word ever on this blog, haha!):


It just spoke to me when I saw it.  Because it's what I do a lot of the time.  Instead of reminding myself of how blessed I am and how many things are going right and how good God is, I'm actively freaking myself out!! Honestly, it's a principle that comes right from the Bible in Philippians 4:8:

"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."

I know that's usually a verse we bring up when we're talking about purity, but to me, it holds another meaning.

I don't remember where I heard this tip, but sometimes when I'm really overthinking things and dreading a situation, I'll stop and ask myself, "What is the worst possible outcome of this situation?" Often, just answering myself with what I think is the worst outcome makes my fear sound less scary.  If I'm losing sleep over a test, I'll at first think, "Oh my gosh, it's going to be too hard and I'm not ready and I'll fail and my whole education will be in the toilet," but then I'll be like, "Well, the actual worst thing that can happen is I'll fail this one test."

At night when I can't let my mind relax because of one thing or another, I have to make myself remember, "You can't solve this right now, so there is no point in worrying." Matthew 6:27 says as much:

"Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?"

So if I'm lying awake at night thinking about my car's check engine light, I tell myself, "Well obviously I can't solve this problem from bed, so let's put it to rest and think about it tomorrow."  Or if I'm in the car hyperventilating about school, I'll tell myself, "Put that aside and bring it back out when you're actually doing homework."

Exercise & Eat Right


And of course, exercise and eating healthy goes a LONG way for stress and anxiety. Last year around this time I started running and felt fantastic! Just an overall healthy lifestyle makes dealing with any problem more do-able.

Final Thoughts



If you're going through something similar, please let me know! I would love to talk with you.  I haven't found a Christian who I can relate to on this issue and would love to hear someone else's thoughts and how they deal.

A Few Months Later

It's so weird how sometimes, in the space of 6 months, nothing changes at all, but other times, so much changes???

Innisfree Gardens back in May
I have some stories and pictures to share from the time since I last wrote, so enjoy a look back and a grab bag of personal thoughts and snapshots...

I last wrote in early March, before spring break, and now here I am 6 months later, a few days before fall begins. I didn't deliberately stop blogging; I was just doing other things and kind of forgot to write after I got back from vacay. It was a great time spent on the beach with some great people.

Palm trees in Hollywood, FL - back home in NY, my family was shoveling themselves out of a foot of snow
A game of football on the beach while the sun sets over Hollywood Beach, FL
I guess one of the most significant things to happen since March is that I decided to talk to my doctor about mental health. Sometimes it's worse than others, but more often than not I'm battling to get past phobias, anxiety, and apathy to get normal, everyday things done.

At the train station in Florida, waiting to board for NY
I made an appointment to speak with my doctor in April, and since then it's been kind of a weird trial and error - between therapy, meds, and holistic approaches - but we discovered I have a physical disorder that contributes to my sometimes paralyzing anxiety, so I'll call that at least partly a win, because I'm getting treated for it.

I took an antidepressant for a trial month, but now I am prescribed an anxiolytic. I visited a therapist once (she charged me over $100 and I never went back). It's a long story, but right now I'm doing better, even though I still struggle with anxiety and (if you've read some of my past posts) sometimes being mildly depressed (for no specific reason, other than feeling like I lack purpose, and life is meaningless, and what is the point, and why am I such a failure... things my brain tells me but that I know isn't really true).  BUT "struggling" with it is a better place to be in than "accepting" or "ignoring" it; I'm not afraid to admit I'm engaged in a battle just to get the bare minimum of everyday life dealt with.  It's a really frikken stupid battle, but maybe one day I'll be able to pick bigger fights and have a more growing, thriving, driven existence.


It's been a weird experience because, as a Christian, this isn't something you hear people talk about a lot. It's always emphasized how anxiety is not trusting God, "God hasn't given us a spirit of fear," etc. but it's never emphasized how a Christian in real life deals with anxiety and stuff, beyond "just trusting God," reading the Bible, praying...  For a long time I thought it would be sinful to seek "secular" help for what I thought was a spiritual failure, and what kind of good Christian will people think I am if I'm put on meds for anxiety, and I can't admit defeat, or whatever, but God put it on my mind and I couldn't brush away the idea that I needed medical help.  Anyway, as you know, I did get help and it was a very good thing, and I'm better equipped for handling my spiritual life when my mental and physical health is taken care of.


Not to say I'm "cured"... I'm still a MESS. But I'm under control at least. :)

In other news, I went through with my first semester at my new school and it went great!  I started my second semester a few weeks ago and am enjoying it again, I love the routine and feeling like I'm doing something important, even though it's super hard. This semester I'm taking courses in emerging technology, research methods, statistics, and network/system architecture.

Dunkin' Donuts got me through the entire semester
I took on an extra day at work and got more responsibilities (I'm still a library clerk, but now I'm also publicity manager). My job continues to be amazing, even though I've had a time or two where I made a mistake and had to deal with consequences. All a part of experiencing adulthood, right?

The library I work at got some porch furniture this summer, so it's where I spend my lunch break on nice days now, it's the best
I did basic obedience training with my dog Mika! It was a 4 week class and it was harder than my college courses to be quite honest! But it was fun for me and my dog, and she graduated an Official Good Girl.

Mika didn't know what to think of obedience training at first!
She did very well and "graduated" - that's a good girl if I've ever seen one
I saw the New York Philharmonic at a free concert in Central Park. Just a short train ride and a long walk and a fun night with lovely friends.

Little picnic on the Great Lawn in Central Park while we waited for the concert to start - if it looks packed here, you wouldn't BELIEVE how many more people fit into the open square inches of grass later on

New York Philharmonic free concert in Central Park

Grand Central Station

I ran a 5K in June! My mom single-handedly organized a 5K run to benefit the homeschool sports program she started, and we had such a great turnout. As you may know, last fall I started running regularly - I haven't run consistently this year, but I squeaked out an acceptable 35 minute finish.


I spent a week at the Jersey Shore and it was the BEST vacation ever. My parents rented a beautiful house 2 blocks from the beach and we had an amazing time.

Squad fam on Belmar beach - brother, youngest sister, me, middle sister, Mom, Dad

Oh, you know.  Just posing with a garbage can or whatever

You can see the beach from the corner of our block - that's my sister up ahead

Delicious breakfast at Playa Bowls

Sunset over the boardwalk - it's a super chill stretch of beach, I love it
I did some other fun day trips, too! County fair, renaissance faire, hiking, oh, and remember the eclipse? That was thrilling...

The community gathered on the library lawn to check out the eclipse

If you look closely, you can see that the sun filtered through the spaces between the leaves made mini eclipse shadows!
My sister cooling off in the swimming hole on our hike - I jumped off one of those cliffs once!

Sheldon Falls during the same hike as the previous picture

Evening at the Dutchess County Fair
Posing with Rosie the Riveter at the county fair

My mom and I on the bridge in Sherwood Forest at the New York Renaissance Faire
I've been pulling out my art supplies more lately

My purple betta fish, Karen, died after over 2 years of being my desk buddy - the next day, I bought this little pale pink betta and named her Sushi!

Finally, biggest news, my sister is engaged!  We had about 2 months to plan the wedding and it's getting down to the wire now, about 3 and a half weeks left. As stressful as it is, I'm excited for her to get married. I don't know how I feel about sharing a picture of the betrothed couple without their knowledge, so here's the centerpiece idea I tested for the reception:


I guess that's it for now, you're all caught up basically.  I can't wait to write another blog post when I get the chance; I'd love to talk a little more about what I've learned this year so far, and share some pictures and drawings.