Thursday, March 23, 2017

Thursday Therapy: Get The Fidgets



I spent a good portion of my later childhood raised mostly by my Grandmother - these were the most "normal" days of my life back then, hanging out with my cousins in the field beside our house, singing music that made our Grandmother roll her eyes, wandering in the woods behind the house. Playing Barbies.

We grew up in Central Florida, where in the afternoons the high temperature is almost always somewhere between "why am I so dizzy" and "holy shit my arm just melted off." We got up in the mornings, ate breakfast, and went out to play; we were only "allowed" back in the house for bathroom and drink breaks, which had to be kept quick, and lunchtime.

I look at my kids and shake my head - they're good kids, but they're spoiled. When my cousins and I were my oldest daughter's age, we cooked our own lunch if we didn't want sandwiches - we'd boil up a couple of packs of Ramen, and argue quietly amongst ourselves because some of us liked it with a lot of broth and some liked it with only a little.

I say "some" but there were three of us, not counting the one older cousin who mostly did his own thing. And I think it was just me who ate Ramen with no broth. It's saltier that way, when you drain most of the pasta water off before adding the seasoning pack. And I liked it salty.

Stop it. Can't you see I'm trying to be serious?

Growing up, my grandma had a lot of really funny little Grandma-isms. She always hated for us to watch too much TV - she said it would cause square-eyes, and when she said it, her own eyes would crinkle with amusement. In those days, she was exactly what you would imagine a grandma to look like, short and just a little portly, with a stern demeanor and a perfectly set salt-and-pepper perm, held aloft with enough AquaNet to choke you half to death even from the next room.

She could be funny at times (and sometimes she still is, though it's considerably different now, and by the way, #FuckYouAlzheimers), but she didn't like a lot of extreme outward emotion - which is likely why she and I took so long to find our way around each other. I'm obviously very open emotionally even as an adult, and I'm sure this must have been even more so when I was a child.

She didn't like a lot of noise, and she wasn't fond of my cousins and I getting too rowdy. Dana and I were bad about having lots of private jokes (we still are, and by the way Dana - "KekoKeko," if you're reading this), and we also had a sort of strange telekinesis that always seemed to set us up for trouble. We'd just exchange what would for most people be an ordinary instance of eye contact - for us, this was a direct trigger for unstoppable giggle fits, which never failed to annoy our Grandmother.

As a child, we found that terribly amusing. As an adult now, and indeed as a mother, I often wonder what it was she thought we were giggling over. I wish I could ask her. I wish she could remember, if I did.

She used to get irritated when we'd get to giggling, and she'd snap, "Girls! Cool your heels!" And of course, we'd laugh even harder because that's ridiculous. One time, one of us actually sat down and tore a shoe off, yanked a sock off, and started blowing the bottom of her own foot.

Anyway. Another thing I remember her saying was that I'd "got the fidgets." I was an early riser and so was she, and I'd often sneak out in to the living room while everyone else (but her) still slept. She'd be at the kitchen table having her coffee, and she'd shake her head and sigh. I'd take my book and go silently to the couch (when I had the courage not to go hide in the bathroom, reading on the floor - she was a formidable woman in her heyday), and sit down to read. And if I couldn't get comfortable, my wriggling would annoy her, and she'd say with quiet sternness, "Brandi - still still. You got the fidgets."



It's funny now though - for some reason God saw fit to bless me with two early-birds who rarely sleep in, who somehow seem to instinctively know even if I wake up early on purpose to claim some alone time. Two kids with ADHD, who wake up totally alive every day, at full speed and full volume.

God's funny like that.

"God has a most wicked sense of humor." 
-Maureen O'Hara

Anyway, now I've learned to fidget on purpose. I have a single-decade rosary ring that I find comforting when I want something bumpy, and I wear it pretty much 24/7. I find that when I'm in therapy, when I'm bored, when I'm anxious, whenever my hands just need to be busy, I can slip it off and spin it around in my hands, and it helps. Bonus, it reminds me to pray.


I also have a fidget cube, which was given to me as a gift from my therapist. I tend to keep it in my pocket on days when I'm anxious; I like that I can pull it out to work with my hands. It's got different textures and sounds, and I find different ones more helpful depending on what mood I'm in - the girls have both used it too, and they also like different sides of the cube depending on what they're feeling. I find it helpful if I'm driving through a lot of heavy traffic too - this never used to bother me, but lately I find a lot of traffic triggers my anxiety. I like that this helps.


I have issues with chronic eye fatigue, because I have underactive oil glands in my eyelash ducts or something like that. This means by the end of the day, I can't see well enough anymore to do any sort of detailed, close work - but when I can remember my eye drops well enough to stave it off, I also like to color when I'm anxious, depressed, bored, or just moody. I find the mandala patterns soothing (when they aren't blinding), and there's something incredibly satisfying about sitting down to fill them in. It's rhythmic, almost mindless. I have several different books I pull out now and then, and even a set of coloring pens that I keep for only myself - but as soon as I fill up one of my books and can justify getting a new one, I want this one next:


I love that it's edgy but still motivational, so I can release frustration while chilling out - and also remind myself that whatever's going on, it'll always get better.

Another thing that eases me is Legos. It feels a little childish to admit how much I still LOVE Legos, but I can't help it, I do. I love that I can build anything. A house, a box, a car. A robot. I can build as small as I want, or as large as my collection allows. And when I'm done (or if I screw up), I can always take it down. I can go back to fix it. I can change or adjust it. Legos create calm, but they can create a lot of other practical things too, like storage for on top of your desk, boxes to put on a shelf. The best part is when you don't need them anymore, you can take them apart and just make them into something else. My girls seem to find it satisfying just to stir them around, listening to the bricks click against each other.


Recently, it came to my attention that one of my biggest supporters is about to send her nephew overseas. Karen Henderson is a frequent commenter here - she was also one of the first people who ever signed up to support my Patreon account, and her unwavering support has meant more to me than I can say.

More importantly, she's a proud veteran, a woman who has taken up arms to serve our country, who has given her time, her tears, and her blood to this land and its people. She's from a family of veterans, and as the next generation of her family heads off to fight for our country, he's asked for just one thing - something he can take with him to battle the long nights of homesickness, the long days of stressful and rigorous work. He asked for a way to keep his stress levels down, a way to keep himself busy in his downtime - a way to bond with his fellow soldiers.

He asked for Legos, and since this isn't his first time deployed overseas, I imagine he knows well what works for him.

If you've been reading here very long, you know already that I'm extremely loyal to my country, that I am pro-military, and that I hold our servicemen and woman at the greatest level of respect - especially those who have been overseas, literally risking everything to protect the freedom and safety of families like mine.

"They know what they signed on for."

Yes, that's true, and that's why I respect them so greatly. No one tricks them into signing up and then surprises them with the risks inherent to military service. They know when they sign that contract that at any moment, the military can and will rearrange their entire lives. They know that they're likely to lose loved ones, marriages, friendships. They know that in the course of their daily job life, they're likely to be called to sacrifice their own bodies, their limbs, their sanity. Their lives.

For me, for my friends, for my daughters. For my nephew, for my brothers. And they know what they signed on for.

If you've enjoyed my blog for any period of time, and you come around just to "listen" to what I have to say, thank you. If you've just found this site for the first time, welcome.

And if you love and respect my country even a fraction of how much I do, help me support our military in a small way that will show a spirit of strength and hope to a young man heading off to place so much different than the one we take for granted. Donate some Legos. It can be as many or as few as you want, and you can send them to this address:

Karen Henderson
1368 Mount Sherman Ward Rd
Magnolia, KY 42757

Thank you.

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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: My Top Ten Favorite Blog Posts (March 2017)

It was back in January that I took a major step in my life. I decided to embrace a part of myself that had always been in the background, there and worthy and talented and with a knack for using words to touch others.

I've been an independently published romance novelist now for just over four years (I first published in December 2012), and in that time, my entire life has changed. I still love romance, and I'm still working EVER. SO. SLOWLY. on my next novel, but ...

With splitting from the kids's dad, needing to grow my income faster, and wanting to stay home with my kids (mostly because of the way my PTSD issues had grown, but also partly in hopes of avoiding doubling the sense of abandonment my children have suffered), I rediscovered a new outlet - my love for the blog format.

I love the non-fiction, down-to-earth reality of a blog, and I love the quick, simple delivery. I love that it feels like an infinite magazine full of articles on every topic, where I can pick and choose who/what I think is worth reading based on where I am in life. I can read about parenting, mental health, crafting, whatever! And I have loved that through taking my blog into the "lifestyle" category, I can now write all of those topics myself.

It has been a joy, and through this new avenue I've gotten in touch with some great people, discovered some amazing content, and learned so very very much. Today I'd like to share some of that content with you, right here on Top Ten Tuesday.

(in no particular order)

This post on DaishaRenee.com reads like a peek into my own heart. Each and every item on this list of goals was something I could relate closely to, and it felt personal in a really beautiful way. I loved literally everything about it. Made me want one of these SO. BAD:


This post from souledontea.com. You guys, I swear. I just ... I can't even. I can't even tell you what it says, what it's about, what it means, what it ... just ... go read it. Because I can't express what it made me feel. Just go. Go read it right now.

This letter from Ana (FadedSpring.co.uk) to her Aunt really struck a chord with me, because it rings true for the girl I was as a child, targeted by step-parents who saw me as a hassle and a burden, not as adequately protected by my parents as I needed to be ... never CHOSEN over the drama and the hassle. I never felt prioritized, and am left now with a lot of very sour memories of being directly NOT prioritized. Like Ana, I had to grow up too fast, had to learn so many of life's lessons too soon and in the hardest possible ways. But like Ana, I had someone beside me, someone to encourage me, someone to balance out my softness, someone to understand. Not an Aunty - growing up, I didn't often feel like I had a strong authority figure (other than my Grandmother, who I wasn't actually close with until the last ten years or so) - but a cousin. I had my friends who became my family over the years, people who mean so much to me because they are so much a part of who I am. But I had this one little bit of family too, this cousin who became my truest and closest friend. Love you, Dana.

This post from Caitlyn over at BlondeSeekingAmbition.com seriously got me right in the Nostalgia. A list of songs from my era? Uh, yes, please. I was like fifteen when these songs were hits, and there was literally not one song on this list that I don't still know. So many of them are songs I actually still love! Except that last one. Because it was bad. So, so bad.

5.) "TREND ALERT - How To Host A Pink Ninja Party For Girls"
Oh. My. Gosh. Seriously, you guys? I WANT to go to this party that I found on Soiree-EventDesign.com. But the thing is, I don't just want to go, I want to be a kid so I can really enjoy it without looking weird. Even better, I want to be the kid who is the birthday girl. The "stealth entry required" thing? I love it! And the blades, and the creative party chair, and the ... all of it. The fortune cookies!?

You can't see me right now but I'm totally in whine mode. My desk is lifted today so I can type standing up, and I'm stomping my feet. "I wanna go to the parrrtyyyyyy .... uuuuhhhnnnn!"

BONUS: Check out this party too, which also made me pout a little. Also, if you're local and you have one of these parties, please please PLEASE invite me. I really wanna come!

6.) "Italy"
This post about Italy from DeesignPlay.com made me feel like I was there, walking through the romantic streets of Italy's most famous and beautiful cities, enjoying quiet moments by the water, taking in the sights and the culture. I have such a longing for this type of travel that I took over an hour reading and rereading parts of this post, exploring what's shown in the photos.

7.) "I'm Fat. And My Body Is OK."
This post from Divya at EatTeachBlog.com is a serious gem. It's empowering in its message of self-acceptance and positive recognition of what is, and you guys know that couldn't be more perfectly aligned with the kinds of things that like to post and share here. So much of this post so perfectly describes my own youth, and then so much of it perfectly describes me now. In addition to that, it's the kind of blog post that would have reduced Cass from Fat Chance to tears. It's everything about what her journey was as she lived her story, and everything about the things she had to learn and accept along the way.

8.) "How To Get The World To Send You Love Notes & Birthday Wishes"
I'm not sure I've ever seen anything quite like the concept described in this post by Jasmine from JazzOnTheRun.com ... but it made me smile, and it made my heart leap a little with happiness. What a beautiful thing for people to be doing!

Okay, seriously. David from SingleDadsGuideToLife.WordPress.com is such a delight. His blog is infused with a certain self-deprecating humor that I can totally relate to (it's the same sense of humor that I filled Cass with in Fat Chance, making her hilarious to some and actually a bit depressing to others who didn't "get it.") He talks a bit about his daughter, his life, the local sights (California, USA), and his efforts to get his fitness under better control. But recently he wrote a more personal post that skipped over the usual "Ten Facts About Me" (my favorite color is blue, my best friend's name is Sarah, booorring) and went A LOT deeper. Sure, he included some superficial things and a dash of humor to keep things light, but he also stepped into a vulnerable place of sharing that stole words I didn't even know I had right out of my heart. Click over and check out items 1, 3, 4, 8, & 10, with special emphasis on those last few to see what I mean.

10.) "Enraged"
This post from Hyla (HylaAndPeterEchols.com) really struck a nerve with me when I read it. I'm not sure the effect it had is exactly in line with what Hyla's intent seemed to be, as the post felt to me like a lesson in forgiveness ... but it gave me a new sense of understanding with myself. Something my therapist has brought up somewhat tentatively with me lately is my inner child - the part of me that stayed frozen in childhood, in response to what happened in my childhood and the things I saw and experienced. I don't put an awful lot of stock in the "inner child" concept (not yet, at least), but something DID strike me just in the moment of reading this.

PTSD is an anxiety disorder; it's like being stuck permanently in the fight/flight/freeze cycle, unable to escape even the reactions of your own mind. Anything can set it off - the beeping of the microwave (yes, even if you expected it), someone standing too close to you (yes, even if you know them), even certain scents (yes, even if there's a part of you that likes the scent) - but nothing really shuts it down. The problem with it, particularly for me, is that it keeps me so anxious, always. Anxiety is my constant companion - it's there when I eat, when I shower, when I'm walking the dog, when I'm alone in the quiet. It's there in the night - sometimes I even wake up in a panic for "no reason." Anxiety is frustrating though - it makes every sound louder, every experience more jarring, every light brighter, every emotion stronger.

The constant sense of OVERWHELM ... well, it pisses me off sometimes. Leaves me SO ANGRY. For "no reason." It isn't (usually) there because I'm offended in the moment, or because I've got hurt feelings in the moment, or because I'm sick or sad or anything. It's just there, like a sleeping lion inside me, and I never know when something's going to wake it.

Until I read Hyla's post, it never clicked for me why the lion was there, either. Until.

And that's where I come back around to that inner child. The little girl who felt left behind, the little girl who felt unprotected, the little girl was chosen last and didn't feel prioritized, who had to be "placed" in a children's home because her "home" wasn't safe enough to stay in and she had already begun to show the signs of psychological trauma. The kid who moved too much to build lasting friendships, the kid who saw things no kid should ever see.

And now I understand the lion - he's there to protect the little girl, from her own sense of justified anger. And maybe, maybe now that the little girl and I are coming to an understanding ... maybe now, together, she and I can learn to put the lion to rest.

BONUS: I've done this type of Top Ten before! You can check out some other great posts I've found by looking at Top Ten Tuesday: My Top Ten Favorite Blog Posts (January 2017)!



And there you have it, my most recent Top Ten Blog Posts (to read). I hope you'll click through and read some of these, and if you love them as much as I did, make sure to leave a comment! We bloggers love our readers, and we especially love comments!

For access to the audio version of this blog, please click here.


Questions for the Comments Section:
  • Did you end up going over to read any of these posts (or do you think you will)? If so, which one(s), and why?
REAL CHARACTERS. HONEST LOVE. BRANDI KENNEDY BOOKS.