Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Before you criticize someone...

... you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you're a mile away and you have their shoes.

--Jack Handey

Monday, July 28, 2008

In Which I Whine and Complain A Lot

I am not having fun. I just thought you should to know this. I have spent the last several days trying not to scratch (and failing miserably) the hives that erupted all over my body after finishing a course of antibiotics last Thursday. I've learned a few things though; lying on the couch with nothing to do but read ain't all it's cracked up to be. It's hard to feel creative when one is distracted by constant pain. It's hard to look in the mirror or go out in public when ones face is so swollen that one looks like this:


I wish that I was brave enough to post a real picture of my moon face. But I already have appearance issues enough without putting a really ugly photo of myself out there.

I've done nothing but recline on a couch for the last three days, feet elevated, applying aloe vera (thanks Kris!) and consuming a ridiculous and probably dangerous amount of benadryl while waiting for the swelling and desperate itching to subside. Hello, God? I'm ready to be done now, kay? Hello? Is this thing on?

I got out of going to church today due to the simple fact that my feet are so swollen that I cannot wear shoes. Walking on them feels like hot coals. Despite all this time I've had on my hands, I have struggled to come up with anything to blog about. Well, anything positive or funny, anyway.

So I decided to conduct a little quiz. I will post a few of the dominant whiny thoughts that keep invading my head, and your challenge is to label the Cognitive Distortions in my thinking.

1. I am never going to get my knee straight and will never be able to clog right ever again.

2. But probably no one will notice because my clogging was already pretty crappy before I had surgery.

3. This itching will never stop and I will go stark raving mad and become a serial killer or maybe something even worse: a vegetarian.

4. I should just get up and tough it out instead of lying here like an invalid.

5. Every time I get ready to start a serious weight loss effort, something like this happens.

6. My SIL's probably think I'm faking it so I won't have to do my share of the work.

Ready, set, GO!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Overheard at the Family Reunion

Teenage Cousins halfway through the process of making a family favorite dessert in the kitchen:


Susan: Here are the measuring cups!

Michael: Oh, that will make it easier!


A few minutes later...


Michael: So how much milk did you put in?

Susan: The right amount, of course!

Depression and Personal Revelation

When I first descended into the pit of depression, one of the most striking and alarming changes I noticed was that I no longer had ready access to the Holy Ghost. I felt literally cut off and alone, spiritually. A great many fervent prayers were sent heavenward, pleading for help and comfort, anything, something please Lord give me something to hold onto! Where was the Comforter when I needed Him the most, like all the faith promoting stories I'd heard in church? I felt cast adrift in a black sea, with no compass nor oars nor wind for my sail.

I teetered for a time on the edge of faith. What was the point of going to church, taking the sacrament, praying even, when all was hollow and bleak? I was just going through the motions. The temple brought no relief. Nothing brought relief. It was a black time.

Attending church was excruciating--having to keep a "I'm fine" smile on my face for three whole hours was almost more than I could manage. But every time I considered quitting church, as much as I wanted to, I couldn't do it. And the reason always came back to the same thing: I had four children I had promised -- no, covenanted -- to teach the gospel to. And even though I couldn't currently feel it, I remembered the times when I had felt direction by the Holy Ghost. I knew the gospel was true. It was all true. I didn't know how I knew it, but I. Did. Know. And I knew that if I stopped attending church, if only due to apathy, my children would be more likely to fall away sooner or later. I knew I must not allow that to happen. And so I kept going.

Discovering that I really did have a solid testimony of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ is one of the most treasured lessons I gleaned from my experience with depression. Even now, years later, I still don't enjoy the clarity of communication from the Spirit that some people do. I rarely "feel" the Spirit as strongly as the people around me at the usual times, like baptisms, testimony meetings, etc. I've learned that comparing myself to others really doesn't accomplish anything other making me feel like a loser. I've come to accept the fact that this may be one of my "thorns of the flesh", so to speak. It may be that the heavens will remain silent for me for the rest of my life. Perhaps one day I'll experience the miracle of hearing God's voice in my heart again. Perhaps not. But I know that whatever happens, I will stay faithful. When the Lord comes, he will find me waiting. And that's enough for me.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Recipe: Spanish Rice

No pictures today. Sorry. But I made this yummy dish last night and thought y'all might like to try it. It is another one of those big bang for your effort buck pleasers. I serve it with chicken enchiladas, chicken tacos, or burritos.

Ingredients:

1/4 Cup Cooking Oil
2 Tbsp. Butter or margarine
2 Cups Long grain rice
1 medium Onion, finely chopped
2 cloves Garlic, minced or pressed

1-15 ozCan Tomatoes, diced
1 Cup Frozen peas (sometimes I use frozen veggie combo with peas, carrots, and corn)
4 Cups Chicken broth, unsalted
1/4 Cup Packed fresh Cilantro -OR- 2 Tbsp dried cilantro
2 tsp Salt

Heat oil and butter in a 4 qt or larger saucepan over medium-high heat. When butter is melted, add rice and cook, stirring, until very lightly browned. Add onions and garlic and continue to cook for 5 minutes (although I never go this long for fear of burning the rice). Add tomatoes, frozen peas, chicken broth, cilantro, and salt. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low, cover, and simmer until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender (25-30 minutes).

Note: if you use canned chicken broth that has salt added, you must cut down on or eliminate the extra salt at the end of the recipe.

Make this wonderful side dish this week.

You won't regret it. I promise.

Friday, July 25, 2008

This can't be good.

We have juice with dinner on Sundays. Every other day of the week we drink water, because finances being what they are, it costs too ding dong much to have juice or punch every day, plus I don't think kids need to be in the habit of drinking sweet liquids with every meal, plus water is good for you and did you know that most people don't drink enough water, plus I don't need the calories, etc and so on and so forth. I always have good reasons for my tightwadishness, don't you know? So we have juice with dinner on Sundays.

Somehow (and this is a window into my rather shabby homemaking habits) the pitcher which contained the leftover juice did not get put into the fridge Sunday night. It sat, neglected and overlooked, on the counter overnight and into the next day. Monday afternoon I had a small glass of juice to help cover the oh-so-fishy taste of my shark cartilage pills. The juice tasted fine.

Lo and behold, Tuesday morning found the dad-gum pitcher still sitting on the counter! With an inch of juice left in it. I think I may need to have a word with the management around here. I decided to take things into my own hands. My intention was to just get the blasted thing off the counter. Really, I promise that's how it started. I poured the juice out into a small cup and tasted it. Hm. A little tangy. Quite a bit tangy, actually. But still far from being spoiled. And then my must-not-waste-anything neurosis won out over my this-might-be-fermented-and-don't-you-think-the-bishop-would-disapprove? better judgement.

I drank the juice. Not bad. Not bad at all. So I refilled the cup with the last of the juice and I drank that too.

Hm. No buzz. No tingly warm feeling. Sigh.

And then I sat down to read blogs and everything I read seemed funnier than the last thing and I began posting silly comments all over the blogosphere and actually published a post on my own blog about sex.

It was my best morning in a week. Maybe next Sunday I'll make a little extra juice...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Eyes

It's a question my kids get a lot: where did you get your blue eyes?


My instructions to them were to reply sweetly, "They came with my head."


Okay, so I'm snarky. I probably should feel bad about that. Sometimes I try. A little.


To review high-school biology:


When you have a blue-eyed daddy,


And a blue-eyed momma,


You get blue eyed kids.





That is all.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A Slip of the Tongue

So last week when I went to the reservoir to swim in the frigid water, I had a little trouble finding the access road that leads up through the foothills. It really isn't that complicated, and I've been there plenty of times, so you'd think I could find the road, right? I had it in my head somehow that the turnoff was before a certain tree-lined bridge, so when we reached the bridge and I hadn't seen the road, I was perplexed.

Me: "Wha? Huh... I thought we would have gotten to the turn by now."

Nathan: "Maybe you missed it."

Me: "Ya think?"

I pulled over to the shoulder, let a couple of cars pass, and did a U-turn back the way we'd come.

Me: "I still didn't see it. And I know that it isn't this far north. Look, we're to the golf course already!"

I pulled another U-turn to head south again.

Megan (pointing left): "Turn there, mommy!"

Me: "No, that's not it. It looks similar and it goes the right direction, but there's no sign. At the real turn, there is a big sign." I think.

We reached the bridge. Again. Another U-Turn.

Again we approached the same road Megan had suggested

Nathan: "Are you sure this isn't the road?"

Me: "I could have sworn it wasn't, but I guess we'll try it. I was just up here last night -- you'd think I'd remember how to get there!"

Moments later, as we putted up the road into a subdivision of condos, I was sure it was the wrong road. I pulled another U-turn and headed back down the hill.

Me: "I can't believe this! Why the HELL can't I find the stupid road today!!"

Silence.

I thought "heck." I really did. "Heck" was what I planned to say. So I was just as surprised as the kids when that other forbidden word broke forth from my frothed lips. Great, I thought. I've just given tacit permission for my kids to use the H-word. They're squeamish just reading it out of the scriptures, the vocabulary in our house is so pure. Normally. Ahem.

Me: "Sorry guys."

Silence.

Don't tell my bishop.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Caught in the Act

Have your kids ever caught you doing The Deed? Yes, I'm talking about THAT Deed.

One night, my 7-yr-old knocked at the door.

"Mommy? What are you doing?"

Crap. This child was supposed to be asleep.

What do you say in that situation? Do you give them the facts of life? Do you tell them that you were just wrestling? Giving back rubs?

The latter is what I settled on. Okay so maybe I'm a coward, but I believe in age-appropriate sex education, okay? And imo SEVEN is way too young to learn the mechanics of the birds and bees. Get off my case already! Oh... you weren't on my case? Well, just in case you were getting ready to get on my case, just don't even go there, kay? Are we understanding one another?

I'm glad we settled that little, uh... misunderstanding. Ahem.

Anyway.

Not too many mornings ago, the same 7-year old said to me, "Mommy, next time when you give daddy a back rub, could you be a little quieter?"

I'm starting to wonder if the cost of building a soundproof chamber in my bedroom would offset the therapy this child will probably need someday.

Confession

I ate a brownie.

Not just any brownie. The brownie I ate was one of the forbidden brownies brought to my house by well meaning people in order that my husband may transport them up to girl's camp for "Bishopric Dinner Night" this evening.

My position is precarious. I have six DOZEN evil, fragrant, fudgy brownies taunting me. Mocking me. I think I may even hear voices. "Eat me.... EAT ME!"

Is there some "Brownie Hotline" I can call to talk me down from the ledge? There's not, you say? Well, there should be, dangit. Suicidal people ain't got nothin' over this problem.

Those ungrateful girls certainly won't miss one. Or two. Will they? I choose to think of it as saving one of them from the corruption. My magnanimosity amazes even me.

I probably should feel guilty about this.

Recipe: Crock Pot Chicken Tacos

I love my Crock Pot slow cooker. During cooler months, I use it on insane afternoons - you know the ones, where one kid has ballet lessons and this other kid needs a ride to the horse training barn and I have Cub Scouts and the husband has Some Important Meeting.

This recipe is amazingly simple, deceptively easy, and wonderfully yummy and goes really well with Spanish Rice.

Ingredients:

  • 4 boneless, skinless Chicken Breasts (but I have used leg quarters and pulled the bones out after cooking--they're cheaper!)
  • 1 16 oz can mexican style Stewed Tomatoes (or if you're lazy like me, plain stewed tomatoes)
  • 1 8 oz can Tomato Sauce
  • 1/2 Onion, diced
  • 1/2 Green pepper, diced
  • 1 4 oz can Diced Green Chili Peppers
  • 1 package Schilling Taco Seasoning (about 2 Tablespoons if you buy bulk)

Place all ingredients in crock pot (how easy is that!?). Cook on low temperature for 6 hours or more. Shred chicken with 2 forks before serving. Serve with flour tortillas, refried beans, shredded cheese, lettuce, sour cream, guacamole, etc.

You'll be glad you did. Very, very glad.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Everyday Heroes

So this morning was busy...

Have you ever noticed that I like to begin sentences with the word "so"? I think it is some lazy teenager-ish thing I picked up from somewhere. I really can compose coherent sentences that don't begin with "so" or "and". But this is a blog, not a dissertation. And you keep reading, so I guess it isn't offending you too awfully bad.

Anyway.

We had four phases of departure this morning: Karianne to the stake center at 6:15 to go to girls' camp as a YCL; Susan to the church at 7:15 to travel to girls' camp with the ward; the pickup truck to the shop at 8:00 for it's 90,000 maintenance that had been put off for 10,0000 miles too long; and Nathan and Megan off to clogging at 9:45.

Everything went smoothly until I got in the pickup. I turned the key and. . . nothing. Not even a buzzing sound. I immediately sent a prayer of gratitude heavenward for this most ironic of coincidences -- the truck battery was dead on the very morning it was going to the shop! Ya gotta love God's sense of humor.

But I remained calm. I have jumped many a dead battery in my ever-lengthening life. I got the van in position facing the truck, popped the hoods, and connected the jumper cables. Still nothing. Just then my neighbor, Theus, drove up and stopped next to me.



"Dead battery?"

"Yeah"

"Lemme go get my super manly uber powerful battery cables and I'll connect them to my great big testosterone filled battery on this here diesel truck and we'll have you going in no time!"

Okay, well, maybe that's not an exact quote.

Momentarily, my other neighbor and Theus' business partner, Kelly, drove up in his super quad cab diesel pickup, and hooked up the beefy jumper cables. I got in and turned the key. Still nothing. He revved the engine for a few minutes. Nope. He got out of his truck, and scratched his head.

"Is it a stick?"

"Yeah. You think we can jump it?"

"Yeah. I got me three big boys right here to push you."

So he whistled and indeed, three big strapping teenage boys got out of his super cab and smiled at me. I got in behind the wheel, and they pushed me down the street. I popped the clutch three times, but it just wouldn't take.

Then Kelly pulled up in front of me, and got out with a tow rope. "I'll pull ya down to the shop."

Now if you've never been towed on a nice short rope without power brake assist, you have missed out on an exciting experience. I was terrified I was going to crash into the back end of his big fancy truck.

I don't know about you, but a 10 foot following distance makes me just a teensy tiny bit nervous.


We made it to the shop without incident, and Kelly and the boys got my little wimpy pickup in a parking spot. I had my bike in the bed of my truck with plans to get a little exercise on the way back home, but Kelly wouldn't hear of it. Ignoring my protests, he snatched my bike out of the back with one brawny arm and fairly tossed it in the bed of his behemoth, then gave me a lift back home. Never mind that he and his crew were on their way to Provo to work on a home construction/remodel job and had already spent the better part of an hour rescuing me. He said he enjoyed helping me. And I think he really meant it.

So while I hate being helpless and needy, I am very glad for neighbors like these. They made what would have been a big hairy stressful deal into a pleasantly mild inconvenience.

Thanks guys!

Neurosis of the Week: Socks

I have a husband and four kids. We have a few socks among us.

I don't think I am alone in my detestation of mating socks. I'd also like to know what kind of dirty mind came up with the term "mating" as it applies to socks. Why that particular word, exactly? Why not "pairing" or "matching"? Is it because socks left sitting in the basket as long as mine do get into mischief and multiply all by themselves? Is that why I keep finding solitary socks that I've never seen before and can't find a twin for--because my sporty anklets are getting it on with my husband's black dress crews? I'm done having babies, but my socks are still feeling that maternal urge, is that it? Wow. That's just a little disturbing to think about.

Anyway. What was I saying?

Oh yes.

I tend to procrastination; it's one of my worst habits. Especially when it comes to socks. And ironing. And mopping the kitchen floor. And vacuuming. And weeding the flowerbeds. But especially socks.

So I tend to just toss them in a laundry basket to wait until I sit down to watch a movie except I nearly never watch movies and so I don't know why I keep deceiving myself with that excuse.

So here is my typical basket of socks.



Then early one morning when I had gotten out of the shower and realized that I had no clean jeans in my closet and had wandered oh-so-casually out to the laundry room half dressed (it was 7:15am and I was reasonably sure all my kids were still sleeping plus the laundry is only a short skip down the hall from my room so it was okay right?), I looked upon the basket of sadly disorganized socks. And behold, the socks cried out to me from the basket. And I, the Homemaker, did hear the cries of my socks in the basket. And I had mercy on the inhabitants of the basket. And I said unto the socks, "Behold, today will I deliver thee from thine afflictions, and thou shalt go forth to dwell in drawers and on feet until thou shalt return unto me to be washed clean again."

So I dumped the basket out on the folding table, then got my jeans on, and went back to the bathroom to pull my face and hair together for the day.


And forgot all about the socks.

I saw the pile of socks nearly every day when I dashed into the laundry room for this or that, to put in a load of laundry or fold stuff hot from the dryer, but it always seemed like I was pressed for time and had no time to waste on socks.

Here is the pile of socks a week later, having been picked through by various family members in search of socks, and added to as clean laundry came out of the pile.



And there it sits to this day. Although now that I've confessed my hatred of mating socks, I am suddenly feeling in the mood to mate socks! I'm thinking maybe this evening I'll lure my husband into the bedroom with fragrant candles and romantic music, and we'll do a little mating. Of socks! Gosh people, get your minds out of the gutter!

Ahem.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Book Excerpt: The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

This fascinating little book, presented as a series of letters from Screwtape, a supervisor devil, to a lowly tempter devil, named Wormwood, stationed on the front lines of the battle for human souls, is at once entertaining and provocative. To think of Hell, not as a fiery chaos of tortured souls, but as an efficiently organized system with a reverse hierarchy of devils that are carefully plotting how to turn humans into fodder for their next meal is oddly funny... and more than a little disturbing. God is referred to as "The Enemy", while Satan is "Our Father Below", and humans are "patients".

One of my favorite chapters concerns the Law of Undulation. This is the chapter I return to when I am feeling spiritually dry; when it seems my prayers are either unheard or unanswered, when worship seems hollow and pointless, and I am left alone to wonder why God has abandoned me.



"My Dear Wormwood,

"So you "have great hopes that the patient's religious phase is dying away," have you? I always thought the Training College had gone to pieces since they put old Slubgob at the head of it, and now I am sure. Has no one ever told you about the Law of Undulation?


"Humans are amphibians--half spirit and half animal. (The Enemy's determination to produce such a revolting hybrid was one of the things that determined Our Father to withdraw his support from Him.) As spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time. This means that while their spirit can be directed to an eternal object, their bodies, passions, and imaginations are in continual change, for to be in time means to change. Their nearest approach to constancy, therefore, is undulation--the repeated return to a level from which they repeatedly fall back, a series of troughs and peaks.

"If you had watched your patient carefully you would have seen this undulation in every department of his life--his interest in his work, his affection for his friends, his physical appetites, all go up and down. As long as he lives on earth, periods of emotional and bodily richness and liveliness will alternate with periods of numbness and poverty. The dryness and dullness through which your patient is now going are not, as you fondly suppose, your workmanship; they are merely a natural phenomenon which will do us no good unless you make a good use of it.

"To decide what the best us of it is, you must ask what use the Enemy want to make of it, and then do the opposite. Now, it may surprise you to learn that in His efforts to get permanent possession of a soul, He relies on the troughs even more than the peaks; some of His special favourites have gone through longer and deeper troughs than anyone else. The reason is this. To us a human is primarily food; our aim is the absorption of its will into ours, the increase of our own area of selfhood at its expense. But the obedience which the Enemy demands of men is quite a different thing. One must face the fact that all the talk about His love for men, and His service being perfect freedom is not (as one would gladly believe) mere propaganda, but an appalling truth. He really does want to fill the universe with a lot of loathsome little replicas of Himself--creatures whose life, on its miniature scale, will be qualitatively like His own, not because He has absorbed them but because their wills freely conform to His. We want cattle who can finally become food; He wants servants who can finally become sons. We want to suck in, He wants to give out. We are empty and would be filled; He is full and flows over. Our war aim is a world in which Our Father Below has drawn all other beings into himself: the Enemy wants a world full of beings united to Him but still distinct.

"And that is where the troughs come in. You must have often wondered why the Enemy does not make more use of His power to be sensibly present to human souls in any degree He chooses and at any moment. But you now see that the Irresistible and the Indisputable are the two weapons which the very nature of His scheme forbids Him to use. Merely to override a human will (as His felt presence in any but the faintest and most mitigated degree would certainly do) would be for Him useless. He cannot ravish. He can only woo. For His ignoble idea is to eat the cake and have it; the creatures are to be one with Him, but yet themselves; merely to cancel them, or assimilate them, will not serve. He is prepared to do a little overriding at the beginning. He will set them off with communications of His presence which, though faint, seem great to them, with emotional sweetness, and easy conquest over temptation. But He never allows this state of affairs to last long. Sooner or later He withdraws, if not in fact, at least from their conscious experience, all those supports and incentives. He leaves the creature to stand up on its own legs--to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish. It is during such trough periods, much more than during the peak periods, that it is growing into the sort of creature He wants it to be. Hence the prayers offered in the state of dryness are those which please Him best. We can drag our patients along by continual tempting, because we design them only for the table, and the more their will is interfered with, the better. He cannot "tempt" to virtue as we do to vice. He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away His hand; and if only the will to walk is really there He is pleased even with their stumbles. Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy's will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys."

{end quote}


Saturday, July 19, 2008

A Wimp am I

So in the pursuit of a stronger leg, better fitness, and other related benefits, I trekked up to the Mighty Reservoir to do a little swimming this afternoon.

The. Water. Is. Freaking. Cold!

That is all.

Restaurant Review: La Casita

La Casita in Springville, Utah, is my mostest favoritest Mexican restaurant ever. When we are hankering for some good mexican food, we never go anywhere else. We discovered it when we were poor newly married college students back in the 90's, and it hasn't changed a bit since then. Crowded, hole-in-the-wall atmosphere, low prices, and guuuuuud foooooood.

Located at 333 North Main Street (Hwy 89) in Springville, La Casita isn't the place you take your new prissy girlfriend if you want to impress her with a fancy restaurant. Because prissy types won't be impressed with this place. No, if you go to La Casita, you go to eat. And eat you will.

It's a tiny little rundown yellow building with tacky blue neon sign out front. See that patch of green lawn at the base of the power pole? That's astroturf.



The dingy, cramped foyer is wallpapered with ancient Polaroid pictures of customers.




The windowsills look like they've got several dozen coats of paint on them.The host/owner is a loud, brash Mexican Catholic fellow who tells his friends to "get out and give me all your money" when they're halfway through eating. His daughters take your order and bring you the food.

The food. Oh, the wonderful, amazing food.

When you are seated, the little old lady who barely speaks English brings you their freshly made tortilla chips and house Salsa. Lawsie mercy, but those chips are good. Warm, thin, and crispy. Mm-Mmmmm. If all I did was eat those chips I would be satisfied.

I chose my usual meal, menu item #37: Two pork enchiladas verde, with beans and rice on the side.

That green sauce, mixed with the rice and cheese is to die for. Usually I can eat only half. And then I am thrilled to get to take the rest home and eat it again for lunch the next day.


Tom had the beef chimichanga. Marvelous.

Studly man that he is, he finished his whole plate, except for some rice and beans. Which I put in my box. Food this good must not go to waste you understand. It must go to my waist instead.

And now for the Bottom Line: Our two entrees and 7-Ups totaled to a paltry $31.99 and that's including the tip, folks.

La Casita. Take your non-prissy honey there soon.

Cognitive Distortion #10: Personalization

From Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David Burns

This distortion is the mother of guilt! You assume responsibility for a negative even when there is no basis for doing so. You arbitrarily conclude that what happened was your fault or relfects your inadequacy, even when you were not responsible for it. For example, when a patient didn't do a self-help assignment I had suggested, I felt guilty because of my though, "I must be a lousy therapist. It's my fault that she isn't working harder to help herself. It's my responsibility to make sure she gets well." When a mother saw her child's report card, there was a note from the teacher indicating the child was not working well. She immediately decided, "I must be a bad mother. This shows how I've failed."

Personalization causes you to feel crippling guilt. You suffer from a paralyzing and burdensome sense of responsibility that forces you to carry the whole world on your shoulders. You have confused influence with control over others. In your role as a teacher, counselor, parent, physician, salesman, executive, you will certainly influence the people you interact with, but no one could reasonably expect you to control them. What the other person does is ultimately his or her responsibility, not yours. Methods to help you overcome your tendency to personalize and trim your sense of responsibility down to manageable, realistic proportions will be discussed later in this book.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Cognitive Distortion #9: Labelling and Mislabelling

From Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David Burns

Personal labeling means creating a completely negative self-image based on your errors. It is an extreme form of overgeneralization. The philosophy behind it is "The measure of a man is the mistakes he makes." There is a good chance you are involved in a personal labeling whenever you describe your mistakes with sentences beginning with "I'm a . . ." For example, when you miss your putt on the eighteenth hole, you might say, "I'm a born loser" instead of "I goofed up on my putt." Similarly, when the stock you invested in goes down instead of up, you might think, "I'm a failure" instead of "I made a mistake."

Labeling yourself is not only self-defeating, it is irrational. Your self cannot be equated with any one thing you do. Your life is a complex and ever-changing flow of thoughts, emotions, and actions. To put it another way, you are more like a river than a statue. Stop trying to define yourself with negative labels--they are overly simplistic and wrong. Would you think of yourself exclusively as an "eater" just because you eat, or a "breather" just because you breathe? This is nonsense, but such nonsense becomes painful when you label yourself out of a sense of your own inadequacies.

When you label other people, you will invariably generate hostility. A common example is the boss who sees his occasionallyirritable secretary as "an uncooperative witch." Because of this label, he resents her and jumps at every chance to criticize her. She, in turn, labels him an "insensitive chauvinist" and complains about him at every opportunity. So, around and around they go at each other's throats, focusing on every weakness or imperfection as proof of the other's worthlessness.

Mislabeling involves describing an event with words that are inaccurate and emotionally heavily loaded. For example, a woman on a diet ate a dish of ice cream and thought, "How disgusting and repulsive of me. I'm a pig." These thoughts made her so upset she ate the whole quart of ice cream!

Cognitive Distortion #8: Should Statements

From Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David Burns

You try to motivate yourself by saying, "I should do this" or "I must do that." These statements cause you to feel pressured and resentful. Paradoxically, you end up feeling apathetic and unmotivated. Albert Ellis calls this "musturbation." I call it the "shouldy" approach to life.

When you direct should statements toward others, you will usually feel frustrated. When an emergency caused me to be five minutes late for the first therapy session, the new patient thought, "He shouldn't be so self-centered and thoughtless. He ought to be prompt." This thought caused her to feel sour and resentful.

Should statements generate a lot of unnecessary emotional turmoil in your daily life. When the reality of your own behavior falls short of your standards, your shoulds and shouldn'ts creat self-loathing, shame, and guilt. When the all-too-human performance of other people falls short of your expectations, as will inevitably happen from time to time, you'll feel bitter and self-righteous. You'll either have to change your expectations to approximate reality or always feel let down by human behavior. If you recognize this bad should habit in yourself, I have outlined many effective "should and shouldn't" removal methods in later chapters on guilt and anger.

{end quote}

This is a huge one for me, and I still struggle to shake it. Even right now as I type these posts out, I think "I should get off this computer and go to bed." But I don't do it. I just keep typing all the while feeling guilty because I'm not doing what I think I should. Telling myself I should do something doesn't motivate me to do it. I think it actually calls forth my rebellious side, which says, "Make me!"

Great, now I'm talking to myself talking to myself. Wheeeee!

Cognitive Distortion #7: Emotional Reasoning

From Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David Burns

You take your emotions as evidence for the truth. Your logic: "I feel like a dud, therefore I am a dud." This kind of reasoning is misleading because your feelings reflect your thoughts and beliefs. If they are distorted--as is quite often the case--your emotions will have no validity. Examples of emotional reasoning include "I feel guilty. Therefore, I must have done something bad"; "I feel overwhelmed and hopeless. Therefore, my problems must be impossible to solve"; "I feel inadequate. Therefore, I must be a worthless person"; "I'm not in the mood to do anything. Therefore, I might as well just lie in bed"; or "I'm mad at you. This proves that you've been acting rotten and trying to take advantage of me."

Emotional reasoning plays a role in nearly all your depressions. Because things feel so negative to you, you assume they truly are. It doesn't occur to you to challenge the validity of the perceptions that create your feelings.

One usual side effect of emotional reasoning is procrastination. You avoid cleaning up your desk because you tell yourself, "I feel so lousy when I think about that messy desk, cleaning it will be impossible." Six months later you finally give yourself a little push and do it. It turns out to be quite gratifying and not so tough at all. You were fooling yourself all along because you are in the habit of letting your negative feelings guide the way you act.

{end quote}

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Mormon Mommy Blogs: Add Your Blog

Hey fans! I ran across an LDS bloglist in embryo - so if you're looking for other Mormon Mommas to read about, or if you want your blog to be included on this listing, follow the link below:

Mormon Mommy Blogs: Add Your Blog

Cognitive Distortion #6: Magnification and Minimization

From Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David Burns

Another thinking trap you might fall into is called "magnification" and "minimization," but I like to think of it as the "binocular trick" because you are either blowing things up out of proportion or shrinking them. Magnification commonly occurs when you look at you own errors, fears, or imperfections and exaggerate their importance: "My Goodness--I made a mistake. How terrible! How awful! The word will spread like wildfire! My reputation is ruined!" You're looking at your faults through the end of the binoculars that makes them appear gigantic and grotesque. This has also been called "catastrophizing" because you turn commonplace negative events into nightmarish monsters.

When you think about your strengths, you may do the opposite--look through the wrong end of the binoculars so that things look small and unimportant. If you magnify your imperfections and minimize your good points, you're guaranteed to feel inferior. But the problem isn't you--it's the crazy lenses you're wearing!

{End Quote}

This is so easy to do when I get stuck in the rut of comparing myself to other people. I know all the worst things about me, but I only see the public faces of my neighbors and most friends. I can't win!

Cognitive Distortion #5: Jumping to Conclusions

From Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David Burns

You arbitrarily jump to a negative conclusion that is not justified by the facts of the situation. Two examples of this are "mind reading" and "the fortune teller error."

Mind Reading: You make the assumption that other people are looking down on you, and you're so convinced about this that you don't even bother to check it out. Suppose you are giving an excellent lecture, and you notice that a man in the front row is nodding off. He was up most of the night on a wild fling, but you of course don't know this. You might have the thought, "This audience thinks I'm a bore." Suppose a friend passes you on the street and fails to say hello because he is so absorbed in his thoughts he doesn't notice you. You might erroneously conclude, "He is ignoring me so he must not like me anymore." Perhaps your spouse is unresponsive one evening because he or she was criticized at work and is too upset to want to talk about it. Your heart sinks because of the way you interpret the silence: "He (or she) is mad at me. What did I do wrong?"

You may then respond to these imagined negative reactions by withdrawal or counterattack. This self-defeating behavior pattern may act as a self-fulfilling prophecy and set up a negative interaction in a relationship when none exists in the first place.

The Fortune Teller Error: It's as if you had a crystal ball that foretold only misery for you. You imagine that something bad is about to happen, and you take this prediction as a fact even though it is unrealistic. A high-school librarian repeatedly told herself during anxiety attacks, "I'm going to pass out or go crazy." These predictions were unrealistic because she had never once passed out (or gone crazy!) in her entire life. Nor did she have any serious symptoms to suggest impending insanity. During a therapy session an acutely depressed physician explained to me why he was giving up his practice: "I realize I'll be depressed forever. My misery will go on and on, and I'm absolutely convinced that this or any treatment will be doomed to failure." This negative prediction about his prognosis caused him to feel hopeless. his symptomatic improvement soon after initiating therapy indicated just how off-base his fortune telling had been.

Do you ever find yourself jumping to conclusions like these? Suppose you telephone a friend who fails to return your call after a reasonable time. You then feel depressed when you tell yourself that your friend probably got the message but wasn't interested enough to call you back. Your distortion?--mind reading. You then feel bitter, and decide not to call back and check this out because you say to yourself, "He'll think I'm being obnoxious if I call him back again. I'll only make a fool of myself." Because of these negative predictions (the fortune teller error), you avoid your friend and feel put down. Three weeks later you learn that your friend never got your message. All that stewing, it turns out, was just a lot of self-imposed hokum. Another painful product of your mental magic!

{end quote}

This is one of my shiniest and well worn weapons against myself. I like to think I'm being so insightful and intuitive... prophetic even! It's all just a trick my mind plays. This has been one of the hardest cog-dis for me to consistently identify and change. I guess I need to get out my little notebook and write down all my negative thoughts so I can overcome this one.

Neurosis of the Week: Hot Sauce

I have a confession to make. I like Taco Bell. And not everything at Taco Bell. I only like the bean burritos at Taco Bell. Just plain ole' bean burrito with onion, cheese, and HOT SAUCE. I really like Taco Bell hot sauce. Really.

And everytime I go to Taco Bell, I ask for a few extra packets of hot sauce. And I take them home and put them in a drawer in my kitchen, for use when I make soft tacos at home. Because I really like this sauce.


Have I mentioned that I really like Taco Bell Hot Sauce? Because I do. I have 57 packets of Taco Bell hot sauce. Do you think that's enough? Yikes. I think we'd better stay home from Taco Bell and make burritos at home (with this sauce) for a little while, don't you?

Cognitive Distortion #4: Disqualifying the Positive

From Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David Burns

An even more spectacular mental illusion is the persistent tendency of some depressed individuals to transform neutral or even positive experiences into negative ones. You don't just ignore positive experiences, you cleverly and swiftly turn them into their nightmarish opposite. I call this "reverse alchemy." The medieval alchemists dreamed of finding some method for transmuting the baser metals into gold. If you have been depressed, you may have developed the talent for doing the exact opposite--you can instantly transform golden joy into emotional lead. Not intentionally, however--you're probably not even aware of what you're doing to yourself.

An everyday example of this would be the way most of us have been conditioned to respond to compliments. When someone praises your appearance or your work, you might automatically tell yourself, "They're just being nice." With one swift blow you mentally disqualify their compliment. You do the same thing to them when you tell them, "Oh, it was nothing, really." If you constantly throw cold water on the the good things that happen, no wonder life seems damp and chilly to you!

Disqualifying the positive is one of the most destructive forms of cognitive distortion. You're like a scientist intent on finding evidence to support some pet hypothesis. the hypothesis that dominates your depressive thinking is usually some version of "I'm second rate." Whenever you have a negative experience, you dwell on it and conclude, "That proves what I've known all along." In contrast, when you have a positive experience, you tell yourself, "That was a fluke. It doesn't count." The price you pay for this tendency is intense misery and an inability to appreciate the good things that happen.

While this type of cognitive distortion is commonplace, it can also form the basis for some of the most extreme and intractable forms of depression. For example, a young woman hospitalized during a severe depressive episode told me, "No one could possibly care about me because I'm such an awful person. I'm a complete loner. Not one person on earth gives a damn about me." When she was discharged from the hospital, many patients and staff members expressed great fondness for her. Can you guess how she negated all this? "They don't count because they don't see me in the real world. A real person outside a hospital could never care about me." I then asked her how she reconciled this with the fact that she had numerous friends and family outside the hospital who did care about her. She replied, "They don't count because they don't knjow the real me. You see Dr. Burns, inside I'm absolutely rotten. I'm the worst person in the world. It would be impossible for anyone to really like me for even one moment!" By disqualifying positive experiences in this manner, she can maintain a negative belief which is clearly unrealistic and inconsistent with her everyday experiences.

While your negative thinking is probably not as extreme as hers, there may be many times every day when you do inadvertently ignore genuinely positive things that have happened to you. This removes much of life's richness and makes things appear needlessly black.

{End quote}

Y'all who've read for awhile know that this is one of my pet peeves - this inability to accept and believe sincere compliments from the people who love us. By rejecting compliments, I am basically telling people that they are either liars, or have poor judgment and no taste. This was a very destructive element in my early marriage; my poor husband thought I was attractive and told me so often, but I didn't believe him, and over time I trained him not to tell me that I looked good. So when I feel bad that he no longer tells me that he thinks I'm pretty, the only person I can blame is myself.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Cognitive Distortion #3: Mental Filter

From Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David Burns

You pick out a negative detail in any situation and dwell on it exclusively, thus perceiving that the whole situation is negative. For example, a depressed college student heard some other students making fun of her best friend. She became furious because she was thinking, "That's what the human race is basically like--cruel and insensitive!" She was overlooking the fact that in the previous months few people, if any, had been cruel or insensitive to her! On another occasion when she completed her first midterm exam, she felt certain she had missed approximately seventeen questions out of a hundred. She thought exclusively about those seventeen questions and concluded she would flunk out of college. When she got the paper back there was a note attached that read, "You got 83 out of 100 correct. This was by far the highest grade of any student this year. A+"

When you are depressed, you wear a pair of eyeglasses with special lenses that filter out anything positive. All that you allow to enter your conscious mind is negative. Because you are not aware of this "filtering process," you conclude that everything is negative. The technical name for this process is "selective abstraction." It is a bad habit that can cause you to suffer much needless anguish.

{end quote}

It kills me that we can so effectively filter out positive events that we believe that negative is our only experience. I know that I do this sometimes when I get down-- and it still amazes me that it actually happens.

Cognitive Distortion #2: Overgeneralization

From Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David Burns

When I was eleven years old, I bought a deck of trick cards at the Arizona State Fair called the Svengali Deck. You may have seen this simple but impressive illusion yourself. I show the deck to you--every card is different. You choose a card at random. Let's assume you pick the Jack of Spades. Without telling me what card it is, you replace it in the deck. Now I exclaim, "Svengali!" As I turn the deck over, every card has turned into the Jack of Spades.

When you overgeneralize, this is performing the mental equivalent of Svengali. You arbitrarily conclude that one thing that happened to you once will occur over and over again, will multiply like the Jack of Spades. Since what happened is invariably unpleasant, you feel upset.

A depressed salesman noticed bird dung on his car window and though, "That's just my luck. The birds are always crapping on my window!" This is a perfect example of overgeneralization. When I asked him about this experience, he admitted that in twenty years of traveling, he could not remember another time when he found bird dung on his car window.

The pain of rejection is generated almost entirely from overgeneralization. In its absence, a personal affront is temporarily disappointing but cannot be seriously disturbing. A shy young man mustered up his courage to ask a girl for a date. When she politely declined because of a previous engagement, he said to himself, "I'm never going to get a date. No girl would ever want a date with me. I'll be lonely and miserable all my life." In his distorted cognitions, he concluded that because she turned him down once, she would always do so, and that since all women have 100 percent identical tastes, he would be endlessly and repeatedly rejected by any eligible woman on the face of the earth. Svengali!

{end quote}

My son does this. When he's upset with something that happened, he claims "this always happens to me!" It isn't true, but it is his perception. It's a little tricky to validate his feelings of frustration while pointing out that his claim of it always happening isn't reality, but perception. I'd probably have an easier time of it if I hadn't taught him to think that way in the first place. :(

The Fruits of My Labors

Tom picked the cherries yesterday.



All three of them.

Cognitive Distortion #1: All or Nothing Thinking

From Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David Burns


This refers to your tendency to evaluate your personal qualities in extreme, black-or-white categories. For example, a prominent politician told me, "Because I lost the race for governor, I'm a zero." A straight-A student who received a B on an exam concluded, "Now I'm a total failure." All-or-Nothing Thinking forms the basis for perfectionism. It causes you to fear any mistake or imperfection because you will then see yourself as a complete loser, and you will feel inadequate an worthless.

This way of evaluating things is unrealistic because life is rarely completely either one way or the other. For example, no one is absolutely brilliant or totally stupid. Similarly, no one is either completely attractive or totally ugly. Look at the floor of the room you are sitting in now. Is it perfectly clean? Is every inch piled high with dust and dirt? Or is it partially clean? Absolutes do not exist in this universe. If you try to force your experiences into absolute categories, you will be constantly depressed because your perceptions will not conform to reality. You will set yourself up for discrediting yourself endlessly because whatever you do will never measure up to your exaggerated expectations. The technical name for this type of perceptual error is "dichotomous thinking." You see everything as black and or white -- shades of gray do not exist.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy

This book is the source of the depression and anxiety tests as well as the cognitive behavior therapy ideas that I am going to be talking about on this blog for the next few days. If you scored higher than you'd like on the depression checklist, I highly recommend that you buy this book - it goes into far more detail about how to improve your thinking habits and therefore your mood than I could ever do on a blog. If you're not sure you want to own it, you can borrow mine, or check it out at the library. This book is seriously a must read if you want to explore a non-medication approach to dealing with depression and/or anxiety and improving your quality of life.

On second thought, you can't borrow my copy. I need to re-read it again and apply its lessons in my own life.

So, you've taken the tests. You didn't like your scores. What now?

From the book:

"Because depression has been viewed as an emotional disorder throughout the history of psychiatry, therapists from most schools of thought place a strong emphasis on "getting in touch" with your feelings. Our research reveals the unexpected: Depression is not an emotional disorder at all! The sudden change in the way you feel is of no more causal relevance than a runny nose is when you have a cold. Every bad feeling you have is the result of your distorted negative thinking. Illogical pessimistic attitudes play the central role in the development and continuation of all your symptoms."

In English: depressive emotions are caused by negative thoughts. Most of these thoughts are learned habits that are so ingrained that we don't even notice we're thinking them, and so we go on unaware that we are sabotaging our emotions by our own bad habits of thinking.

"Your emotions result entirely from the way you look at things. It is an obvious neurological fact that before you can experience any event, you must process it with your mind and give it meaning. You must understand what is happening to you before you can feel it. If your understanding of what is happening is accurate, your emotions will be normal. If your perception is twisted and distorted in some way, your emotional response will be abnormal. Depression falls into this category. It is always the result of mental distortions."

Translation: You interpret events in your life with a series of thoughts that continually flow through your mind. This is called your internal dialogue, or self-talk. If you interpret an event in a distorted way, you create an illusion that will make it impossible to see things as they really are. Your feelings are created by your thoughts and not the actual events; illogical and distorted thoughts produce the negative set of emotions that we call "depression". These unhealthy ways of thinking are called Cognitive Distortions, and everyone who exhibits symptoms of depression has a nice little collection of them. You may think you don't. Wait and see.

Here's a the list of Cognitive Distortions. We'll spend some time with each one in detail in future posts.

  1. ALL OR NOTHING THINKING: You see things in black and white categories. If your performance in one area falls short of perfect, you see yourself as a total failure.
  2. OVERGENERALIZATION: You see a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat.
  3. MENTAL FILTER: You pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively so that your vision of all reality becomes darkened, like the drop of ink that colors the entire beaker of water.
  4. DISQUALIFYING THE POSITIVE: You reject positive experiences by insisting they "don't count" for some reason or other. In this way you can maintain a negative belief that is contradicted by your everyday experiences.
  5. JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS: You make a negative interpretation even though there are no definite facts that convincingly support your conclusion.
  6. MAGNIFICATION OR MINIMIZATION: You exaggerate the importance of things (such as your goof-up or someone else's achievement), or you inappropriately shrink things until they appear tiny (your own desirable qualities or the other person's imperfections). This is also called the "binocular trick."
  7. EMOTIONAL REASONING: You assume that your negative emotions necessarily reflect the way things really are: "I feel it, therefore it must be true."
  8. SHOULD STATEMENTS: You try to motivate yourself with shoulds and shouldn'ts, as if you had to be whipped and punished before you could be expected to do anything. "Musts" and "oughts" are also offenders. The emotional consequence is guilt. When you direct should statements toward others, you feel anger, frustration, and resentment.
  9. LABELING AND MISLABELING: Instead of describing your error, you attach a negative label to yourself: "I'm a loser." When someone else's behavior rubs you the wrong way, you attach a negative label to him: "What a jerk!" Mislabeling involves describing an event with language that is highly colored and emotionally loaded.
  10. PERSONALIZATION: You see yourself as the cause of some negative external event which in fact you were not primarily responsible for.


How's that for giving you a lick of the lollipop?


Don't want to wait for me to explain them all? Get your own copy of Feeling Good.

Anxiety: Are you a Worry Wort?

I used to think of mental health as a continuum, with a healthy emotional state at the center and depression at one extreme with anxiety as its polar opposite. But I've since learned that some people can have both depression and anxiety issues at the same time. So, I've included the link to the Burns Anxiety Inventory here. As long as we're taking tests to find out how crazy we are, we might as well be thorough, don't you think?

My Score: 10

So, anxiety is not a big problem for me. But I suspect it is for some of you. Maybe you got a low score on the BDC, or maybe you scored as somewhat depressed as well. Rather than get depressed about it(ha ha what a good pun! right? no? oh come on people, get a sense of humor!), the next step is to figure out what to do. And later this afternoon, when I become a Cub Scout Day Camp Survivor, we'll start talking about solutions and a way out of this emotional mess.

Monday, July 14, 2008

My score on the BDC

Okay, I was going to wait until tomorrow to post this, but people are apparently afraid to post their own scores. So I'll post mine.

Today when I took this test I scored a 29, which is higher than I would have guessed it to be. That is almost as high as I scored when I first went into therapy in the spring of 2001. Back when I wished I could just die because I hated my life so much and thought my kids and husband would be better off without me. So, I guess I've been in denial about how bad I've been feeling about life. I mean, I knew that I've been slipping a bit in recent weeks, but I didn't think I'd score that high.

Now, it is important to recognize whether you are feeling down because of a recognizable event; pregnancy hormones, significant personal loss, etc. Everyone feels down sometimes, and for good reason. But if you find you've been feeling low for a period of time, certainly more than a month, you need to take steps to do something about it.

I believe that for myself, at least, my depression is much much worse when I fall back into old, destructive habits of thinking. I talked a bit about some of these habits in this post. These patterns of thinking can be changed, and when we make the effort to identify and change the way we think, we can begin to feel better rather quickly. It takes conscious effort, but it can be done.

So, starting tomorrow, I will begin posting about the habits of thinking that produce the negative feelings that make us feel depressed. This project is probably gonna take more than a week, isn't it?

Emotional Health Week (or longer)

Ok so I think it's common knowledge that I struggle with depression. I have my ups and downs, and currently I'm fighting against a down cycle. Blogging has become less interesting to me, and I don't wanna just whine on here, so I am posting less.

I could blog daily about my negative thoughts and feelings, but dwelling on them doesn't make them change and it seems that expressing how I feel just makes people feel bad and not know what to say. So I decided to talk instead about solutions for depressive thinking.

First order of business: The Burns Depression Checklist.

Sometimes I think I'm doing okay, hanging in there, and then I take this little test and realize just how poorly I'm doing emotionally. That motivates me to dust off my Feeling Good book and work on improving the way I'm thinking.

Why don't you play along? Answer each question as best you can and add up the numerical score at the end.

Post your results in the comments for this post.

Oh, you want to know what my score is? Ahem. I'll post it tomorrow.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Poll: Do you get enough sleep?

So after being awakened three times last night by toddlers and young children (one of which was my own), I am curious about whether anyone else in this world gets any sleep.

You can choose as many options as apply to you. If I've left something glaring off the poll, please comment here to share your wisdom and/or misery with me!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Mother of Eight

Yes, starting at 4:15pm Friday afternoon until Sunday afternoon, I have temporary custody of my two neices and two nephews, bringing the total number of children I am responsible for to eight.

This evening was easier than I thought it would be, because three of my own children accompanied me to my BIL's house, and proceeded to entertain and otherwise keep the four little kids engaged. Tom brought Dominos for dinner. Bedtime went pretty smoothly, except for a few teary eyed moments when Neice #1 did a belly flop off the top bunkbed. Thankfully, no serious injuries were sustained, stories were read, teeth were brushed, and prayers were said, and the girls have only gotten out of bed four times since then.

I guess I'd better go to bed myself... the boys wake up at 7am.

Bad Day

Yesterday I thought I was losing it. I sat around and did nothing productive all day, avoiding housework, cooking, the works. By the time my poor neglected husband got home, there was no dinner waiting, the kitchen was a mess, and I was near tears.

"Hi, how are you?"

"Mmm"

"How was your day?"

"A waste. An absolute waste. I did absolutely nothing today. I'm a bad wife, a bad mother, and I'm probably going to hell! Oh, and since I'm already hell-bound, I decided I don't want to go to the temple with you tomorrow after all. I don't want to do anything. I just want to go get in bed and go to sleep and never wake up."

Silence.

My husband knows the signs of depression. We've been through this before. He knows that when I get like this, nothing he can say will make me feel better. He knows that when I get in my downward spiral, that I take anything he says and twist it into something bad. So he just came up behind me at the sink and put his arms around me, and held me while I cried.

But I knew what was bothering me.

"I have to kill some more chickens. At least two of the cockerels are crowing, and it needs to happen today. And I don't think I can do it."

"Do you want me to help you?"

"Yeah, that would be really nice. I don't think I can do this myself."

So he changed his clothes and sharpened the hatchet and found a stump to stretch their necks on, and I wiped my tears and held their little bodies tight while he chopped the heads off of three of my cute little cockerels. Then we dipped and plucked them. Once they were done, my mood improved dramatically.

My big mistake was in letting those extra male birds live. I should have had Tom dispose of them as soon as they arrived, before the kids even knew about them. But they were soooo cute! And I figured I might as well raise them along with the others, and they'd add to the freezer when their time came.

But then the kids named them. And they got cuter. Really beautiful, some of them. And I felt differently about them than I did the dumb, ugly meat birds. I didn't take any enjoyment out of killing the meat birds, but there was no emotion invovled. Everyone knew they were destined for the freezer. But these cockerels had pretty feathers, and they were active and funny, and we'd get them out to do bug patrol in the yard, and they were so fun to watch. And I got attached.

I'm still sad that I had to kill my feathered friends. But I'm so glad my husband rescued me from my avoidance induced depression. And I'm relieved that is all it was about. I don't wanna go back to those dark days. Ever.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

How to stay up to date on my sad sad life

Have you ever wished you could know if there's a new post here without having to actually go through the complicated process of coming all the way over here to check? Okay, don't answer that. I don't think my fragile ego can handle the truth.

But just in case you did wish that, it is now possible! I've added a new little feature on the right sidebar that allows you to be notified of the newest posts by way of one of several subscription methods. Imagine: not having to waste five seconds coming all the way over here to see if there's a new batch of navel gazing available for your consumption. In less than one second, you can check for updates on your homepage or bookmark toolbar link! That gives you an extra four seconds to pick your nose instead!

What did we ever do with our time before the internet made everything so efficient?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Why I dress like I do.

Yes, it's true. Anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that I don't dress up often. As a wannabe farmer, I tend to slouch around in overalls or jeans and t-shirts.

I think I have discovered why that is.

Because I am a klutz. I am constantly spilling, slurping, sloshing, dripping or otherwise getting stuff on me! When I'm wearing a 2002 Old Navy shirt, it doesn't matter. But when I've just put on my best sage green jeans and a nice-ish button down multicolored cotton shirt in preparation to go to town, it causes me no end of annoyance when the cream from my bowl of strawberries and cream sloshes out onto my just snatched from the dryer jeans! Do I need to wear an apron to eat my breakfast, for crying out loud?

It's enough to make a girl swear. But I didn't, because I'm feeling particularly virtuous today. Granted, it's only 9:15 am, but hey, I gotta take any credit I can come by.

This is a serious issue for me (the stained clothes thing, not the swearing thing). Last spring I bought several new blouses on sale for summer - they were casual but definitely a step up from t-shirts. And within two weeks, every single one of them had a stain of some sort. Every. Single. One.

I feel like I should just put a hazmat suit on before I leave the bedroom. Does anyone else have this problem?

Monday, July 7, 2008

Cutting Up a Chicken

I took a whole slew of carefully framed pictures of the process of cutting a whole chicken up into its parts. I began to craft detailed explanations for each picture. And then Susan and I hit upon the idea of a video. With music.

Enjoy!

video

Friday, July 4, 2008

Swimming!

FTR - an afternoon at the pool is never at the top of my "to do" list. It seems like such a waste of time to me. But last week the kids were begging to go swimming, and I was inclined to acquiesce to their requests (means "yes"). Just for kicks, we invited a couple of friends along.

Here is Megan with her new best friend Scottlynn.


Nathan invited his best friend, Nathan Buhler (who, coincidentally is also left handed just like my Nathan - how weird is that?). Mr. Buhler was sporting his Dracula look that day.


Susan couldn't find any friends on such short notice, and so was sentenced to an agonizing afternoon of hanging out with her very lame mother. But she got to wear her new Diviine Modestee swimsuit, so she was happy anyway. Plus she likes me. A little, anyway. I think.

Oh, and Susan asked me to mention that if anyone decides to buy a swimsuit from DM, please don't copy her way cute raspberry suit with the candy speckles, ok?

Here is my Nathan doing an underwater handstand while Dracula watches.


Here are the seagulls invading our careless neighbors' campsite. We not only let it happen, we had a grand time documenting the carnage.

What? It' s not like I'm my brother's keeper or something. Sheesh.


Ooooh! Nachos! I found nachos, guys!!!

Here is Scottlynn diving off the edge of the pool.

video

Not bad! Not bad at all!



Here is Megan's dive off the diving board.

video

Where did she learn to do that? I'm impressed.



Scottlynn can't let that go unchallenged.

video

Okay, maybe she can.


Then Nathan did this twisty turning launch that was mostly too quick for the camera to catch.


video

Too bad I didn't have my brain with me that day or I would have videotaped it instead. What was really cool was the dive he did later while I was in the pool. He took two quick steps to the end of the board, jumped high, and leapt over the water in what looked like a tuck dive. But he never untucked. He went into the water in a headfirst Cannonball! It was awesome.

I guess you had to be there.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Blood and Guts

DISCLAIMER: Following are pictures that detail the process of slaughtering a chicken. Parental Discretion Advised.

There Will Be Blood. And guts, even.

So if that sort of thing bothers you, now would be a good time to stop reading.

Really.

Shoo now. Off with you!




Are they gone?

Ok, now for those of you with the pioneering spirit, I present, How To Kill and Dress a Chicken.


So we "processed" the last of the meat birds today. Processed is the PC term for butchered, slaughtered, killed, massacred, hacked to bloody bits... well, you get the point.

First, the bird is placed in the holding cone, head down. Then the heartless farmer uses a very sharp knife to cut through the skin and the main carotid artery in the neck. The bird then bleeds out. Because the bird is still alive, the heart continues to pump, speeding bleeding time. The cone confines the bird to minimize splattering of blood on the work area. Bleeding out will take 5 - 10 minutes.





The bird (don't worry, it's dead now) is then dipped in scalding water at 130 - 140 degrees Farenheit for 30-45 seconds, until the large feathers of the wings and tail pull out easily.

video

After scalding, quickly begin picking. With the feet towards you, rub the thumbs against the grain of the feathers to rub many of them off as you move your hand toward the neck. Work over the body, wings, and legs quickly to remove the largest feathers.



Then go back over closely to remove embedded pinfeathers; these will need to be pulled out with thumb and forefinger. A dull table knife can be rubbed along the skin to help help in removal.




EDIT:  After this batch of birds, my wise older sister told me that when my mother killed chickens, rather than bothering with plucking she just pulled the skin and feathers off in a single piece, like pulling off a coat.  I decided to try this on my next butchering day, and LO AND BEHOLD, I will never pluck another chicken again.  It was sooooooooo much easier and faster - especially not having to deal with those @*%$ pin feathers!  Yeah, so, keep that in mind.  If you wish to have the full nasty experience, by all means Dunk and Pluck.  But once you've got the T-shirt, I recommend switching to Shucking. 

Quick and Dirty Shucking Instructions:  After killing the bird, dip in the hot water for 10-15 seconds.  This makes the skin separate from the underlying flesh more easily, plus wet feathers are easier to control than dry flyaway ones.  Then, take a knife and cut the skin around the neck just below the head (but don't cut the head off), and continue cutting the skin down the chest, like a zipper on a coat.  Holding the head in one hand, use the other hand to pull down on the skin, working it around and off shoulders, wings and down to the tail.  Cut off the tail, then continue peeling down to the hocks below the drumsticks.  Then cut off the head, the wingtips at the second joint, and then the feet (shown in the picture below) which will remove the whole coat of skin at once .  You will still have to pick a few feathers at the top of the neck, at the drumstick, and at the wing edges where the skin tore loose.  Cut off the wingtips at the second joint.

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After plucking, remove head and feet with a large knife. With the bird on its back, cut in the middle of the joint between the hock and drumstick.

With the bird on its back, slit the neck skin to reveal the esophagus, trachea and crop. If the bird has been denied food for 12 hours, the crop will be empty. Cut below the crop and pull it out, along with the esophagus and trachea.

Turn the bird around, and cut a LARGE inverted U around the vent (where the poop comes out). Be very careful not to cut into the vent or the organs behind it. The opening should be large enough for your hand to fit inside and reach up into the rib cage.

Reach inside, keeping your fingernails in contact with the smooth breastbone.



Then curl your fingers and pull out the organs in one smooth motion. Try not to squeeze them, like my neighbor boy is doing in this picture.


The large intestine will still be attached to the vent.



Then carefully cut under and around the vent to release the organs from the body.



All that's left is to cut off the tail and its oil gland. Then chill the body in ice water until it cools to 40 degrees. Dry, and then wrap in plastic, then put in to the refrigerator to age for 1-2 days before cooking or freezing.

Next, I'll demonstrate how to cut up a chicken.

I'll bet you can't wait.