Tell me I’m not alone.

Anxiety is a mother.

Anyone who tells me they have no anxiety is lying.

One thing that makes me feel better when I have anxiety is to know that I’m not alone. I think that’s how support groups and forums originated (?). As much as I dislike the term “normal,” when I’m in my anxiety spiral, I just want to know that what I’m experiencing is normal. I’m not alone.

So many people suffer in silence, alone. Afraid they are overreacting (hypochondria), overprotective, or experiencing anxiety for some unwarranted, unrealistic reason.
When I’m really worried, I’m amazed at the power of two simple words: Me too.

I thought about this today when a friend told me her insecurities and struggles. I knew that the physical anxiety symptoms  were a typical response to what she’d been through recently. (Sorry for the generalities due to privacy). In our conversation, I realized she was looking for some sameness. Some empathy. Some people don’t have a Kendra to say “Me too” or a Donnie to say “You’re normal.”

So I did her the favor. I said “Hey. Me too. I’ve had that exact same symptom when I’ve been extremely stressed.” I told her a personal story of a time when I’d been extremely overcome with worry. My legs went numb. My fingertips tingled. I had heart palpitations. Just. Like. Hers. She was shocked. She’d googled every possible disease associated with her symptoms and she never believed it was simply anxiety.

I could almost see the weight lift off her shoulders when she said, “Really?”

I told her about my vulnerable moments that caused the anxiety with the same symptoms. And she unfolded. I like to think she left my house a little bit less stressed, knowing that she didn’t have an incurable disease,  that she likely wasn’t dying, and that she was not alone.

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Blaming Donnie

I am good at many things but I would say the thing at which I’m the best (in the world) is blaming Donnie.

I can turn any difficult situation into something that is Donnie’s fault. It’s a gift, really. I can tell Donnie doesn’t really appreciate my abilities. Case in point:

Logan announced at the dinner table that he searched “naked girl butt” on YouTube.

After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I quickly told Logan that he shouldn’t be searching those things. After dinner, Donnie and I had a whisper conversation about what could provoke Logan to search that. Sexual curiosity? Hanging with older boys? It was decided that he needed his curiosity quashed. I volunteered to do the quashing as I’m weirdly not awkward when talking to the kids about bodies and sex.

screen-shot-2017-01-26-at-1-48-28-pmI grabbed the “I’m special, you’re special” book with naked cartoons in it and mentally prepared for our talk. As we turned through the pages, there were giggles and questions, and when we got to the naked lady, Logan said, but where does the baby come out. I said, “there’ as I pointed at the extreme closeup cross-section. Logan didn’t get it. He hasn’t had biology yet, thank goodness.

Logan got more specific. “Well when Daddy told me we came out of your butt, I wanted to see how.”

Maybe most things really are Donnie’s fault.

News flash: It’s better to be impressed than to impress.

I was 9 years old the first time I remember trying to impress someone.

It was about 50 degrees outside.

I challenged my sister Dawn to a run around the block. More like, convinced her that if she didn’t go with me, she could just stay home and continue being bored and everyone would know that I was the fast one. Methods aside, I convinced her to go with me.

The block was probably about 1/2 a mile but at the time, it seemed more like 5. We took off. I loved running. I wanted to be fast. I was the fastest kid in the neighborhood. Note: I didn’t say the fastest GIRL in the neighborhood.

We circled the block and huffed and puffed up the driveway. Dawn’s relentless competitive nature helped her keep up with me, most of the way.

I remember grabbing a glass of orange juice. I knew that was the healthy option so that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to be fast and healthy. Dawn casually grabbed a bag of Doritos despite my warnings that she was cancelling out her run with those Doritos. My dad (a known health nut) walked in as we were sitting down for our snack. I caught his attention “Hey Dad, Dawn and I just ran around the block. I’m drinking this healthy orange juice and she’s chowing down on Doritos.”

Dawn said, nonchalantly, “Yeah. Doritos are good.”

Dad nods. “That’s nice.”

Not quite the praise I was looking for. Wasn’t he impressed that we went all that way? Wasn’t he impressed that the healthiness continued with the orange juice?  I’m being who you want me to be, Dad! If I wasn’t doing this to impress someone, then why was I doing it? Why couldn’t I just eat the Doritos with Dawn?

Dawn didn’t care about impressing anyone. At the time, I just looked at her thinking, “What’s wrong with you? Don’t you care what he thinks?” In all honesty, I don’t think she did.

So then why did I care so much? Why do I still care?

It’s funny. I’ve spent a lot of my teen and adulthood trying not to care what other people think (especially my dad). This is a 25-year nagging feeling I’ve been fighting against. Yet, it’s made me challenge myself most of my life. Yes, I’ve accomplished things for myself, of course. But a small part (probably bigger than I’d like to admit) of that was trying to impress other people as well. Did it all start with orange juice?

It’s good to care a little bit about what other people think. Everyone cares about what other people think (except for the competely apathetic). As always, it’s about moderation. Spending all my time concerned about what other people think and letting that dictate all of my decisions is very unhealthy. As a teen, that behavior led me to be extremely susceptible to influence. And believe me, the influence was not as positive as my parents would have wanted. I was trying to impress anyone who would be impressed.

My dad wouldn’t be. Other adult figures were barely impressed. Other successful, athletically inclined kids were too busy thinking about their own lives to be impressed by me. I had to find someone who I could impress. This method definitely took my far, far out of the way of the path I originally intended on travelling. In fact, I’m lucky I made it back safely.

Knowing what I know now, I would say that trying to impress people is not a good way live your life. It may be better to be impressed by people. Other people appreciate people who appreciate them. Thinking back to my dad, maybe if he’d been impressed by the things I was doing specifically to impress him, I wouldn’t have gone down that darker path. Maybe I would have. Is this really just about orange juice? Probably not. But, I can’t really blame my parents for everything bad that’s happened in my life, can I?

Showing appreciation and that you’re impressed by another person is a great way to make them feel good about themselves. I know for a fact that I like to surround myself with people who make me feel good about myself, don’t you?

Today I spend more time trying to appreciate other people, notice their accomplishments (no matter how small), compliment them, let them know just how much of a bad ass they are. People need that no matter how much they deny it.

And, maybe sometime, try to impress them. It will fuels your competitive side. And without competitiveness, Dawn never would have gone on that run.

Everyday I’m hustlin’

I know how to play volleyball. I’ve played indoor 6s for two decades. I’m comfortable there. I’m good. I’m reliable. I’m confident. But beach volleyball is something I play a few times each summer with a few people who are just “messing around.”

I read somewhere that when trying something new, you should be humble. Learn all you can. Don’t pretend to know everything. If you do, people will resent you, overestimate you and you may not improve. Which is the ultimate goal when you’re learning.

So, when I started actually playing beach volleyball (no sideline beers), I took the humble route. I let everyone know “Hey everyone, I’m a beginner.” That was very hard for me to do. I don’t like failing publicly (I do a lot of that in Toastmasters… but I’m a beginner there so it’s ok). I don’t like sucking at things. It’s why I don’t bowl. Like, ever.

The reason I went the full disclosure route, is because I didn’t want those players to think that I’m a veteran who just sucks. This way the general consensus becomes “she’s really good for a n00b.”
If you’re gonna fail, it’s the best way to fail.

I made sure no one had lofty expectations of me. People gave me the benefit of the doubt when I messed up and made dumb moves.

It’s like when I used to wait tables and I’d have a bad night where nothing seemed to go right. I’d mess up so many times that finally I’d just tell the people, “It’s my first day.” The rough edges get smoothed, shoulders drop and people have a little more empathy for my errors. What? Everyone did it.

So when I went to my third high level doubles beach tournament, I told all my partners, hey, I’m a n00b. Among high verticals and even higher egos, it was the best approach.

It was a queen of the beach tournament. Basically, the idea behind that is: the best teammate wins. You are matched up with each person in your pool. You start each game with a new team. No prep time. No practice. Just playing. Whoever wins the most games with different teammates, wins the tournament.

This is very difficult because many partners spend years trying to find their mojo. We had 20 minutes and then it was over. But… we were all on the same playing field.

So back to me being a n00b. I was walking around all n00b-like. Putting my sand socks on the wrong feet and sunscreen in my hair (really selling the n00b-status). It was borderline hustling. I wasn’t the best among this group of women, but I definitely was not the worst, not even close. That’s the big problem with the n00b strategy. Employed in a competitive setting, like this cutthroat tournament among strangers, it becomes my glaring weakness.

My partners treated me like a toddler, coaching me and putting me in the least favorited positions. At this point, I know as much about strategy as they did. I’m not an idiot. But… I sure felt like one.

It was even worse that the other teams knew I was a n00b. That means, they picked on me. And BOY, did they pick on me. They served me every ball. Some nails (low and hard) and some lobs (high and easy). But, you better believe every single serve (and most attacks) went my way.

Typically, I can handle being picked on a little bit but this was a little boy on ant hill with a magnifying glass and I was writhing around in the scorching heat (this is an appropriate analogy because it was literally over 100 degrees that day). Even Kerri Walsh-Jennings couldn’t handle being picked on in Brazil at the 2016 Olympics. Competitors finally realized that maybe Misty May-Treanor was the amazing one and they should have been picking on Kerri all along. They more than made up for the misappropriation of serves by taking Kerri way out of her game by serving her off the biggest court in the world. She couldn’t pass, she couldn’t hit. Eventually, she fell apart. I, being a shorter player, never overestimated Kerri and always knew Misty was the real talent. But I felt for Kerri. It happens to the best of us.

So after hours of beatings and humiliation that July day, I was sunburned and dehydrated and so was my spirit.

I learned many lessons that day, which are as follows.

– Never underestimate your competitors or your teammates

– Be honest, don’t try to under promise so much people look down on you

– Be confident

– Hydrate

– Hustlin’ is only effective if you’re a phenom.

I think it’s ok to be honest about being new at something. It’s good to admit when you don’t know something. But maybe I took it a little too far with the n00b volleyball status.

Is today grey or chai?

Today is grey. After about as much sleep as a mom hosting an 8 year old sleepover is allowed, my eyes were swollen from the start, and my patience went on hiatus sometime between the midnight wrestling and the 3 a.m. nightmare announcement.

I shortchanged myself with one too few scoops of coffee in the maker. It was vanilla (not french vanilla) flavored water. Disappointment.

I drank it anyway. In desperation.

Coffee time went way too quickly as the herd of elephants demanded pancakes and tornadoed through the kitchen.

Ready for the kids to make their exits, I loaded up the car to make the drop-offs and we headed toward a day’s worth of basketball games. 

The fog-filled air made morning seem darker, denser. Sparkly white specs swirled around and around in the coarse wind before sticking to the dry grass. The blustery breeze stung my exposed skin.

After the last drop off,  the in-car sword fighting ended. It was at this point I was incredibly cognizant of the caffeine-less blood coursing through my veins.

Luckily, in Wichita, there’s a QT about every mile. “Chai. Latte.” Is all I said when the kids asked why we stopped.

I told the computer at the little cafe that I wanted a hot chai latte (unfortunately no soy… which most chai lovers know makes the chai latte so special) 

After I paid the very reasonable price for an average chai latte, I took a sip.

The clouds parted and the sun shone through. It heated my face when I looked to the sky. 
Glorious. 

There’s hope for this day after all!

I’m refreshed. Renewed. Revived!

Then smack! I ran straight into the side mirror of a huge truck. “OUCH!” I screamed, along with many other expletives. The sun’s not even out. What the hell? It’s still grey. It’s still windy. It’s still 10 degrees! I’m still standing outside!

I get in the car, trying to re-ignite the warmth that chai brings. I wrap my hands around my hot cup and breathe in the spicy, cinnamon, ginger, and clove black tea.

Ahhhh… is that the sun shining? I thought as I backed out and headed to basketball.

Perspective.

Let your creak flag fly

My bathroom door has a creak. 

Creak open. Creak close. With 3 kids, that door is revolving in my house. Creak, creak, creak, creak.

The creaking was about to drive me insane when I remembered that I have some WD-40. I grabbed the can from the garage and smartly sprayed the hinges. Then I patted myself on the back for a job well done.

I gloated about my problem solving abilities and demonstrated for Donnie. I opened the door. I closed the door. I opened the door. I closed the door.

Silence.

I smiled. 

Donnie made that face he makes when he’s really trying not to roll his eyes at me.

The next morning, as I’m getting ready for work, the door smacks me in the back of the head. Turns out, the un-lubricated hinge was keeping the door from closing on its own. So, now, when I get ready in the morning, I hold my arm behind me and push the door back every time it comes a swingin’. 

What is it called when you solve one problem and it causes another to appear? I’ve been trying to figure out if I can use this as a metaphor for something in my life. 

At this point, all I can think is that I wish I had my creak back.

White Chicken Chili… Pioneer woman inspired.

I hate baking, but I looooove to cook. I think it’s because, cooking is a lot more forgiving. If I mess up, I can easily tweak here and there to get it back on track. The people I’m feeding are none the wiser.

Here’s what I cooked last night and the adventure that got me to one of the best soups I’ve made… sort of on accident.

8ish cajun grilled chicken thighs (#darkmeatmatters)
3 or 4 cans of Northern beans (or Navy beans, which are also white, it makes no sense.)
1 red onion
A spill of garlic powder (if you’re out of fresh garlic)
8 CUPS of chicken broth or bouillion
1.5 TBSP of cumin or 3/4 tbsp of chili powder if you’re out of cumin because you use it so much
Salt and pepper
1 can of Rotel
3 TBSP of butter (not margarine, are you kidding me with margarine?)
2 TBSP of Masa or cornmeal (because who just has Masa in their cabinets?)
1 CUP of whole milk (It’s almost never ok to use Skim)
5 or so slices of monterrey jack or pepper jack cheese. The jack part is important.

This recipe is loosely based on Pioneer Woman’s White Chili.

As I recall from last night’s soup-making party, here’s how I compiled this soup.

1. I diced up the onion as much as I could until my eyes were burning so badly I was dancing around the kitchen. All parties must have dancing.
2. Toss all those onion bits into the crockpot quickly. Those heathens won’t get the best of me!
Note: My crockpot has a stovetop setting, so if yours doesn’t, better use a pot on the stovetop.
3. Sauté on medium heat with 3 TBSP of butter and a spill of garlic powder. Fresh garlic is preferred but I cook with garlic nearly every night, so I was out. The recipe said 2 minutes but I like to make sure there are no crunchy bits in my soup… so I held out an extra minute or two.
4. I went ahead and started tossing more stuff in. Like, the chili powder (or cumin) and the can of Rotel. Green chilis would have been better, but I always have Rotel on hand. Sprinkle a dash of salt and pepper in the pot.
5. Now seemed like a good time to add the chicken.
6. Then 2 cans of beans.
7. 8 cups of chicken broth. I used bouillion cubes and 8 cups of water.
8. Then I frantically started scooping out some of the water because I realized that my beans are canned and not dried. Then I Kendra that I’ve ruined my soup and am now hoping to save the beans from drowning. Leave about 2 cups of the water in the pot.
BONUS: If you use bouillons like me, you’ll have more concentrated flavor and less liquid… just go with it.
9. I took the temp to high and removed the lid until it started simmering and then dropped the temp and replaced the lid. I set the time for 30 minutes, which gave me just enough time to get Riley bathed and in bed and address 3 post bedtime visits to answer “What is tomorrow?” “Why is that light on?” and “Why do my eyes hurt?”
10. I returned to the pot to find the beans disintegrated. Hm. At this point, I added another can of beans.
11. Then, I let it simmer another 10 minutes while I made sure Logan got to bed and actually brushed his teeth.
12. I returned to the pot to find it disappointingly lean on the beans. I added another can of beans. That did it.
13. Then I went back to the recipe. I mixed (I mean, really mixed) the cornmeal with the whole milk and let it set for about 1-2 minutes.
14. After that I poured the mixture into the soup to help thicken it and to also give it a corn-y flavor.
15. Then I let it simmer for 10 minutes while I cued up Gilmore Girls for Anya and me to watch.
16. I tasted the soup but it was much to hot to determine the flavor so, as a precaution, I added 3 slices of pepper jack cheese. Fun fact: Jack cheese is the best cheese for soup because it melts to a liquid and not stringy.
17. I added two more slices of pepper jack for good measure and kept the soup on low for a little while longer before storing it in the fridge.

So, there you have it! A white chicken chili! So many mistakes… but it still turned out yummy. I love cooking.