The last straw…

A lot can be said with no words at

I had a moment this morning. One I’m not particularly proud of. It was inspired by the interruption of my morning routine, followed by forgetting some important paperwork at home (for which I had to turn around to retrieve, thus making me later than I wanted to be.) I still was planning to stop for gas, my coffee had gotten cold, and I had a million things to do at work before the start of the day…. I was running late, irritated, and low on caffeine intake. I was starting to have anxiety build up and I couldn’t make it stop. My mind was running a mile a minute and I was trying to compile a logical to do list in my head in order to calm myself down.

I was just pulling through an intersection when a man in the right hand lane, WITH A YEILD SIGN, cut me off. So, I honked my horn at him. Not a nice little “Beep-beep: careful I’m here!” kind of honk either. I gave him the angriest, longest horn honking ever.

I just kept my hand on the horn. ( I know! I hate people who use their horns excessively too!) I couldn’t make myself stop. I was on edge, and he had pushed me over.

So, then it happened…about a quarter mile down the road, he slipped his hand out the window and gave me the wave. You know, the “I’m sorry! I’m not a huge jerk, I promise” wave. The one that proceeded to make me feel incredibly guilty.

Shortly after that, at a red light, somehow that same man pulls up beside me and rolls down his window. He’s an older, well put together gentleman, with a nice smile and a kind voice. As I roll down my window to hear what he is saying, I already know that I am the biggest, meanest, jerk in the whole entire world.

“I’m so sorry!” He begins, “You were right in my blind spot and I’m in a bit of a hurry to meet my brand new granddaughter who was born this morning. I hope I didn’t ruin your day! It seemed like I might have been the straw that broke the camel’s back! So I wanted to be sure to tell you how bad I feel.”


What can you say to that really?

“It’s not a big deal at all sir.” I even managed to smile at him. “ Go enjoy your new grandbaby, have a nice day.”

…and then of course I cried. Because I’m a girl. And it was his apology, not his hectic driving, that was the last straw. But, I needed that last straw, to remind me that my little, petty problems are not that big. That there is joy in every moment and that a whole lot can be said without any words at all… a lot can be said in the beeping of a horn.


Overcoming Anxiety

Overcoming AnxietyWhen I finally got up the nerve to seek a doctor’s help with my consistent anxiety attacks I sat in the parking lot before my appointment totally terrified of going inside. Would he think I was nuts? Am I crazy? Why have I been feeling this way? What will the people in the waiting room think of me? Will anyone I know see me going in here? What kind of people go to a counselor? And then it happens again. My heart starts to race and my mind just won’t stop. What if the doctor can’t help? What if he thinks I’m making this up? What if I can’t explain to him what is happening? My palms are sweaty. My chest hurts. What if I just don’t go inside? How long is this going to take anyway? What if…..

The worst part is that it comes on out of nowhere usually. Obviously going to see a doctor can be a stress ridden experience, but that’s not when the anixiety usually presents itself. It happens at the most inopportune and random times. Like when I’m half-way through my shopping list and standing in front of the bananas in the produce section. When I realize I had a coupon for the salsa in my cart and begin to search through my purse for it… I begin to feel flustered and irritated; my mind starts to spiral out of control. Did I leave it on the counter? I know it’s in here! Why can’t I do anything right? What else did I leave at home? Did I forget to put toilet paper on the shopping list? My memory is failing me, my chest starts to constrict and I leave my cart…right there, half-full, in the midst of other shoppers and escape to my car.

When we think of anxiety we generally think of things that are going to happen in the future that might cause us stress. An upcoming move, a promotion at work, an impending deployment…. Not a simple grocery store run. Unfortunately for those suffering with anxiety disorder sometimes those anxious feelings come on when there is a perceived threat, real-or-not, that triggers the emotional reaction. Sometimes we make predictions on the outcome of event that have absolutely no basis in real life. This results in all the physical symptoms I’ve mentioned above as well as just a general lack of patience, cranky mood, and verbal outbursts that are uncharacteristic of our personalities. This can also, I’ve learned, result in behaviors that seem rash, unjust, and decisions that are not clearly thought out.

Family, friends, co-workers then suffer the brunt of these mood swings, and unfortunately they often do not understand the triggers that begin the downward spiral. Sadly, those suffering with anxiety disorder don’t often understand the triggers either. It’s often a tiny, insignificant thing that puts us over the edge.

For me, this has had some seriously negative effects on my relationships and life decisions. It has taken me several years to realize that this problem I have has a name, that its ok, and that I can take steps to control it. Unfortunately for those loved ones who got hurt along the way, I can’t take back time or the choices I have made, but moving forward I seek to understand anxiety and not let it control me.

So, here are my top ten things I have learned about living with Anxiety Disorder:

1. Do not act on any spur of the moment decisions. Before jumping in your car and say, moving across the country because you feel like your current life is over, I recommend you sleep on it. Anxiety tends to make every situation feel worse, feel more serious, feel disastrous. It is important to let your brain work through the anxiety first, and then make any serious decisions with a clear mind.

2. Learn to breathe. This was the first piece of advice given to me by that doctor. (The one who I did eventually get out of my car to go see.) When we are little kids we find ourselves hiding from monsters under the covers in our beds, we stop moving and stop breathing so that the monsters can’t find us. As adults, when we are afraid, our first instinct is to stop breathing. So, take in air. Take deep slow breahths, in through your nose and out through your mouth. And count. Counting helps.

3.  Have an emergency exit. If (and this doesn’t happen often) you can pinpoint the scenario that is giving you anxiety, make sure you think through your exit strategy. Knowing that you have a way out of a social event or obligation can take a massive amount of the anxiety away.

4. Get more sleep. As a human being we all know that we are supposed to be getting plenty of sleep. There are numerous studies out there on the health benefits of sleep. Personally, I know that when I get less than seven hours of good sleep I am much more likely to snap at my loved ones, make rash decisions, and lose patience with myself. Some of my worst decisions have been made on days when I was not functioning on enough sleep.

5. Visualize something awesome. I know this one sounds dumb. I told the doctor so when he suggested I work on meditation and visualization. I reminded him I wasn’t crazy and didn’t really believe in all that nonsense. But, when I get really worked up about something, one of the fastest ways to reset my brain and get back to a normal state is to start imagining something wonderful. Sometimes I think of my niece, a margarita on the beach, a favorite family vacation…this doesn’t always work. Sometimes I have to pull up a photo on my phone or physically look at something calming. But trust me, as crazy-pants as this one seems, it can be incredibly helpful. There’s a great explination here and some instructions on how to get started as well.

6. Embrace your mistakes instead of pretending you won’t, or haven’t, made any. This one was hard for me. It took some time, some convincing from my doctor and a whole lot of effort on my part to admit that the mistakes I have made actually happened. I needed to own my past. I needed to seek forgiveness from those people I’ve hurt and actually apologize, and I had a laundry list of people whom I too needed to forgive. However, once I started owning my choices and my shortcomings, I started to feel better, less anxious, and more in control of my own destiny.

7. Say “I can”, “I will”, “Why not?”…. Anxiety leads to negativity. I often found myself limiting my life by telling myself that I couldn’t, shouldn’t or wouldn’t be able to do something. By training my mind to say “I can” instead of “I can’t” I have found that the world seems far more manageable, more like an adventure and less like something I have to muddle through.

8. Plan ahead. Far ahead. Making lists and practicing productivity has forced me to think through the events that might be anxiety causing in the future. From super simple things like hanging my keys in the same place every day so I don’t spend frantic minutes searching for them in the morning, to writing out long-term goals for my life on the calendar I’ve found that planning helps me to focus my energy on positivity, rather than on the things that could or might go wrong.

9. Develop a thankful heart. By expressing gratitude for things that I do have rather than pursuing a desire for the things I cannot have, I have been able to control the anxiety attacks much more easily. Being grateful for things makes your brain focus on positive ideas. Seeing joy, and acknowledging where it comes from has been a huge key in managing my emotions.

10. Pray and seek prayer. Ask others to pray for you. Pray for yourself. Talk to God. Let go. There is nothing in this world that cannot be tackled with enough prayer. There is a huge relief that comes from stepping outside of your comfort zone and asking someone to pray for you too. Just knowing that someone else has your back, and that God is listening is a huge relief.

The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? Psalm 118:6


Packaged Love: Cooking through Crisis

ok. I’m still working on easy peasy food ideas to share some love with my sweet friend. Kathy is dealing with the tragic loss of her husband, so to recap I want to be able to provide some easy meals for her when she finds herself alone next week once her family has all gone home.
Kathy met her husband when she was 14 years old, he was the friend of her older brother. Since then, as I have learned about their life story it is very clear that they were soulmates. I’ve never heard her say a single negative thing about this man and I aspire to have a marriage like theirs. She speaks truth into my heart about what marriage means, the effort required to make a family whole even when her spouse is sometimes gone for long periods of time, and defines what love looks like.
Kathy has been a mentor to me as I have been spending the last few months reconfiguring my life. She inspires me to seek love every day and to really focus on how happiness impacts me and those around me. Their relationship is one of honesty, respect for one another, and hard work.
She has shared intimate details of her love story with me, in an effort to help me seek love in my own life. Simply thinking of her without her husband makes me cry and I  cannot imagine how she is dealing with the incredible loss. Packaged Love
That being said. Today, I made her chicken. I know it seems insignificant. I know it’s silly. I know that nothing can lessen her pain… but there is comfort in food. I love the thought that just a little kindness might shed some sunshine in an otherwise dark place in her life.
I found this quote online today that really spoke to me:
“Some foods are so comforting, so nourishing of body and soul, that to eat them is to be home again after a long journey. To eat such a meal is to remember that, though the world is full of knives and storms, the body is built for kindness. The angels, who know no hunger, have never been as satisfied.”
Eli Brown, Cinnamon and Gunpowder
Love through food. Lots and lots of love.

Packaged Love: Lasagna

Ok,  I know I said I wanted something unique, but I also have to create meals for myself this week. So, I started with something that I would want in my own freezer.

: Make Ahead

I started with lasagna. Not because I was scared, but because I had all the ingredients on hand, and I knew I could make a batch to freeze for myself as well. Besides, I make a darn-good lasagna.

So here’s my basic plan, although I generally just add in whatever items I have on hand.


2 tablespoons olive oil

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 pound lean ground beef   (This time I used hot Italian sausage instead, YUM)

1 jar of your favorite pasta sauce.

1 tablepoon Italian seasoning

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

12 box, uncooked lasagna noodles

8 cups boiling water

1 (16-oz.) container ricotta cheese

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 bag of shredded Mozzarella Cheese

Garnish: chopped fresh parsley

1. The olive oil, garlic and your meat of choice get tossed into a skillet for the meat to brown. I’m not a superstar chef so I play it by ear. I have no idea how long this takes. But if it still looks pink, it’s not done. Mine here needs just a little more time. lasagna-52. While that is browning, if you can multitask you can start on the ricotta filling. Just pour out the contents of the ricotta container into a bowl. Add two beaten eggs, (I never remember to beat mine first so I just mix it all at the same time. Like I said, not a super star chef.) Into the bowl add: salt, pepper, Italian seasonings…. I also added some grated parm cheese. I’m pretty sure that’s not on the ingredient list.

Here's the cheese and egg mixture before I start stirring.
Here’s the cheese and egg mixture before I start stirring.

3. Now, the noodles and the layering. I used regular lasagna noodles this time. The ones that you have to boil in water, drain and then be careful of not breaking. BUT: in the past I have successfully used the ones that you DONT HAVE TO COOK FIRST! and they are amazing. You just follow the directions on the box.

You can layer as you want. I follow this pattern:
  • Sauce (enough to cover bottom of pan)
  • Noodles
  • Ricotta Mixture
  • Handful of Shredded Mozzarella
  • Noodles
  • Sauce
  • Meat
  • Noodles
  • Sauce
  • Ricotta mixture
  • Noodles
  • Sauce
  • Top with Mozzarella

The best part?

4. Cover and Freeze. The end.

To eat, all you have to do is take it out of the freezer the night before and then pop it in the oven when you want to eat. It takes about 45 minutes in the oven at 350*.  Generally I let it bake, covered in foil for about 40 minutes, then take the foil off for the last ten minutes.

I found these really awesome disposable pans in my local grocery store. They have cardboard lids and are the perfect size for a family of two!
I found these really awesome disposable pans in my local grocery store. They have cardboard lids and are the perfect size for a family of two!

So, I have one of these in the freezer for myself and one ready to head over to my friend’s house when the chaos of this week is over. Blessing this family through their stomachs is the best idea I have ever had.

Packaged Love: Freezable Meals for Grieving Families

When I answered the phone that evening, I wish I had been sitting down. Receiving the news that a dear friend of mine had just lost her husband in a fatal car accident made my heart hurt. It was sudden, unexpected and so unfair. My friend and her husband were recent empty nesters, just beginning on the journey of discovering themselves as a couple again. They were active church members and a true inspiration to me as I struggle to find my own feet in my relationships in this crazy adult world.

I have been struggling with trying to find a way to ease their burden, to help this family during this time of transition and crisis. I feel so helpless. Aside from praying, I’ve been searching for something that I could do.

It seems that food has always been a way to show love and comfort to a family who has lost a loved one.   Feeding people is a very tangible way to demonstrate our love to them at a time when we cannot really ease their emotional pain. After talking with the family I know that they have little time or ambition to cook for themselves, they have out of town guests, and they have limited energy. My friend is losing interest in eating, she’s in shock and her emotional state is obviously tumultuous.

I want to be a blessing to this family.  I know they will be overwhelmed with well-intentioned church folk dropping by, bringing food and so on. At least at first, but once the funeral is over and the extended family has gone home, I want to provide meals for my girlfriend that she can just reheat and eat, long after the chaos of this week is over. I want to be a blessing to her once the house is quiet and the loneliness settles.

So I’m researching some  recipes and ideas. It seems to me like the family may receive too many pasta-type casseroles. I want something unique, and delicious.

What are your thoughts?

Blogging and Website Building 101

I’m posting this same blog post on all three of my blogs today because I’m technologically impaired and as they are ALL about to be redone some of them will be off line at different times all week.   So anyway….Beginning Blogging


Perhaps you’ve noticed. Maybe you haven’t. But either way, we are moving and shaking this week at Pompey Hollow Photo.

I’ve been pouring over articles on how to make my blogging better, more effective and just generally more fun. Article after article I read instructed me to move from and get my butt moving onto a more professional style and self-hosted blog. Thus begins my journey where everything about this business will be under construction. This makes me panic a little bit.

I’m ready though. I want to bite that bullet. I’m ready to tackle success and to not be afraid to make changes.

What were your biggest stumbling blocks as you started out on your business journey? Or haven’t you yet? Are you a super procrastinator like me?

If you’re just starting out in the blogging world, let me recommend the first of many tips and tricks I’ve been gathering on this journey. I really love reading the ideas offered by Jill Levenhagen over at Blog Chicka Blog. She’s a photographer/blogger/mom who is incredibly inspiring as I’ve been starting **slowly** to overhaul this mess I call my websites. Go check her out. You will be glad you did.