Welcome, Introductions, & All That Jazz

If you’ve stumbled upon my site you’ve likely read the “About” section, so you know some basic information about me. I’m a mom, housewife, I like yarn, and blah blah blah. There’s a big picture of me in a crown, too, if you go for that sort of thing. My kids got it for me as a birthday present last year, and I’m really here for it. (That’s lingo for I liked it a lot, in case my slang is out of style. Which it is, according to some of my younger, more “hip” family members. Whatever.)

I recently have come to terms… No, wait, that’s a lie. Recently I made the decision to stay home with my kids rather than finish my education for what seems like the 16th time. It’s really not that many, but I have gone to school and stopped for the kids about 4-5 different times now. It’s not that I’m incapable of finishing, I had a 4.0; I would also say I don’t like to brag but that’s a boldfaced lie. I’m very proud when I accomplish things. Probably because my accomplishments aren’t often celebrated. I can unpack that later for you, though. Back to the main point, I’ve once again put any kind of personal professional development on hold for my tiny humans.

There are a lot of strong, amazing women who are so under-appreciated for their roles. I’m honestly not sure if I fall into that category, but I can say that I didn’t exactly aspire to be one of them. I always envisioned a career when I grew up, preferably one where I was important – I’m drawn to jobs that sound flashy and really exercise my problem-solving skills and need for intense mental stimulation. I have always been ambitious and competitive, and that was a personality trait that was cultivated and praised while I was growing up. As a stay-at-home-mother, I don’t encounter situations where that’s a good trait to have. It’s not good to compare yourself to other moms and you shouldn’t “compete” with them or promote the same comparison among your kids. I struggle as a stay-at-home-mother with no outlet for those very dominant personality traits.

Which brings me back to this blog. I’ve been on-and-off with school for a while, not as a way to keep busy but eventually hoping to have a job and feel fulfilled professionally. No. Dice. See, my husband’s job has crap hours; he is never home, and I find myself always being thrust into the role of primary parent/homemaker. The enormous task of caring for, managing, cleaning-up after, feeding, and – let’s face it – wrangling a family of five is an undertaking that I don’t usually enjoy. In fact, sometimes I resent it. The thing is, I know I’m not the only one out there sharing a lot of these valid feelings. And it’s taken years for me to accept that these feelings are valid, but in the same vein are my responsibility to learn to manage in a healthy, productive way. I’m not perfect, but I’m learning, and I’m trying to set a better example at healthy emotional management for my kids.

Motherhood, and being a stay-at-home-parent, seems as though it’s accepted more today than it was when I was growing up. For me, I’m always told I’m “lucky” that my husband makes enough money so I can stay home. The thing is, I’m an intelligent and driven woman, and my whole life I was taught that I should get a job and not freeload off anyone else. Work ethic was a trait that I had that was encouraged and carefully tended while I matured into a young woman. But for me personally, and this is likely an “unpopular opinion”, staying at home and caring for my family isn’t the same as a job with a paycheck. It’s a thankless, under-praised job where I get walked all over, I’m on call 24/7 with no help, no tangible reward to show for my efforts, and more work at the end of the day than I started with when I awoke that morning. Oftentimes, I find it to be mind-numbing and pull-my-hair-out-of-my-head frustrating in a way that can only be understood if you’ve sat with a toddler or three screaming “MOMMY!!!” in your ear for hours every day.

I’m able to find the blessings and the joys in my life – before the internet springs me with the hate comments about how ungrateful I am. I love my children and my family more dearly than anything in this world. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be here writing this blog, surrounded by toddlers yelling “Don’t touch me!” (Oh, a sentiment I feel deep in my bones, #2, as you and your brothers are constantly touching me). But I also feel I was meant for something different. This blog explores the what-ifs, kid activities, projects, and hobbies I’ve engaged in while I am home with my children in the hopes of filling my personal life with joy and accomplishment in the same way I might have done if I’d kept to a professional track and reached my dream of working in the medical field.

This blog will share all my passions, shortcomings, ideas, and hopefully you can follow me on the road to learning to be happy with the life I have instead of what I’d been envisioning when I first got married. Maybe you’ll read this and scoff, thinking how wonderful my life is if only I would see it, or maybe you’ll read this and it will resonate – you had bigger goals for your professional life but saw the same value in raising your children yourself that I ultimately did when I quit school for the 4th or 5th time. You see the potential to teach your children and turn them into competent, independent and compassionate individuals that the world needs more of, and realized it was more important than your original dreams, even if those are sometimes hard to let go of. Whatever you get from this, I hope you find your beacon through the darkness, you come out on the other side doing what needs to be done to choose happiness.

“The hardest thing in this world is to live in it. Be brave, live.” – Buffy Summers

Parenting Indoors: Tricks to Manage Your Kids’ Inner Energizer Bunny

Here in Houston, we’re under a tropical storm warning. Advisory? Threat? I’m really not sure anymore. This isn’t something I’m used to. I moved here from the desert, and it rained twice a year there if I was lucky. This morning it was raining so hard I couldn’t see more than the outline of my neighbor’s house across the street.

I like to let the kids burn off energy outside when I can, because I think it’s good for them. Not just to have the space to run more freely, but to absorb the vitamin D from the sun, and breathe fresh air. I know a lot of parents can’t spare that, many are working from home, or like me are stuck indoors due to weather. Some are home with sick kiddos and can’t take the others out.

I wrote an article for Medium this week talking about how I keep my kids occupied while I’m indoors. You can read that article here: As A Parent, You’d Think I Would Be Used To This By Now, But I’m Not

I talk about the four biggest tactics I use to occupy my kids indoors, which is something I had to do often in El Paso and also here in Houston. I still struggle mightily with my kids, please don’t misunderstand. This isn’t by any means a “cure-all” type article. It’s just some simple, zero cost options I use at home to distract my kids when they’re feeling particularly antsy or destructive.

If you have any tips for me, I’d love to hear them! I’m always appreciative of new ideas to help wrangle my toddlers. When you live with three of the energizer bunny, new things are always useful, and life is never boring.

“Encourage and support your kids, because children are apt to live up to what you believe of them.” – Lady Bird Johnson, former First Lady of the United States

Parental Burnout Pt. 2 – Solution Options and What Worked for Me

“How hard could it be to only have to worry about taking care of yourself?” I found myself asking. “Do you know what I would give to have even 48 hours where I didn’t have to meet anyone else’s needs, let alone a year?” We will touch on how awful that was again later. I did mention “dark” and “loathsome”, right?

If you read my the first post I wrote about Parental Burnout (you can read it here), you know it’s something I struggle with. The above quote is from the same article, it was something I’d said to my husband when we were heatedly discussing burnout and ways to solve it. We were both emotional during the conversation, but what I said was bang out of line.

The words spilled out before my filter kicked in, and however true they may be, they were unfair. I did apologize, and we spent some time discussing each other’s perspectives on that year apart and what it did for our marriage and our parenting.

The problem is my words came from a place of deep pain I kept buried for too long. See, I’m a people pleaser. While I’m feisty and will stand up for myself in general, I also have a tendency to dig in and get done what needs to be done. (I credit that personality trait to my dad, if he ever reads this, thank you for that resiliency.) The year Aaron was in Korea meant getting things done was a trade-off. I sacrificed a lot of things for me I normally used to prevent burnout in the first place.

We both agreed burnout resembles preventative medical practice. The idea is we take steps to prevent burnout, so if we do struggle here and there, it isn’t so bad. Without regular preventative measures, we fall into the trap I succumbed to during Aaron’s deployment. Burnout for me is now so bad, I have to use stronger tactics in order to come back to an equilibrium state.

I linked an article by Robyn Koslowitz, Ph.D. printed in Psychology Today in the first post about Parental Burnout. Here’s another chance to check it out: The Burnout We Can’t Talk About: Parental Burnout . I wanted to share a quote from it, because I think it’s important to understand why treating burnout is so important.

“Burnout prevents parents from being emotionally present with their children.”

Robyn Koslowitz, Ph.D. in Psychology Today

I spend a great deal of my time with my children, and I never want them to feel unloved, unwanted, unseen, or unheard. Emotional disconnection leads to those feelings. I don’t want my children to feel ignored, and telling them I gave up a large part of my identity in order to raise them isn’t going to help them understand what’s going on with me. Especially since they’re all under four. Instead, I do my best to ensure I’m a healthy, capable caregiver who meets their needs.

Photo by Vitolda Klein on Unsplash

I’ve done a fair amount of reading in search of solutions, and most articles and resources say the same thing. They give what I call band aids. If you’re injured, you put a band aid on to protect your wound, and go about your business. The difference is, our bodies heal without our conscious thought. Burnout does not. These techniques will help you make it until you can take the steps to heal, hence the name I’ve given them.

Band Aids

These are the things I have done to get me to the next day.

  • Letting things go; not just dropping the subject or throwing stuff out, but not completing household chores or activities because the world won’t end if it’s not done
  • Taking things one day at a time, sometimes one hour, or even one minute
  • Walking away from a situation (within reason) and taking some deep breaths
  • Box Breathing (find instructions here – I use this as a band aid AND as a solution)
  • Waking up earlier than my kids for quiet time
  • Ordering takeout instead of cooking

Some injuries are more serious than others, and maybe we have to apply a heavier band aid to get by. The same can be said for levels of burnout. Burnout doesn’t happen all at once, it happens over time by overextending ourselves. In the end, band aids aren’t a fix for burnout. They’re a buffer we can use to protect our mental health until we are in a position to make things better.

My biggest frustration with all the articles I’ve read is this: These “band aid” type techniques can be used as preventative measures as well, if you’re not yet burned out. By the time someone is searching for ways to deal with burnout, though, they’re past the stage where prevention is a viable option. Treating the symptoms and not the underlying condition doesn’t help resolve the problem.

Other Tools

These are coping tools I found that might work for other people, but didn’t necessarily work well for me, or I could use as a band aid, maybe.

  • The ever nebulous term “self-care”: do something that recharges your batteries, per say
  • “Self-love” or “self-compassion”. I struggle with depression, so this often makes my problems worse instead of better, but it might work for someone else
  • Support groups. I don’t do well in groups (I talk too much and it annoys people) but others might
  • Changing your diet
  • Not feeling guilty for taking some time for yourself


These are the things I found help me truly feel less stress, things that allow me to connect better with my children and genuinely look with joy and positivity on my life. They work for me, but may not work for everyone else. Some of them can work as band aids, but I do them when I feel good, too. Remember, solutions are to bring you back to a state of joy, and to prevent burnout.

Photo by DANNY G on Unsplash
  • I see a therapist regularly
  • I communicate regularly with my husband and we work on solutions one day at a time; what worked yesterday may not work today
  • I try to be flexible, because a large contributor to my burnout is unrealistic expectations of what I can or should be doing
  • Prioritization; I regularly review what I’m doing and expend a little extra time making sure I’m completing imminent tasks, not just things that are easy, and I also try to prioritize balance. This goes a long way to preventing burnout
  • Being realistic about my expectations for what I can accomplish without overextending myself
  • Make a point of listing all of what I did accomplish in a day, and all the things that went right
  • Writing – this often this helps me to see underlying problems, so I can fix the causes, not the symptoms
  • Thinking about myself with kindness and grace – it sounds trite, but reminding myself I’m doing a lot, I’m only human, I’m only one person, and I’m doing better than I think goes a long way
  • Deep breathing techniques – especially box breathing
  • Scheduling time off
  • Gratitude journal
  • Meal preparation in bulk
  • Involving my kids in some of my activities (laundry, meal times, cleaning)
  • Finding new and interesting activities to do with the kids
  • Occasionally hiring childcare to get a break
  • Talking to my kids like they are adults. (See explanation below)
  • “Chunking” my tasks – breaking each large task up into very small steps so it reduces the feeling of overwhelm when I have to take on a large (or unpleasant) task
  • Scheduling appointments with myself that have “unscheduled time” – this means that I don’t have a looming scheduled event that puts pressure on making the most of my time, and I don’t have to navigate responsibilities such as childcare or household chores

I realize not all of the solutions that work for me will work for other people. I don’t implement all of these things at one time, but instead fit in what I can. I do what I can with the resources I have. Not to be cliché, but I do my best to focus on what I can control, and deep breathe my way through what I can’t.

To follow up on “talking to my kids like they’re adults”: I don’t mean I expect them to understand and accommodate my burnout, meet me emotionally, or take care of me. That’s my job as their mother, not the other way around.

However, I am honest about how I feel, and explain what I’m feeling in a way they understand. I also explain how I manage that emotion, so they understand our emotions don’t dictate our actions. They need to see it’s okay to validate how we feel, but still take responsibility for our choices. We control our behavior.

This approach helps me not lash out, and more importantly, it teaches them that people have limits to what they can handle, even their parents. I don’t want my kids to grow up feeling it’s okay to walk all over other people, and this kind of empathy is a lesson I can easily teach while teaching them to be emotionally stable and also self-sufficient.

In conclusion

At the end of the day, these solutions are what work for me. I’m not a licensed therapist or medical professional, and I recommend anyone struggling to seek out professional advice or care. It’s not realistic to assume everyone can apply these tools to their life. I’m lucky to have the resources I have, and I know not everyone has them. I can’t postulate the situation of every parent, because like our children, we are all different in our parenting style and our personalities.

Photo by Claudia Wolff on Unsplash

Currently, my burnout level is very high. My therapist used the term “severe”. There are levels described in this article, something I looked up after my last therapy appointment. I use what I know, what I’ve written above, to combat the levels of burnout I’m experiencing. I haven’t done a great job lately, but I’m still trying and still learning.

I know I need to hit the reset button, and I will get to a place soon where I can do so. Right now, I’m using my band aids, and taking everything one day at a time, one problem at a time. A few extra resources are listed below my final quote, as well as additional resources in the first post. I hope this article has shown another parent they aren’t alone, and there is a way to come back from the feeling of defeat from burnout.

“I can’t promise to fix all your problems, but I can promise you won’t have to face them alone.” – Unknown

WebMD resource
Choosing Therapy resource
Relief Parenting resource

Perpetually Behind – Lyrics by Fire In Wonderland

Queue the music… aaaaaand… It’s that time again – the time where I update everyone with the big projects I’m working on. And I want to, I really do. But I find myself staring blankly at the blinking cursor and wondering what the hell happened to my August. Record screeches to a halt. I had big plans for August, up until my kids got sick, and school started, and my life got thrown into chaos once more.

I have been consistently writing and running, so by now those things feel semi-habitual. Yet I cannot deny that I still struggle mightily with the staggering weight of burnout from trying to be everything to everyone at once. This song and dance is kind of old by now.

With everything going on right now, I can’t make sense of the spiderweb in my brain. It’s not a neat, beautiful one like Charlotte built. No, it’s like a web someone walked through in the woods, messy and difficult to follow.

Instead of trying to follow it, I’ll just lay it all out. It might be easier to make sense of the picture than to chase each thought as it zings past like an electrical current through wire.

Overall Goal: To have my life in order, focusing more energy on my relationships, the house, my parenting, and my personal projects.

What this looks like: My husband and I are supporting each other more effectively. I have some friends. My house is in order (within reason), fully unpacked, and purged of unnecessary junk. The time I spend on my crafts and pastimes have more consistency. I have a schedule where my kids are guaranteed one-on-one time with me, and I am better at engaging with them.

I have the goals, and I know what I want, so I’ll break them down. I won’t make a SMART goal for every single aspect, the post would become far too long. But I’ll break it down so it’s understandable – because what’s on my desk each month is essentially the next stepping stone toward one or more of my goals.


I have a fair amount of personal projects. (As I typed “projects”, my fingers originally typed “problems” and that Freudian slip sums up my current mental state better than anything else I would consciously be able to write.) I am struggling to find time to fit in my projects with consistency. I have a bad habit of chasing too many goals at once, then getting nowhere because my focus is too split. Below I’ve listed my current goals. The idea is to break the big goals into smaller chunks (not in this post, maybe another time.) Ideally I can more efficiently prioritize the goals and prevent a loss of focus.

  • Writing
    • 2 Short stories
    • One novel
    • Flash fiction
    • Blog posts
  • Running
    • 5K race on 10/16
    • Ultimate goal: Marine Corps Marathon in 2022
  • Knit and Crochet
    • Sweater
    • Hats
    • Baby blankets
    • Afghan gift
    • Scarves
  • Reading
    • The book list is too long and I won’t put it here
Photo by Martin Lopez on Pexels.com


I said I wanted to be more engaged. In order to do that, I have to figure out how to best engage with them, and take the steps toward being better as a parent. Below is a brief list of steps to start me off.

  • Start small – set aside time once each month
  • Figure out what they enjoy/ how they like to play most
  • Find activities that fall into those categories
  • Build the habit and gradually increase the time spent doing those thing


Right now my house is not in a state I am comfortable living in. I think most people can say the same about their home at one point or another; we all deal with the clutter that arises just from living life. It looks different for each person, and some manage it better than others. *cough* Marie Kondo *cough* My clutter is currently spread out in each part of the house, and it stays there because going through it all is overwhelming.

A lot of our “clutter” is really a result of a storage deficit. We moved from a much larger home into a smaller one recently, and the storage space was much more ample. We moved rapidly, and with Aaron overseas at the time, I didn’t have the opportunity to go through everything. Instead I painfully recall tossing things in boxes and praying they didn’t break as I hauled ass out of a bad situation. I need to “de-clutter” again, but I can’t seem to carve out the time or the motivation.

A big part of figuring out how to move this project off my desk and into the completion pile is to figure out how to get out from beneath the crushing pressure of overwhelm I feel looking at and thinking about the state of my house. I’m tired of walking around boxes or rooting through them to find things last minute, but even the thought of unpacking still causes a mind-boggling level of avoidance I haven’t been able to subvert to get to the action stage. A brief summary of how I can change my perspective is listed below.

  • Work only on one room at a time
  • Chunk the tasks in a time-frame (i.e.: 2 boxes/day or work on an area for 1 hr)
  • Find better ways to store items I still use
  • Actually throw away or donate things that aren’t used
  • Prioritize the order of the rooms
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com


I mention Aaron, but I know part of our disconnect comes from the stress he’s under with his upcoming surgical boards. Once his boards are over and his attention isn’t split in 9 different directions (that is not hyperbole either), I know a lot of our work/home balance issues will dissolve. Right now I have to find a way to take some things off his plate, because those boards are a make-or-break mile marker in his career.

In reality when I say “relationships”, I mean I want to make friends. I have so many great friends, and I don’t want to leave that unacknowledged. I have a lot of wonderful people in my life. One of the biggest things I struggle with, though, is how lonely it is to be a stay-at-home mother. My friends work, so calling during the day isn’t an option. I can’t go out for drinks or have a girls’ night because my friends are scattered across the country. Not a one of the wonderful women in my life live within driving range of me.

Photo by Vince Fleming on Unsplash

The logical solution to this problem is to make new friends who are geographically capable of filling the proverbial social cup.

I’m not really sure how to go about making friends, though. I’ve tried getting the phone numbers of random people I meet and connect with, but no one responds when I follow up and try to make plans. It’s disheartening. If I want to make friends, though, I have to keep putting myself out there. I think that means I need to be looking into different methods, like finding a mom’s group or maybe a writing group with NaNoWriMo (you can find out more about that here, and in future blog posts where I discuss my writing projects). If you have any other suggestions please, by all means, drop a comment. I’ll take any help I can get.

I strain under the weight of all these projects, but I will admit it’s mostly self-inflicted. Perhaps part of the solution would be to clean off my theoretical desk, and only put each thing on the desktop when I’m actually tackling it. Alas, my mind doesn’t work that way; it doesn’t look beautiful, like one of Charlotte’s glistening webs. Instead, it looks like the halloween store cobwebs, somehow still connected by a few threads, while the rest is a tangled jumble I can’t find my way through. After all, I’m only human, and changes don’t happen overnight.

Photo by Peter Oslanec on Unsplash

“With the right words, you can change the world.” – E. B. White, from Charlotte’s Web

When It Rains, It Pours

I debated on publishing a post today, because it’s a holiday. Speaking of, Happy Labor Day to my US readers! Not sure I have non-US readers, but just in case. However, I wanted to make sure I kept a consistent schedule, so here we are. I did delay the post by two hours, since it’s a holiday.

This morning I went for my usual run. It was thundering, which isn’t uncommon for this time of year, with all the hurricanes passing through, so I went about business as usual. I felt a drop of rain or two; this should have been my red flag to head back inside, but I ignored my initial instinct to turn around and focused on the thought “at least it won’t be miserably warm.”

I finished my warm-up walk and started my jog; about 3/4 mile in, the rain started. It was light, though, and I was chugging along. I thought I would finish before it really started to downpour, but no sooner than the thought flitted across my mind, the heavens opened up and dumped all the water in the region on me. Yes, I enjoy my hyperbole.

It was such a heavy rain I couldn’t see in front of me or even under my own feet. Since the road I take to and from the trail can be uneven and sometimes have holes and very wide cracks along the sides, I was forced to start walking after 1.3 miles to ensure I didn’t injure myself due to stupidity.

Let me just say, walking through the rain is worse than running. I can ignore the wetness, the squelching of each footfall, and the droplets in my eyes because the pace is faster and running takes up space in my brain. I focus on my breathing, my pacing, my form, and the rhythm of the music or words in the latest zombie story mission. Walking leaves more space in my thoughts to notice the unpleasant side effects of being sopping wet.

Despite the squishing sensation with each step, the water mingling with sweat dripping into my open mouth as I caught my breath, and the realization that I still had 1/2 mile to walk home, I laughed. I was bound to get caught in the rain sooner or later, living in a rainy city. I expected it eventually. I didn’t, however, expect to welcome it. It was cool, refreshing, and invigorating. Although I hate having wet clothes on, walking home through the rain was relaxing and peaceful.

Photo of author, taken by author, Lizzie Lane

I’m home and dry writing this post. It’s unscheduled, fresh off the press if you will. I do not write immediately after running. I start my usual morning routine first, which today included the added bonus of removing an extra five pounds of water-logged clothing (not a highlight – you can see how thrilled I was at the prospect in the selfie). But for the first time in a while, I started in very light spirits. I often feel bogged down on Mondays, looking forward to the daunting list of shit to accomplish during the week. The rain washed it all away for me this morning.

I had a beautiful, calm clarity as I planned out my week. I have a few tasks I know I have to get done (laundry, I’m looking at you) as well as the daily grind of life–cooking, dishes, kid-related clean-up–and some events to plan for. It didn’t feel as awful as usual, and I fully credit that to this morning’s foreseeable, but still somehow surprising, thunder storm.

My projects for today definitely include laundry. If you know me, that’s a huge undertaking, because I despise laundry. It’s my least favorite chore, right up there with dishes. Dishes, however, are easy to stay on top of, whereas laundry is not so much for me. I will also take my son with me to Target. No one better than a 4-year-old to pick out a gift for another 4-year-old, am I right? We have a birthday party this weekend for one of his school friends.

Once those things are done, I hope to plan out meals for the week and get the rest of a crochet project finished. I have been working on a blanket as a gift for someone, and it’s nearly finished. I have 4 rows and the border to complete. Nothing much out of the ordinary here.

Photo by author, Lizzie Lane

For me, holidays don’t feel like holidays much anymore, although I’ve still managed to keep the magic at Halloween, and Christmastime. Thanksgiving without friends and family left an empty feeling last year, since even Aaron was in Korea, far from us for the holiday. He works holidays anyhow, and today he’s on call for the hospital, so today just feels like another Monday.

I hope everyone has a safe, enjoyable holiday though, spent with family or friends, or both. Wishfully thinking the pandemic and other worries stay far from your minds, even if it’s only for a few hours. For me, it will be spent like any other day, but the rain was a nice reminder to slow down, and enjoy what life has to offer. You never know when fate will step in and wash away some of what weighs you down.

“Because rain will wash away everything if you let it.” – Sarah Kay

Running for Perspective

You may have seen last week, if you read, that I wrote about shedding my imposter syndrome by entering a writing contest. If not you can find that post here. I decided that I like posting on Medium, and I plan on continuing to do so.

This week, I wanted to connect you to my post on medium about my insecurities running at 4:30 in the morning. I touch on the timing in my post Running Against…Zombies? but I don’t go into detail about how those runs impact how I view the world around me. It doesn’t fit into the previous post, but it is worth discussing.

You can find the essay on Medium, linked here. In this piece I discuss how I started running at 4:30 and why. I also talk about what it’s like to run that early in the morning, and how it’s shifted my perspective on my surroundings, especially when I’m alone.

“Life is getting up an hour early to live an hour more.” – Unknown

Running Against… Zombies?

This morning I clocked my seventh run with the Zombies, Run 5K app. My ultimate goal is a marathon, something that’s been on my goals list for a couple years, but I can’t even run a 5K the whole way through yet. I wanted to write about it for some time, because it’s a major part of my life at the moment – it’s on my schedule four days a week – but I didn’t have enough to say to merit a blog post. Until now.

The app that started me down my zombie path is called Zombies, Run!. Developed by a company called Six to Start in collaboration with Naomi Alderman, Zombies, Run! was something my husband had mentioned to me in passing several years back. I didn’t look it up then, but I happened to stumble upon it in March of this year.

I was trying to restart my run training using an app called Couch to 5K, but I was bored senseless. I’m not a runner by nature, and despite my bucket list goal of running a marathon, I found it difficult to get motivated and stay that way. The app itself is good and it was working physically, but I wasn’t stimulated mentally – something I didn’t realize I needed.

I was looking for a “map my run” type app when I found Zombies, Run! on the list in the app store. Intrigued, I opened it and discovered what I had been missing. Running is great cardio, but not enjoyable to me. Each step felt heavy and more difficult than the last, my improvement slow and grueling. This app made running into a game.

Image Courtesy of Zombies, Run! © 2011 – Six to Start & Naomi Alderman

I’m not a gamer type, although I do enjoy a few video games, but I am competitive. I enjoy collecting badges or achievements in apple fitness, like closing the rings on my apple watch or earning badges for completing fitness challenges. Zombies, Run! made running more interactive by creating a fictional world to run within.

Centering around the story missions, users must run to unlock new content. It includes game play, as well, allowing users to collect items and resources to build and support the settlement this zombie apocalypse storyline is based on. I also have the option to play my own music, listen to their music, or use other audio like audible or podcasts. The app automatically pauses or lowers the volume on the external audio when story audio comes on.

Image Courtesy of Zombies, Run! © 2011 – Six to Start & Naomi Alderman

Suddenly, running is fun again. I’m still not a strong runner though, and improving on my own is something I struggle with. I scrolled through the app after my first run and found a membership – Abel Runner’s Club – which includes additional features and apps. Their 5K app is free, and I haven’t tried The Walk yet. I did hear it has to be purchased to continue past a certain point, but it’s included with the membership.

Zombies, Run! 5K takes place right after the first “mission” run in the main app. Although if you start out with the 5K version, there’s an optional introduction to get you up to speed on the storyline. Since I started running with the 5K app, my one mile run time has improved by two whole minutes – going down by one minute each week. I haven’t run my free run yet this week, so I don’t know yet if my time improved again.

I really enjoy the training stories, learning more about Abel Township and its characters. The story surrounding “Runner 5” (the moniker given to the person using the app) is catchy, and unfolds at a good pace. It’s a very complex game built around run training, and I’m so glad I found it.

This app is the reason I’ve been able to stick with running for more than a couple weeks, and the reason I’m actually growing to enjoy it. I don’t have to drag myself out of bed each morning, I get up willingly to hear how the next episode plays out.

Image Courtesy of Zombies, Run! © 2011 – Six to Start & Naomi Alderman

More than just improving my running, though, I’ve been able to improve asthma-related symptoms. I’ve had asthma (exercise and allergy induced) since the ripe age of three, and it can be a real struggle sometimes. My lung capacity is improved, and I no longer wheeze or become out of breath on stairs, or chasing after my children. That’s huge for me, because I have struggled with my asthma and its related symptoms since I left the Navy.

Although I didn’t set out to write a review for the running app, this post reads like one. I often recommend the app to other runners, someone looking to restart running, or for a new way to mix up audio options during a run. I think it’s fantastic.

I did purchase the paid membership to Abel Runner’s Club to unlock additional training exercises, and there are definitely a myriad of options; from improving 5K time (with a different 5K program than the Zombies, Run! 5K app), to 10K and marathon training, to interval training. There are several seasons worth of missions, virtual races that can be run, and alternate stories within the same world construct.

Running has been good for me, and so have the Zombies, Run! and 5K apps. Today I ran approximately 2.6 miles, and walked another 1.6 or so, for a total of 4.28 miles. I’m proud of how far I’ve come, I look forward to where I go, and I’m happy I made the time for running. Until next time, on Zombies, Run! 5K

Image provided by Lizzie Lane through the “share” feature of the Zombies, Run! 5K app.

“If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.” – Fred DeVito

The Minivan: A Surprising Two Month Saga

I wanted to wait until my minivan was actually mine before I posted this. It’s been a while since I picked the van up from the dealership, just over a month now. This has been a two month long endeavor, though, and it deserves to be described as the saga it was.

For anyone living under a rock, our economy has been a rollercoaster of sorts, and one of the issues that arose was the chip shortage that rocked the auto industry (read here if you want to know more). I would have bought a van much earlier if I had considered how far the reaches of the pandemic would travel.

When we considered trading in my truck we discussed a myriad of reasons, but ultimately three reasons tipped the scales. 1) We wanted to have something easier to maneuver. It was hard to get a kid in and out of the middle seat in the truck. 2) We wanted more interior space – the truck bed was great but things in it tend to get wet in rain or snow, even with a cover. 3) We needed more seats. Honorable mention goes to making the most of our trade in. Due to the chip shortage, used cars are fetching great prices right now, and it seemed like the best time to make the switch.

I picked out the van I thought was the best fit, picked out the level of trim, talked over the budget with my husband, and we decided it would be a good fit all around. I found a dealership, and we went to get the van.

Photo by Lizzie Lane, Author

It sounds so simple, but from start to finish the process was two long months. That’s right. Months.

I selected a van that was supposedly arriving that day, June 25th. They told me it was delayed (again, chip shortage) and it would instead be there between July 8-14th. If I wanted to, though, I could put down a deposit and sign the finance paperwork. This would secure the price of my trade in and make sure the vehicle I wanted didn’t get sold to anyone else. I figured, this van is exactly what I want, and the deposit is refundable. Good deal. So that’s what we did.

Photo by Lizzie Lane, Author

July 14th came and went, with no word on the van’s arrival. I do understand things happen, and I was trying not to be impatient. On the flip side, it’s not unexpected to want updates when things aren’t on schedule. Alas, no one from the dealership bothered to contact me, I had to call for updates.

On July 26th, a month after purchase, my van finally arrived. Finally this is done, I thought. I was wrong.

It is now August 27th and my bank hasn’t received a payoff from my trade-in, and I have had two payments drafted for the truck since first signing the paperwork for the van. Why am I still paying, you ask? That truck note is still in my name, affecting my credit, and I don’t want late or non-payments on my credit report. I still don’t have the information on how to pay for the van I bought, either. I did finally get the registration sticker, so it’s registered to me. Yay?

I have to say, as far as dealerships go, this was definitely the worst experience I’ve had. I’m sure it’s a perfect shitstorm of circumstances, they had great reviews from plenty of other people, but I’ve never had such bad luck trading in a car before. 10/10 do not recommend trading in a vehicle during a pandemic.

When I bought the truck back in 2019, we were a family of four, and my husband had a vasectomy on the books. Two months after I bought the truck, my positive pregnancy test had me measuring the back seat to see if I would be able to fit a third car seat. What were the odds? If only I’d had a crystal ball that February…

I could write a comparison of the two vehicles, something I originally set out to do, but that would just remind me of all the things I miss about my truck. And while the minivan ultimately has what our family needs most overall, it doesn’t give me what I really loved about my truck; the illusion that I still have control over how my family unfolds. Now, that control really resides with my kids. Three small humans who, for better or worse, will dominate the next decade or two of my life as they each become their own person.

Maybe the truck was my last ditch effort to feel “cool” or relevant. I’m not actually sure. I attribute some complicated feelings to my truck, feelings which shouldn’t be attributed to a vehicle because it’s not the purpose of a vehicle.

I think what the truck represented to me was a form of freedom. My choices aren’t my own now, I have to choose what’s best for my three boys. Motherhood – parenthood, in fact – is largely about making good choices for someone who can’t make them yet themselves.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

The truck was fun, but it wasn’t the best choice for my children, for our family. At the end of the day, what’s important isn’t the height of the truck or its ability to haul things, or the interior flexibility of the space in the van and its “magic doors” (my son’s words). It’s the recognition that I’m not choosing those things only for me. Just like in pregnancy, when the food I ate or activities I participated in were choices for two people, not just me. I chose that with the same crystal clarity as I chose my husband when I said “I do.”

Yes, some choices are my own. This blog is mine, my running, the books I read and write, the items I knit or crochet. All mine. But my life doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and ultimately all those choices affect my family. So I choose what’s best for them. Because I choose love. And if love looks like a haze grey minivan with more room for my kids to grow and fit all their stuff, then I choose the minivan.

“We must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy.” – Albus Dumbledore in The Goblet of Fire (Book 4 in the Harry Potter series) by J.K. Rowling

No One Ever Said It Would Be This Hard

Something I never prepared for as a parent was routine sickness. I don’t mean chronic or terminal illness, I haven’t had that experience, and I don’t want to misrepresent the post. Also, if stomach virus symptoms make you queasy, don’t read on.

By the time this blog is published, my rough night will be a few nights behind me. Hopefully that’s the worst it gets. All three of my kids have been sick this month. At first it seemed they would get sick one after another, in a daisy chain of vomit and diarrhea. My oldest got better, then my middle, then my youngest.

I was woefully unprepared for the next two weeks. My middle child’s symptoms came back. Again and again. The same pattern kept repeating over and over – he would vomit at night, have diarrhea in the morning, and this would go on for 3-4 days. He would seem to get better for 2-3 days, then the cycle would repeat.

Photo by Keira Burton on Pexels.com

The fourth time through, nearly three weeks after he first got sick, my youngest tagged back in. With my 1-year-old and 2-year-old both sick, I spent the bulk of the night cleaning up puke. It came every 45 minutes like clockwork, from midnight to sometime after 6 am.

My middle child can talk, and he would cry, telling me his tummy hurt. After I finished cleaning him up he would sob and thank me at the same time for cleaning him off. It was heartbreaking.

Photo by Arwan Sutanto on Unsplash

My youngest can only say a few phrases. But the combination of “Mommy” and “help me” spoken with panic in his tiny, toddler voice as he looks at me, wide-eyed with fear and confusion, mouth open, retching as his stomach tries to expel its contents is burned forever into the back of my eyelids.

Every detail on his face screamed What is happening to me? Mommy, make it stop, please! as he bawled, heaving and gasping. He was confused and scared, and I couldn’t do a thing.

I learned a lot the hard way as a new parent, as trial-by-fire seems to be the most common method of entering parenthood. I had to figure out how to be comfortable leaving my son in someone else’s care, how to balance time with my kids against time taking care of myself, how to let them make mistakes or fall while they’re learning a new skill. In fact, I could write an entire list of things I’ve learned that I didn’t realize I would encounter, or thought wouldn’t be difficult.

Past all of it is a whole other level of parenting I hadn’t reached. The helplessness I felt trying to soothe my son was almost incapacitating. I cleaned him off, changed the sheets, and at this point I had given up on pajamas. I held him and rubbed his back, covering us both in a blanket, as I sat at the edge of the bed, trying to figure out my next move. The youngest would finally fall asleep, only for the cycle to repeat. All night long. With both children.

It was one of the longest and worst nights of my life.

I never want to experience it again, and yet I know I have years of this ahead of me. I tried to calm myself with the thought at least he will be able to talk soon, to tell me what’s wrong but even as I repeated it in my head like a mantra, I knew. My middle child could talk, and it didn’t make a lick of a difference.

Sickness is unavoidable; a normal part of life. I know rationally they will build immunity by fighting off a virus like this on their own. But watching them endure it, unable to do much other than clean them up, hold them, or hug them, ate away at me. I’m a sensitive person, and I’d rather suffer than watch my kids suffer.

This experience is not over, I know we will have to ride this stomach bug out. I just wish I’d been prepared. For now, I will follow the doctor’s recommendations, keep them hydrated, clean, and hopefully comfortable. I just hope the insecurity and helplessness I’m feeling isn’t written all over my face.

“Every challenge you face today makes you stronger tomorrow. The challenge of life is intended to make you better, not bitter.” – Roy T. Bennett

Alexander and My Red Truck

One morning as we sat in the carpool for his school, my son Alexander, the 4-year-old, told me he wants to grow up to drive a red truck. As I opened my mouth to ask him why, he continued telling me he knows I really miss my red truck, and if he gets one, we can share it and take turns driving so I’m not so sad my truck is gone.

Be still my heart, I have such a sweet kiddo. He isn’t just a sweetheart to me, either. Alexander is sweet to everyone. He does nice things for his brothers all the time, helping Logan (my middle child) learn to play tablet games, showing him how to use toys and play pretend, even making pretend meals for him. He’s just as sweet with Nate (my youngest), helping him open his water bottle, showing him how to throw and catch a ball, playing peek-a-boo with him, and more.

Photo by Lizzie Lane, Author

I know he might grow out of this phase, but he does nice things for me, too. He loves to help, and he will do anything — fold laundry, throw trash out, help me occupy his brothers when they’re upset (without me asking him or prompting him!), even clear plates from the table. He does nice things for Aaron, too. He colors pictures for him, and when he was deployed he put together a few care packages. Now that he’s home, Alexander will chase his brothers away when Aaron studies downstairs.

Photo by Lizzie Lane, Author

Don’t get me wrong, he’s not a saint. I do my fair share of correcting Alexander, but I am also very proud of him. Our latest kid-venture was play-doh. I got him a table so he could play when his brothers were napping. But our newest upcoming kid-venture is cooking. Alexander loves to pretend to cook so much we got him a play kitchen. I grew up in a huge Italian family, so now it’s my turn to pass on our love of cooking. Once a week we are going to start making a meal together. Something light and easy, but something to teach him cooking skills.

I really got lucky. It’s such a privilege to be raising a kid who so willingly helps others, and treats people with kindness. I feel incredibly blessed, not to be cliché. I am excited to see who he will grow up to be – but I’m not in a hurry. I do hope he keeps those wonderful qualities, though. For now, he can settle for driving his red toy Jeep.

Photo by Lizzie Lane, Author

“Your innocence and open heart sees only what is good. I hope you stay this way forever, long past childhood.” – Linsey Davis, author of Stay This Way Forever

Depression Is Not Curable with “Life Hacks” or Lifestyle Changes.

I’m going to dive right in here. This is definitely a hot button topic, and I almost didn’t write about this, but…

The idea that simply making a “lifestyle change“ in order to combat depression is ludicrous. Sure, positive thinking goes along way to changing your mindset, but people who struggle with depression have trouble thinking positively. It’s not as easy as just telling someone look for the positive things, because someone with depression has a brain that is hardwired to find negative things. It’s not about whether or not they have a lifestyle that lends itself to negativity (although I will admit that doesn’t help things), but about a chemical in balance in their brain.

Every time I read a blog, or have a conversation with someone, or see an article that says I can change my depression by willing it away with positive thoughts, I want to scream. I feel unseen, unheard, and my confidence is shattered. I feel there’s something wrong with me because I can’t just do those “simple” things and make my depression go away. Do people truly think anyone would choose to be perpetually miserable?

Photo by Ryan Snaadt on Unsplash

Lifehack: if you want to sound intelligent and not isolate your friends with mental health issues, ask them what makes them feel better. Find out what makes them tick, what stressors trigger depression or anxiety, or other mental health issues. Listen without forming a response or giving advice. Don’t tell them how to change or give them advice on how to navigate their mental health (unless you are a professional), and even if you struggle with your own mental health, what works for you may not work for them. Sharing your experience as a cure-all is also unhelpful.

Photo by Ryan Gagnon on Unsplash

What a lot of people writing articles like I mentioned above get wrong, or demonstrate they don’t understand, is changing your thought pattern is far more difficult than just saying “I’ll be positive today” and moving forward. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, is a well-known therapy to combat and transform negative thoughts for anxiety and depression. It focuses on how to retrain your brain to think differently, and it often takes years for somebody to accomplish those changes. (See a description of CBT here.)

CBT is not an overly complex process on its own, but applying it is an entirely different animal. Our neural pathways begin developing as far back as infancy. And while articles are coming out with more frequency showing our brains are retaining more neuroplasticity than we originally thought, those pathways are much slower to change and reshape than when we were young children.

It takes a long time to make or break habits, but our thoughts are much harder. And many people go untreated well into adulthood. That’s at least 18 years of cognitive reshaping. Imagine trying to rewire your brain’s entire lifetime of development. But hey, just think positive thoughts. You’ll be fine.

We think reflexively, and retraining your brain to not only recognize, but stop a thought in its tracks is an incredibly difficult undertaking. There’s a triangle many therapists use that is some derivation of this:

Graphic created by author, Lizzie Lane. © Fire In Wonderland 2021

Our thoughts have to come from somewhere, though; they are formed by our core values and beliefs. Those are beliefs and values a person holds about themselves, others, and the world. An example of a core belief could be something internalized from childhood, such as “I’m a failure.” causing a cascade of thoughts falling under that umbrella. This kind of thought is a cognitive distortion, and it can fall under one of many categories, like labeling, or all-or-nothing thinking (see an example article from Verywell Mind here).

Please keep in mind: I’m not a licensed therapist, so what I’m sharing is from my personal experiences with counseling, what I learned in school, and what I’ve researched on my own.

With all that in mind, someone with depression, anxiety, PTSD, or anything else that causes thought distortions likely holds some fairly negative core beliefs surrounding themselves and possibly others. From those core beliefs come “automatic negative thoughts” I like to call them ANTs. Because they’re like ants, crawling around in my brain, really hard to get out. Every time I think I’ve gotten them, it turns out there are more, and they were just hiding, out of reach until I put down my guard. If I could will away my negative thoughts, depression, or anxiety by running, exercising, meditating, eating better, etc. I would.

Spoiler alert – I actually do all those things.

Photo by Filip Mroz on Unsplash

I run four days a week right now, and I have to drag myself out of bed before 5 am to do it so there’s an adult in the house with my kids. I track my meals, and I’m not perfect, but most of my food is vegetables, fruit, and protein. Don’t forget coffee. I drink a gallon of water a day, and I meditate every night for 10-15 minutes before bed. Twice a week I lift weights, sometimes three times if I can squeeze time in around the kids’ schedule. I journal regularly, and I have a separate journal for just gratitude, where I force myself to focus only on positive things to write down.

None of those things would be possible for me without medication, because without it, I’m a different (much scarier) person. I hate that I need medication to function. Not everyone with depression does, or other mental health issues for that matter. I attend regular therapy as well, and I needed a lot of help to get on this road in the first place. If it weren’t for Aaron, I am not sure I ever would have had the strength to do those things. I owe my ability to function well presently to my husband’s love and devotion to me in the early years of our marriage.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

At the end of the day, I know I will see more posts in the future about “life hacks to battle depression” or some other click-bait title. Someone desperate for a quick solution will avoid seeking the right kind of help, hoping that maybe exercising more regularly will make their negative thoughts go away. Or that meditating will help them to stop anxiety from setting in without warning. Or that if they just remember all the good things in life, maybe they’ll stop feeling so sad.

Those things can help, and in some instances go a long way for people who have situational depression, or anxiety that isn’t chronic. I won’t diminish them, because like everything in treatment plans, healthy activities have their place, too. Still, people who suffer with a chronic mental illness need more than life hacks. They deserve to be treated as people who have a real problem, not an imaginary one. Their feelings are real and deserve to be validated, just as much as those of people who are normal.

Stop offering life hacks, and ask real, open-ended questions. Be a part of the solution, be someone who helps, and cares. Be someone who takes the time to understand, instead of brushing someone off as “gloomy” or “a nervous Nelly”. Be compassionate. Be present, and don’t give up when things don’t change in a day, a week, a month, or even years. Genuinely be there. It’s worth more than all the advice in the world.

“Not giving up on me is the best gift you could give me.” – Lizzie Lane, Fire In Wonderland Author and Founder.