My Year By Design

The journey to living by design.

Art Assignment 47: Body in Place

At this time of year I start thinking about my garden a lot. I love to garden but I’m definitely an amateur. I’ve been trying to fix up my back yard for a while now. It was overgrown when we bought the house and I’m trying to impose some sort of order while making my garden healthy and artistic. It took me a while to get to it because I fixed up the front yard first. That’s the part that everyone sees from the street. It’s mostly just my husband and I who spend any significant time looking at the back yard.


This is one of the empty garden beds in my back yard.


Looking at the plain dirt is sort of like looking at a blank page with writer’s block. I just can’t picture what I want.


I decided to make an imprint in the dirt.


So now I’ve made a mark on the garden.


And the garden has left a mark on me too. #theartassignment

French Onion Soup 


We had one of those rare cold May weekends so I took the opportunity to make my mom’s French onion soup. It’s a simple, delicious meal perfect for a chilly afternoon.


4 large onions, sliced thinly

4 cups beef stock

1 TBSP butter

1 TBSP olive oil

1 TBSP Worcestershire sauce

1 TBSP lemon juice

1 tsp garlic powder

Salt and pepper to taste


I sliced the onions with my kitchen mandolin. You can also just thinly slice them.


I sautéed the onion, butter and olive oil over medium heat for 6 minutes. The olive oil just keeps the butter from burning.


I added the stock, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper and cooked until the onions were soft.


I set the oven to broil and set my soup bowls on a lined baking tray. This makes clean up easy in case of spills.


I ladled the soup into the bowls and topped with slices of baguette and shredded mozzarella cheese.


I broiled the soup until the cheese was brown and bubbly.


Enjoy this quick meal with your family. It’s a crowd pleaser.



Trying to recover from a time of high anxiety is very difficult. I still have times each day when I’m quite anxious. I can feel my body trying to revert to a state of fight or flight. Trying to work against it is exhausting. I’m to the point where I can make it pretty successfully through my work day but I don’t yet have much energy after work for myself. It’s frustrating.

I’m getting sick a lot too. I’ve had a few colds and a bout of walking pneumonia. The stress has weakened my immune system. I’m trying to get back to my healthier habits but the progress is slow.

I know it will get better and a big part of that is trying to be patient. I need to give my antidepressants time to work. I need keep working hard in therapy. I need to keep the lines of communication open with my family and friends. With time and effort I know I’ll start to see my energy return. I just wish it didn’t take so long to get there.


Moodscope Update

So I used Moodscope for a couple of weeks and I have to say, it’s a useful tool. Overall, I would recommend Moodscope. If you are concerned about your mental health or you’re seeking treatment for a mood disorder, this website might help you track how you’re feeling.

The Positives:

  • The daily email reminders kept me coming back and it is possible to turn them off once you’re in the habit to take the survey once a day.
  • It uses cards that you flip and rotate to rank your current emotions. Using these cards instead of a traditional ranking line means I wasn’t tempted to try to keep my results the same or force an improvement. The cards are randomized so you can’t memorize patterns. The idea is that this allows you to give more honest answers because it’s difficult to remember your past rankings.
  • The survey only takes about 5-10 minutes so it’s easy to fit into a busy schedule.


  • I wish there was a way to annotate my results with factors from my day, (e.g. if I have a migraine one day, my results will be more negative because I’m in pain.)
  • There are a set number (twenty) emotions. They cover most things but sometimes I feel like a strong emotion I’m experiencing isn’t on there.
  • After a while, the reports start sounding a bit repetitive. Although it didn’t stop me from coming back, it did make me feel like I was reading many of the same sentences over and over.

Below I have included some of my reports so you can get a sense of what they’re like. If you’re interested, head over to Moodscope and sign up for free.

Right Jennifer.


Right then Jennifer. Here’s how it looks. Today’s score for you is 41%, which is 28% below your all-time maximum of 69%. You are likely to feel that things have picked up a fair bit for you since the most recent time you took the test and scored 24%.

Whilst you probably wouldn’t claim to be feeling at your absolute best today, you are definitely doing better than you had been. You’re making great progress and if you can make even more, it won’t be long before you are back at full strength once again. See if you can identify the cause of this improvement and try to keep it coming.

Although you’ve scored below your average of 46.0% today, you’ve moved in the right direction since last time. Your score is a good bit higher than you all-time minimum of 24%. You have traveled quite a way since then.

Respectable work Jennifer.


Admirable achievement Jennifer. You have a score today of 71%, which is the best result you’ve ever had on Moodscope. You’ll be feeling that things have picked up a lot for you since the most recent time you took the test and scored 41%.

It is evident that matters are looking notably better, placing you in a much better position. You weren’t significantly down, but it’s clear that you’re feeling a lot more positive today. It is an ideal opportunity to pin down the cause of this improvement so you’ll be able to repeat it should things be not so great in the future.

Not only have you got a better score today than you had last time, you’re also flying higher than your average of 49.1%. Today’s score is above your lowest ever result of 24%. You’ve come a long way since then.

Pretty good Jennifer.


Very acceptable Jennifer. The score for you today is 59%, which is 12% less than your all-time high of 71%. You’re likely to feel that things aren’t as good as they seemed when you took the test last time and got 71%.

Your mood appears to be sound again, in spite of your score having dropped a little. There’s likely nothing to worry about, but remember that you’ve got the power to regulate your state of mind. Take good care of yourself and make sure there’s no further slippage.

Although your result today is not quite as good as the last time, you are doing well compared to your average of 50.2%. Your score is above your all-time minimum of 24%. You’ve come a long way since then.

Respectable work Jennifer.


Respectable work Jennifer. You have a score today of 75%, which is your highest ever result on Moodscope. It appears as though things have picked up for you a fair bit since you took the test last time and got 59%.

Life has got better for you. You had been feeling okay but you’re now in a stronger position. Pat yourself on the back and take a little time to see if you can identify exactly what’s been going right, so you carry on having a great time.

Not only has your score gone up today, you are also doing well compared to your average of 52.7%. You are higher than your lowest ever score of 24%. You’ve travelled a long way since then.

Being Truthful


This is an interaction I had with one of my close friends recently. I had made plans to go to a party at her house  but when the time came, I just couldn’t make myself go. I was too anxious to face all those people and the question about where I’ve been lately. I’m usually quite social so when my anxiety rears up and I start retreating to my house, it raises eyebrows in my social circle.

I’ve learned that sometimes with my anxiety, I do need to step back from my social life for short periods. I need that time to regroup and heal before I face groups of people. I’ve also learned that the best way to take that step back is be clear and honest. When I’m having trouble with my mental illness, I strip away all pretense and niceties and just tell my friends and family how I’m feeling. It’s uncomfortable certainly, but the benefits outweigh the temporary discomfort of being blatant about my anxiety.

First, my social circle gets an uncomplicated view of how I’m doing. They know where I’m at and they can be understanding because I’ve been honest. If I’m constantly making excuses, I run the risk of looking like a flake. Plus, people get tired of friends who constantly cancel plans. At least if they understand my reason and the fact that I can’t help or control my mental illness, they can cut me some slack, (and pretty much everyone does.) I’m pretty good at hiding my anxiety so I can’t assume they know something is wrong unless I tell them.

Also, being this honest allows me to forgo making excuses or lying about where I’ve been lately. I’m not a good fibber, even with little white lies. When I’m anxious, I’m already very uncomfortable. I don’t need to add the discomfort of keeping track of the white lies I’ve told people. It’s easier on my brain to be honest.

Although uncomfortable, there is also something liberating about being honest about my anxiety. I like treating it as a chemical imbalance I’m working to fix, rather than some sort of failure that prevents me from living my best life. It makes my mood disorder more manageable. Plus, by being this honest I can worry less about how people will react. I’ve told them the truth and either they’ll understand or they won’t.

I won’t lie; it has made my friend group smaller because some people don’t want to maintain a relationship with some they view as ‘unstable,’ but the friends who stick it out with me are dearer to me than ever. As for my friend from the text message, she offered her support and we made plans to have tea the next day, just the two of us. I kept those plans and it made me really happy.

Going out

I’m forcing myself to go out today. I’m writing this in the car as Nick drives.  I don’t want to go. I have comfy pants and the lulling boredom to keep me at home. Mostly I’m exhausted from running at such a high level of anxiety all week. The glare of the sun and noise of the morning traffic grates my nerves raw. But I’m going. First, breakfast with Nick at Billy’s, then grocery shopping.


Sometimes with anxiety I just have to decide to go out. Anywhere. Just not stay at home listening to my brain try to grind through my feelings. I can’t afford to sit alone too often.

So I’m going out despite how painful it feels, despite how tired I am, despite how much I’d rather be at home. Part of healing is going out and living, just doing normal stuff. Doing this won’t fix my mental illness but it almost always makes me feel better.


Art Assignment 46: Blow Up


This is where the school used to be.


Detail 1.


Detail 2.


Detail 3.


Detail 4.


Detail 5.



I’m starting to feel more stable. I’ve been through some doctors appointments and therapy sessions. I’m easing back onto my antidepressants. I still have days where I shake so badly that I can’t hold a pencil. I still get random pain in my body so severe it leaves me breathless. But I also have more times I feel normal and I can go about my regular day. I have a long way to go but I’m not feeling hopeless.

I’ve explained this in previous posts but I think it’s worth repeating here: anxiety and depression are chemical imbalances in the brain. My choice to start taking antidepressants again is not a weakness or a failure. I am taking care of myself. My meds work for me because I combine them with therapy, self-reflection and family support. I also try to eat healthy, sleep enough and get some daily exercise. I am working hard to be better.


I wake up, eyes wide, heart racing. My hands are curled into painful fists. My teeth are ground together so tightly I can hear my jaw muscles popping. I have to force myself to breathe. In…two…three…out…two…three… I’ve woken up during a panic attack for the third time tonight.

I get up and run my body so hard and fast through my day that by the last bell I’m breathless. After school, I sit in my car with my eyes closed, trying to calm the shaking before I drive home. In…two…three…out…two…three…

At home I marinate my brain in sitcom reruns, (thank you Netflix.)  I eat without really tasting my food and go to bed as soon as I can. My family and friends rarely see me.

I bottom out after a whole weekend of crying and feeling paralyzed. I can’t remember feeling happy. I dread the approach of Monday so much I make myself sick to my stomach. Afterwards my throat feels raw as I try to slow my breath. In…two…three…out…two…three…

I know what I have to do. I talk to Nick and my family. We make plans. I call my family doctor to book an appointment. I double my therapy appointments. I refill my antidepressant prescription. This is going to be the hardest thing I’ve done in a long time.

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30 Day Yoga Challenge

So a little while ago I posted that I found an excellent online yoga class. Yoga with Adriene has some 30 day yoga challenge playlists posted and I just completed the one at the top of this post.

At first I thought it was going to be difficult to do a yoga session every day for thirty days but I quickly found myself looking forward to each class. I felt so great after each class. On days I was really busy, I even got up early to make sure I had time to practice. Before I knew it, the thirty days was over and I had accomplished my goal.

Each session is between twenty and forty-five minutes. For each session Adriene provides a mantra for meditating and increasing focus on the practice. A few example include “I trust” and “I am grateful for…” Adriene talks about each mantra and then leaves it up to you to incorporate it into your practice as you like. I tied them to my breath by focusing on one word on my inhale, the next on my exhale and so forth. It worked really well for me.

Each class was unique. Adriene provided lots of opportunities to move within the poses and explore my practice. I enjoyed this thirty days of yoga so much that I’m going to start on one of her other thirty-day classes tomorrow. I hope you’ll join me. Namaste.


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