My Year By Design

The journey to living by design.

Archive for the month “April, 2016”


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.


London Clean Up

The snow is (hopefully) gone for good. Unfortunately, it leaves a winter’s worth of garbage in my neighborhood. I thought I’d take this opportunity to share the clean up projects that go on in my city. I know I’ll be out there cleaning up. Hopefully, I see some of you as well!

The 20 Minute London Makeover is Friday April 22nd at 2pm. This is a day where schools, community groups and businesses can take an hour out of the work day to clean up their neighborhoods.

Community Clean Up Day is Saturday April 25th. You can either clean up at a designated clean up site or start a clean up site in your neighborhood.

Visit London Clean and Green or call (519) 661-4570 for more details.¬† Most cities and municipalities run similar programs. Check out your city’s website or speak to your city council or mayor’s office about getting something organized. With a little effort, or neighborhoods can be a whole lot nicer.

Canadian Pea Soup


Last Sunday looked like this all day:


I didn’t do my hair or wear makeup. I crawled into my comfy clothes and headed straight to my Harrowsmith’s cookbook for some cozy food. I landed on this recipe:


This would be perfect because over Easter Nick bought a ham. Well, he bought a seven pound spiral honey ham…for the two of us. With a huge mountain of leftovers, I had wrapped some ham and the ham bone in plastic wrap and tinfoil so I could freeze them. Here was my chance to use both.


So I assembled my ingredients and set to work.


I took a bunch of the leftover ham and chopped it to add to the soup at the end. I don’t like the texture of the boiled meat as much so I add my ham late in the recipe.


I soaked my split peas for two hours. I used a mix of yellow and green split peas because that’s what I found in the pantry.


I drained the peas.


I put all the ingredients except the sour cream into the pot and just covered it with cold water.


I brought it to the boil and then reduced it to a simmer.


Here’s what it looked like after two hours. The peas were tender so I took out the ham bone.


I blended the soup with my stick blender and added the sour cream.


Then I added the cold, chopped ham into the soup and simmered for 15 minutes more.


This soup is rich and hearty, perfect for a rainy day. Enjoy!

Fake Flyer Update

I completed the Fake Flyer Art Assignment a few months ago. I hung my flyer on the community board at the library but after I checked it a few times, I forgot about it. Then I was passing the library a few days ago and found that this is my flyer now:


This is so amazing! So many positive messages and great drawings have been added since I last checked! Some were simple messages like these:



Others aren’t in English. I have no idea what this one says. I think it might be Russian. If anyone can provide a translation, let me know.


This one is in French.


Using my high school French, here’s my attempt at a translation: “God, guide me, protect me, light the lamp of my heart and make me a brilliant star. You are the strength, the all powerful.” This actually sounds familiar. Is this a famous French quote or part of a poem? Let me know in the comments if you recognize it.

I am so pleased that my community respected my art and added their own to it. #theartassignment



One of my readers, (bethanycross,) suggested I try Moodscope to track my mood. It’s a free website that allows you to use an online set of cards to track how you’re feeling. The cards let you rank positive attributes, (e.g. active, inspired,) and negative attributes, (e.g. afraid, irritable,) out of a score of four. Each time you do it, you get a report on your emotional well-being. It sounded interesting so I signed up.

So each day I get a reminder email to take the survey. The survey itself is twenty cards so it only takes a few minutes. I’ve included my first four reports below so you can see what this service is like. Obviously in the beginning the reports are a bit vague. They get more specific as you continue to take the survey once or more per day. The idea is that over time you can see patterns in your moods, thereby identifying triggers for positive and negative moods.

It’s easy to use so far so I’m going to keep at it and report back in another week or so. Feel free to try it with me.

Your first Moodscope score Jennifer


Your score today is 69% Jennifer. Once you’ve used Moodscope for three days you’ll start to get much more detailed feedback. First of all though we need to get a feel for how your mood changes from day to day.

As this is the first time you’ve used the system you’ll probably be keen to get an idea of how it might help you. For now though, please be patient. Promise it’ll be worth it. If you record your mood every day, you’ll only have to wait until the day after tomorrow.

It’s the first time you’ve taken the test today, so your score has been recorded and plotted on your graph.

Your score today Jennifer


Jennifer, you’ve scored 39% today. As we explained last time you used Moodscope, you’ll begin to get detailed feedback from the system once you’ve taken the test at least three times. You’ve now racked up two scores, which means you’ll start getting more from us tomorrow.

The short delay allows us to start learning how your mood changes from day to day. In fact, the more you use Moodscope, the better it will get to know you, and the more accurate and helpful its feedback should be. See you tomorrow.

It’s the first time you’ve taken the test today, so your score has been recorded and plotted on your graph.

Right Jennifer.


Right Jennifer. Here’s the way it is. Today you have a score of 48%, which is 21% below your all-time maximum of 69%. You’re probably feeling that things have picked up since you last took the test and scored 39%.

Although you might not consider yourself to be feeling totally great today, you are definitely doing better than you had been. You are doing really well and if you can keep up this progress, you will soon be back at the top of your game again. Do your best to track down the reason for this progress and try to maintain it.

Even though you’re below your average of 52.0%, your results are headed upwards, in the right direction. However you are scoring above your all-time lowest score of 39%. You have progressed since then.

You last took the test yesterday, and that’s very good. Try and come back here every day to obtain the full benefits of Moodscope.

You’ve now registered your score 3 times with Moodscope. It’s the first time you’ve taken the test today, so your score has been recorded and plotted on your graph.

Good score Jennifer.


Good score Jennifer. Today you have a score of 68%, which is only 1% less than your highest result to date of 69%. Things have picked up for you a lot since the last time you took the test with a score of 48%.

It looks as though matters have taken a significant upward swing, putting you in a much better place. You weren’t having an especially bad time, but it would seem that things are looking much more positive at the moment. Now is a great time to pin down the cause of your turnaround so you could make it happen again if things are not as good some time in the future.

Not only is today’s score better than it was last time, you’ve also got a result higher than your average of 56.0%. You’re higher than your lowest ever result of 39%. You’ve journeyed a long way from there.

Your last score was for yesterday, and that is excellent. It’s best to use it every day to get the most from Moodscope.

To date you’ve captured your score 4 times here at Moodscope. It’s the first time you’ve taken the test today, so your score has been recorded and plotted on your graph.

Yoga and YouTube

*NOTE* Before starting a yoga home practice, it is a good idea to take a session of beginner’s classes first. It’s a chance for you to get familiar with the basics of yoga. Plus an experienced yogi can make sure you’re doing the poses correctly.

Time to get on the mat.

Time to get on the mat.

A while back I posted about starting a yoga home practice. I’ve been doing more yoga lately but instead of going to classes, I’ve been following a yoga class on YouTube.

Yoga with Adriene is an amazing YouTuber who offers yoga classes once a week. She has also created a number of 30 day yoga playlists. I’ve tried a few of her videos so far and I’m really enjoying them. Her style of yoga works well for me and she does a few things in her videos that keep me coming back.

I like the fact that there is only music at the beginning and end of the videos. I prefer to practice yoga in a quiet place. I can focus on my breathing and meditation without the distraction of music. Too many yoga videos contain constant meditation music, (or ‘plinky-plonky music’ as I call it,) and it’s distracting. I need to concentrate on what the instructor is saying and what I’m doing. That’s enough for me.

I like Adriene’s instructing style as well. Her classes are a bit more advanced than a lot of what is available on YouTube, which allows me to get more out of my practice. She moves within her poses, rather than locking into them, and encourages her students to do the same. She sets a good pace for flow (or Vinyasa,) but also provides enough time to breath and explore the poses.

I also like her sense of humor. She laughs at her own jokes and makes references to Disney characters and movie quotes. She is dedicated to her yoga practice but because she doesn’t maintain a serious attitude the whole way though her classes are more fun.

If you’re interested in doing some yoga at home, I recommend you visit Adriene’s channel. I’m current working my way through her 30 Day Yoga Camp so I’ll report back on how it goes when I’m done. Feel free to follow along too! Namaste.

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