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I don’t like this picture!

I enjoyed our vacation in Taiwan so much – there was a lot to see, and we were in good company.

But I’m not LOVING this photo so much. Haha!

Here, we were about to go up the steps in Jiufen Old Street that is famous for being the inspiration for the animated film Spirited Away (not just the steps, ha). Somehow though, instead of igniting memories of sights and sounds of that rainy but FUN day, looking at this photo has me fretting over my not-so-crowning glory. Ugh!

But I am still sharing this photo. Why?

Because I realize that having thinning hair has been bothering me MORE than it should. I mean, of course I do worry about it – it could be a sign of some health issue (and as it turns out, of low levels of a particular hormone). And I am dealing with it.

But I shouldn’t let this bother me SO MUCH, and in THIS WAY.

Not SO MUCH that I wouldn’t want photos of me being taken. And definitely not SO MUCH that I see a photo and completely overlook the more important memories and experiences memorialized in that captured moment.

Sure, I don’t look perfect (ha! It’s not just the hair, hon), but I was having a GREAT TIME.

It had been raining; my hair, scarf and jacket were wet – so I was getting really cold. And I was thinking, I should have brought a backpack instead. But I didn’t mind. I just really wanted to keep walking and keep exploring. I didn’t care about how I looked right at that moment. It was the weekend and Old Street was teeming with tourists, stopping for a photo already meant blocking the way up. I didn’t feel the need to take the time to fix my hair and everything else right then. Besides, why be bothered NOW about how I looked THEN when all I’m supposed to be doing is looking back at that memory?

Of course, most of the time I would also try to look better when being photographed, just like every other person. There is nothing wrong with that. Who doesn’t want to look good? I just also have to admit that I don’t look good all the time. Not Instagram- or Pinterest-worthy every second of the day. And I am okay with that.

This quick visit to Jiufen is one of my favorites of the entire trip because I felt that the place had a vibe like Sagada’s – it’s in the north of Taiwan, and the quieter street had interesting artisan shops and cafés. It is definitely a place I would love to visit again.

Over at the very busy Old Street, there was so much food and it was interesting to just stand back and witness all that was happening. Even watching food being prepared is quite the treat.

All that, and more, is what I should remember. And that’s what you should see too.

The next time you look at photos of a vacation, event, or even everyday life, and it sparks a good memory BUT also shows you in a funny or unglamorous light – choose to look beyond your perceived imperfections. Remember its context and remind yourself of the stories associates with it.

How we saved up for Travel

This is our Travel Money Jar. Today, it is nearly empty but there is no reason to be sad. After all, this empty Travel jar means that our travel memory banks are full!

You see, it’s nearly empty because we used its former contents to fund our recent trip to Puerto Princesa, Palawan. And what an amazing trip that was!

We got a really good deal on airfare for this trip back in November 2017. As soon as I learned of PAL’s seat sale, I let Mom know right away so we can take the trip together. Just a couple of months prior to the trip date, I reached out to an old classmate of mine from grade school who is in the Tourism Industry in PP. She hooked me up with a local travel agent to make arrangements for the hotel and tours.

52 Weeks Money Savings Challenge

A couple years ago, the 52 Weeks Money Savings Challenge became viral.

The concept: Save an incremental amount of money weekly, and enjoy your lump sum savings at the end of the year. One can start with a small amount that increases each week (50 pesos on the first week, and increase the amount by PHP 50 increments weekly), or start with the biggest amount, and work your way down.

It’s our second year now of doing this challenge. We chose to specifically allocate the savings for our Travel fund, and physically stash cash in a repurposed jar of Mayo.

The husband and I are both doing the challenge, so we started with 50 pesos each at the very beginning. If we miss one week, we make up for it on the next. To stay on top of the challenge, we use the 52 Weeks Money Challenge App.

Both the husband and I have the app on our phones, so every week, I enter the actual amount we each deposit. If we needed to borrow cash for emergency spending in the house, we record it through the app too.

To start off, you will need to enter the following:

  • Motivation/Goal – Travel, a new TV, or Downpayment for a new house, or whatever you fancy
  • Saving Method – Start low, or start high
  • Base Unit/amount – we chose 50 pesos, to get a substantial amount for our travel goals, but you can choose a lower amount depending on your end goal and capacity.
  • Reminder Time – This is my favorite feauture because you can set a day and time at which the app reminds you to save weekly!

Every once in a while, I count the actual cash in the jar to make sure the totals tally with what the app tells us we should already have. It’s been a real good way to keep track of things and not rely on just memory – Did we put money in the Travel Jar this week?

Doing this challenge, and physically seeing the money stack up inside our Travel Jar, has really kept us on track with saving money for our travel goals – without necessarily taking away from our regular budget.

As a couple, we haven’t done that much travelling – it just wasn’t a priority in the past. But it is also something we are changing.

How do you save up for your travel goals?

Are you also doing the 52 Week Money Saving Challenge? How is your experience, so far?

Recognizing Co-Occurring Disorders in Loved Ones and Getting Treatment

How good are you at recognizing the signs of substance abuse and symptoms of mental disorders in family members? Can you effectively answer how much is too much? Do you know when someone keeps having an extra drink at lunch, or nightcap, beyond what’s recommended? Or has a loved one talked about needing something to help balance them out in order to make it through the day, leaning on that extra little drink or pill? Has buzzed driving gone from just getting home to the second DUI, or that original pain pill prescription becomes a seemingly constant script fix? When there is too much partying or pain management, then it is time to seek some addiction treatment.

These questions are hard enough to answer for ourselves, let alone for a loved one. These are all reasons, and rightfully so, for additional concern.

Oftentimes, addiction may not be the only problem. There may be an underlying mental health issue as well. Fortunately, there are treatment options available to families with someone suffering from a co-occurring disorder. In fact, if the affected individual has health insurance, it might be possible for them to access free detox solutions going forward.

You have to do your best to figure out whether there are any mental disorders, substance abuse or both in order to seek out a drug rehab center for treatment. For effective recovery, underlying issues (including mental health) have to be addressed as well.

Wellness starts with admitting there is a problem. Your loved one has to recognize this in order for treatment to help. Be prepared for resistance from that person, including outright denial of a problem existing. This is true whether they’re dealing with depression, bipolar disorder, alcoholism, narcotics addiction, etc.

Having adequate health insurance is a big portion of getting well, both mentally and physically. Without good health insurance or the means to pay outright, your treatment can be subpar or non-existent at all if some health institution refuses to treat you.

Also, the path from recognizing a substance abuse issue to sobriety is not usually a straightforward one, like a ‘walk-in-the-park.’ Often, it is more like Dorothy starting on that path to Oz, you have to put one foot in front of the other. There may be some stops, getting off on the wrong track even, or other unexpected detours. But you may also meet some people along the way who take care to be vested in you and your loved one’s well-being and who want to see you do well.

Sobriety is an every minute of every day, of every month, of every year thing. Falling off the wagon happens. But the most successful treatments look at the reasoning behind why you fell off the wagon and then gives you the tools and assistance and resources to help manage these detracting situations. These problem management tools become part of your arsenal in order to hopefully build another string of days, weeks, months and years of success successful sobriety. The same is true with the mental health portion of treatment.

A Life in Stitches

I loved reading this collection of essays from author and knitter Rachael Herron.

Seriously. My blog is Stitches and Words right, but her book should be called that. She writes so beautifully about her knitting.

Despite a very productive year so far in terms of yarn projects and blogging (productive na to, considering previous years), I really don’t have a lot of completed projects under my belt. Still, I find that using either of the two blankets I made and kept always gives me a sense of pride for my handiwork, and comfort.

In contrast, writing sometimes makes me anxious. For a long time writing was also my solace, but not having written for so long I feel like I have lost my voice and am now self-conscious about publishing what I write. But I intend to break through this. They say writing is like a muscle – the more you write, the more you get better.

Crocheting and Knitting centers me. When the stitch is uncomplicated, and the pattern repetitive, I am able to keep my hands busy and my mind free to wander. While I stitch, I let thoughts form and percolate. In a way, it’s as if I meditate while I hook.

In the last three years specifically, I have gained more confidence as a crocheter and knitter. Confident enough to feel proud to give my handiwork as gifts. With the same consistent practice, I hope that confidence also shine through in whatever form I choose to share my stories.

Recently, crocheters from a group I belong to in Facebook have been yarn bombing and doing meetups. I have yet to participate, but that is on my list. I’d love to meet fellow yarn lovers and share stories while crocheting.

Every now and then I think about opening a craft store where people can come get their crafty fix, and also learn to make stuff. But I’m not quite sure I am creative enough to hack that. Hmm.

The Journey to Parenthood Can Lead to Depression

Not long after you get married, there’s this unspoken pressure to conceive. Your parents are anxious to have grandchildren, your friends are waiting for you to join “the mommy club”, and obviously, this is something you and your spouse had planned long before tying the knot. Now that the bliss of the wedding has passed and reality has sunk in, it seems like you’re on a clock to get knocked up within the next year. When months go by and nothing happens, the stress, anxiety, and pressure can be enough to send you into depression.

“Why is it taking so long for us to get pregnant?”

“How can I get my family and friends off my back?”

“Everyone around us is having children without a problem, is there something wrong with us?”

“Am I not trying hard enough?”

There are a lot of thoughts running through your head and with each passing month that you’re not pregnant these feelings get harder and harder to push aside. What was once an exciting journey towards starting a family with the love of your life has turned into a nightmare that you don’t know how to escape.

Could it Be Depression?

How do you know if you’re battling depression and not simply a bit down about not being pregnant despite your best efforts to conceive? There are different types of depression, each with its own set of symptoms, causes, and treatment. However, if you’re suffering from mental illness as a result of trying to have a baby, you may notice the following physical, emotional, and behavioral signs:

  • Lack of energy and exhaustion
  • Difficulties sleeping
  • Loss or increased appetite
  • Low libido
  • Social withdrawal
  • Restlessness
  • Mood swings
  • Not wanting to get up
  • Lack of motivation
  • Constant sadness and feelings of misery and despair
  • Helplessness
  • Anxiety
  • Numbness
  • Low self-esteem
  • Loss of the enjoyment of life
  • Self-doubt
  • Lack of focus
  • Thoughts of suicide

What Should You Do?

If you’ve experienced a number of these symptoms over a long period of time, chances are you’re depressed about the process of trying to get pregnant or the thought that your dreams of pregnancy may never happen. Either way, you should know that getting pregnant will not make your depression go away. It is making changes and seeking help (especially if you’re suicidal) that help to resolve the matter. Here are a few suggestions on what you might do to start turning things around:

Don’t get ahead of yourself – Just because you’re not expecting yet doesn’t mean you can’t get pregnant. Unless you’ve heard a clear diagnosis from a doctor, you shouldn’t allow the assumption of infertility to get you down. In fact, paying a visit to the doctor can help you understand what you may be dealing with.

Keep a journal – it is human nature to be upset when things don’t go according to plan. Keeping a journal can help you to get these pent up emotions out.

Find something else to focus on – many couples have reported that they tried for years to get pregnant with no luck. However, after putting their mind elsewhere they were able to get pregnant right away. Perhaps you’re too focused on trying to conceive and it’s stressing you out.

Stop planning it – if you and your spouse are reduced to having timed sex during you ovulation periods then maybe it’s time to take a break from the planned sex. Enjoy your partner intimately for the fun of it and whatever happens, happens.

Talk to someone – if you’ve reached the point where all you can think about is getting pregnant and it’s causing you to feel depressed you should talk to someone. A counselor, for instance, can help you to understand that you’re not alone. They may also be able to help you develop positive behaviors that can heal your mind.

Having children is something that most couples want some day. What many don’t realize until they’re actually ready to have kids is that it doesn’t always go according to plan. On your journey to parenthood, it is important not to put so much pressure on yourself or to let the outside world put pressure on you. Do what you know is necessary like eating right, exercising, and getting plenty of rest and leave the rest up to chance. If you’re really stressed about the ordeal the next most effective solution is to get help. Don’t let depression take away what is supposed to be some of the most fun moments in your life.

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