Raising Richmond: Blessed distractions (volume 2)

Eight little somethings that are helping me be a better…well, just helping me be better these days.

(Read volume 1 here.)

The transition from summer to autumn is a bit tricky for me–as is the case with most depressives, I think.1 The combination of less sunshine and the impending stress of the holiday season gives my days a notable undertone of doom-and-gloom.2

Adding to all that, our family is just coming off of the OMG SCHOOL IS SO FUN high of September; while our son, JR, loves his school (as do my husband and I), the novelty of it all is starting to wear off. Meanwhile, my 32nd birthday is later this week, and for some reason that very adult-sounding age has sent me into a “what does it all meaaaaaaaaan?” tailspin.

Long story short: I’m in kind of a weird place right now.

But, as they say, this ain’t my first rodeo. I’m almost 10 years3 into the sometimes day-to-day struggle that is depression, so none of what I’m experiencing right now is new or unexpected. I mean, it still suuuuuucks, but it’s manageable, as I’ve learned through several seasons of practice. For me, it’s no longer about putting my head down and trying to soldier through, like I would’ve five years ago. I’ve got a husband and son to love and care for, and caring for myself is key in caring for them.4 So I take my medication.5 I “tag out” and go for a run. I say no when I need to. This year I’m also making a conscious effort to seek out and relish in things that push back against the heaviness I tend feel this time of year. It’s made a huge difference–so much so that I feel compelled to share them with you in the off chance that some of you might need help fighting whatever ails you these days. And maybe my specific “things” won’t work for you, but I hope that by me sharing mine, you’ll be encouraged find yours.

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Putting pencil to paper


I used to draw a lot as a kid, but save the occasional cartoony sketch to amuse my son, I just didn’t keep up with it as I got older. A couple of months ago I picked up a sketch pad on a whim and got back into it. I’m really not very good (and I’m definitely not going to show you any of my finished products), but it feels comforting (and a little indulgent) to reconnect with something I enjoyed so much as a kid.

Packing lunches


While some aspects of school are getting to us (checking the take-home folder, getting out the door without inflicting emotional trauma on one another, etc.), packing JR’s lunch is still a highlight of my day. You’d think that six weeks in I’d be over digging crumbs and mush out of the corner of his lunchbox, washing his inexplicably sticky thermos, and cutting up strawberries, but…nope. It’s just become a sweet little routine for me. And the fact that I know I won’t be present to hear him complain about the contents of his lunch6 probably doesn’t hurt.

Shouty texts time


From about 9:00 until 11:00 PM on most nights, my phone vibrates every two or three minutes. I call this the “shouty texts time.” This is when my friends and I (sometimes in a group conversation, sometimes one-on-one) express our shared exasperation with the challenges of motherhood–usually in all caps. It’s commiserating at its finest, and while we don’t always offer one another the most constructive of comments about life, their transparency and support have gotten me through many a rough night with my own kid.

Costume creating


A couple weeks ago Kelly shared that she’s just not into the whole idea of making a Halloween costume for her kid. I, however, am. I so am. So much so that I had to stop myself from emailing Kelly to tell her exactly how she could construct her daughter’s costume of choice. I’ve never been big on making costumes for myself, but parenthood awakened this ability to pull together some pretty great DIY stuff for my kid. One year JR was a goldfish (pictured above); the next he was a (very last minute) black widow spider. This year he wants to be the green ninja from Ninjago. So I’m spending much of my free time hand painting a karate uniform I dyed approximately 10,000 times to get it remotely close to the correct shade of green. “On paper” my efforts are probably way more trouble than they’re worth, but it feels fantastic to know I’m good at something and just run with it. What’s more, I love it because I know he’ll love it.

Trees, trees, and more trees


We live on the Northside, and while this part of Richmond is awesome for a variety of reasons, for me it is all about the trees.7 Giant maples, oaks, and sycamores line block after block, their branches sometimes spreading over the street to filter the sunlight just right. Those trees take afternoon walks and bike rides with the fam to the next level–especially later in the season when they really start showing off.

Hot beverages


A cup of Blanchard’s Breakfast Blend in the morning and a cup of Davidson’s Cranberry Orange Tea at night–each have become essential to my waking up and settling down rituals, respectively. It’s like they give my subconscious a heads-up as to what’s coming next, which my mind and body seem to really appreciate. Also: they are just crazy delicious.8

Other people’s stories

I did not take this picture. Unfortunately. One day, Ira. One day. #braincrush

I did not take this picture. Unfortunately. One day, Ira. One day. #braincrush

The This American Life app has always been my go-to soundtrack for runs,9 but it’s in use pretty much at all possible times these days: in the car, while I’m cleaning the house, when I’m knocking out simple tasks at work. I just appreciate a good story, and sometimes it’s nice to focus on one that isn’t my own. Plus, I’m convinced that there is nothing more adorable than when Ira Glass (the host) gets the giggles.

Five more minutes


One unexpected, but much-appreciated, result of JR being in school all day, every day is that bedtime has become a cinch.10 A couple books, some snuggles, and he’s good to go. I’ve also found that if I lie there with him for just five minutes, he’ll typically fall asleep in my arms. Just being with my little guy, all warm and quiet with his body lightly twitching11 as he sinks deeper into sleep is good for this mama’s heart.

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Tell me: what’s easing your woes (seasonal or otherwise) these days?

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  1. That’s not to say I’m a huge fan of summer. Richmond summers literally make me feel like we are all going to die–as in I would not be at all surprised if someone just burst into flames right in front of me. But I think that counts as anxiety, rather than depression. 
  2. See, my summertime anxiety usually presents itself through ALL CAPS rants on Twitter. Autumn just brings The Sads. 
  3. Officially, anyway. 
  4. That whole saying, “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy” is true, at least in our house. 
  5. Some may think it’s no brainer for someone who has been prescribed medication for depression to actually take that medication. It isn’t always. Although I’m grateful I have it, there are days that I hate that I need it. 
  6. Apparently Goldfish are no longer acceptable? It’s like once he hit four-and-a-half their addictive properties had no hold over him. 
  7. Except for when they drop limbs that total your car. True story
  8. The coffee and tea, not my mind and body. 
  9. I can’t run to music; it makes me too aware of how long I’ve actually been schlepping myself from here to there. 
  10. Now that I’ve said this out loud, it’ll will probably all go to shit soon. Oh well, it was good while it lasted! 
  11. His dad does the same thing, which makes it extra cute. 
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Valerie Catrow

Valerie Catrow is editor of RVAFamily, mother to a mop-topped first grader, and always really excited to go to bed.

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