Queso Critique – Polvos

It seems like the last few posts I’ve written have included an announcement of some sort – new jobs, big moves, confessions of murderous rage, etc. Well, hold onto your hats because another one’s coming:

My queso quest is coming to an end. Sort of.

Deep breaths. It’s okay to cry. I’ll pause for a second so you can grab some tissues.

In a couple of months, my same-named cheese-friend/co-cheese-judge/co-cheese-conspirator Amanda is moving  quite far from this area – to a place in Texas where wildflowers are scarce, but love of queso is still plentiful. To a place so far away, that if I were to take a horse-drawn carriage to visit her, it’d take me at least a fortnight to get there.

Sadly, the distance will make it too difficult for us to keep reviewing on a regular basis, so we’ve decided to press the “pause” button on the project for now. It’s not a full stop, because there may still be occasional reviews when one of us visits the other.

Before you get concerned about me experiencing dangerous cheese withdrawals, I assure you that I’ll continue eating fermented dairy at a frequency that the medical community would find concerning.

With all the sad stuff said, Amanda and I decided that one more queso review was necessary before she moves. She and her kids visited me for a weekend of adventures, and in between touring beloved Austin sites, we squeezed in a visit to Polvos. Before leaving my apartment for the day, her kids performed an impromptu (and rather unprofessional) video interview of the queso judges.

At the restaurant, we quickly ordered the Choriqueso, and then cheerfully sang along with the music, which unexpectedly featured a lot of Beatles songs for a Tex-Mex place. I hear that Ringo was a big fan of enchiladas and carne guisada, so this makes perfect sense.

Here’s a beauty portrait of the queso when it arrived. Swoon.

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As we munched, Amanda and I began reminiscing on our cheese journey and all the quesos we’ve been experienced thus far. We decided that despite the variation in scoring, these dishes all fall into one of three categories:

  • So disappointing that I want to cry into the bowl, which isn’t a terrible idea, as the salt from my tears might make it taste better
  • Enjoyable, and would order again, but is not all that memorable
  • So delectable that I want to eat whatever this cheese touches, including the napkin and my own face

I’ll cut to the chase: the queso at Polvos falls in that middle category with a score of 3.8. It was of the baked flameado style, which is dear to our hearts. This variety  is meant to be lovingly scooped and coaxed into tortillas, and the consistency of this dish was perfect for that task. There was also no shortage on meat and poblano peppers, which provided lots of flavor.

However, the cheese in this dish was quite mild and didn’t provide much flavor of its own, which kept it from reaching that elusive 4-point rating. It doesn’t stand out like the ones above it do.

Still, not a bad queso to pause our journey on!

To read up on our specific judging criteria, OR to see a ranked list of all the quesos we tried, visit Queso Scoring.

 

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Symptoms of Move-itis

Y’all, March has been somewhat of a booger-bear for me, through no fault of my own.

Okay, that’s a lie – the insanity of this month is entirely my fault.

You see, I thought it’d be interesting to schedule both surgery AND a move to a new city within the same month! And I was correct. It is interesting. Interesting in the way that makes you want to commit yourself to a mental hospital just to get some rest. Forget the idea of this month being named after a Roman god – I’m pretty sure the name March means “Life’s gonna march across your face, sucker!”

Let’s take a look at the month:

March 17: Had my wisdom teeth forcibly ripped from my gums. Interestingly, I am still numb on the right side of my face/mouth. I don’t feel a thing, even when I poke at it with knives and fire! According to the surgeon, this means one of two things: 1. The nerve has gone dormant, and will return to normal within the next few weeks, or 2. I’m turning into a cyborg.

Stay tuned for the outcome of Amanda’s face, coming soon to a theater near you.

March 31: I will finally, thankfully, after 3 months of commuting, be moving to Austin! It’s an exciting change, but as you all know, even exciting changes come with stress-induced acne, sleepless nights, unforeseen expenses –- and a crap-ton of cardboard boxes.

 

 

 

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If you’ve ever moved before, you know that the process is somewhat daunting. Dishes need to be carefully wrapped, boxes neatly packed, and holes in the wall gingerly spackled. But you also still have to live in the hellhole you’re trying to leave, which means re-using the same plastic fork, re-wearing the same outfit, and making weird meals out of hotdogs, noodles, and Jello.

It’s no wonder you start to get a little frazzled. It’s a condition that I like to call, “Move-itis.”

Symptoms of Move-itis:

  1. Second-Guessing. Happens in the beginning stages of a move, when you realize how much you have to do, and how many places you have to contact with your new address. You start to think maybe you should just stay put to avoid the whole circus. Forever.
  1. Anxious Tetris. When you find yourself overly concerned with packing the boxes so perfectly, that a single grape could not fit inside, and yet – it’s not overstuffed. It’s neatly filled to the brim. This feat of engineering is basically impossible, so you find yourself trying a number of different combinations with frustration, before finally giving up.
  1. Rage-filled Unpackings. Taking several minutes to thoughtfully pack a box and adhere it closed with several layers of tape, only to realize you need an item from inside of it. This symptom may be met with amusement and mild-mannered face-palming the first 7 times it happens, but on the 8th time, you’ve lost patience with yourself and with the whole idea of moving, so you find yourself ripping into the box with your talons and fangs, and soon all you can see is bits of tape and cardboard flying everywhere, and all you can hear is the sounds of growling and roaring, and then you realize it’s all coming from you, but it’s not enough to stop you until you’ve reached the goddamn item you so stupidly packed.
  1. Box Begging. You run out of boxes and containers, but still have a lot left to pack. You wander into various businesses and ask them, with desperate eyes, if you can have theirs. In the severe stages, you may stalk people in the grocery store for signs that they may have recently moved and therefore have boxes to share. (Sign 1: They’re sweaty, dirty, and buying large appliances.)
  1. Cyclic Wandering. Being unable to find the packing tape, so you wander around your apartment looking for it, only to get distracted by the pile of bedsheets you meant to box up earlier. After filling the box, you realize that you need the tape again, so you go look for it in the kitchen, only to notice the growing pile of trash and be reminded that you need to take it the dumpster. On the way back in, you see all the open boxes and go hunting for the tape again, but this time you see your bed looking all lonely and decide to take a little nap. The longer this cycle goes on, the more severe your syndrome is.

If you suspect you may have Move-itis, call your doctor immediately. He won’t be able to cure it, but maybe he can prescribe you something strong enough to find the whole situation highly amusing.

 

 

 

5 Antidotes for Road Rage

In early January, I left my agency counselor job in order to pursue new adventures in private practice. Although I’ve been working in Austin, I’ve continued to live in the same rural town about 45 minutes outside of the city, mainly because the expenses are a kajillion times cheaper.

Did you just Google Map Austin to try and figure out where I live? What. A. Stalker.

For all the money I’ve gained by staying in a cheaper area, I’ve probably lost an equal amount of my sanity from making this commute every day. Thankfully, we’re not talking about highway rush hour gridlock here. Instead, I’m forced to make the journey on an open, winding highway with scenic views of the Texas Hill Country – complete with lakes, rivers, and newly budding wildflowers.

It’s just as awful as it sounds.

Okay, I can grudgingly admit that the commute is actually quite lovely. Most days, I can enjoy it on my drive into work. But when I’ve had a full day of clients and networking, I couldn’t care less about the views. I just want to go home.

And all of these other drivers, on their slow, scenery-enjoying drives, are making me feel a little … irrational.

Let’s put it this way: if it were possible to murder people with only your thoughts, I’d be a serial killer by now.

I’m excited to say that this problem will not be a problem much longer, as I’m moving to Austin at the end of this month! Woo hoo! However, it’s still a problem now, and I recognize that my road-rage-induced stress is not doing great things for me. Therefore, I’ve been trying to think of ways that I can improve the commute so that I feel a little less murdery.

These are the ideas I’ve come up with so far:

Antidote 1: Take a moment to actually appreciate the scenery

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Only problem: My appreciation for beauty is destroyed by my rage. Fuck off, flowers!

Antidote 2: Channel my frustrations into a rap song

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Only problem: Hard to write when my hands are on the wheel. Also, not a good rapper.

Antidote 3: Keep a vat of melted cheese nearby as a comforting snack

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Only problem: Unlike most cars, my car does not contain a built-in crockpot. Or, as I like to call it, a Cheese Keeper Warmer.

Antidote 4: Assign background stories to my fellow highway travelers.

Maybe the huge red pickup with oversize tires belongs to a sweet-faced, hot-cocoa-making grandmother who’s on her way to bridge club. Meanwhile, the purple junked-out minivan belongs to… I don’t know, Matthew McConaughey.

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Only problem: Thinking of McConaughey reminds me of his Lincoln commercials, which I hate. I want to know what drugs the writers were using when they wrote his lines.

Antidote 5: Turn it into a drinking game (for once I get home).

I can have a sip of wine every time one of the following occurs during the commute:

  • I have thoughts about the other drivers that are aggressive and/or not in keeping with my career as a mental health professional.
  • Someone pulling to the side of the road so they can take pictures of their dogs romping around in the wildflowers.
  • Someone not moving from the passing lane, despite going ten miles under the speed limit.
  • Someone driving a gigantic automobile that’s clearly meant to compensate for non-gigantic body parts.

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Only problem: None. This is genius. Off to buy some wine.

On a less-goofy note, I have actually found some luck with a couple of podcasts – This American Life and NPR’s Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me. If you’ve got other suggestions for podcasts (preferably humorous ones!), I’m all ears 🙂

 

Letter to Past Me

Approximately one year ago, inspired by a blog challenge by Bubbles & Beebots, I wrote a letter to my future self. Which is now my current self. Back then, I was pretty certain that I would forget about the letter and never remember to write a response back, but somehow that memory managed to claw its way into my consciousness.

High-five, memory! I forgive you for all the things you’ve lost over the years. Minus the time you left Grandma at the airport. That’s unforgivable.

Anyway, it’d probably make much more sense for you to read my 2016 letter first. But if you don’t want it to make sense, then you don’t have to read it. Perhaps you prefer to live dangerously. I like that.

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Dear 2016 version of me,

Hey look – we’re still alive! Well, mostly. Up until this point, you have tested a whopping twenty-two different queso dishes. That’s a lot of dairy and dead animals. Medical professionals might call it excessive, but I call it sensible. This gal ain’t gettin’ no osteoporosis.

Back then, you wondered whether Sazón would still in the lead, and it is, BUT it’s now sharing the cheese crown with your beloved Mamacita’s. Sadly, my friend and fellow cheese-tester and I have not gone on a quest in a few months. You see, we got into a fight over which flavor of cheese is the best. Things got heated, and then I accidentally whacked her on the head with a block of aged gouda.

It happens.

So, 2016 self, I know you were hoping that I would use this year to become older, wiser, and fancier. Listen up, because I have good news and bad news. The good news is – you’re indeed a fully-licensed professional counselor, and you’re now in private practice. Never saw THAT coming, did ya? Your biggest fear is uncertainty, and you frequently thought about sticking with what you know for the sake of security, but something inside kept pushing and poking you to do more.

And it was not a food baby.

Okay, now for the bad news. I know you were really hoping that you’d be cooking more well-balanced meals by now. You’re nearing thirty, after all. But it turns out, 2017 You still really likes eating ham cubes straight out of the package. If it makes you feel any better, you’re still paying bills, doing laundry, and even vacuuming – which you loathe more than corgis loathe large vegetables.

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You’re clearly not lazy. But you seem to have been born without the part of the brain that enables you to plan normal meals and follow through on them. Instead, you stand in front of the open fridge and stare at the plentitude of foodstuffs that you bought with the ignorant hopes that they’d inspire you to change. Then, you start thinking about how many steps are involved in making those meals, and suddenly you feel a little less inspired and a little more apathetic. Pretty soon, you’re gnawing on a cold hot dog while you stand there – still staring. Still waiting.

And then you give up on the idea of dinner, like the sad, cold-hot-dog-eating pretend-grown-up that you are.

It’s okay. It’s a disease. You can’t help yourself.

Let’s see, what else did you want to know about me? Oh, right. You’ll be amazed to know that you’re typing this letter on a decrepit 11-year-old laptop. That’s right, IT’S STILL ALIVE TOO! Mwahahahha!!! (Sorry, that was the laptop laughing.) At least you purchased a cuter and smaller one to use strictly for work purposes. You’re convinced the old laptop knows you’re cheating on it with the younger model, and will soon have its revenge, but you’ll cross that bridge when you come to it.

So, 2016 self, a lot has changed, but a lot has stayed the same. You still have weird eating habits, but your arteries haven’t give up yet. You’re not sure why you’ve become a nursing home for elderly laptops, because even your father thinks you should get rid of this one – and he owns a robe that’s older than you are. Hopefully, maybe, these charming oddities are balanced out by all of your successes, such as your impressive vacuuming, your big job change, and the fact that you washed your car the other day.

Just as you suspected, 2017 You is doing just fine. Okay…maybe even more than fine 🙂

With love,

2017, Still-a-work-in-Progress, Me

 

 

Laughing at Others is Fun

It’s rather easy to make me laugh in person. Absurd humor, clever sarcasm, and goofy facial expressions can have me in stitches with little effort. But take all of these things and put them on scripted television shows or movies, and I’m suddenly less impressed by them. Certainly, I’m entertained. Often, I’m amused enough to smile or let out a quiet exhale of air. (“Heh.”) But it’s not common for me to truly laugh out loud at pre-written antics.

That said, there are always exceptions.

Certain moments of certain television shows catch me off guard just enough that my mouth throws out a chuckle. Or maybe it’s a chortle? What’s the difference between a chuckle and a chortle? Seems like a chortle would be deeper but also jollier, as though Santa himself had inhabited my diaphragm.

Don’t worry, kids. Santa doesn’t live in my esophagus. Yet.

Some television scenes have the ability to make me laugh not only the first time I see them, but for infinite views afterward. These excellent moments deserve my acknowledgment, and by golly, they’re going to get it!

I give you, in no particular order

The Chortle Awards!

(P.S. – Clicking on the name of the show will take you to the Youtube clip of the scene, if there’s one available)

Leslie meeting Michelle Obama

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Parks and Recreation – Season 6, Episode 21

Passionate bureaucrat Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) fervently admires all female leaders, and is in so much shock when she meets FLOTUS, that she physically backs away at first. The wonder on her face is quickly accompanied by lots of nervous shouting, a cringeworthy high-five, and a vow to agree with Obama on “all things, throughout history and until the end of time, forever.” It’s endearingly funny, and yet also pretty relatable for those of us who are socially strange.

Fire drill

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The Office – Season 5, Episode 14

In an episode ironically named “Stress Relief,” dedicated paper salesman Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson) sets a small fire designed to teach his coworkers a lesson about the importance of office safety. Not realizing that the (contained) fire isn’t a true threat, the employees quickly find themselves trapped, and calamity ensues. Favorite moment: the terror-stricken look on Creed’s face when a pair of legs suddenly fall through the ceiling tiles.

FAJITAS!

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Friends – Season 10, Episode 2 

Pretty much anytime Ross (David Schwimmer) mentally unravels, it’s fun to watch. But this episode is especially hilarious. The poor guy is clearly upset about seeing his long-time love kissing his best friend, but rather than acknowledging his feelings and discussing them, he continues to insist that he’s fine. We’ve all been there (says the therapist), but Ross takes it to new heights with a squeaky voice, erratic behaviors, and bad love poems. “V is for this very surprising turn of events – which I’m still fine with, by the way.”

Egg

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Arrested Development – Season 2  (no clip available)

This one’s not a particular scene so much as a running gag throughout an entire season. Sixteen-year-old George Michael (Michael Cera) dates a girl named Ann, who is thought of by George Michael’s entire family as being dull in both appearance and personality. His father (Jason Bateman) especially dislikes the girlfriend, and not only frequently forgets that his son is dating her, but also calls her a number of silly nicknames, such as Egg, Yam, and Bland. As I’m typing this, I’m aware that it doesn’t sound that funny. But you have to trust me on this! Every time Jason Bateman says “WHO?,” you’ll laugh.

The most beautiful butterfly

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 That 70s Show – Season 7, Episode 4 (no clip available)

 Red (Kurtwood Smith) is disappointed in his son, Eric (Topher Grace), who struggles to find his way after graduating from high school. Eric’s mother, Kitty, (Debra Jo Rupp) begs Red to offer his son a job at his muffler shop, but Red quickly argues that Eric has no skills. Kitty comes to her son’s defense by proclaiming, “just today, he caught the most beautiful butterfly!” The line is so random, and Kitty says it with such pride and awe, that it cracks me up. A moment later, Red says he’ll keep Eric in mind if a giant butterfly attacks his shop, and poor Kitty reluctantly admits that her son wouldn’t be able to handle a giant one. The exchange is quick, but fun. I only wish I could find a clip of it for you!

 Fire! Fire! Help me!

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IT Crowd – Series 1, Episode 2

While the building fire in The Office had people scrambling for their lives, a fire in the office of IT Crowd doesn’t ruffle many feathers. (Come to think of it, these reactions are probably indicative of the difference between American and British personalities in general J.) In this scene, Moss (Richard Ayoade) reacts to the fire with a small amount of startle (when he finally notices it), and then takes an agonizing amount of time reading the fire extinguisher before attempting to (unsuccessfully) use it. When he’s also unable to phone emergency services, Moss decides to send a comically cordial email to the fire department. His awkwardness in the face of a crisis is endearing.

He’s fine, he sends his love

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Roseanne – Season 5, Episode 16

I grew up watching Roseanne and still enjoy catching reruns now and then. Every time this episode plays, I find myself putting down my phone or other distractions so that I don’t miss this scene. After Roseanne’s father dies, she and her sister Jackie (Laurie Metcalfe) must notify their loved ones with the news. On the phone with an elderly (and apparently hard-of-hearing) relative, a grief-stricken Jackie is forced to shout the news over and over again, and grows increasingly more frustrated.  The humor is dark, I know. But the sense that you’re not supposed to laugh at something makes it infinitely funnier!

But…it’s my ass

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Bob’s Burgers – Season 1, Episode 7

 Hoping to make a little extra money, the matriarch of the Belcher family decides to turn their home into a bed and breakfast for tourists. As a result, Bob and Linda are forced to share a bed with their three “unique” children, who wreak havoc in their own ways. Tina thrashes wildly and ponders the sleep habits of horses, while Louise insists on staying awake to exact revenge on the bed and breakfast customers. However, Gene is the REAL star of this episode, by bringing snacks into the bed and putting his feet down Bob’s underwear because “it’s warm in there!”

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a clip of the scene I’m referring to, but this one’s from the same episode!

Honey, that werewolf needs help!

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Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt –Season 1, Episode 8  

 The character of Titus Andromedon (played by Tituss Burgess) makes this show. Between his flair for drama and quick wit, everything he says or does is funny to me, so it was tough to choose only one scene. But I had to go with the werewolf. Titus dresses in an elaborate costume for his work at a horror-themed restaurant, and then discovers that he’s treated better as a werewolf than as a black man. Strangers give him friendly greetings and offer their help when he’s in distress, and no one, no one, confuses him for Samuel L. Jackson. The absurdity of watching a man casually live life as a werewolf, combined with the sharp commentary on racism, makes this episode quite chortle-worthy.

* Side note: Just for kicks, I decided to look back over my list and see if I could come up with any themes for what I tend to find the funniest. Turns out, between all the fires, deaths, and breakdowns, it seems the things I find most amusing involve other people’s misfortunes.

Says the therapist.

So, what do y’all think of my list? Are any of your favorite scenes represented here? What scenes (from these shows) do you think should have been included?

 

How to be Self-Employed

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I’ve (almost) completed my first week of being in private practice, and I have to say – so far, so good! I was worried I’d lose my mind from too much freedom (like when I was unemployed a few years ago), but I’ve actually been somewhat busy, which is fantastic. There’s definitely been more downtime than what I’m used to, though.

Hopefully, I’ll soon have a full caseload of clients and my day will naturally be more active. But until that happens, here’s what a typical day has been looking like for me:

7:30 – Wake up and curse the morning’s arrival, just like every other day

7:30-8:29 – Put on make up, run a rake through my unruly hair, and get dressed

8:30 – Decide it’s time to leave my apartment to begin my 45-minute commute to the office

8:30 – Remind myself that I’m too anal about scheduling and time, because I always think that I need to leave super early in case there’s a car accident or earthquake or avalanche on the way,  and then there’s never any kind of disaster, so I arrive to my destination way too early, and end up feeling  bored as I wait for my first client to show, and then have remind myself for the millionth time that I could be a little more laid-back. I can leave in a few minutes.

8:30 – Leave for work.

10:00-10:50 – Intake session. As my client is leaving, she mentions she’s headed to a popular kolache joint down the street from the office

10:50-11:00 – Daydream about kolaches

11:00-12:00 – Finish completing paperwork and updating my calendars. Feel I deserve a kolache as a reward.

12:01 – Mentally congratulate myself for choosing not to get a kolache. I’m so healthy and grown-up.

12:01-12:45 – On the commute back home, have this argument in my head:

Rational Brain: “Okay, we’re not going to spend the afternoon watching TV. Think of something productive to do.”

Irrational Brain: “Netflix!”

Rational Brain: “NO! No. Let’s work on the book. You haven’t done that in awhile.”

Irrational Brain: “Or…. we could bake cookies.”

RB: (rolls eyes) “No. You got to bake yesterday.”

IB: (rolls eyes) “That was banana bread. This is cookies. They’re very different.”

RB: “Yes, I KNOW there’s a difference between —- Okay, you know what, we’re getting off-    topic. Why don’t we compromise? You can bake the cookies, and while they’re in the oven,        you can do something important, like –“

IB: “BAKE MORE COOKIES!”

RB: “For the love of God, STOP IT with the cookies!”

IB: (pouts)

RB: “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have yelled. But you really need to get some things done.”

IB: (thinks for awhile) “I could…send an email to that one person about that one thing.”

RB: “Yes! That’s good! What else?”

IB: “I could…turn on Netflix and watch it while I dust the living room?”

RB: “Not the best, but I’ll take it.”

1:00-1:30 – Stop at the grocery store for a prescription and some lunchmeat. Leave with more Ferrero Rocher chocolates than any normal human being would require. Remember that I didn’t get a kolache earlier, and feel justified in my purchase.

1:30-1:45 – Make a to-do list for the afternoon. Spend inordinate amount of time making the wording look fancy.

1:45-2:00 – Call the licensing board to notify them about my change in address. Become so hypnotized listening to the “hold” music, that I temporarily forget why I’m calling and feel startled when someone finally answers. Spend fifteen minutes on hold, only to be told that change of addresses now have to be completed online. Consider setting fire to things.

2:00-3:00 – Accidentally lose a big chunk of time on meaningless activities. Not even sure what I did here.

3:00-4:00 – Watch Joe Biden be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Feel weepy and proud, as though I know him personally. Also feel a little jealous, as though maybe I should have won the medal myself. Cheese blogs save lives, too, you know.

4:00-6:00 – Watch a marathon of That 70s Show and remember for the millionth time that I don’t find the show very funny and in fact, almost find it irritating, and yet, I can’t seem to stop watching it. I’m stuck in an infinite loop of terrible characters and weak plots.

6:00-7:30 – Play Sudoku on my phone. Feel triumphant when I beat my previous scores. Take that, lesser self!

7:30 – Turn off TV and put away phone in an effort to ground myself. Lament about today’s youth being too connected to technology. Open new library book.

7:38-10:30 – Watch more of That 70s Show.

 10:30 – Go to bed suddenly feeling anxious that I didn’t get enough done during the day, and that maybe the whole world will fall apart unless I check my work email RIGHT NOW, so I check it and there’s nothing there, so I feel a little relief, but then the light from my phone sends a message to my brain that it’s time to be awake now, because that’s how brains work, so now I’m too alert and twitchy and I spend half an hour trying to relax, but I feel like I don’t deserve to be relaxed because I didn’t do much today. Resolve to be more productive tomorrow.

 

What’s the Opposite of Decorating?

I was taking down Christmas decorations when I decided that this task should be combined with drinking, or perhaps made into a game, due to how boring and frowny it is.

And then I remembered – that I’ve already had this exact same thought before…

Just in Queso

Today, I forced myself to do something that was necessary, but completely awful. Torturous, even.

I finally put away Christmas decorations and took down my tree.

…Am I the only one who finds this task incredibly depressing?

In late November, like many others, I so look forward to dragging out the torn and tattered boxes of decorations. I listen to Christmas music and sip hot chocolate while lovingly finding homes for each little trinket. It’s a comforting ritual.

And the best part is, for over a month, I get to enjoy the sight of my lit-up tree with presents underneath, in all of their glistening and glittery glory. Nothing gets me in the holiday mood faster.

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Unfortunately, while getting the ornaments out is loads of fun, putting them away comes with no fanfare. You spend all that time and effort, neatly balling up the lights, re-wrapping ornaments in tissue paper…

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Ten Facts about Mental Health Professionals

  1. We always make healthy choices
    Every night, I prepare a well-balanced meal of lean meats and vegetables, and then I follow it with a jog around the block. If I’m feeling sassy, I might enjoy half a kit-kat. I have never been known to eat nachos for six days in a row, and then followed them with piles of oreos.

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  1. We follow our own advice
    You know how I’m constantly reminding you of the importance of sleep hygiene, and the evils of using technology right before bed? I totally listen to my own advice. I never text my friends or watch youtube videos in bed. I get a perfect 8.5 hours of sleep every night, no matter what. And I’m also never groggy the next morning!
  1. We’re organized
    My office supplies are so organized, I don’t have any junk drawers in my desk. Okay, I have one. Well, two. Okay, all of the drawers are junk-filled.

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  1. We’re always calm
    True therapists never experience anxiety. We also never curl up under a weighted blanket that was technically made for clients, but is used way more often by us. And none of us have recurrent eye twitches or neck spasms during times of increased stress. That’d just be weird!

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  1. We lead perfect, trouble-free lives
    For me, a bad day means tripping over my bag of diamonds, or having to give my personal masseuse  the night off. I was raised atop a rainbow, surrounded by poetry-reading unicorns. Nothing has ever made me feel scared, or sad, or confused, or angry, or numb.

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  1. We never get into stupid fights with friends or family members
    Everything we say comes out eloquent and respectful, even when we’re frustrated. We never make comments we don’t mean, or silently wish our loved ones would spontaneously disintegrate.

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  1. We’re robots without personalities of our own
    Our idea of fun is to finish a Sudoku puzzle in our plaid pajamas while listening to the sweet, sweet sounds of soft jazz playing in the background. We don’t taste-test cheese-related dishes, and we certainly do not blog about them while sitting on our sofas pantsless. And none of us have dark senses of humor.
  1. We’re always professional and appropriate
    We never challenge our fellow therapists to chair races in the hallway, nor climb on filing cabinets during a rousing game of “lava floor.” We NEVER doze off in our comfy therapy chairs. And we definitely do not trek to the grocery store in stained yoga pants and unwashed hair in order to buy a bottle of wine and a package of premade tamales.

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  1. We always have our shit together
    I don’t know of any therapists who have procrastinated simple tasks for months on end. And none of us have ever drunkenly burst into tears in public, or made choices our mothers would groan at.
  1. We have exceptional insight into ourselves
    Just like we ask you to analyze the reasons behind your behaviors, we’re always doing the  same for our own. We never find ourselves pushing down uncomfortable feelings, putting on a fake smile, and insisting that everything is okay.  And we certainly don’t delude ourselves into thinking that because we’re mental health professionals, we’re suppose to handle all life events with grace.

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Diving into the Doom

Big things are on the horizon for Cheese Woman (that’s my new nickname, as of right now). As many of you know, I am a mental health therapist. As not many of you know, I’ve recently decided to leave the agency I currently work for, and am in the process of going into private practice.

This decision has come with a full rainbow of feelings. Guilt about leaving clients, especially ones I’ve been seeing a long time. Sadness about leaving my coworkers. Hopeful about relationships with new coworkers. Nervous about having to market for myself in the new practice.

Mostly though, I vacillate between these two feelings:

  1. Over-the-top, click-your-heels-together excitement

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  1. Massive, soul-encompassing fear

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At times, I am filled with hope and happiness about my new job. I can’t wait to have more control over the types of cases I see, and I’m optimistic that I can figure out marketing and get into a comfortable routine. Then, my fervor collides with naïveté and spirals into a whirling tornado of idealistic delusion. With a manic grin on my face, I picture myself becoming wildly successful in my practice. I’ll clearly make kajillions of dollars. It won’t matter whether I’m good at marketing, because people will travel hundreds of miles and ford treacherous rivers with their oxen in order to see me. Other agencies will beg me to give presentations. My former grad professors will look on me with pride.

I will be helpful. I will inspire CHANGE.

At other times, I descend into a neurotic pit of doom. I worry that I will have trouble finding clients. That I will not make enough money to support myself. That I will have to explain to friends and family why I’m struggling financially. That this situation will continue long enough that I will have to take on another job, or else be in danger of losing my savings. I am terrified at the thought of taking a big risk and getting nothing in return. I am sickened at the idea of admitting failure. Instead of picturing people traveling far and wide for my services, I picture public scorn. I envision myself being forced to rent my extra bedroom to a banjo-playing drifter who collects taxidermied raccoons. And who eats my leftover macaroni and cheese.

I am no picnic to be around when I’m in the pit of doom. I may or may not have vomited sheer anxiety all over certain loved ones victims.  And then gave them wide-eyed looks of terror as they were forced to reassure me that I will probably not die from this. Also, I may or may not have asked a friend if she’ll still like me if I have to become a prostitute.

Her answer was yes, if you were wondering.

It sort of feels as though I am a dichotomy* of emotion right now, bouncing back and forth from one extreme to another. But the truth is, as with most things in life, I typically fall somewhere in the middle on the spectrum of experience. Even when I’m deliriously excited, I still have a twinge of nervousness. And even when I’m spinning through the black hole of fear, there’s still a quiet whisper at the back of my brain that’s going, “Hey. You can do this.”

*Side note – Ever noticed how the word “dichotomy” sounds like a type of surgery?

 “Can’t make it to your party on Tuesday – I’m having another dichotomy.”

“Another?! That’s your fourth one this year!”

I don’t think the goal is to be completely without worry in this process. For one thing, that’s just not possible. It’s new, and new things are scary. But also, I think a small amount of anxiety keeps me realistic. I SHOULD be concerned about money. Not having money is bad. That’s a practical matter to be thinking about and preparing for. Rather than convincing myself not to be scared, I think the more appropriate goal is to try for an attitude of “Yes, and …”

“Yes, I’m scared about this… and I’m also excited about it. Yes, this could go badly for me … and I’m going to try it anyway.”

I’m actively attempting to lean in to my fears instead of fighting against them. Diving cleanly into the water will hurt a heck of a lot less than falling into it kicking and screaming.

I hate to admit it, but this deluge of cheesy encouragements is also somewhat helping…

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We’ll see if I’m still holding onto this attitude a few months from now. Or a few minutes from now.

What is scaring (or exciting) you guys right now?