By: Azure Stilwell
I think I need a vacation from planning our family vacation. It always starts with where do we get the money? Once we get that figured out, it then becomes a question of where do we want to go? There is always more than one suggestion to this question and at least one totally out of budget suggestion. Which means I will be trying with all my might and brain cells to figure out how to make the big request happen, and inevitably it won’t because again it is beyond budget. So, we will finally settle on a place, and then comes the part where everyone’s schedule has too match up. By this time, I am already worn out but must continue for the sake of a family vacation, because what is summer without one?
So, we have our budget, we have our place, and we now have our dates. Now onto what to do at said place so we don’t spend the entire time sitting in our hotel room or vacation rental trying to figure this out. I spend hours of time and research finding the perfect places to see or things to do. I almost have this down to a science now. Once our itinerary is set, we are ready to go. It is also at this point that I am slap worn out. This is why I am all for a vacation from vacation planning. I do love the time we get to spend together though so in the end I suppose it is worth all the time and effort.
Hope you enjoy your summer vacation!
By: Azure Stilwell
I received an e-mail today asking about the status of my next blog post. I had no idea it was that time of month again. I cannot remember anything right now…
As I mentioned in a recent blog post, I do electro-current therapy (ECT) treatments once a week and it is killing my short-term memory. I couldn’t even remember who my dentist was the other day or where our local Publix is. I go to check the mail and there are bills in the mailbox for companies I don’t remember having services with until my husband reminds me. I can’t wait for the treatments to be over. I want to be able to drive again. I want my life back. I want my memories back.
I spend every day wondering what happened to me. When did I stop laughing, smiling, finding joy in life? When did I become so depressed? I want to wake up and not have the first thing I think of be, “Is today going to be a good day?” I stopped going to church. This Easter was the first time I’ve been back to church in months. I’m trying a new church, one that I hope I will be able to get more involved in. I need something to grab onto and feel good about. This seems like a logical answer.
I am still taking my normal medications but I feel like that needs changing, too. In fact, I feel like everything needs changing. My home, my medications, my daily routine. As I mentioned in my last blog post, I want to move back home to Augusta. But when I visit, my problems seem to follow me so I know that isn’t truly the answer that I seek. I just want a magic pill that makes everything go back to the way it was before I got so sad. I hope that my next blog post (if I can remember when that is) will be about something other than mental illness, but this is what I am struggling with today so bear with me.
By: Azure Stilwell
The last few weeks I have been struggling with my depression. I am still doing the ECT treatments but my energy level has been zapped. Since my oldest left for college I have felt lost here in Columbia. I feel like I want to move back to Augusta. When I lived in Augusta before, I had a great psychologist. My parents also live there so I had family support that I don’t have here in Columbia. The problem is, my husband hasn’t gotten any good job leads and we cannot move without a job in place.
I wonder if my reasons for wanting to move back to Augusta are right for my family. We have a good life here but it just feels incomplete. I am very family oriented and not having anyone here is hard on me. It was easier when my oldest was in high school because we wouldn’t move him away from his friends, but now that he’s gone Columbia feels so lonely. My youngest is still in elementary school so we don’t have the same reasons holding us here that we did with my oldest. I feel like it would be good for all of us to get a new start but I don’t know if that’s selfish thinking. We have a lovely home, my son is in a good school system, and we all have friends here that we would miss. Is it fair to ask them to give these things up so I can be near my parents?
I am not in a good place right now so maybe a move would help me find myself again. Wouldn’t it be better to move and be me again than to stay and be a shell of a person? The struggle is real and I pray every night that God will give us the answer but so far that has not opened a job in Augusta. I just don’t know why I feel so strongly that we are meant to move if we really aren’t? I’m so desperate to feel whole again I would do just about anything at this point if I thought it would help.
By: Azure Stilwell
This month I celebrated a milestone birthday. I turned the big 4-0h! It was a great birthday complete with 40 e-cards sent from my husband. My extended family chipped in to get me a Kitchen Aid mixer. I’ve wanted it for years but I could never justify spending that much money on a mixer, so it was a wonderful surprise.
It actually got me to thinking about why I was so afraid to purchase something that I obviously wanted for a very long time? Why should I feel the need to justify a purchase to anyone outside of my immediate family? I think I worry too much about what others think. So, for my next 40 years I am going to try and not worry so much what others think of me and focus more on my wants and needs. I might even learn how to make my own pasta with my brand new Kitchen Aid mixer! The point is, I don’t want to spend years wishing I had something but being too embarrassed to buy it because of its cost – especially when I know I will get tons of use out of it. It’s funny how wisdom really does come with age. 🙂
By: Azure Stilwell
I have debated with myself about whether or not I should blog about my newest treatment against Bipolar Depression. After much thought I have decided to go ahead and share my experience with ECT, also known as electro-current therapy.
Unlike the treatments given 50 years ago, today’s ECT treatments are quite civilized. I haven’t had to shave my head or scurry into hospital backrooms for my treatments. I walk into outpatient services like anyone else having an outpatient procedure done. I am given an i.v. and then some anesthesia. A box is placed over my head while I am under, and a seizure is caused using electro-current. I have been doing this 3 times a week for the last 3 weeks and though the results have been slow, I have had some improvement. I am feeling less sad with each treatment.
The thing I am struggling with is not being able to drive. My family has had to rely on extended family to help me get to and from my treatments, which has been more difficult since we have no family in the Columbia area. We have had to ask family to come from the coast, Georgia, and Florida. They have all come without hesitation and it has truly been a blessing seeing how much our family cares about us.
My hope is that ECT will help me get back to the person I used to be or at least close to her. Bipolar depression has robbed me of so much of myself. I am tired of feeling sad and tired all the time. I take so much medication with little results that it would be nice to finally find a fix for what ails me. I want my life back and ECT may be the closest chance I have to a cure. Surprisingly, I am not alone in my search because the waiting room is always full with people going through the same or similar ailments as me. We have all decided to try ECT, in spite of its stigma, as a way to get back to ourselves.
Disclaimer: It is essential that you seek professional advice for all issues concerning your physical and mental health. Talk with your doctor before beginning any new health treatments.
By: Azure Stilwell
It’s that time of year, the time where couples celebrate being a couple and single people try to find ways to avoid the day altogether. Valentine’s Day is not a favorite holiday of mine. I find it to be very commercialized and overrated. My husband and I have a hard enough time remembering our anniversary, so forget about Vday. I know those who are in romantic, loving relationships just cringed at the thought of letting a chance to get flowers go by, but I have a funny story about that.
My husband and I had been married a couple of years when for the first time ever he decided to send me flowers for Valentine’s Day. He sent me beautiful roses, a complete surprise because we don’t buy into the holiday or flowers for that matter. I decided to call and thank him. He proceeded to tell me it was a complete spur-of-the-moment decision (which probably means his coworkers were discussing what they had bought and he felt bad) He then went on to let me know that he looked at his bank account and realized he didn’t have enough to cover the cost, so I had to transfer money to his account. It was probably one of the funniest and most “us” moments we have ever had. We still laugh about it every Valentine’s Day!
We decided long ago we are just not mushy romantic people. We are more practical, in the way I find it so attractive when he folds the laundry and he loves it when I cook him dinner. For us, those little things are as – if not more – romantic than the big things.
So for all of you single people out there dreading this holiday, just know that not all couples buy into the hype. And if that doesn’t make you feel better, then buy yourself some flowers and call it a day – but make sure you have the funds to cover it first! 🙂
By: Azure Stilwell
This month has been difficult for me. I feel bad for feeling bad, but my posts are real so here it goes.
The high of Christmas and having my oldest home from college has passed and everyone has returned to a normal schedule. That is, everyone except me. My normal schedule has become a battle with depression and it is winning this month. Being Bipolar is difficult, especially during the lower times. My medications have been changed so many times I can’t even keep count anymore. I sit at home either giving into or fighting the urge to sleep my day away. I need a purpose, a reason to get up, and right now I just can’t find one, at least not until 3 p.m. – that’s when my youngest gets off the bus.
I have thought about volunteering somewhere but I don’t know where or how to begin to do something like that. I have a hard time with a set schedule. I never know when I will have a Bipolar episode, so having others depend on me causes anxiety within me. It’s really a catch 22. I need to get out to overcome my depression but I am too anxious to commit to any set volunteer time. I need a place that allows me to set my times or has short bursts of time available, say 1-3 hours, so I don’t get overwhelmed.
I have social anxiety which causes me to have a very small circle of people. Since I quit working, that circle in Columbia has gotten even smaller. I also want to feel needed and not just sitting around feeling like I am just there instead of at home.
I need suggestions on how and where to get started volunteering. Any ideas?
By: Azure Stilwell
This past weekend we took full advantage of the beautiful weather and went on a family mini-vacation to Helen, Georgia. The cabin we stayed in was absolutely beautiful, with breathtaking views of a lake in a little valley. Helen itself was cool but it was the winding back roads and color changing trees that made the trip for us.
During our trip, each family took turns cooking dinner. On my parent’s night my mom made “crack” chicken. This stuff was delicious. We used Hawaiian Sweet Bread Buns, lightly buttered and toasted in the oven as our base for the filling. A nice vinegar salad or coleslaw will balance out the richness of the chicken mixture very well. Below I will post the recipe for “crack” chicken but I also wanted to let you know that I hiked up almost a mile up to Anna Ruby Falls and it was absolutely gorgeous. (Though I nearly died from an asthma attack, the view was so worth the breathlessness). The hike was a not-so-friendly reminder that I have got to get into better shape, but eating “crack” chicken is not the way to that path. Just sayin’. 🙂
- Chicken breasts (4 or 5) or you can use chicken strips (but maybe change cook time to 4 hours)
- 16 oz cream cheese
- 1 packet of ranch seasoning mix (2 if you really like the ranch taste). We used Hidden Valley.
- Mix ranch and cream cheese together. Place chicken in crockpot and cover with cream cheese mixture. Set crockpot to low and cook 6 hours. Once this mixture is on, go have fun. Come back and move to step 2.
- Fry up 1 pack of bacon and break into tiny pieces (you want it to be kind of crunchy)
- Lightly butter and toast your buns of choice.
- Shred chicken mixture with two forks, place on toasted sweet bun, top with bacon bits, and enjoy the best chicken sandwich ever.
By: Azure Stilwell
Anyone who knows me knows I love a great deal. I enjoy saving money whenever I can, so I rely on a few apps and websites to get me great savings.
Ibotta: An app that allows you to unlock various grocery or retail items by watching short videos, answering a multiple choice question or simply pressing unlock. It only takes a few seconds to unlock each item. Once they are unlocked you simply go grocery shopping, scan the items, and take a picture of your receipt. Money is then added to your account and can be taken out when you reach $20. My favorite ways are regal cinema gift cards and itunes. I have saved hundreds of dollars over the last year and half using this app.
Saving’s Catcher: A Walmart app that allows you to shop at your local Walmart and then upload your receipt. The app/website then compares all local stores (usually 50 to 90) for a better price. If one is found you get the difference back and can add it to a bluebird card that can be used at any Walmart or an e-gift card for Walmart.com. I used my savings from this site to pay for almost all of my son’s Christmas gifts two years ago. I have used it countless times to purchase birthday presents for others.
Saving Star: An app that allows you to upload store cards for automatic savings when an item is purchased. You simply add the available items that you want to your account and then shop. Upload your receipts for places that don’t have a card, like Walmart. With this app I have my funds added to PayPal. For me this one takes a little longer to earn money because you sometimes have to buy in bulk but it has still been worth it.
Finally, the www.kelloggsfamilyrewards.com site allows me to upload a receipt via my cell phone whenever I purchase a Kellogg’s item. I have gotten tons of iTunes cards, movie tickets to AMC, and free kids books. This is the easiest site for me to use and I rack up lots of points with all of their bonuses.
I hope these resources help you save some money, too!
By: Azure Stilwell
This is my favorite month of the year! I love the cool weather, the festivals, the fair, and Halloween. It’s all about yummy foods and fun.
One of my favorite muffins to make during the Fall is so simple I didn’t think it would actually work when I found the recipe on Pinterest. All you need to make these pumpkin spice muffins is one can of pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling, but real pumpkin) and one box of spice cake mix. You mix both ingredients together, bake, and enjoy. They look like rustic muffins because they come out all lumpy on top, but they taste fantastic. My boys love it when I make cinnamon cream cheese icing to go on top but they taste great with or without the icing. If you want to dress them up then pipe on the icing and top with a candy corn pumpkin. So cute!
To make the muffins:
- 1 can of Libby Pumpkin
- 1 box of spice cake mix
Combine ingredients with a large wooden spoon. (Your mixer will thank you for not using it.) Spoon the mixture into greased muffin cups.Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.
To make the icing (optional):
- 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
- 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
- 3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Beat butter and cream cheese with a mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low. Add sugar, 1 cup at a time, and then cinnamon and vanilla; mix until smooth.