Looking at ourselves and the world through the lens of the 21st century.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Pet Peeves

Yesterday, the podcast Modern Musings talked about pet peeves. It was a fun discussion, but it also made me realize that I have a lot of pet peeves. One would even say that my pet peeves have pet peeves. I joke…I have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and when you have OCD, your life is a pet peeve.

What is OCD? According to the National Institute of Mental Health, ”Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a common, chronic, and long-lasting disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts (obsessions) and/or behaviors (compulsions) that he or she feels the urge to repeat over and over.” People can have mild to severe cases of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. 

I feel like my tics are not life-altering, just annoying sometimes. I first noticed that I had odd tendencies when I was very young. I would get hyper-fixated on certain things. For example, I was obsessed with making lists and checking things off my list. I also had to have everything in alphabetical order. I would spend days alphabetizing and re-alphabetizing my books, movies, and magazines. There was nothing more satisfying to me than putting things in their place and having them organized. Over the years, I’ve found that without organization, life sometimes falls apart. Over the last eight years, I’ve also learned that sometimes you have to readjust your perception of how things should be and when to fight your battles.

My biggest OCD-related pet peeves:
  • The trash should be in the trash can. I am so obsessed with this that I will throw trash away that’s not trash. My OCD has gotten me into trouble in the past. I have gotten so hard into “throwing away trash” mode that I have thrown away checks, important bills/papers, and keepsakes. In my classroom, if students leave their homework on the desk or the floor, I will throw it away (I do give them a disclaimer about this at the beginning of the year). One of the major problems I had with my ex-husband stemmed from his trash-hoarding (another form of OCD).
  • The dishes should be in the sink. One thing I can’t stand is going to another person’s house and seeing dishes sitting everywhere. If the dishes are in the sink, I’m okay with it. But if they are sitting around the house, I fight the compulsion to take their dishes to the sink. If I have finished with a dish, I try to take it to the sink immediately. If I don’t, I will stare at it until it is in the sink.
  • Dirty clothes should be in the hamper. That is another thing I can’t stand when I go to another person’s house. However, I don’t have an urge to pick up others’ dirty clothes. I can’t stand touching another person’s dirty clothes, especially if they smell like body odor. On the flip side, I won’t let anyone else touch my dirty clothing either.
  • Pet hair on my skin or clothes. I know you are saying, “but you have four cats!” Just because they have insane amounts of hair (and compulsively shed in the summer) doesn’t mean I don’t love my cats (or anyone else’s pets). I have separate sets of clothes. Clothes I wear out and clothes I wear at home. I wash both sets of clothes separately. I have multiple sets of sheets and blankets that I am constantly washing to keep down the pet hair. I also groom my cats regularly to keep the hair at bay. If I go to a person’s house with pets, I am mindful of where I sit or what I wear. My reaction also stems from having a mild allergy to pet hair. I obsessively wash my arms and face if I feel hair sticking to them and making them itch.
  • Stains on my clothes. This problem came to the forefront recently when I was on vacation. Jason and I ordered a seafood boil to share. I typically buy clothes in mixed patterns and avoid wearing solid colors because mixed patterns tend to hide stains on shirts better. So, I wore a solid shirt, not thinking about the restaurant where we were going to be eating. The boil we ordered was swimming in a butter sauce, and Jason immediately dug in, not caring if he stained his shirt (he usually only wears black anyway). By the end of our meal, I was freaking out because my shirt had stains all over it. I went to the bathroom and compulsively scrubbed the shirt in hopes the stains would not stick. I felt embarrassed afterward because I was having lunch with his family and I felt like they were looking at me oddly with my wet shirt (they weren’t).
  • Food in my teeth. Like the stains on my clothes, this drives me crazy. If I am out and about and I do not have dental floss on me, I will not order something that I know will get in my teeth, otherwise, I will pick at my teeth until my teeth are bloody from trying to get out whatever is stuck in them. For this reason, I refuse to eat popcorn, whether it is a flavor I like or not. The memory of popcorn getting stuck in my teeth prevents me from eating it. I don’t like seeing food in other people’s teeth, either.
  • Body odor. I do not have a good sense of smell. There are certain things I cannot smell and, in return, taste because I do not have a good sense of smell, except when it comes to body odor. If someone is not wearing deodorant or did not brush their teeth, I can smell it. I might not be able to smell dinner, or the flowers Jason buys me, but I can smell if you didn’t take a shower. I also take extra pains to make sure that I do not have body odor, myself. I compulsively shower and wash my hair at least once a day because I do not want to appear dirty or greasy. Back when I weighed over 400 pounds, my doctor commented on my obsessive cleanliness because she had never met someone of my size so clean.

This is not all of my pet peeves, and I am far from a perfectionist, which is one of the common misconceptions about someone with OCD. I don’t care if I cut straight, draw straight, or hang pictures on my wall straight. I cannot color inside the lines, and I don’t have a problem if my furniture or spice cabinet is aligned a certain way (just whether my spice cabinet is in alphabetical order). I do find myself repeating things, counting over and over, and hyper-fixating on certain tasks, but nothing to the detriment of my life or health. Yes, I have a lot of pet peeves, but I can live with them.

I want to hear from our readers. Do you have any pet peeves? Do they affect your life? Please, comment below or continue the conversation on our Facebook group: MMC Chat.

My Cats

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Heard it on the Podcast - July 27, 2022

Did you miss a link we mentioned on the podcast? Here's a quick post we'll do every Wednesday to share any links or information from the podcast. We'll also keep a running post on the "Links from the Podcast" tab so you can refer back to any previous episode. Here's the links for this week:

S2E32: Pet Peeves

Sorry, we don't have any links today from the podcast, but we'd love to hear about your pet peeves over on our Facebook group, MMC Chat. Let us know what you think!


Monday, July 25, 2022

Pet Peeves: A Different Point of View

Howdy readers! This week on the podcast, we had a quick change of plans. We were going to do another topic, but then decided better of it, and we thought we’d give you something a little more light-hearted instead. At least, that’s the way this week’s subject should be taken. We’re talking about Pet Peeves, all those little irksome situations that make us grit our teeth and want to pull our hair out. Some are a little more serious than others, and some are a little more…shall we say “gross”. We’ve also thrown more than a few people under the bus (like my husband), but if you think you are one of those people or you have contributed to one of those situations, please know that it’s all done in jest, and we love you anyway! We all have our foibles, and we’ve called out a few of our own in the podcast. I hope you’ll laugh along with us because we do get pretty silly!

A couple of concepts we will talk about in the podcast are mirroring and triggering, and that’s what I want to talk about here today. If you don’t know what mirroring and triggering are, here’s a brief explanation:

  • Triggering is when a person or situation causes emotional distress, usually as the result of arousing feelings or memories of a traumatic experience. In theory, if something annoys us, it is because we have previously encountered that situation with negative consequences, so the recurrence of that situation causes a recurrence of the feelings associated with it.

  • Mirroring is when one person’s behaviors mimic (or appear to mimic) another’s. A mirror can refer to our unconscious replication of gestures and attitudes of people we admire, but can also sometimes refer to a reaction to traits and behaviors our subconscious sees in ourselves. Mirrors can be both good and bad. We can be envious of or imitate people and traits we admire (because we want those traits), or we can react (either positively or negatively) when we have not acknowledged (or we fear) that we have those traits ourselves. 

When we talk about pet peeves, we are usually talking about things that annoy us. In many ways, these annoyances are triggers and mirrors of feelings and memories of our own experiences. Take, for instance, the coworker that always wants to chit-chat while you’re trying to work; the reason that it is annoying to you could be because that distraction has, in the past, caused you to miss a deadline at work, or has caused you some other kind of discomfort (a trigger). Or maybe you are secretly jealous that this coworker has the time to lollygag around and chat with everyone in the office while you are overwhelmed with work (envious mirroring). The other possible reason is that you know you are, or maybe you are just afraid you are, also a distraction to other people; you react to your coworker because you don’t want to be associated with that behavior (negative mirroring). 

Knowing why we are triggered by these exasperating situations helps us learn to cope with them. When you acknowledge the fact that you are jealous of your coworker who spends too much time at the watercooler, you can forgive him and maybe even help yourself. You can acknowledge that you are overworked. You might even be able to talk that coworker into lending you a hand. When you realize that the coworker’s behavior is not an intentional attempt to disrupt your workflow, and you give some thought to why that coworker is wandering the office, you might come to realize that that person is bored and needs something to do. Or maybe he lives alone and has no one to talk to. If you are worried that the other people in the office might think badly of you for engaging in that idle chit chat, then realize that is your ego, and again, think about why that person might be hanging around. Look at yourself and see if you, too, have occasionally been the disruptive talker in the office, and give that coworker some grace. Be grateful that they like you enough to talk to you. It could be a lot worse.

When you start looking at those pet peeves from a different angle, something changes inside you. That subtle change from indignation (which is from the ego) to forgiveness makes the situation much more tolerable and less stressful. Not all triggers are so easily addressed, but forgiveness and gratitude are always the starting point of any change in our attitudes, and we can’t change what we do or how we react until we change the way we think and feel.

I hope you’ll give a listen to the podcast this week and join us in a few laughs about some pretty annoying, silly, off-the-wall, and downright disgusting things. After all, laughter is good for the soul, and you might start to look at things in a different light.

Share your comments below, or join the conversation in our Facebook group, MMC Chat.

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Balancing Home and Work As a Teacher

I frequently get asked how I balance my home and work life as a teacher. The truth is, for many years I didn’t. When you are a new teacher, it can be overwhelming at first because the job is so demanding. To be honest, as you get a few years under your belt, it doesn’t get any easier. However, if you set your boundaries, it can be rewarding.

I have been a certified teacher for twelve years now, and I am going on my eighth year as a full-time teacher. In my first four years of teaching, I was a full-time substitute, so, while still a teacher, I didn’t have the extra responsibilities that I have today. I enjoyed the freedom of a certified substitute. I could work whenever and whatever I wanted, and choose jobs that didn’t have as much responsibility if I wanted to. Once I became a teacher under contract, I was dumped with immense responsibilities that I wasn’t prepared for, especially with what was going on in my life at the time.

In January of 2014, my mom went into the hospital with Diabetic Ketoacidosis which is a severe condition that occurs when your body cannot produce enough insulin. The condition caused my mother to have multiple strokes over a period of time and she eventually also lost part of her foot due to infection. I quit my job with the school I was working at to move back to my hometown to live with my mom and grandma. After nearly two months in the hospital, my mother’s insurance would not cover the cost of her recovery, and she was forced to recover at home. During that time, I learned how to give medications, perform physical therapy, clean wounds, and change her at-home IV. I also learned to do the things that my mom did to manage my grandma’s household and care.

It was overwhelming, to say the least. I took a job as an English teacher at one of the local schools to help pay for bills. It was a small school, so it did not provide things that larger schools provide such as mentorship or a curriculum. I was handed a classroom and was told to figure it out. My job also came with “hidden duties” that kept me away from my mom and grandma for long hours that were not discussed when I was hired. For example, I was to be the cheerleading coach and the One-Act Play director. That first year was tough for me because I felt like I was working 24 hours a day. I almost quit teaching after that first year.

A gift I made for my first class of graduating seniors.

According to Forbes, one in three pre-pandemic teachers left the profession within the first five years of teaching for the same frustrations I felt during my first few years of teaching:  lack of support, inability to have a life outside of school, and low wages. Since the pandemic, over 300,000 teachers have left the profession according to the Wall Street Journal, and 44% of schools across the United States have reported a vast number of vacancies. My personal experience has been much the same. After the initial quarantine ended, many teachers at my school (including myself) began to contract COVID-19, which caused mixed reactions such as teachers leaving and not coming back to work and parents quarantining their children. The results left my school understaffed for the rest of the school year. Every teacher I knew told me their school was having the same problem. A friend of mine told me that her school had 44 vacancies by the end of the school year and was unable to fill the positions for this coming school year.

How does this affect me? I made a promise to myself after my divorce to make more time for myself. Truth be told, I worked extra hours at my job pre-pandemic because I wasn’t happy and I was avoiding my home life. Yes, the first few years as a teacher are hard but I was always told to stick it out because it does get better, especially after a few years of making your curriculum. Although the post-pandemic school year was one of the most stressful years I’ve had teaching, it was also the easiest and most successful year I’ve had teaching.

Things I did to bring balance to my life:
  • For starters, I told myself that it was okay to say “no.” I was a victim of not saying “no” during my first few years of teaching because I was afraid that I would lose my job. I didn’t value myself and what I brought to the table, so I volunteered myself for everything with the idea that it would make me a more valuable employee, but in reality, I burnt myself out. I was so exhausted, that I would just lay in bed and stare at the ceiling when I got home from work.
  • I told myself that I would bring minimal work home. If I couldn’t do it during the school day or within an hour after school, it could wait until the next day. A big mistake that teachers make is that they give up their family time and weekends to grade papers and do lesson planning. I would oftentimes bring boxes of work home and just stare at them. Staring at that work usually ruined my off-time.
  • Also, I started therapy. Post-divorce and post-pandemic, therapy has been a game changer, and there is nothing wrong with having to seek therapy. Mental health should always be the number one priority. In the process, it has taught me to let the little things that bother me go. Right before school started last year, I started having panic attacks to the point that I couldn’t bring myself to leave the house. Therapy was a life-saver.
  • I made work friends. Before my divorce, I had work friends, but it is hard to have friends when you are married to a narcissist. This year, I resolved to strengthen bonds with coworkers and participate in a team mentality. Some of those friendships even translated to outside-of-work relationships. Once a week, my coworker friends and I would go out to dinner, and once a month we would have a self-care day together.
  • I started doing more out-of-work projects and am now here, writing this blog and recording a weekly podcast with Christen and Cindy. In a future blog, I will discuss the projects that I have been working on lately.
  • I take time out for date nights. When I met Jason, neither of us got out of the house to do anything. We resolved early on in our relationship that we would have regular date nights and try something new every time we went out such as bowling, Shakespeare in the Park, circus performances, festivals, and spontaneous trips to the farmer’s market. Recently we went on a vacation to New Orleans and Gulf Shores, Alabama.

There is no perfect conclusion to balancing home and work. Before you can begin the process, you have to understand your priorities. Do you even want a life outside of work? For a long time, I didn’t, but I wasn’t living. I was just going from paycheck to paycheck, thinking that one day I would be able to live the life I wanted. Then, I just took that step and started living for myself and it was the greatest thing I ever did.

I want to hear from our readers. What are some things you do to balance home and work? Do you have any tips and tricks? Please, let me know in the comments.

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Keeping Your Priorities Straight

In yesterday’s podcast, Amber, Christen, and I discussed the challenges of balancing work and home life. It’s been an age-old problem, and not just for women. In the past, I’ve been a helpless bystander as I watched my husband work himself to death at a very demanding job that left him exhausted at the end of the day with no energy or time for his family. It was brutal, and it was damaging, both physically and mentally. I am no different. There are times when my job demands that I finish certain projects on a deadline, and I find myself working alone in the wee hours of the morning, trying to get it all done. At the time, it felt like it was my biggest priority, but was it?

Today is the 6th anniversary of the day I learned that I had breast cancer, which started an onslaught of doctors appointments, surgeries, radiation treatments, and medications that had unpleasant side effects. Around that same time, I also found out I was a Type 2 diabetic (more medicine, more doctors, more yuk). I also wound up with injuries to both my knees, requiring two surgeries, countless sessions of physical therapy, and chronic pain.

At a recent therapy session, I was chatting with my counselor about how busy I was and how I didn’t have time for this or that task that was weighing on me. I was bemoaning the fact that I have so many doctor's appointments all the time, often two or three in the same week, and how it felt like an imposition on my time. Time I should be using to further my business or clean my house. Time to do that bookkeeping that’s overdue. Time to tend to my own self-care by crafting or reading or watching a movie. How was I supposed to get all these things done if I had to spend two or three of my work days every week at doctor’s appointments? I felt inconvenienced and I resented it, but she helped me see it in a different light.

I can’t remember exactly how she worded it, but the essence of her point was, “Your health is the most important thing, right?” I had to admit that she was right. My immediate health was of primary concern, even though I often put that concern aside to take care of everyone else – a habit that many women have passed down from generation to generation. Women tend to take care of everyone but themselves and only tend to their own needs once everyone else’s needs have been met. My mother-in-law was one of those moms, and in the end, that was what killed her. She spent her whole life taking care of everyone but herself, and by the time she got the wake-up call to address her own issues, it was too late. It breaks my heart, because she was a beautiful and vibrant woman whom I admired very much.

Women aren’t the only ones who do it; men have a frustrating tendency to downplay their illness and injuries because they don’t want to admit their vulnerabilities and because they value their ability to be the provider for their families above all else. 

So why do we do this? Why do we ignore the pain in our back, the signs of high blood pressure, or our growing waistline? The thought goes that taking time to care for ourselves is taking away from our “priorities,” and so those “very important tasks” won't get done.  We assume (you know where that gets us) that our work and taking care of our family are our biggest priorities. But what if we looked at it another way?

Our health, both mental and physical, works in a sort of snowball effect. When we ignore the signs and symptoms of illness or injury, those signs and symptoms usually get worse, progressing into bigger and bigger problems. Problems that may become so big that we are unable to work. It may even threaten our life. By addressing the issues as they occur, by making our health a priority (which it should be), we can spend a little time now to avoid a bigger problem later. We can’t earn that paycheck if we are laid up in bed after a heart attack. The first and foremost priority is always to protect your own health so you can continue to provide for the people who depend on you. That’s why the tedious demonstration at the beginning of your flight reminds you to put on your own mask first before helping your child or anyone else – you can’t save your baby if you’ve already passed out.

When my therapist put it to me that way (and believe me, she didn’t use that many words; I came up with all that by myself), it really struck a nerve. All this time I had been resenting my doctor appointments because they diverted my time from things I’d rather be doing, when all the while, I should have been grateful to have this opportunity to figure out what was wrong and to correct it. I should have been grateful for the doctors, the insurance that pays for them, and the medicines we use to make me better. I should be grateful that the doctors were so thorough and so concerned about getting it just right. I shouldn’t begrudge this time; I should embrace it. And when I thought of it that way, everything changed.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that all those other things aren’t important. We still have to get up and go to work, wash the laundry, and get the kids off to school or whatever, but if the laundry is a day or two late because I had an appointment to get an x-ray on the thumb I jammed the day before, or if I have to go back to my doctor for a follow-up on the new medication I started, then I should just appreciate my doc’s due diligence. The laundry can wait, and my boss doesn’t want me to pass out at work because my medication is the wrong dosage. If I hadn’t gone to that mammogram appointment 6 years ago, if I hadn’t followed up with the biopsy or the thorough physical with my primary care physician, I might never have known I had cancer or diabetes until it was too late. Those simple acts of taking time to do what was right for my health saved me from much bigger problems down the road; it probably saved my life. So remember, you can’t look only at the issues that are burning right now. You have to consider the long-term effects of the things you don’t take care of now, too. 

Here are some tips my therapist suggested to help me prioritize, and don’t forget, you can use that handy Eisenhower Matrix we talked about!

  • Make your health a priority:  You can’t help others unless you take care of yourself. A broken wheel will upset the whole cart.

  • Assess and reassess your tasks and priorities:  What is really important and what can wait. Is the world going to fall apart if you stop and take 5 minutes to schedule an appointment? Keep adjusting the list of priorities as the day or week goes on. Just because you set something as a priority on Monday does not mean it is still the most important thing on Wednesday.

  • Do what would help most right now:  If you’re short on time because you need to take a little self-care time, then look at that list of priorities and decide what would be most helpful right now.  Sometimes getting a little win, crossing something quick and easy off your list, or alleviating the burden of a bigger project will help take the weight off your shoulders. And what you choose as “helpful right now” may not be the same thing you would choose as “helpful” tomorrow, so really take a hard look at that list of tasks and do what you can.

  • Make the most of what you are doing:  This goes back to Eckhart Tolle and his lessons about being fully present. Don’t go into that doctor’s office thinking about what you should be doing – use that time to focus on your health. Accept the fact that you are there. Be focussed on the reason you are there, and make the most of it. Enjoy the opportunity to take care of yourself. Have enthusiasm for the process of working with your doctor to make you healthy. It is amazingly empowering.

If you are like me and my husband, and you tend to put off your own self-care to take care of your home, your work, or your loved ones, I hope this article has helped you see things in a different light. You can’t build a house with a broken hammer. Fix your hammer, then you can figure out how to build your house. Thanks for reading, and I hope you’ll comment below or join us in the Facebook chat group to continue the conversation.



Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Heard it on the Podcast - July 20, 2022

Did you miss a link we mentioned on the podcast? Here's a quick post we'll do every Wednesday to share any links or information from the podcast. We'll also keep a running post on the "Links from the Podcast" tab so you can refer back to any previous episode. Here are the links for this week:

S2E30: Balancing Home and Work

Monday, July 18, 2022

This is Me: Trying to Balance Home and Work

Reyna sick and being comforted our dog Arya.

Sometimes I tell myself that I fail miserably at balancing my life. I know I shouldn’t say that to myself, but it comes out. It does not always come to me in words that I say out loud; the majority of the time, it is just a feeling. Guilt, shame, and embarrassment are just a few of the feelings that I slide into when I think about all the things I should be doing or did not get to do. It's almost like the pile of junk in my clutter area is taunting me. I am sure that kind of negative self-talk is something that many can relate to.

I’m still newly wed and still new to motherhood. Travis and I are approaching 2 years of marriage and 3 years of living together. Although the time seems like it is flying by, I sometimes get the feeling that I should have some of this routine stuff down, but I don't. I still forget to restock his favorite snack, and there have been many mornings when Reyna has come to me because all her school uniforms are dirty –oops. 

I have said it before, and I will say it again, having a routine has been my life saver. And if I cannot manage to stick with the routine, then I genuinely try to not beat myself up about it. I have found that my life is a lot more peaceful when I accept what is and what is not, and move on. If I note that I have a current “failure,” I resolve to correct the issue, and I try to find ways to prevent it from happening again. I don’t allow myself to repeatedly bring up the issue in my inner dialogue, either. Coming up with a game plan to get back on track is the first step to stopping that broken record.

Now that I am married, I make it a point to get off work early and not allow myself more than 1 hour of overtime each day unless it has been previously planned out. I found in the past that, since my work hours were flexible and I am in a management position, I would stay late at work to finish projects and certain tasks. If you find that your work life is overflowing into your personal life and affecting your ability to spend quality time with friends or family, or it is chipping away at your personal downtime, then I suggest that you reach out to your supervisor to see what changes can be made to better suit your off-schedule time. If you are your own boss, or have a more flexible schedule like I do, then you will want to manage that on a daily basis on your own terms. You have to think about it from the employee point of view, and ask yourself “would I be a happy employee if my boss made me work like this?” If your answer is “no”, then you need to step back and be your own best advocate, you wouldn’t want to have burnt out employees, so don’t do that to yourself either.  

The main areas in my life that I struggle with now that my work balance is more in control are: house cleaning, meals, personal care time, positive connections with others and major projects that can be time consuming. 

These past couple of months for me have been very busy for me and my family. We have had several outings, including a canoe trip, a weekend long scrapbooking convention, Father’s Day, birthdays, illnesses, and two major employee functions at work to top it off. We had plans to go to a waterpark, too, but decided to postpone that. It seemed like there was no day off between any of the events, and I did not think I would survive if I spent an entire day at a waterpark in the sun. I might just crash from exhaustion. I need at least one day to myself.

I have an established routine, and these events disrupted my routine at every turn. Laundry got piled up and the house got a little messier. The fridge was suddenly empty (no coffee or milk, yikes), but there was no time for groceries, so then we ate out too much. The DVR was starting to erase my shows I had not watched because it was too full, and then before I knew it, I started to feel like my life was spiraling out of control. Did I try to do too much in too little time, you betcha! Would I do it all over again, you betcha! 

In order to get things back on track and feel like I had some sort of control over my life, I told my family to take 1 hour together and just start cleaning. This has to happen when everyone is at home at the same time and we do it as a team.  If there was something in the wrong place, pick it up, if the laundry was done, swap out a load. If you see trash throw it away. After about an hour, the house was looking so much nicer and a lot of stress was off my shoulders. Then I pulled out my day planner and started making a list of the other things that needed to be managed.

Sometimes you just have to go back to the drawing board, or in my case, the day planner. If you get off your routine, pick up at a sensible place, and start crossing things off the list. Do the small tasks first and break bigger tasks up into smaller ones. Getting small tasks out of the way gives you a boost of morale and that feeling of accomplishment and normalcy. Tidying up was a bunch of little wins! Just having the clutter put away was enough to get me back into a good mood, and it motivated me to work on some of the other challenging tasks. 

I do find that when I work from home, having some of these home tasks left incomplete can be a huge distraction for me. It was not so bad when I worked in the office, but I have noticed it now that I work from an in-home office space. If my work area is cluttered with sticky notes and pens are not put away in the cup, I can’t spread out on my desk and utilize my work space. My office is also my craft space, and if it is disorderly, even though it is behind me,  it distracts me while on zoom meetings. When I’m at work, and the laundry is calling my name, I find myself thinking about dirty clothes when I should be working. I found that if I can do a little bit of home care before I head off to my long commute down the hallway each work day, I can eliminate some of that head clutter. I will try to get a load of laundry started while I'm waiting for my coffee to brew, or I can clear out the fridge or tidy the bathroom. When I finish working for the day, I make sure to tidy up my work space and close up my projects.

If you want to know more about ways to organize yourself, you are in the right place. Modern Musings has several podcasts and blog posts on getting your life in alignment. If you are not listening to the podcast, you are missing out on the conversation, so be sure to click on the “Listen” tab up top to check out our upcoming podcasts posted every Wednesday. This week, we will be going into more detail about our struggles and tips to achieve the work and home life balance. Do you struggle with home, work, and family life balance? What areas of your life seem to get neglected when your attention is pulled elsewhere? Be sure to let me know in the comments.

Saturday, July 16, 2022

Exploring the Dallas Underground

If I haven’t mentioned it before, I love to travel. I don’t care when. I don’t care where. I don’t even care how. I can go anywhere, any time, just say the word and I’ll pack a bag and be ready to head out the door. And if I can’t go somewhere, then I want to read about it or watch a movie about it. I’m very curious about the world around me, the history of places, and the cultures and peoples that populate this Earth. That’s just one of the many reasons I became a travel agent. I love to explore. Sadly, my budget doesn’t let me globe-trot, and I’m lucky if I can get in a cruise or two on occasion, so many of my explorations have involved scouting the county I live in, or thereabouts. 

This week, on the podcast, we talked about day trips, and I mentioned several of my favorites. Living in a large metropolitan area like the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, there is no end to the number of places to explore. Some are worth visiting again and again. And some are so well hidden you might have to go underground to find them. That’s the case with something we call “The Dallas Underground”, a little-known network of pedestrian tunnels and sky bridges that connect significant parts of downtown Dallas.

Built in the 1970s, the Dallas Pedestrian Network was designed as a way to move people in and out of downtown efficiently. It was envisioned as a sort of underground mall that would help revitalize the downtown area and provide shelter to pedestrians from the 100° summertime heat. It was a great idea but poorly implemented. Most people didn’t even know it existed, and many of the street-level businesses fought against it because it drew business away from their establishments. And since each section of the tunnels was managed by the individual building owners, several sections have been completely closed off. Business closures due to COVID didn’t help, either. 

Enthusiasts have tried to revive interest in the area over the years, but with little effect. Michael Sitarzewski actually mapped the tunnels, and later formed the Facebook group Dallas Underground Culture, which lead tours through the tunnels. I’m hoping the group will become more active again and resume the tours now that COVID restrictions have lightened up. I love the whole idea of the underground, and I’d love to do whatever we can to preserve and redevelop this treasure.

I managed to explore the area myself back in 2010 when Christen and our friend Stephanie joined me for the day. I don’t know why, but we didn’t shoot any video, and we only took a few photos. I’ve compiled a few of them into a little slideshow, which I’ve linked below. I’ve also included a few videos taken by other day trippers who’ve explored different parts of the tunnels. 

We visited more than just the tunnels on our downtown exploration. We rode the DART train to Union Station, and it’s just a short walk to The Old Red Courthouse and Dealy Plaza, where JFK was assassinated, so we started there. Just east of the courthouse is the JFK memorial, and two blocks from that is the massive Bank of America tower, where we found our way to the underground.

Our trek took a few detours along the way. One large section was closed, so we detoured above ground to head north to the Fountain Place building before going back into the tunnels to head south to Thanksgiving Square. Much of the eastern half of the network is actually a series of sky bridges and walkways between the buildings. We made it all the way to Plaza of the Americas (with a short detour over to the Crow Museum of Asian Art) before we caught the train back to Union Station and then home.

Our trip took us most of the day (we took our time), but we still didn’t see everything there was to see. The downtown area is brimming with parks, art galleries, museums, historical markers, and landmarks of all kinds, and more are being added all the time. Just north of the Trammel Crow building is Klyde Warren Park which is built over the top of the Woodall Rodgers freeway tunnel. If you pop out of the tunnels around Elm and Ervay, you can get a peek at the giant eyeball sculpture. Pegasus Plaza is at Main and Akard, and if you walk three blocks south on Akard, you will find AT&T’s Discovery District, an open-air market with art installations and (often) live music.

I’m anxious to make another day of the Dallas Underground, but with so many sections closed, I think I’ll have to wait until the fall when the weather is not so severe. I’m just hoping I can interest a friend or two into exploring with me again, and maybe, just maybe, we can get on one of the tours. I’m sure they know so much more about it than I could ever learn on my own!

If you aren’t in a large metro area, don’t be discouraged! There is still a lot to explore no matter where you are. Look up the history of your hometown. Visit the historical spots there. Take a trip to the cemetery and learn about the history of the graves and the family names there. Drive to a neighboring town and do the same. There’s always something new to see and something more to do if you just look around. Opportunities for day trips are everywhere. It’s time to get out and explore!

Have you been exploring your neighborhood? What are your favorite day trips and why? Comment below and tell us all about it on the MMC Chat group!

For more info about the Dallas Underground Pedestrian Network:

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