Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Meet the newest member of the Barbour family

Abbey Hunny Bee Barbour

Meet Abbey. She is the newest member of our family. We adopted her yesterday from the Campbell County Animal Shelter, and we are so excited!
She is about one year old and very small, weighing just seven and a half pounds. We have her in a separate room in the house, and she is looking more comfortable as time goes by.
Yesterday, she spent most of the day hiding underneath furniture. Off and on, I sat in the room and talked to her, read, and watched some TV. Last night, I went in and put on some soft music. She came out from under the sofa, sniffed my hand, then came to me so I could pet her and hold her. She is such a sweetheart!
Today we took her to our vet to be tested for feline leukemia and FIV—both came back negative. She got some of her shots, and we set up an appointment to have her spayed in three weeks when it’s time for her booster shots.
Larry said she’s already mama’s cat. But I’ve spent more time with her than he has. Once he spends more time with her, she will adore him, I’m sure.
Chase Bird? Well, he’s not too happy. We are keeping the door closed between the two kitties, but they have caught glimpses of each other. It’s a process for cats to get used to each other.
Our vet advised us to keep her isolated from Chase Bird for a couple of weeks because we don’t know if she perhaps caught an upper respiratory infection at the shelter.

I first saw Abbey on Feb. 1 when I went to the shelter to cuddle with the cats. Her name was Hunny Bee at that time.  
When I held her, she was a purr-baby and so affectionate. She also seemed tolerant of the other cats around her.
I kept thinking about her, but I didn’t do anything about adopting. We just weren’t quite ready.
Then I saw on the Facebook page of Friends of Campbell County Animal Control (a volunteer group that works to get the shelter animals fostered and adopted) that Hunny Bee had been adopted. I comforted myself with the thought that she had gotten a good home.
Then Hunny Bee popped up on Facebook again, available for adoption.

Sunday, when Larry and I went to visit her at the shelter, we learned that she had been adopted by a family with small children, and it wasn’t a good mix. So they returned her to the shelter four days later.
She had originally been surrendered to the shelter by her owner, so there she was at the shelter, given up twice. She had been there for four months.

Now she has a home with us, and we plan for it to be her forever home.

Where did her name come from? Her full name is Abbey Hunny Bee Barbour. We wanted to add Abbey but help her get used to it by keeping the Hunny Bee. We like the name Abbey because one of our favorite TV characters is named Abby (Pauley Perrette’s character on NCIS). We added the “e” in affection for our good friend Ann, whose first dog was named Abbey.

Monday, April 13, 2015

A time of anxiety

Chase Bird relaxing in the sun on the enclosed porch.

My anxiety is high, and I can’t seem to relax. That’s what I’ve been like for a while. I finally settled things with the job hunt, but I’m still in a time of change, and that raises my anxiety.

My last day with the newspaper is this Friday. Then I have nearly two weeks off before starting my new job.
It’s a busy time this week at the paper. I’m covering the first workshop the county supervisors have after receiving the proposed budget for the next fiscal year. That’s always a tough story to write, full of numbers and proposed changes and different opinions from the supervisors about how to fund the county. That’s Tuesday.
Then on Wednesday, a first-degree murder trial is scheduled, and I’ll be covering that.
And all week, I’ll be trying to put things in order for my editor and the other staff writer. The corporate office of the company that owns our newspaper has decided that my position is not going to be filled. So all of my work is being passed on to my editor and my co-staff writer. I’m doing the best I can to help them with contact information, a calendar of upcoming court trials, and background information to aid in the transition.
I know that I shouldn’t, but I’ve been feeling guilty about leaving my co-workers in that position, with all that work.

I’m not very happy with myself for letting the anxiety get to me like it has. I know so many ways to deal with anxiety. I guess knowing something intellectually is not the same as being able to put it into practice.

I did have a bit of a breakthrough Sunday. I used my phone to join a Facebook gathering to listen to classical music. At first, it was difficult for me to just sit and listen. I wanted to be busy doing something else at the same time.
But I recognized that I needed to just sit and listen, no matter how uncomfortable I felt. I finally relaxed a little and enjoyed the music.

I’m going to have to put effort into having more moments like that this week. Isn’t that strange—to have to put effort into relaxing? I think the idea of effort is really being willing to make myself uncomfortable for a bit, like I did Sunday. Making the choice to stop for just a few minutes.

I will be back on the blog next Monday, April 20. To all my friends who have blogs, I am so sorry that I haven’t visited much lately. I appreciate you staying in touch with me. 

Monday, April 6, 2015

Running like a cheetah

“You were running through the store like a cheetah,” Larry told me.
We laughed, and I said he was exaggerating, but I actually would have liked to be able to run like a cheetah on Saturday.

We had to go to the local big box store. I hate going to the big box store. I don’t like shopping, and I don’t like being in crowds, and the big box store includes both.
After a little while of dodging other people, being caught in cart traffic jams, and listening to the voices of hundreds of people, I reach the point where I take over pushing the cart and barrel my way to the checkout as fast as I can.
I shouldn’t blame it all on the big box store. I just don’t like crowds and noise, and when I reach the point where I feel like I can’t take it anymore, I feel a bit frantic and in need of an escape.
I guess I’m partly like this because I’m very introverted. And I come up as a highly sensitive person when I take the self-test.
I have to make adjustments, of course. Sometimes I have to be in crowds; sometimes I have to work in the midst of noise. But I try to limit those situations.

One of the things that bothered me about taking the town job—one of the things that was sitting in my gut, telling me to be careful—was a comment that was made to me by one of the people I talked with during the hiring process. I would have had to work with this person.
He told me that he would make me into an extrovert.
I didn’t like that. There is nothing wrong with being an introvert. There is nothing wrong with being sensitive. I’m an adult, I’m pretty self-aware, and I have learned to adapt myself to what needs to be done without changing who I am.

I will just keep adapting when I have to. And when need be, I’ll run like a cheetah.

I've been having fun with piZap.

How do you react to being in crowds?

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Choices: A good thing

This is a view of the main road through Rustburg in December 2013, before the start of the Christmas Parade.

How quickly things can change! I told you on Monday that I had accepted a job with the town of Altavista. Things changed later that day.

I received a phone call about the job I had applied for and interviewed for with Campbell County. I was offered the job, and I accepted without hesitation. I will begin the job as public information specialist on May 1. I will be working in the county seat, Rustburg, which is about 20-25 minutes from my house.

Though I was glad to have gotten the job with the town, I had been having some “gut” feelings that I may not be going in the right direction.
I was afraid that I would receive an offer from the county. To me, it would just complicate things because I would have to make a choice.
Now I realize that having the choice was a good thing.

I realized that I would regret turning down the county job. And the job description? Well, it’s like it was written with someone like me in mind. It includes a lot of my favorite things to do: writing, designing brochures, updating websites, helping others with content management, providing information to the public about county issues, etc.

And I know many of the people I will be working with because I’ve covered county government for the newspaper for five and a half years. They’re good people that I have a lot of respect for.

I knew when I said yes to the job that it was the right decision. Even though I don’t start the job for another month, I am looking forward to it!

It is a full time job. But I won’t be writing nearly as much as I do now on the job, and I am determined to carve out time for my own writing. Lots of writers have to do that.

I have not applied for any other jobs. I am satisfied with what I’ve done and am looking forward to the future. My last day with the newspaper will now be April 17. I am taking a couple of weeks off to decompress.

Thank you all for your support through this very anxious time of looking for another job and another challenge. You have helped me get through this.
Now I really do feel like I can let go of the anxiety and just be for a while.

Monday, March 30, 2015


A photo of Broad Street in Altavista. I think I took this on a Sunday a couple of years ago. I was standing at the library looking down the street. English Park is in the distance, as is the Staunton River. To get to Town Hall, where I'll be working, you would turn left at that first traffic light in the photo.

I can finally share some news with you.

On Jan. 6, I applied for a job with the town of Altavista. It’s a part-time position as an economic development assistant that includes coordinating the Main Street Program.
Last Wednesday, I finally got a formal offer.

I will coordinate a nonprofit group that carries out the concepts of the VirginiaMain Street Program. I will also assist the town’s economic developer in meeting the needs of existing businesses and helping to bring new businesses in. The economic developer wants me to work specifically with younger, creative entrepreneurs.

I’m excited and nervous. I am looking forward to a new challenge, learning new things, getting training, and being in a position to serve and encourage others.
I will work fewer hours and far more regular hours than my current job with the paper, but I will make significantly more in salary.

So why am I nervous? Change is unsettling to all of us, and it tends to raise my anxiety level. I also have the new-job-worries: Will I be able to learn? Will I do a good job?

I’ve always managed in the past, and when I remember that, I have more confidence in my ability to do another job.

Another worry has been that I’m leaving a job where I (finally) was able to write for a living.
What I found was that while my writing improved and I learned to write faster, I wasn’t always writing what I wanted to—that just wasn’t my job. And writing all day/all week took a certain kind of energy out of me.
I am not leaving my writing behind. I am a writer at heart. I hope to actually start writing more of what speaks to me and I’m passionate about. And the new job will afford me the opportunity to use some of my other skills.

My last day with the paper will be April 8 and my first day on the new job will be April 13. It will be a busy time at the paper, trying to finish things up and leave information behind that will help my co-workers.

I wish I could say my worrying of the last three months is over. But I complicated things by applying for another job while I was waiting to hear about the town job. I’ve had two interviews and am waiting to hear about it. So I may be faced with another decision soon.

To choose between two good job opportunities is not easy for me. In true OCD fashion, I tend to want to find the “perfect” answer, make the “right” choice. Of course, we never know at the time of making a decision whether or not it is the right choice. And there is no perfect answer.
For now, I’m going to enjoy what I do have: an upcoming new job and a new adventure.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Book review: Overcoming OCD: A Journey to Recovery. By Janet Singer with Seth J. Gillihan.

Today I have the pleasure of reviewing a book written by a woman who I met through blogging and who has inspired me with her advocacy for educating others about OCD.

The book is Overcoming OCD: A Journey to Recovery, by Janet Singer with Seth J. Gillihan.
Janet writes a blog called ocdtalk, where she discusses her experiences as a parent of a son with OCD and their journey to find help. She also keeps readers updated on research being done on OCD. And she is an advocate for Exposure and Response Prevention therapy, the leading therapy for OCD.
In her book, Janet writes about Dan’s journey from being unable to eat, from lying on the floor for days at a time, caught in the snares of OCD, to reaching a diagnosis of “mild” OCD and being able to have a fulfilling life.
Dr. Seth J. Gillihan is an expert in treating patients with OCD and other anxiety disorders. In addition to having a clinical practice, he is a clinical assistant professor of psychology in the Psychiatry Department of the University of Pennsylvania and a visiting assistant professor of psychology at Haverford College.
Gillihan gives readers the “facts” about OCD: what it is, what the symptoms are, what treatments are available, what problems people seeking treatment might face, and more.
The abiding theme of Overcoming OCD is hope. But Janet isn’t feeling much hope when her story begins. Her son Dan has struggled during his first year of college, and Janet visits him to try to help.
She is shocked by his haggard appearance and his obvious anxiety. And she is shocked when they reach the motel where she is staying, and he is unable to climb the concrete steps up to the second floor.
Step by step, slowly, she helps him up the steps. Then he says he’s unable to come into the motel room. She pulls him into the room.
“And so our journey began,” she writes (p. 2).
Janet knew her son had OCD, but she had never seen it manifested in such debilitating ways. Dan couldn’t eat, couldn’t use his cell phone, couldn’t drive, and couldn’t go to certain places. His promising future in animation—a dream that he had had for years—seemed in jeopardy.
Janet and her husband Gary and the rest of their family rallied around Dan and supported him on his road to recovery, which was never linear and never easy.
Dan spent about nine weeks in a residential OCD treatment center, and Janet and her husband struggled with staff who seemed to be leading Dan to a life of lower expectations. The treatment center did give Dan a good foundation in ERP therapy, providing him with tools to fight his OCD.
The family moved to Dan’s college town so that they could be there to support him. He saw a number of doctors and was on a number of medications. Side effects of some of those medications put Dan into a medical crisis and delayed his recovery.
Janet learned to speak up and ask questions of Dan’s caregivers. She did her own research. She interviewed perspective doctors to find the right fit for Dan. She supported Dan in the tenuous dance of being independent but getting the help he needed to fight the OCD.
And she and Gary remained Dan’s cheerleaders and advocates, supporting him unconditionally without enabling him in his OCD.
I read Janet’s blog, so I know that Dan is now doing great, with mild OCD. He graduated from college and has a job that he once dreamed of.
But as I read her book, I felt a taste of the anxiety that Janet and her husband felt as they watched their son sink so low that they never thought he’d come back. I felt the anger at the lack of caring and lack of knowledge that some so-called experts displayed in treating Dan.
I also wanted to reach into the book and tell Dan, It’s going to be OK. I guess that comes from my own experiences with having OCD and having to fight my way to better health.
Janet’s story makes it clear that ERP therapy, sometimes with, sometimes without medication and other therapy, can help those with OCD become more than their OCD. They can live fulfilling lives despite having OCD.
But she shows that one must search for and sometimes fight for good mental health care. Her story makes it clear that there’s still so much education needed of even medical professionals about how to best diagnose and treat OCD.
Gillihan’s explanations are very helpful, especially for those not familiar with OCD.
I really didn’t want to put this book down after I started it. It’s inspirational, absorbing, and just a plain good story.
Parents with children who have OCD would particularly benefit and would be reminded that they are not alone in their journey. The beneficial role that family support can play is well illustrated.
I would also highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to know more about OCD and to those with OCD. I found myself relating to so much of what Dan experienced.
Throughout the journey that Janet and her family took with Dan, family friend and clinical psychologist Mark was a godsend, a person who offered information and hope to the family. In her book, Janet writes, “If you are going to have a mental health crisis in your family, I recommend having a close friend who is an amazing clinical psychologist” (p. 25).
I would add that having a family like Dan’s would help those suffering through a mental health crisis see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Overcoming OCD: A Journey to Recovery is published by Rowman & Littlefield. 2015. For information about ordering the book, go HERE.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Yes, I love cats

Waddles and I in 2004. 

I searched the magazine racks, back and forth, up and down. The only issue I could find was the next month’s issue, already on the stands, not the current month’s issue. Cat Fancy.
I took it up to the check-out at the bookstore.
“Oh, it’s their last publication as Cat Fancy,” the salesperson said.
“Yes, but I was actually hoping to find another issue,” I said. “There was an article in it that I wanted to read.”
“What was the article about?” she asked.
I was a bit embarrassed to answer.
“I’m one of those people who follow cats on Facebook,” I said. “It’s an article about one of those.”
“Which one?”
I thought she meant which issue. “February,” I said.
“No, I mean which cat?” she asked.
I thought, She knows about cats on Facebook?
“Frosty the Frozen Kitten,” I said.
Then the salesperson named a list of cats that she followed on Facebook. It turned out that she, too, was one of those people who followed cats on Facebook.

I admit it. I follow numerous cats: Frosty, Champy Pants the Blind Siamese Kitty, Buhbee the Cat, Tenderness for Tyrone, FlowerPower.
It’s cute, it’s fun, and it’s relaxing. I’ve learned a lot about rescue efforts that are going on around the country and the world. I’ve learned about special-needs animals and the people who love them and take care of them. I’ve connected with other animal people.

But with connection can come feelings of loss. When one of the animals (mostly cats) that I follow get sick, or have a sibling that gets sick, or crosses the Rainbow Bridge, I feel very sad.
“Why do you look at those pages if they make you cry?” Larry has asked.
And I ask myself that sometimes: why do I do this to myself?
Because I enjoy reading about the antics of kitties. Because I can relate to what other pet people are going through with trying to give cats medicine, finding foods that they like, and dealing with sibling rivalry. Because I am part of an exchange of helpful information. Because it’s a group of people who value animals in the same way I do.

I know that Facebook is not the same as real life. If Chase Bird wants to play or sit in my lap, and I’m looking at Facebook, down goes my phone. I’m careful to limit my time online and keep my focus on the life around me. I’m aware that social media can be an escape from the worries and stresses of daily life. And it’s certainly been a stressful couple of months.

But online friends are still friends, even if I’ve never met them in person. I care about the animals and the pet parents I’ve connected with and want to be encouraging when I can. I’ve learned more about animal welfare and what I can do “in real life” to help animals.

So I say without embarrassment: I’m one of those people who follow cats on Facebook.

Have you ever been interested in learning more about a “famous” animal?