Bright Light Therapy by Al


As the DC surrounding area has just spent the past few weeks digging out from record-breaking snowfall, I thought I’d share with you a new purchase that has been helping combat my own personal struggle with my winter weather woes.  

I am a long time sufferer of the winter blues.  I’ve never sought an official diagnosis, of what was formerly referred to as Seasonal Affective Disorder  (currently under the DSM-5 a specifier has been added under major depressive disorder to indicate a seasonal pattern) but I have historically experienced a significant decline in my mood and energy level during the winter months.  As I’m sure you could imagine, living in Nebraska for the past five years did very little to help ease my suffering.  The winters in Nebraska are brutal.  I distinctly remember taking Georgie on a walk in April, and feeling an enormous flood of relief to find that my exposed skin did not immediately sting upon stepping outside. As I walked through my neighborhood I saw children playing.  I hadn’t witnessed children playing outside in months. A smile crept across my face and tears began to simultaneously stream down my uncovered cheeks. A mix of relief at being on the cusp of brighter days washed over me, which was immediately followed by a feeling of total discontentment at the thought of these children having just spent one-third of their year indoors.  

In an article researchers found that,  "women with SAD may be more vulnerable to the amount of light they get, because although they don't spend less time outdoors than other women, they do spend more time outside in the summer, resulting in a larger overall change between seasons."

This description fits me quite well.  I am a very blissful person on a sunny day.  The sunshine makes me want to twirl in a field of wildflowers and dance like a hippie with a tambourine (exhibit A, see below), as I literally sing Sheryl Crow's Soak up the Sun. My husband has learned to distrust the long-term goals of the summer version of myself.  Summer me wants to open up seventeen side businesses and get six-pack abs. Come daylight savings time, the winter version slips on her fuzzy socks, wears a blanket as a robe, and says, “That was cute, but I’ll take it from here.”

The greatest thing for my overall mental balance has honestly been moving to the east coast.  For two winters in a row now, I’ve been in awe at the sunshine and moderate temperatures.  There is nearly no greater feeling for me than jacket weather in December.  Especially when the October snow storms and April 20-degree days are still so fresh in my memory.  Recommendations to combat these less extreme winter woes include taking a walk in the morning hours, as even minimal natural light can have a positive effect.  Although my symptoms are traditionally less severe, the cold weather of an early morning walk just doesn't have quite the intended effect.

Bright Lights, Big Relief

I’m not sure exactly why I haven’t sought this out sooner.  At a recent professional development training, a local mental health care practitioner was singing the praises for bright light therapy, and I decided to bite the bullet. There is article after article that supports bright light therapy as a treatment option for Seasonal Affective Disorder.   Like this one from The American Psychological Association (APA), “Bright Lights, Big Relief” which states, “For the estimated half a million people in the United States who may experience winter depression, bright light therapy, known as phototherapy, is now commonly prescribed. During phototherapy, patients sit facing a "light box" with a bank of fluorescent bulbs of up to 10,000 lux total intensity for about a half hour per session throughout their low season.” 

After reading reviews, I ordered this one from Amazon.  It’s quite large, and my husband doesn’t exactly like the aesthetic of it on my bathroom counter, but I’ve been using it everyday for the past month or so, and it can go in storage soon enough. 

The MayoClinic suggests that in addition to Seasonal Affective Disorder, bright light therapy is also used as a treatment for:  Types of depression that don't occur seasonally, Jet lag, Sleep disorders, Adjusting to a nighttime work schedule, and Dementia.  Obviously you should consult with your physician prior to pursuing a purchase of your own bright light.  The Mayo Clinic reports, “Light therapy is generally safe. If side effects occur, they're usually mild and short lasting. They may include:  Eyestrain, Headache, Nausea, Irritability or agitation, Mania, euphoria, hyperactivity or agitation associated with bipolar disorder.”  I have indeed experienced a bit of insomnia when using it too late in the day, so you've been warned!  

But, Seriously

I know I've spoken quite light heartedly about this topic, but depression of any kind is absolutely no joke. Seasonal Affective Disorder, or rather "Major Depressive Disorder with a seasonal specifier" is more than just what I've referred to as the winter blues.  This is NOT something that you should ever feel the need to just grin and bear.  There are so many treatment options available to help you find relief including light therapy, traditional therapy, medication, and much more.  Life is far too short to spend a portion of your year suffering, The Mayo Clinic states, "It's normal to have some days when you feel down. But if you feel down for days at a time and you can't get motivated to do activities you normally enjoy, see your doctor. This is especially important if your sleep patterns and appetite have changed or if you feel hopeless, think about suicide, or turn to alcohol for comfort or relaxation."   If you or someone you know is exhibiting some or all of these symptoms. Please tell someone!  There is absolutely no shame in seeking assistance in getting relief during your rough season!   Let someone help you find relief until we can all be dancing like hippies in the sunshine once again.   

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It Snowed (Jonas Edition) by Al


I once read a blog post that said something to the effect of:  Don’t be so self-involved to think that anybody noticed that you didn’t post on your blog for a month or two.  Please spare us your apologies and excuses for living your life rather than writing about it. If you want to stop writing for a while--- then stop.  If you want to start writing after you haven’t for a while---then start. 

Unfortunately, I don't remember the author of the aforementioned post, but nonetheless with that being said...  We’ll just hop right back into this thing.

It Snowed.

Let's start with a little life update.  My husband and I live in the DC region.  You might have heard, but we got a little bit of snow recently.


Approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes before the storm of the century was due to hit, my husband and I were headed to the gym when,  we thought we’d take a quick detour to Home Depot to buy ...  a shovel.

You guessed it.  They happen to be fresh out of shovels. 

We felt a bit like Kristin Wiig and Jason Sudeikis in the SNL skit, “Two A-Holes” as we casually strolled in and asked the overwhelmed Home Depot employee, Sup? You guys have any shovels? With dented eyebrows he peeled his gaze away from the mass of panicked patrons who franticly grabbed last minute items as they prepped for Y2K and/or the zombie apocalypse to let us know that, No, they definitely did not have any shovels. 

So maybe we were a bit too casual in our preparation for this storm.  Maybe I ensured that we had the truly necessary essentials (i.e., wine, champagne, OJ, ingredients for several hearty breakfasts, and an addicting but dorky board game), but to be honest, we moved to DC from Nebraska and snow is nothing that sends us into panic mode.

In all honestly, we might have been a bit too lax.  Hindsight being what it is, maybe we should have checked our storage to ensure that our shovel wasn't lost during our recent and numerous relocations, and maybe I should at some point have updated my circa 2011 imitation Uggs that are definitely not waterproof. 


I think the really shocking thing for me has been how long it has taken this city to recover.  I understand that it is a much larger area and is far more populated than the snowy midwestern cities that I've inhabited, and that this is in fact the 4th largest snow fall, but after driving for the first time since the storm hit (to drive 1.5 miles to the gym),  I was shocked to see that so many side roads had yet to be touched, and that several main roads only had one lane plowed.  Apparently the snow emergency is ending this Wednesday, which is good because I've been doing my best as a citizen with no obligation to drive to stay off the streets, but I'm definitely starting to go a bit stir crazy.  


She is standing in the middle of a street... five days after the blizzard ended.


Ticket To Ride

As mentioned above, my husband is the king of really dorky (but addicting) board games.  We spent far too much time sipping wine and playing this game.  It is unlike many other board games because you only need two players.  Click the photo to check it out!

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For simplicity sake, I've moved my Instagram over to this space (@herbearings).  Check it out for all things photography, travel, and blog-related. 


Four Eyes: by Al


I have horrible vision.  Vision in the literal sense, that is. My vision for making America "great again" on the other hand is second to none.

My eyesight is particularly poor in my left eye.  This was discovered in elementary school when I got a black eye from catching a Foxtail Ball with my face.  My astigmatism is so profound that I have never been able to wear contacts.   Unfortunately for my shins, I've never really warmed to the idea of wearing glasses on a regular basis either, and therefore spatial awareness has never really been my thing.  

I opt to instead magnify when reading from screens and to see the rest of the world in a bit of a blur, my own personal Instagram filter.  I kind of like it that way.  That is, except for on the rare occasions that I happen to catch my own reflection with my glasses on.  It is then that I realize the serious damage that squinting so consistently is doing to the skin on my face....and also how desperately I need to pluck my eyebrows, and how, "Wow! this counter could really stand to be wiped off."

Out of sight out of mind.

It's times like that when I begin to think my resistance to wearing glasses possibly stems from just having never found the right pair, and that maybe it's worth another attempt.

As anyone who wears glasses knows, it is very difficult to try on sample glasses with the temporary fake plastic lenses when your actual lenses feel much heavier and thus impact how the frames will actually fit and feel.  Plus, there's the fact that you are looking at yourself in "glasses" without the added perk of having real glasses on... being able to see

This has consistently resulted in me feeling "meh" about nearly every pair of glasses I've ever had. This is an issue because my eyeglasses typically cost approximately one arm and one leg. The high price is due in large part to the fact that the vision in my left eye is about 6x worse than the vision in my right eye and therefore I need to order the absolute thinnest lenses to avoid the appearance of a permanent Popeye expression; and althoughTarget clearance clothes makes up a large portion of my closet, when it comes to eyewear I am somehow always drawn to the Burberrys and the.... other fancy brand names that I can't even think of because that's how much of a style expert I am. 

Eyeglasses Online 

Last year I tried to order from the hip new affordable site, Warby Parker, but after submitting my order, a customer service rep. contacted me to report that my vision was too poor for any of their frames. So I opted again for the LensCrafters route, and again was feeling "meh" with the results.

Recently, I stumbled upon, a similar online website for buying affordable eyeglasses.  There return policy seemed really great, and their frames looked cute and very affordable so I scrolled through the numerous options before landing on the perfect tortoise shell plastic frames.  I saw no disclaimers for specific vision prescriptions and placed my order only to hear quickly from their customer service representative who reported that my selection was not an option for my prescription.   This time however, rather than reject me altogether, they provided me with three specifications which included a specific frame-width, and that they must be full-framed and wire-rimmed. 

Not exactly what I had in mind.  

The upload-a-photo option didn't exactly do much to sway my opinion either: 


Regardless, the price was so inexpensive, so I bit the bullet and ordered them.  Upon their arrival, the at-home do I like these!? selfie binge-fest began.

Same couch, different day

Let's see how they look from this angle, and do they go well with my KC Royals garb?    
Trick question. obviously they do. Everything goes with KC Royals blue.


Now, how about this exact same angle, on the same couch with the same blanket on a different day, but now I'm holding a glass of wine....  Much better


Honestly, I'm not sold on the appearance of these frames, but I can say that they are the clearest/lightest (and cheapest by about $400) glasses that I have ever had, and because of that, I'll do my best to hone a John Lennon vibe to go with these new circular wire frames.

15% off your first order

Lastly: If you check out eyebuydirect, you should probably use the code: IFX2ZX1X5W at checkout to save 15% on your first purchase.   


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A Heart To Help by Al


Awhile back I watched the entire 4 1/2 hour broadcast on CSPAN of the Planned Parenthood President, Cecile Richards, testifying before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee (here). It was my first experience watching CSPAN, and it was surprisingly very entertaining.  The dramatic accusations and passive aggressive banter was no doubt comparable to a Real Housewives episode.  Although this hearing conjured up many thoughts and opinions, I'll stay away from most of those for now and instead focus on one particular aspect of the hearing.  Cecile Richards was sufficiently grilled by the republicans, especially Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.  At one point, he brought up Ms. Richards salary.  A salary that he clearly felt was far too large.

The next morning I overheard someone saying how they heard on the morning news that Cecile Richards makes over $500k, and "Can you believe that?! Think how much more help she could be providing to others if she wasn't so greedy and would just take a lower salary."

The more I thought about this, the more frustrated I became.  Why is it that if you have a heart for helping others, our society feels that you yourself must live on very little? Dan Polotta's TEDTalk speaks so perfectly to this point:

Why have our breast cancer charities not come close to finding a cure for breast cancer, or our homeless charities not come close to ending homelessness in any major city? Why has poverty remained stuck at 12 percent of the U.S. population for 40 years?

And the answer is, these social problems are massive in scale, our organizations are tiny up against them, and we have a belief system that keeps them tiny. We have two rulebooks. We have one for the nonprofit sector, and one for the rest of the economic world. It’s an apartheid, and it discriminates against the nonprofit sector in five different areas, the first being compensation.

So in the for-profit sector, the more value you produce, the more money you can make. But we don’t like nonprofits to use money to incentivize people to produce more in social service. We have a visceral reaction to the idea that anyone would make very much money helping other people. Interestingly, we don’t have a visceral reaction to the notion that people would make a lot of money not helping other people. You know, you want to make 50 million dollars selling violent video games to kids, go for it. We’ll put you on the cover of Wired magazine. But you want to make half a million dollars trying to cure kids of malaria, and you’re considered a parasite yourself.
— Dan Pallotta, The way we think about charity is dead wrong

When looking through the CNN article for lowest paid college majors, I read:

While students may want to follow their hearts, do what they’re passionate about, and make a difference in the world, their bank accounts may suffer. The report, which looked at annual wages for 137 college majors, found that over the course of a career, the salary difference between the lowest- and highest-paying majors amounted to $3.4 million dollars.
— CNN Money "10 Lowest-Paying College Majors"


Can you please take note of how many times various forms of "education" are listed above?  If you would like a really special treat, take a second and read through some of the comments.  Unfortunately, it proves my point that much further.  "Dontbefooled" would like you to know that ACTUALLY teachers get like, a lot of vacation time, and the commenter two spots below would like you the know that educators put in much shorter work weeks... so you know, it all evens out.

I won't go too far down this rabbit hole, but just a few comments to the above points that I hear ALL THE TIME:

  • The educators I know arrive early and stay late.  Sometimes for planning purposes, but often for meetings (on specific kids who are struggling) or with worried parents.  Their planning periods are usually consumed with meetings as well.  So then they go home, spend time with their own families, and then finally find the time to grade papers and make lesson plans.  I work in education, and can easily put in a 60 hours on a slow week.
  • I'm sick of hearing how awesome a teacher's schedule is.  You know what the vast majority of educators that I know do during the summer?  They work. If their school has funding for summer school, then they work there or they get part-time jobs to make ends meet because they are one of the LOWEST PAID college majors, and can't afford to support their own families if they don't.

Two separate rule books

To the people that dedicate their lives to helping others, we as a nation repeatedly say, "Dedicating your professional life to this cause isn't enough, You must also sacrifice your own livelihood, and your ability to potentially provide for yourself and your own family.  If you are a "giver" then we expect that you give everything and take nothing."

I was so impressed by Cecile Richards' unwavering professionalism, and cannot imagine the overwhelming responsibility that comes with assisting in running such a large organization. Not to mention that in addition to their responsibilities they also must deal with death threats and violent acts.  Why shouldn't she make over 500K?  Hell, why shouldn't she make more?  How is it that difficult to understand that in order to make money for causes you have to spend money.  

Do we as a nation suggest that athletes, actors, or CEOs of for-profit organizations should make less than what they do for what they do? 

Take a moment to thumb through our highest paid athletes.  Can you guess which athlete made $300 million last year?  Or thumb through the Highest paid CEO's and see who made (according to Forbes) $131.2 million total annual compensation? 

My argument is not that you shouldn't be able to earn a ridiculously large amount of money, obviously this is 'merica, and that's the American Dream. My point is only that the same news media and the same water cooler commenters will announce the salaries of the highest-paid athletes with a smile and a shake of the head stating, "Wow! Wouldn't that be nice!"  Which is not exactly the same accusing tone that might suggest their salaries could and should be better used.  It's quite the opposite.  We instead are in awe of athletes/singers/actors who stop by a children's hospital.  We say, "Oh wow! look at this star visiting sick kids in hospitals!  They are such an amazing person!"  

But if you spend your life WORKING to support a great cause then your salary better be what "we" think it should be, and your charitable organization better allocate funds with 99.9% of our donations going "towards the cause."    

And we think of this as our system of ethics, but what we don’t realize is that this system has a powerful side effect, which is: It gives a really stark, mutually exclusive choice between doing very well for yourself and your family OR doing good for the world,
— Dan Pallotta, The Way We Think About Charity Is Dead Wrong


I understand that issues such as these are larger and far more complex than the words I've written here today.  Nonetheless, my idealistic self still hopes for a day when helping professions aren't synonymous with self-sacrifice.  


I'm stepping down from my soap box now. 

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