Sims 3 Legacy Challenge (Re-Reprise)

I decided to restart my Sims 3 Legacy – again. This time, it’s because of a glitch(?) that prevented me from sending a sim to University. I created a new founder, but I’m playing with the same lot in the same town (Riverview). I’ve decided to ignore the existence of other countries (World Adventures) and University.

For an overview of the challenge and its rules, visit the Sims 3 Legacy Challenge website. In short, the challenge is to play for 10 generations without using cheat codes, extending your sims’ lifespans, raising them from the dead, etc. You start with just one sim on a very large empty lot and $1800 starting cash. I changed some of the rules for my personal challenge run, the most relevant of which is this: I’m playing a matriarchal family that eschews marriage.

Founder: Lisa Legata

The founder of my Sims 3 legacy is a young adult witch who loves the outdoors so much, she decided to live in a gazebo for a season! Lisa has been working her way up the Journalism career track; she’s written a headline article (Death at the Library) and two books, the first of which is titled A Summer Spent Living Outside. Her goal in life is to use magic to heal as many sims as possible.

a woman wearing a purple tank top and skirt standing in front of a beach scene with palm trees

Lisa Legata, founder of my Sims 3 Legacy, as a young adult

A raised, rectangular structure with stairs leading up to it, a guardrail around it, and posts holding up a red shingled roof. From left to right, a grill and refrigerator, a mailbox, a woman sitting at a table reading the newspaper, and a bed with nightstand are visible.

Lisa reads the newspaper under the shelter of her privately-owned gazebo.

Legacy House

Walls are expensive: $840 to build a 3×3 structure. Starting out with a gazebo enabled me to create a larger initial living space, give my sim a means of cooking hot dogs (it’s better than just cereal), and build the legacy house on a foundation. The remote location of the lot made up for lack of privacy.

Lisa spent the hottest part of most days inside at work; on her days off she visited public buildings in town to escape the heat. The one downside to starting with a gazebo was inability to build a bathroom. For two seasons, she had to travel across town to use the toilet and shower at the gym.

Come autumn it started getting too chilly at night for my sim to safely sleep outdoors, so I had to start building her an actual house:

A close-up of the gazebo. Most of the back guardrail has been replaced by a brick wall, which is cut away to show a 6x4 room containing bedroom furniture and a woman, seated on the floor, sketching.

Lisa sketches in her newly-built house, which boasts the addition of an outdoor sink and a dresser

A large open lot with a small house in the center, surrounded by trees in shades of red and orange. Hills with more trees are visible in the distance.

the legacy lot and surrounding countryside in gorgeous autumn colors

Later in the season, I added a short hallway to the left of the initial room. The hallway ends with a small bathroom, which proved essential to my sim’s survival…

It wasn’t long before Lisa began dating a fellow resident of Riverview, a werewolf named George Dean. They had a short, fiery romance. She became pregnant over the winter, and gave birth to twin girls in early spring. Caring for two babies – and especially two toddlers – consumed all of Lisa’s time and energy, especially since she could not afford to take unpaid time off from work.

Her expanding family required an expanding house, so I added a new, larger room that currently serves as the whole family’s bedroom.

A small house with walls cut away to reveal a small bathroom with shower stall (far left), bedroom containing two cribs and a double bed (back center), and a living room with a couch and TV (center). A sim sits at a table on the porch, using a laptop computer (right foreground).

Lisa sits on her porch, writing about her adventures in motherhood, while the twins sleep in the shared bedroom (back center-left).

Legacy Family

Come back soon to find out about the twins and Lisa’s continued work toward her life goals!

Learn How to Draw Boundaries with Manipulative People

Originally posted on Gentle Kindness :

Drawing boundaries is difficult for people that have People Pleaser Syndrome because we were never taught how to draw our own boundaries. Personal boundaries were constantly crossed by one or both parents.

People from abusive backgrounds were brought up to keep our feelings and opinions to ourselves and to cater to the feelings of others. If you have people pleaser syndrome then you have some (not necessarily all) of the following characteristics.

1. Difficulty saying no, especially when the other person does not want to accept “no” for an answer.

2.  Extreme anxiety during any confrontations.

3. Extreme anxiety when people are disappointed in you, or they are  not happy with your actions.

4. DIfficulty standing your ground, when you do not agree with someone.

5. Get taken advantage of easily or often.

6. Other people get more time to make their case during arguments. You end up feeling intimidated…

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Awareness Wednesday

May is Mental Health Awareness Month (for another week and a half), so here are some links to sites and articles about mental health:

Mental Health America.net has resources and involvement opportunities

May 7th was Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day

Make the Connection has support and resources for veterans and their families

The Young Minds Advocacy Project works for legal and social change to help low-income youth access mental health resources

Minority Mental Health Awareness Month includes links to information and resources for people of color

Speak Out! a powerful statement by a Latina feminist mental health activist

Mental Health Awareness and the LGBT Community

Bisexual Mental Health

Transgender Mental Health

The End of the Semester (and other boundaries)

I’m very happy to report that I got a B on my Piano Improvisation final. More importantly, I worked very hard to master the skills I needed, went into the final feeling confident, and felt good about what I’d accomplished. That class was the most difficult music therapy course I’ve ever taken; it’s in the top 5 most difficult courses I’ve taken in my lifetime. Now I’m done with it (including the paper)! I gained a lot of useful techniques and insights, and the inspirations for my two compositions-in-progress. I call that a win!

On Wednesday, I confronted Wakana about her growing tendency to either not be fully present with me, or to interact with me in ways I’d expect of a friend or a parent, during our sessions. I told her, “I’m your client and I’m here so let’s work; I like you and would love to be friends with you, but you’re my therapist.” She apologized and explained that she’s been trying to do too much; now that it’s the end of the semester she can be a better therapist to me (she teaches at a different university from the one I attend). It took us a while to find an appropriate focus for the rest of the session, but with her support and guidance I was able to do some good work:

I’d been feeling guilty about needing to ask for an “incomplete” in Group Music Therapy (I still haven’t finished that paper). Talking to Wakana helped me realize why: I was projecting my childhood relationship with my parents onto the instructor of that course, who is also my academic adviser (and a generally awesome person). I’ve known him for almost six years(!), taken several courses taught by him, been honest with him about my mood disorder, crushed on, admired, and respected him. I’ll admit, I tend to subconsciously(?) blur the boundaries necessary to maintain an appropriate, professional, student-teacher relationship with him; I want us to have a more personal relationship. (I think I’ve managed to keep that from slipping noticeably into our real-life interactions…)

Anyway, the point is, I felt like I needed to be a model student to help him feel good – kind of like how, as a child, I felt like I needed to be a straight-A student to keep my family from falling apart. Handing in my paper before the end of the semester was “the least I could do” to “repay” him for being so supportive all these years.

Then I realized that (I’m an adult now and) my instructor/adviser/mentor’s self-esteem is his business. Also, it’s his job to work with students to help us succeed in school – including being supportive in times of difficulty. Asking for the “incomplete” was the most appropriate, responsible thing for me to do: I clearly communicated my intent to complete the paper, as well as my inability to do so before he was required to submit grades for the course. That’s where my interpersonal responsibility ends. I have an academic responsibility to complete and submit the paper as soon as possible. This responsibility is ultimately to myself: I need to complete the paper so I can earn credit for the course so I can be one step closer to graduating and beginning my career of choice.

Wednesday was also the last meeting of my Group Music Therapy class. I role-played clients for my classmates’ skill demonstrations, then did my own despite feeling anxious. I was able to ground myself, be present in the moment with my “clients,” tune in to what they were feeling, and adapt my intervention to meet their needs.

At one point during verbal processing I felt uncomfortable and wanted to stop. The instructor asked what I noticed going on in the group at that time. I said, “I feel tense and I don’t know what to say.” He replied, “that’s a great intervention! Sometimes, the best thing you can do is just be honest about your uncertainty.” After receiving some additional feedback and suggestions, I asked, “Can I try that now?” That was a huge change for me; in the past I would make mental notes of suggestions with the intention of “using them later,” not applying them to my current situation.

We re-entered the role play and I used my “great intervention.” The “clients” started talking about how they were feeling and expressing dissatisfaction with the music we’d been creating. I remembered what we’d discussed in class about giving the group room to find its own solutions and asked, “What can we do to make it sound better?” Some more discussion led to a “client” explaining that she was rocking back and forth because she was nervous; I asked “What does that nervousness sound like?” She played rapid, intense 8th notes on her drum; after giving her some time to play I invited the group to play with her. This intervention used the suggestion to bring our verbal discussion back into the music; it also incorporated what I’d learned from research for my paper: drumming the same rhythms causes people to move the same way, thus feeling the same sensations. This improves empathy and feelings of group cohesiveness – my main goal.

The next thing I knew, the whole group was playing loudly together. The tension had dissipated. I was so focused on the group, I completely forgot there were people observing us… until the instructor said, “We need to end the role-play.” If I could change one thing, I would have been less concerned with following the plan I’d had for the demonstration and more in tune with what was going on – in other words, better able to just sit back and feel good about what I had accomplished.

More positive feedback and useful suggestions, an opportunity to let my inner child dance around with a shaker – I mean, “role play” for one last classmate – and I was done. I had dreaded this class, but I stuck with it and grew so much from it. The end was bittersweet. I’ll miss spending time with my classmates and especially my small group… and I’m very proud of what I accomplished! I look forward to putting what I’ve learned into practice.

Since then, I’ve been taking some time to feel good about the end of the semester, relax, and compose. I love being able to focus on something I find intrinsically rewarding, not having to worry about deadlines or grades. Fox and I have been spending quality time with each other and our pet rats; it’s really satisfying to feel like we’ve created a family together. I’m happy and optimistic about the future.

… except that early this morning, after Fox’s alarm had gone off, I had a nightmare:

It’s the middle of the night. I’m cleaning the liners for the rats’ cage in a large plastic bin full of water. The rats are in the bin. At first the water is shallow enough for them to stand in it comfortably, but suddenly it is far over their heads.

I’m aware of them, but focused on my work. Periodically I notice that they’re staying under the water; one of them seems to be struggling and the other hasn’t been moving much. Finally, I catch the one that has been struggling and pull him out of the water. He clings to me, dripping and terrified. I worry that, since it still gets cold at night, he might get sick.

Then I remember that the other rat is underwater and not moving. I pull him out, but too late – his body is cold. I feel between his arms/front legs but there is no heartbeat. I try to do CPR (yes, on a rat!) but it’s actually one of the rat stuffed animals Fox got me before we adopted our current pets; the mouth is embroidered onto fabric. I’m aware of this, too, but I try anyway.

After struggling for some indeterminate amount of time, I realize the painful truth: I drowned my rats, and I was only able to save one of them. The other is dead, gone forever. His brother might not live long, and the time he does have will be very lonely…

I woke, devastated, then dragged myself out of bed in hopes that seeing my real, live rats would help me feel better. One was resting – clearly alive – and the other was standing near the door, climbing the wall of the cage, sniffing toward me, and otherwise being adorable in an attempt to attract my attention treats. That cheered me up, but I still can’t shake the guilt from the nightmare.

After reassuring myself that the rats were okay, I saw that Fox was still asleep. I helped him wake up just in time to avoid being late for work! I’m trying to convince myself that’s why I had the nightmare: my unconscious needed something that would force me to wake up enough to help my husband. But somehow I don’t think it’s that.

The vet gave the rats a clean bill of health, but they seem to cough (or hiccup?) and sneeze fairly frequently. Last night their cage was overdue for a cleaning; we replaced their litter, wiped everything down, and today I put the liners (sans rats) in the washing machine. But still. We suck at keeping our space clean, so there’s dust that can affect their lungs; trying to get Fox to help me clean – including their cage – is like pulling teeth. (Getting myself to clean is also like pulling teeth…) I feel like it’s completely on me to keep them healthy – including being vigilant for signs that they might be getting sick. If rats do get sick, their condition can deteriorate rapidly.

Mom’s also been putting pressure on me… in a variety of areas, but particularly regarding the decision of whether to go to my cousin’s wedding. If it were within a couple hours’ drive we would go, but it’s not – and the airfare for 3 people is ridiculous. It’s an 11-hour drive without traffic and/or rest stops. We have to factor in gas, tolls, multiple nights in different hotels, food, Fox taking time off from work, and who’s going to care for the rats? They need human contact and supervised playtime outside the cage at least once per day. My cousin and her immediate family are the only people we’ll know at the wedding (or in the area), and we have no idea whether we’ll get to spend any time with them besides the event itself. It seems unlikely we’ll even have the opportunity to sight-see, use the hotels’ amenities, or otherwise make a vacation out of it.

Fox left the decision in my hands. The three of us talked about it, I thought about it, and I decided that, given the circumstances, the only reason why I’d go to my cousin’s wedding is because she came to mine, so I want to reciprocate. Honestly, I think a better way to reciprocate would be to send her a particularly useful gift. I told Mom my decision and it seems we all assumed that if I’m not going, then she isn’t either.

She seemed happy to be free from the stress of figuring out travel logistics, but expressed concern about how this will affect her friendship with my cousin’s grandmother. (She said she “might” be going.) We conspired for a while to come up with an explanation she thinks her friend – and, likely, their larger group of friends – will find acceptable. Finally, she said she would think about it and asked us to give her until Monday to decide.

Now I’m hoping she’s not going to try to force me to change my mind because she’s that concerned about what her friends – not my cousin whose wedding it is – will think of her. I’m trying to relieve myself of being responsible for my mother’s emotions. I don’t need to be responsible for her relationships, too.

What it all comes down to is: things are going well for me. I’m happy with my life. I just took a huge step toward completing my master’s degree. I’ve been focusing on what’s important, working hard, emphasizing the positive, and asserting myself. I love asserting myself; it feels wonderful to just say what I want or need! Most of the time, people seem willing to help; if they don’t want to – or can’t – they just say so and I can focus on other possibilities. It’s so freeing!

But it all feels so fragile; one wrong move and my whole life will shatter and I’ll be too depressed to get out of bed (or worse). I just want to know things will be okay, and that it’s not entirely on me to keep them from falling apart. Is that so much to ask?

National Mental Health Awareness Month and the Importance of Language

Every month is Mental Health Awareness Month here at a day with depression, and I’m glad to have the support of President Barack Obama’s proclamation for one month each year.

Among the topics he discusses – care for veterans, reduction of stigma, that “taking action to help yourself is a sign of strength,” etc. – I personally am most grateful for the Affordable Care Act. As a result of this legislation, Fox and I have health insurance that enables us to receive the medication and marriage counseling we need. Around this time last year I felt like our marriage was falling apart. Now we’re working together and supporting each other. Fox has held down a job for 6 months (and counting!). I am less than a week away from completing the last two classes I need for my Master’s degree; after nailing my piano final last night(!) I feel like I’m ready for internship and will be an awesome music therapist.

I have a bone to pick with President Obama, though. His proclamation begins:

This year, approximately one in five American adults — our friends, colleagues, and loved ones — will experience a diagnosable mental health condition […] and many others will be troubled by significant emotional and psychological distress, especially in times of difficulty.  For most of these people, treatment can be effective and recovery is possible.

(emphasis mine)

I wish he would use more inclusive language; that would be a great way to reduce the stigma around mental health issues. The language in this proclamation suggests that mental health issues affect other people, even if “they” are the people “we” interact with every day. It seems like the President is trying to distance himself from the people who live and struggle and sometimes even thrive with these issues. He’s practically saying: “this thing exists and we need to be aware of it – and just to be clear it doesn’t affect me, and I don’t think it affects you.” IMHO, that contributes to the stigma.

I imagine that we’re all in a room, and Mr. Obama is on the stage giving a speech, and I’m in the front row because hey, I’m the one imagining it. He’s talking to me… about me, as though I’m not sitting right in front of him and can’t hear him. I’m probably one of the people who are the happiest to be there listening to him, and yet he’s not really talking to me. I think maybe he’s talking to the person sitting next to me.

However, more than 20% of the people in this room are the population he’s talking about (as though we’re not there listening to him – probably filling the front-and-center seats). The person sitting next to me might feel the same way I do; they probably think I am a member of the President’s intended audience. But neither of us will admit it, because then we’d be marking ourselves as “other” – as not really belonging in that room where “normal” people go to become more aware of us. (How ironic is that?) Instead of connecting with each other, we each go home feeling more isolated than ever. (And the “normal” people go home unaware that we were literally sitting right in front of them.)

What about us? I wish someone would say: “This year, approximately one in five of us will experience a diagnosable mental health condition and many more of us will experience significant emotional and psychological distress, especially in times of difficulty. For most of us, treatment can be effective and recovery is possible.”

That wording makes it sound like mental health issues affect everyone, and needing help with them is normal. If I attended a speech and the speaker said that, I would feel like I belonged in that room. Isn’t that what reducing stigma is all about?

You don’t have to be one of the “one in five” – or the “many more” – to use this language. You just have to be willing to admit – to yourself and everyone else – that you could be. If you’re brave enough to do that, you can help us feel safe admitting that we are. That’s how you let us know we’re “not alone.”

Good Things Thursday

Last week Wakana suggested I make a list of all the good things I do. I wrote my list as a blog post draft that I updated daily. I loved doing it so much, I’ve decided to try making it a feature. Enjoy!

Wednesday

  • Realized I’m at least partially responsible for how others treat me and committed to learning more adaptive behaviors
  • Tried to go to class
  • Practiced self-care by coming home when my symptoms interfered with my ability to attend class
  • Waited on my way out of the parking garage so someone could pull out of their spot
  • Played with my pet rats, gave them a puzzle to solve, taught them their names, & set healthy boundaries
  • Skyped with Banji & worked on my paper instead of playing The Sims 3
  • Got gas for my car

Thursday

  • Worked on my paper
  • Played The Sims 3 for a reasonable amount of time
  • Took a shower
  • Relaxed
  • Engaged in respectful discussion of a difficult topic despite someone twisting my arguments
  • Met with the instructor of my piano class, attended class, role-played for a classmate, and asked useful questions
  • Used supportive self-talk to cope with difficult emotions in class and get home safely
  • Requested a paper extension (assertiveness)
  • Received & appreciated support from Mom
  • Practiced piano
  • Enjoyed “family time” with Fox and our pet rats

Friday

  • Enjoyed a few quiet moments when I first woke up
  • Let Fox sleep in on his day off from work
  • Spent the day with him talking about our life goals and other things that are important to us
  • Dealt with dirty dishes
  • Enjoyed spring weather & celebrated Beltane

Saturday

  • Practiced piano
  • Had a good conversation with Fox’s sister
  • Posted supportive comments in response to posts about difficult topics on Facebook
  • Provided supervised outside-the-cage playtime for my rats when they seemed to want/need it
  • Emailed my instructor with specific questions to help prepare for the final exam

Sunday

  • Spent the day composing and practicing piano
  • Cleaned the rat cage
  • Gave the rats a tunnel to play in
  • Asserted that it was “family time” after giving Fox some time to unwind following a late shift at work
  • Worked toward my personal goal to (regularly) eat more fruits and vegetables

Monday

  • Reworded the preceding “good thing” to reflect that it is a personal goal. Different people have different nutritional needs; each person’s food choices are their own.
  • Made conscious decisions about how to spend my time
  • Took pleasure in simple things, like hearing my rats eat
  • Realized that “listed the good things I’ve done today” should be the penultimate item on each day’s list
  • Followed by “re-read the whole list and felt happy/proud”
  • Decided on my (potential) thesis topic and thought of one (potential) means of researching it
  • Answered the question I was going to ask my instructor by thinking about it in more depth
  • Continued composing and practicing piano
  • Enjoyed the beautiful weather
  • Went out for dinner and a movie with Fox

Tuesday

  • PIANO!!!
  • Started clicker training my rats
  • Set & kept a boundary with Mom
  • Helped make dinner
  • Realized I was over-practicing one song for my piano final and took a break from it
  • Played The Sims 3 for a reasonable amount of time

Reality?

Featured Image -- 4131

Ziya Tamesis:

This photo really speaks to me.

Originally posted on Broken Light: A Photography Collective:

Photo taken by contributor Tracy, a 30-year-old woman who lives with her husband and 8-year-old daughter in Glasgow, UK. Tracy has struggled with anxiety and depression for several years. She worked as an office assistant but was signed off work due to mental health issues. She deteriorated even more after that, with time spent in hospital, going to see counsellors, and lots of medications, with various side effects. She decided that she didn’t want to live like that anymore and she wanted to make her daughter proud of her, so she pushed herself to go back to college where she chose to study photography. She quickly realized how much she loved every aspect of photography. Although she still has very dark days, she continues to push herself and carry on doing what she loves.

About this photo: “I’ve called this image: Reality? The beautiful landscape outside, is this reality or is the dark?  Or both?  There is…

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