Show You Care

Happy love

This neverending fertility journey I’m on has been horrific. I got some more bad news this week, but I’ll get into that another day. Right now I’m deep into self-care mode with lots of puzzle doing, cat snuggling, and playing with Atti to get me through the hard stuff.

As I’ve been wading through all my tender feelings, it’s really hard to not sink into a place of desperation or loneliness. It’s really really easy to succumb to all the magical thinking that tells you there’s a reason you can’t have kids, and that it’s because there is something wrong with you. This infertility stuff, I tell you, it gets right down to the core of your identity and the love you have to give and long to receive.

But one beautiful bright spot in all this darkness is how people have shown up for me.

When I go through a hard time, I cocoon. I don’t leave the house, I don’t reach out for help, I hide in a safe space until I feel strong enough to re-engage with the world. Of course, this coping mechanism comes with some significant drawbacks. Namely, when the hard time is your own body and mind, a cocoon isn’t always a safe place. And often, hiding by yourself just intensifies the loneliness. But what is a person to do when they need support but don’t have the energy or courage to ask? You ask in whatever way you can bring yourself to. Sometimes that’s just squeaking out “help” to a trusted friend, sometimes it’s attending a meeting, sometimes it’s even vaguebooking.

Over the last few days the texts and PM’s and emails have been flying my way from all sides. Some who recognize what it means when I post about having a “bummer day” while in the midst of fertility treatments. Some responding to a more detailed call for help, and some just following an impulse inspired by whatever you want to call the human connection we all share. I call it God.

As I’ve been lost in the fog of my own problems, I’m constantly amazed at the goodness of people, putting aside their own problems to care about mine. To take the time to send a text while they’re racing around with all their own responsibilities. Who forgive me when I need to take some time to respond from the well I’m at the bottom of. Who never ignore that impulse to offer kindness.

When I’m more myself, I tend to wander through life with a big goofy grin on my face and my unmistakable cackle announcing my arrival. My laugh is something I’ve been self-conscious of forever – it is loud and omnipresent, but I know that if you ask people who love me what they love about me, my laugh comes to the top of the list. And even strangers have told me that my laugh cheered them up. How silly that something so small as a laugh is all it takes to spread a little joy. When something as untaxing as a high five can turn a day around. From my current vantage point under the covers, a text is hope. A friendly nod can overcome so much sorrow.

SoulPancake, home of Kitten Therapy and Kid President, has launched their latest viral campaign to put some goodness into the world by challenging people to show they care. This video totally made me cry at how beautiful the world is. From the high-fiving baby to the gentleman on the phone spelling out plainly exactly what the person on the other end meant to them, it’s a lovely reminder to step outside ourselves and our fear of rejection and prove how much love is in the world.

Because there is always more love than loneliness. And it takes so little to remind us of that. So do it today. #showyoucare


Year of Pleasures: Feminist T-Shirts

Fourth Wave Tshirts

My friend Noelle launched a T-shirt company last year and I’ve become obsessed with it. Like, the first T-shirt I bought because I’m a supportive friend and the design was awesome. Every single other T-shirt I bought for me. (And I literally own every T-shirt they’ve made. It’s the only thing I wear these days.)

Fourth Wave Apparel was founded by feminists for feminists, to celebrate the achievements and gorgeous vintage style of the women’s movement. They take great care with their sourcing and the results are amazing t-shirts that drape instead of cling and are so soft that I literally get stopped by strangers to pet my shirt. I went into a crunchy granola type store wearing my Ladies Sewing Circle and Terrorist Society shirt and I nearly got tackled to the ground. I am not at all exaggerating when I tell you that a crowd gathered around me to know all the details of this fabulous shirt. Even Atti’s teachers and doctors comment on them. I wear these shirts and I’m the most popular girl on the block.

(I’m still a supportive friend, but other than that I have no affiliation with this company and am not getting paid. I just really really believe in this product and it brings me a whole lot of pleasure.)


Friendship Retreat

During the last year from hell when I was busily trying not to kill myself, a lot of my relationships took a big hit. I had to pull away completely from casual friends and acquaintances, developing relationships got nipped in the bud, and some long-term relationships were blown to bits. Being that vulnerable and exposed left me feeling naked and wounded in every encounter I had with another human, but it also made me need people more than ever. It’s been weird.

So with everything being so fraught and complicated and vulnerable on my end of things, it was the perfect timing to have a retreat with some of my favorite people from around the nation. Us Mormon Feminists LOVE our retreats. So often you’re the only one who thinks like you at church every Sunday, retreats are times to gather together, celebrate our relationships and our work, and nourish our hearts until we’re strong enough to get back out there and keep at it.

These gals are all a special breed of trouble that I run the Feminist Mormon Housewives empire with. We chat online every day about the minutia of our lives, problem solving all the issues that come with running a giant online community, and raging against the man. I love them totally, and getting to have a few of them in the flesh was heavenly.

I forced everyone to travel to my house so that I could pamper everyone silly. I had the very best time cooking for everyone, fussing over bedding, making sure everyone was comfortable and watching the whole season of the Bachelor while we critiqued it through a feminist lens. And then Christa made us all homemade potstickers from a secret family recipe.

My friend Melissa schools me in all things Nerdly, and it was her gentle hand that guided me through my first ever Dungeons and Dragons experience. Turns out, it’s just like an improv game! I’ve wasted so much time not playing this!

My friend Noelle just went through an unpleasant divorce and if there’s one thing us MoFem’s like as much as retreats it’s rituals. Anytime we get together we come up with reasons to celebrate, to mark the occasion, to recognize milestones. There are just not enough moments in a woman’s life where she gets surrounded by her community in support and celebration, so when we get together we make those moments happen. For Noelle we decided to have a letting go ceremony. I had white tissue paper lanterns on hand we use for birthday celebrations, so we took one of them and we all wrote on it together. On one side we wrote all of the things we didn’t want to be a part of the next phase of her life – fear, sorrow, shame – and on the other side we wrote all of the great things we wanted for her. Then we lit it up and watched it rise into the night sky, glowing the whole way.

Dudebro tears is something we want to be banished from her life forever.

(Because it’s a fire hazard and I live in forest fire country we kept it tethered and then disposed of it safely once it was done burning.)

I must love these ladies an awful lot to make that face in a photo.

It was three restorative days with women that I love so so much. It’s almost too good to be true. And then last week I got to go to Utah for another retreat. This was for a conference about race and Mormonism and I flew in and showed up because I deeply care about anti-racism. I thought I was making a sacrifice. But then I got PREACHED to, and once again it was restorative. It cracked me open and poured me out and filled me back up with holiness. Luckily, you get to listen to the keynote address too. If you need a little retreat, a little ritual, a little restoration, go and listen. It’s enough to keep you going until you see the people you love in the flesh.


Ordain Women, again.

Photo by Katrina Barker Anderson

I spent this conference weekend in Utah, attending the second Ordain Women event asking to attend the Priesthood session of conference. I was planning on still being there today to meet with people who worked for the Church to have discussions about how to help the women of the church, but the meetings I had worked so hard to line up all got canceled. And I am left wounded and grieving and trying to not let go of faith in my people.

I’ve been writing and talking about this all so much that I am loathe to recap it all again. My OW sister Annie wrote a post that speaks for me as well. Read this.

What has been so deeply saddening in all this is not that we were turned away, I expected that. What has been so difficult is how we’ve been treated. Denied from the sacred ground our ancestors built and told to stand with the protesters screaming violence and obscenities in our faces. Our every action and mere existence interpreted with suspicion, people projecting poor behavior on us because their pride was wounded. Cars full of white shirts and ties yelling at us. Online commenters and friends I’ve known for years telling me that I don’t understand the gospel or must not have a testimony.

This is a video my friend Troy Williams took of me asking for entry:

I took her, and myself, honestly, by surprise when I went in for that hug. I was near the beginning of the line and when I hugged her, she bristled. But I was overcome and couldn’t help myself. I had empathy for her. I knew that what she was doing was going to be physically and spiritually exhausting and I felt for her. When I went in for the hug I whispered in her ear, “I know this will be hard for you today. Thank you so much for being here and letting us do this.” That’s when you can see her pat my arms and say, “OK, take care.”

I am grateful for the spirit of love I felt that allowed me to be empathetic to her. As Annie wrote in the link above, over the course of the day, she softened. I don’t think that the PR department had any idea that we were actually earnest seekers. I think they came prepared for people waging a manipulative and deceptive battle and by the end of it, I think at least Kim understood that we were not there to cause trouble or embarrassment. We were there honestly.

The statements coming out of the PR department are not honest. And that breaks my heart. In part because I know these people, I’ve had great associations with them, it hurts to have them think such nefarious things about me and it hurts me to see them not living up to their own values. Bear says, “PR people are PR people. They’re going to do whatever they have to do to protect who’s paying them.” But I want to believe that people who work for the church would still place their morals above their job performance. And the statements issued contain demonstrable lies. There’s no way to sugar coat that. Believe me, I’ve tried. I want to find a way to make it OK, and the truth is that it’s just not.

When people think that I’m doing all this for reasons other than my own earnest devotion to truth and justice, it never fails to shock me. There are people who honestly believe that I get something out of this. That I’m a ‘try-hard’ who wants to fit in with ‘the world,’ and I’m doing all this for attention. I can’t help but chuckle ruefully and shake my head. Here’s the truth: ‘the world’ doesn’t care about Mormons. They think we’re an adorably out of touch religion at best and a source of oppression at worst. I take heat from all sides, I don’t get any credit there at all.

Instead, if I were able to put all this away and fit in as a Good Mormon Woman I would be dramatically more successful. Because of my activism I have lost book deals, sponsorships, readers, friends, family, community, jobs, careers, speaking tours, and more opportunities than I can count. So often we members think that we are sacrificing to live our values, without ever looking at how much we gain by being “community approved,” particularly when Mormons have such a huge presence in the blogging, publishing, and craft worlds. By following my heart and the Spirit I am “community approved” exactly no where and it has had a major impact on my work.

But if I didn’t do it, I could never ask for another prayer to be answered. I could never ask for another blessing. I would know that I hadn’t lived up to what I had been asked to do and couldn’t be worthy of more. I don’t know why God has given me this road to walk, but he has. And I know that to be true with the same fervor and in the same way that I know God lives and that I find him in this faith. To deny one I’d have to deny the other. And I won’t.
Turned Away
Photo by D’Arcy Benincosa


Year of Pleasures: Art

3 Birds
I had to go back and look through my archives to make sure I hadn’t posted these before. It seems like such a ridiculous oversight. This triptych hangs over my desk and is what I look at all day long as I’m typing away. My talented friend Melissa Mayhew created these for me based on an idea I’ve had forever and ever. These are a symbol reminding me to be courageous in how I fight for good in the world.

An owl is a symbol of wisdom

A lovebird is a symbol of love

And a songbird is a symbol of song

All together these birds remind me that God gave me a brain and a heart and a voice and he expects me to use them. Once upon a time another friend of mine (a hugo award winning friend) did a rendition of these for me that one day, when I get the guts, I’ll tattoo on my back. I don’t even remember when I thought of these birds, but anytime someone tells me I’m doing something God would not approve of and that I should just get back in line, I think of these birds. And I keep on going.


How to help

How to Help

How to Help

Being the unfortunate expert in going through hard times, I often get loving tender hearted people who ask me how they can best help their loved ones who are dealing with something hard. Parenting a kid with special needs, dealing with miscarriage or infertility, chronic illness, and so much more, I am all too well acquainted with hard stuff so people come to me for the lessons I’ve learned that they can apply to their relationships.

Here’s the big thing I’ve learned: no two people need help in the same way. I’ve gotten to the point where I have very little pride and I’ll just take what goodness comes my way. But for other people, well intentioned but actually unhelpful help is just one more thing they have to deal with.

This is especially true when people express sympathy and then say, “Let me know if you need anything.”

I know that comes from a sincere place. We feel helpless watching people we love go through all the hard things life holds and we don’t know what to do. But we want to do something, so we give some vague offer of good intention and then our phones never ring. Because who among us is good at asking for help when we’re in the middle of suffering? When I’m dealing with the worst of it I know that there are people who would show up for me, but the thought of picking up that phone or delegating some part of my life to them is too exhausting to contemplate.

But since everyone needs help in different ways, what else are we supposed to do?

Here’s what:
You hand your loved one a questionnaire. You ask them what kind of help would be helpful and what kind of help would really only be about you feeling like you were doing something, and then you follow through.

Giving your friend this little handout my friend Jerilyn and I made for you (I wrote the words, she made it beautiful) is an act of love all by itself, but it allows you to learn exactly what your friend needs without giving them a burden. You can learn what works and then without any further instructions you can do it.

i know times are challenging for you right now, and since you are my friend, and i love you, i want to do something to give you support.
but i want it to be something that would really help you, and not just make me feel less helpless as i watch my friend go through hard things.
tell me what would be truly helpful, and i will be there.

bringing dinner would be great.
dinner is one area we’re covered.
food would be great, but only if it meets these specific dietary requirements.

providing childcare would be a nice break.
my child really just needs to stay with me.

my last priority is a clean house. i would totally let you tackle that for me.
are you kidding? i’m not letting anyone see the state of my house.

all of my clothes live in one pile. i would let you find them a home.
if somebody folded my towels wrong it just might be my last straw.

flowers are beautiful and so thoughtful.
flowers are only great in theory and then i have to clean out a moldy vase.
chocolate makes everything better.
i don’t need cavities on top of everything else.
a care package on my doorstep shows me that i’m thought of.
i want to talk to someone about anything else. let’s chat about something fun.
i want company without the pressure to be entertaining. just come sit with me.
i need people to keep a little distance and let me take the lead.
i need someone who is unafraid to let me be angry, and sad, and depressed, and whatever else i’m feeling. help me process what i’m going through.
i need a distraction. take me to__________________________.
this is what i need more than anything: _______________________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________

I love you. I believe in you. And I will be there for you.

Download the pdf here and use it with love.


How to cope with suicide

Atticus looking at the light

Someone close to us killed himself two weeks ago, and we spent the end of last week traveling down and attending the funeral. It is tragic and heartbreaking, but out of respect for the family I’m not going to talk about that. Instead, I want to talk about how to cope in the aftermath.

As someone who struggles openly with mental illness, I want to speak for those who commit suicide.

There have been times in my life with the threat of suicide was very very real. Times when I had a plan and the only thing that kept me from enacting it was people who helped me when I reached out to them. So I feel like I can speak from experience when I say: no one does this because they’re thinking rationally. Teenagers have their own unique dilemmas that threaten suicide, but if we’re talking adults? They do this because the disease they are living with – depression, bipolar disorder, addiction – has overcome them. It’s the disease that ends their life. Suicide was just the form it took.

That distinction is crucial in every way. When we process a loss, we all go through the anger stage. This is a normal and healthy part of processing our grief and isn’t something to be avoided. But when it’s suicide that complicates that loss, the anger stage contains a specific component that blames the loved one. We talk about the person “giving up” or say they “couldn’t cope.” That they’ve abandoned their family or sneer that suicide is a “permanent solution to a temporary problem.” Well, sometimes that problem is temporary – the problems that often affect teen suicides can be temporary – but sometimes it isn’t. Mental illness and addiction are not temporary. And if someone dies from suicide after a struggle with a permanent problem like that, it’s not because they couldn’t cope. It’s because the treatment failed.

If someone had cancer, and they had good care from doctors and fought through chemotherapy and they still died, we would never say it was because they couldn’t cope or lament that they weren’t stronger or criticize them for being selfish. We would say the treatment failed. That despite every effort the cancer did not respond to chemotherapy and it took their life. That’s how we need to treat mental illness and addiction. (I keep saying mental illness and addiction because I want to pay special attention to addiction. It is, in fact, a mental illness and should be taken every bit as seriously.)

I am extremely lucky because in a nation where it is far from the norm, I have had access to mental health care including prescription medications. And I’m lucky again because the medications work, and I am absolutely diligent about staying healthy with the help of supportive family and friends. Not everyone has that string of luck.

We have no real treatment for addiction. There is no medical treatment, there is no cure. We have some excellent therapeutic tools, but we have no way to change brain chemistry or structure in a way that consistently and reliably counteracts addiction. Which means that every person you know who is sober and living with addiction is performing a mind over matter feat of strength that should humble us to our core. Unless we can use our mind to lower our cholesterol or blood pressure, how dare we judge an addict whose disease ends their life?

Blaming a victim of suicide for being weak reinforces the stigma surrounding mental health and feeds into the diseased mind that tells us the world would be better off without us, that we’re too much of a burden on our loved ones, that we shouldn’t reach out for help, that we’re not capable of coping.

But it also is a tragedy for the people left behind.

Your loved ones didn’t commit suicide because you didn’t love them enough. They didn’t commit suicide because they didn’t love *you* enough. They didn’t do it because you enforced boundaries or consequences or to teach you a lesson. They did it because the disease overwhelmed them and the treatment failed.

No other cause of death has us feeling so guilty. We wouldn’t tell ourselves that if we had put up with the cancer better than our loved ones would have survived. If only they loved us more they wouldn’t have been overcome by the tumors. If we had loved them better than they never would have gotten cancer in the first place. All of those thoughts are absurd, but when you replace cancer with addiction, they are commonplace.

Mental illness is a disease. Addiction is a disease. And losing someone to it is tragic, but it does not make them, or us, weak. All we can do is rest in the knowledge that their fight is over and try to leave room in our hearts for the knowledge that whatever length of time they managed to fight this disease was heroic.


Year of Pleasures: Brian Kershisnik

She will find what is lost

Since I am broke, as I discussed yesterday, I’m hardly in the position to be an art collector. So when artists that I love offer open stock prints of their work I am so grateful I could weep. This is my latest acquisition. “She will find what is lost” by Brian Kershisnik.

This piece is so significant to me and has become even more significant since my work with Ordain Women. I believe God has more for his daughters.


Class Guilt

Fireplace reading

So I mentioned last week that we went to the resort at Pebble Beach. If you’re not familiar, it’s, like, the hoitiest toitiest super elite thing there is. Their golf course frequently hosts the US Open, they have an “equestrian center” and tennis courts, and a spa that was just bonkers. There are actually homes within Pebble Beach that cost upward of 5 million dollars and they’re used as vacation homes. It’s a level of wealth that I honestly find sinful.

Since Bear started this new job, we’ve been entered into a new circle of access and opportunity. We are NOT rich. We have so many years of medical bills and school debt and times when we had no choice but to live off credit cards and then our sweet little San Diego house we had to lose because it was too expensive to sell, that we will be digging ourselves out of this hole for YEARS. But thanks to this new job, we will eventually dig ourselves out. Eventually we’ll be able to have a retirement and probably even save for Atti to go to college. Which is a hell of a lot more than most people can say these days and that thought is never far from my mind.

I’ve never known true poverty, but I’ve come as close as you can get while having access to good public schools and living in an area safe enough that living in my car wasn’t taking my life in my hands. I’ve spent years dodging creditors and floating checks and living paycheck to not quite another paycheck, I’ve gambled with no car insurance, and lost my twenties to having no health care. I’ve come *thisclose* to bankruptcy and been foreclosed upon. So when I go to a place like Pebble Beach, part of me feels like a hypocritical fraud.

But another part is beginning to feel right at home. Through work connections and some generous friends I’ve been able to get enough of a taste of luxury that it doesn’t shock me any more. As I was getting a massage at Pebble Beach this thought actually went through my head: “I’m enjoying this, but I think the massage I got at LaCosta was better.” And then I killed myself.

When Bear and I first got married, one of our first arguments was when I swore to him that no matter how much money he made, I would never shop regularly at Nordstroms. He got upset because back when he was 22 he thought that the measure of his manhood was how he provided for his family, and what would his hard work be for if we couldn’t enjoy it? I brought this argument up to him the other day and he just shook his head and said, “I was such an idiot.” Years of hard times has taught him what the hard work is for, and that’s security. I do not take that for granted for a second, and we have big ambitious plans for how we’re going to use our good fortune to provide security for others. But in the meantime, as I get these experiences that so few people in the world get to experience, my enjoyment is always laced with guilt.

I often call myself a “red-letter Mormon” because the words of Jesus are paramount to my faith. So I take very very seriously the charge to care for the poor and needy. I take seriously how often Jesus condemned the rich and powerful. I believe that people in positions of abundance are stewards and have an obligation to use that abundance for the betterment of the world. And I also believe in beauty, in design and style, in rest and relaxation, in appreciating creation. I guess every person has to find the balance in there somewhere.

For me, so far, the balance is enjoying it on someone else’s dime, and then writing angsty blog posts about it.


Why I don’t fix my nails

Chipped nails
A lifestyle blogger knows that she’s going to receive criticism for what she puts out there. A blogger like me who regularly blogs elsewhere about the most controversial possible issues in life knows that I have to put on my thick skin armor and deal with other people’s reactions. But there is one thing people respond to over and over again that I find completely mystifying. My nails.

Whenever I post a craft tutorial that requires me to take pictures of my hands, somebody has something to say about my nails. They’re too long, I need to cut them. They’re too ragged, I need a manicure. And most of all, if my nail polish is chipped, people lose their minds. They insist, over and over again, that chipped nail polish is so distracting they can’t possibly pay attention to what I’m actually demonstrating.

I think this might be one of those things that is surprisingly common, but I never knew about it until I started working on the internet. Like the people who are really into latex, or act like chewing into a microphone is as uncouth as insulting your mother.

But I can’t help but think that there’s something else at play here. The way those commenters are so derisive – like I’m taking pictures of myself with my skirt tucked into my underwear – like they’re embarrassed for me – the way they comment as if having chipped nail polish undermines any credibility I might have as a crafter or blogger – I think it’s about being a woman.

A man who works with his hands and has the marks to show it is considered manly. A man with rough hands and callouses is pretty universally respected, if not thought of as sexy. I am not only engaged in crafting – covered in paint and glue and solvents and dyes everyday – but engaged in parenting and washing my hands every hour and washing my kid every other. If I made sure that my manicure was perfect before every picture I took – I’d never take any pictures.

At one of these conferences I go to regularly, I talked with a woman who was a tech reviewer. She had the same problem. And in her case having nails was a really helpful part of the job – you wouldn’t believe how many phones and other devices are designed so that women with nails can’t use them at all. Not crazy Guinness records nails, just run of the mill nails you see at any nail salon in every strip mall in America. So as a tech reviewer being able to point out – women with nails can’t use this – was actually a pretty cool and valuable insight. And yet when she posted pictures of her hands, commenters would go nuts about her nails.

I think that it’s another way that women’s bodies are up for grabs, less than, viewed as public territory, a woman’s beauty something she owes to the public. And I think that’s gross and crappy.

I also think it’s gross and crappy that someone feels they can criticize me for not spending enough time on my appearance when I’m teaching them how to do cool stuff.

When I go to these conferences and pitch my “brand,” (bleck.) I always tell them that I am about authenticity. I write a blog, and not a magazine or work for some big media conglomerate, because I like the personal nature of it. I don’t want to be glossy and pretend that I have the answers to everything. I don’t want to be a Pinterest mom. I don’t want to pretend that I’m perfect and shiny and can do all the things I do with one hand tied behind my back. To do all the things I do, somethings gotta give, and if the only thing that’s giving in a certain day is my manicure? I think somebody should be throwing me a parade.

In other words: it’s not just laziness. Every time you see a photo of chipped nails, know that I am taking a stand. Against people who think that women have to look a certain way in order to have something worth listening to, against an artificial version of perfection promoted by blogs, even against poor time management. My life is not going to be dedicated to how my nails look, or how my face looks, or even how my clothes look, (and I obviously love my clothes.) I get to enhance or ignore each of those things as it feeds my soul, it’s not something anyone owes you.