Family Goal Leaf 2016

Build2016
Back in 2013 I started a tradition. Every year our family comes up with a word of the year. Something to strive for, something to keep in mind as a goal to work towards together, some value we want to focus on as we go through the year. And then I take that word and I make an embroidered leaf ornament. In my minds eye I can see years from now when we have so many they decorate a little tree. A family tree full of family goals.

Normally I make this ornament in January. Normally this is the first project I work on after all the Christmas hubbub dies down. But I think we’ve all seen that this year has not been a normal year. So here we are, nearly 2/3 of the way through the year, and I’ve finally finished it. I came pretty close to lapping myself, but I finished it.

Family Goal Leaf
Our word for this year is Build. And I guess it’s appropriate, because I’ve been so busy building I didn’t have time to make the leaf. I’m getting SO CLOSE to being able to show off all my work behind the scenes. SO CLOSE. I’ve mentioned that I’m working on a media startup, but we’re almost ready to start sharing the media we’ve been starting and I can’t wait. This year has changed everything for us and if I live through it, it’s possible that all my dreams will come true.

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How to make an Upholstered Bedframe

Upholstered Bedframe

My bedroom makeover project has been finished for a while now, but with all of the horrors of the last couple of years, I couldn’t do the work to share it. There’s a tremendous amount of work to pull together a decent tutorial with video, and seeing how I’ve been pingponging between fertility procedures driving me to the mental hospital to surgeries for my baby and then more fertility procedures that ended badly and more surgeries for my baby, there has been no brainspace available for things like describing furniture builds. But now that I’m feeling like I’ve got my feet back underneath me (BRB gotta find some wood to knock), I can finally commit to sharing the big bedroom makeover I’ve been wanting to get to for over a year. I have A LOT of projects to share for this bedroom makeover, and I am THRILLED with the result. So buckle up, because I have tons and tons of ideas for you. Starting today with the centerpieces of any bedroom, the bedframe.

I wanted this room to be a kind of masculine take on a feminine bedroom. An androgynous bedroom. Something peaceful and restful and beautiful, that actually looked like it didn’t just belong to one or the other of us. I wanted to blend our styles. So if I was going to do something as soft as an upholstered bedframe, I wanted to do it in a fabric that would read masculine. So I bought myself 100 yards of suiting material and decided to make myself a pinstripe wingback bed.

 

Step 1

Because we have a California King bed, I needed to make a giant bedframe. Beds can be surprisingly non-standard in their measurements, so since you’re building yours from scratch, the first thing you should do is measure your bed. I’ll give you the measurements I used, but unless you also have a giant bed, you’re going to need to customize them.

You’ll start by building yourself a great big box. Measure the length and width of your bed. I added an inch on each side to give myself room to maneuver. That extra inch means 1/2″ on each side so you don’t have to squish your bed into position. My bed measured 72″ x 83″, so the finished size I was shooting for was 73″ x 84″, except I made a bunch of mistakes with my measurements so learn from my example and measure everything three times and double check your math. Luckily as long as your mistakes are consistent, this project is pretty forgiving.

You need 2 2×4’s to make the top and bottom of your box, and those should be the finished width of your bed. I cut mine 74″ long, which was a mistake but one that was no biggie. Then you need 3 2 x 4’s to make the sides and middle of your box. These should be the finished length of your bed, minus the width of the 2×4’s you’re using for the top and bottom pieces. Those top and bottom pieces sandwich all the vertical pieces, so you need to take their width into account to get your finished length. 2×4’s usually measure about 1 1/2″ wide, so if you subtract 3″ from your finished size, you’ll know how long to cut your side and middle pieces. I cut mine 81″ long.

Set the pieces up together and drill pilot holes where they’ll be joined. Screw them all together with 2 1/2″ wood screws.

Those other pieces of wood you see outside the box are the pieces that you’ll be upholstering. Given how loosey goosey I was being with my measurements I had to make sure they’d be cut the right size so I laid them right up next to my 2×4 box to make certain. I cut 2 1×8’s 84″ long for the sides, and then one more 76″ long for the bottom. The side pieces should be the same size as the finished 2×4 box, and the bottom piece should be the same length of  the 2×4 box plus the width of the 1×8’s which is about 3/4″ each. If I was being careful I would have cut it 1/2″ shorter, but I think I’ve already shown I was not being careful.

 

Step 3

Set up your 1×8’s next to where you’ll be installing them on the box. They should be standing upright so that the wide sides of both pieces of wood are touching. Once they’re lined up, drill a hole from the inside of the box, through the 2×4, and into the 1×8. This pilot hole will tell you where you’ll need to keep the upholstery out of the way so you can screw the pieces together without ripping through your fabric. Fabric and drills are not friends.

 

Step 2

Wrap batting around the entire 1×8 piece, securing it with staples.

 

Step 4

Wrap your upholstery fabric around your 1×8 pieces, continuing to secure it with staples. I wanted to keep the staples as hidden as possible, so I wrapped the wood like a present, keeping all my seams where they would be hidden by being attached to the 2×4 box. Fold your corners neatly and tuck raw edges under before stapling. Feel through the fabric for where those pilot holes are and cut the fabric away neatly to leave yourself room to attach it. Use 2″ wood screws to attach the 1×8’s to the 2×4 box, screwing through those pilot holes you drilled. Make sure you use wood screws that aren’t too long or you’ll go all the way through your 1×8 and have a screw poking through your fabric. I attached the 1×8’s in six different spots to make sure they’d be attached super strong and stand up to kids and pets climbing all over them.

 

Step 5

Now you need to add slats across the bed. Nobody likes sleeping on a saggy mattress, so you need to make a nice firm foundation. I used 1×3’s and cut them 74″ long so they’d fit nice and snug on top of my 2×4 box.

 

Step 6

I attached six slats total, spread out across the length of the bed.

 

Step 7

Now we need to get this thing up off the floor and add the legs. There’s many ways to do this, but the way I went with was to use this straight plate. I screwed it into three corners but if you add a little block of wood into the corner of the 2×4 box you can attach all four sides. I didn’t think it was necessary because I’ve got some extra steps coming, but if these legs are all you’re using to hold up all the weight of the bed and the people and jumping kids and pets in them, you probably should.

 

Step 8

I found these great midcentury inspired legs online. These just screw into the straight plates.

 

Step 9

Now, a California King is heavy. Two tall grown adults are heavy. Wrestling kids who jump on the bed are heavy. And a California King is wide, so without a middle support, you’re going to end up eaten by a sagging bed. But a middle support is also hidden under the bed and doesn’t have to be pretty. So I took the scrap pieces of 2×4 and made two middle legs that will keep this thing so stable that a parade could march through and the bed would be rock solid at the end of it. The middle piece should be the height of the legs, including the straight plate. Basically the distance from the floor to the 2×4 box. Then the two outside pieces should be 2 1/2 – 3″ taller so that it can fit onto the middle beam and leave you room for screws. Use wood screws to stick those pieces together, making sure they’re flush on the bottom.

 

Step 10

Slide those legs around the middle beam and use wood screws to attach it from both sides.

 

bedframe

If you aren’t making a headboard, you’d probably want to finish the top of this bedframe with another upholstered piece at the top, but I didn’t want it to get in the way of the giant headboard I’ll be building. And that I’ll be showing you how to build next week.

 

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Father’s Day Sensation

I’m perpetually behind these days, but in case you didn’t see it, here’s my boys being famous. I have watched these commercials dozens of times because they legitimately make me that happy even if my own family wasn’t in it.

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Tresa gets a trainer

Trainer

It’s been three solid years of torturing my body trying to have another kid. It’s been over eight years of hoping and trying and testing and measuring, but it’s been three years of hormones and needles and pills and surgeries and procedures and hospitals. It’s not quite over yet, we still have two frozen embryos we’ll be giving one last try before the end of the year, but that’s almost a formality at this point. We don’t expect a different result which means that I’m making peace with having only one child with needs that exempt him from the typical childhood experience. Not a single other part of my life has gone according to how the stories go, so parenting shouldn’t be much different.

I had my major surgery in December, and Atti had his in February. I was still in my recovery window when Atti became completely dependent and needed to be lifted – in a particular way that kept him immobile – several times a day. Which meant that I was carrying this 50 pound kid everywhere he needed to get without functioning ab muscles. It’s amazing my back held out for as long as it did.

But of course I got injured. Caregiver injuries are no joke and I can pretty much count on fighting back and muscle problems for the rest of my life. I have one friend who just had her spine fused because of damage done by improperly lifting her disabled daughter. But children are not free weights. There’s really no way to properly lift a free-spirited child. They work against your proper form.

I can’t blame it all on Atticus, though. My back was hurting me but what sent me into full spasm requiring muscle relaxers and my own immobility was my dumb butt trying to yoga my way out of the injury, but only yogaing my way into full blown seized up muscles. I suck at moderation.

Which makes my trainer even more perfect for me.

When I first started meeting him I was charmed by his hippie ways. He’s a little more open to the woo woo than I am, but I cannot argue with the results he gets. He does this thing called active meditation where he makes me work really hard and then stop and meditate and it works like magic to get me crying about pent up stuff every time. Unfortunately, since my surgery, I’ve been to bad off to use his full skills. Instead he comes over and does some energy work and some deep tissue massage. Somehow he still makes me cry just by pushing on the right spot. Last time he pushed on a spot in my abdomen and I let out a blue streak that would make a sailor who left the sea for the call of the open road and now worked as a longhaul trucker blush. I had to end the session by apologizing for my remarks about his mother.

Right now I can’t do much of anything. I walked a mile around the lake and it knocked me out for three days. I’ve had shin splints for weeks. My trainer has to keep begging me to listen to my body and stop pushing so hard, but I have no chill. I am regularly so bummed out about my current condition that I go right past where I know I should stop just because it’s so depressing that THAT is where I have to cry uncle.

I’m trying though. My trainer keeps promising me that a little bit is all it takes to make progress, so maybe by the time Atti is grown I’ll be fit.

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So. What’s new with you?

IMG_2142

Hey pals.

So. Last we spoke I was calling “uncle” during the run up to Christmas. Turns out that major abdominal surgery during the holidays tends to throw a monkey wrench in your productivity plans. The recovery was pretty brutal. Six weeks, so, technically, I’m STILL recovering. But today I got Atticus on the bus all by myself, and then went for a two mile walk around the lake. That feels like a benchmark.

During my post-op appointment my surgeon told me all about what he found, and like surgeons often do, he made it sound like it wasn’t that out of the ordinary. And for him, maybe it wasn’t. All he does is look at endometriosis ridden bodies, after all. But when my fertility clinic saw it they all lost their minds. My nurse Sue called me up saying “Oh my gosh!! We had no idea it was so involved! How were you walking?!” Which, I won’t lie, felt pretty great. Some people compete in triathlons, I just get through my day with my innards all attached to each other.

There was scarring and adhesions and fibroids just EVERYWHERE. On my intestines, blocking my uterus, attaching my ovaries to the inside of my pelvic wall like they were one of those fraternity pranks where someone is plastered to the wall with duct tape. My bladder was “fused” (that was the actual word the surgeon used) to my uterus. And of course scar tissue from the emergency C-section that saved me and Atti. It was a crime scene in there.

Recovery has been super hard – give thanks for your abdominal muscles next time you need to cough or poop – but I’m feeling so much better. It’s been years since I had this much energy and motivation. Since I had…hope? That I wouldn’t always need to apologize for backing out? Or begging off? Or asking for help? That maybe, if I’m lucky, I’ll be able to just..do..all the things that so many people take for granted.

Including having a baby. We’re in the middle of our latest attempt at a cycle right now. Just yesterday I climbed up into those stirrups that I should really just start paying rent for at this point, and had another ultrasound. From my many years of tracking my ovulation, I know that I tend to go pretty late in my cycle, which is a bit of a problem when you’re trying to control so many variables. My reproductive system is just too punk rock to be controlled, though. It’s all “Go ahead and pump all the medicine you want in me. I won’t be rushed. I do what I want. You might call me uterus, but I say it’s uterMe.” And then it puts on some aviator shades as a screaming YEOOOOOWWW echoes behind it.

If my dang body will just play along already, then we’re hoping for a transfer in a couple of weeks. Just in time for yet another December birthday in the family.

My niece is still living with us and that is going awesome. I have a whole lot I want to say about that, but I can’t do it today. Or maybe ever. Dang grown people with their own idea about what they want spread on the internet. It has been a big adjustment but a wonderful one. And maybe one of these days I’ll convince her to let me put her on the blog. She is so incredibly gorgeous and talented, and maybe the only person I’ve ever known who didn’t want to share that with the Internet.

There is still so much more to talk about. Atti’s new wheelchair and his big breakthroughs, my own big endeavors, my plans to make all my dreams come true, and how Force Awakens blew my mind. But I’m trying to learn to pace myself. I am still recovering after all.

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Christmas FAIL

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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.)

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Summer is over

2015 First Day of School
Last Wednesday was Atti’s first day of second grade. I have a lot of feelings.

But mostly, I have total relief.

This summer has been ridiculous. All the in vitro stuff, a busted wheelchair, weddings, Atti’s surgery and recovery, a sudden emergency that had me away from home for a week, home for two days, then driving alone across the desert to a conference followed immediately by a camping trip where I cooked for 100 people, another freaking root canal, and then school. I did so. much. laundry. I should have taken a picture. If a wonderful friend didn’t come over and force me to let her help, that mountain of laundry would still be covering up two giant couches.

And now, I’ve had a week to get myself together. I rested up to fight the weariness that made me a shell of myself. I slept off the root canal. I did all the laundry and washed the mud off the camping gear and organized my pantry and bought food. And I find myself wandering around the house wondering what’s next. You get in those hyperactive frenzies when everything is coming at you so fast, and then once it settles down you don’t know what to do with yourself.

In my case it’s led to a whole lot of angst about what I’m doing with my life. Like creative people do, I have a lot of irons in the fire, and right now, they’re all stalled. Novels that can’t find an agent, shows that need production help, companies in the planning stages, product lines being rejected, and all the while this little blog waiting patiently in the background. Except, no one reads blogs anymore. There are a few bright exceptions, but even Dooce stepped back from blogging. The kind of blog that I write – a personal one sharing my life and growth – is a dinosaur.

But I’m REALLY uninterested in the kind of blogs that are getting read these days. I tried, I really did, to hang with all the SEO and Pinterest Ready and Trending Content but it just bores me silly to produce it, even though I consume it. That’s just not what I have to offer. So a dinosaur I will remain. But it also means that I need to change my perspective on this place.

The punk-rock DIY days of blogging are far behind us. Now it’s media conglomerates and listicles and content scraping roundups. I sound a million years old, but that’s what a decade of internet time will do to you. People don’t read and develop relationships with the author anymore. I think about some of the valuable friendships I’ve made with readers over the years and it does make me sad that those wouldn’t happen today. Now everything has to be discrete chunks of info that can be searched on Pinterest.

I remember years ago, I watched as another blog I loved went dark, and the author said something like “I’ve realized my blog is never going to break through.” I thought that was sad and pessimistic, but I totally get it now. After ten years of typing here and watching the internet reinvent itself at least as many times, I find myself in that same place. I’ve realized my blog is never going to break through.

That doesn’t feel sad to me, though. I’m not giving up this space. I’m not going to stop blogging. I’m just going to give up the pressure. If I don’t have anything I feel like sharing, I won’t post that day. I’m not going to worry about how something fits in with viral news stories or seasonal content. In fact, if I was a good blogger, I’d be through all my summer projects and getting close to Halloween stuff by now. Except I’ve got some truly excellent summer projects that didn’t get attention, so I’m going to share them anyway. Because I don’t have to be a “good” blogger anymore. I can just do me. And these days, me is about two months behind everything.

I started this blog because in my secret heart I was a writer, but I was too terrified to write. I was drowning under the pain of chronic illness and infertility. Now I have Atticus, we’re hopeful about more, and I am an honest to goodness, paid for the work, published and everything, Writer. My blog may have never broken through, but I did.

Snuggle

This is really just a letter to myself. I don’t think things will change much around here. Other than I might write more about some behind the scenes projects that are in development that good blogging rules would tell me I should keep under wraps until I had a brand and a marketing plan. But I’m not going to worry about that anymore. Blogging has given me so so much, I’ll never give up on it, but I think it’s time I started looking beyond.

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Newsflash: In Vitro is hard!

Fertility Meds

Every time I think I’ve got the hard stuff of this year behind me and I’m ready to get back on the horse of regular life, the next thing comes along and knocks me flat again. We’re now at a year and a half of health garbage taking over my life – when it wasn’t outright threatening it – all with the hope of having another baby. This kid better be dang cute, that’s all I have to say. And, of course, it better exist.

I have gotten through the egg retrieval phase of IVF, which really really sucked. Like, bad. Over the years I’ve known hundreds of people who have done IVF and everyone said it was hard, but nobody really prepared me for exactly how hard it is. Granted, I am a medical marvel that will find every possible complication, but still. I had to put every single other thing in my life on the back burner and just do this. While Bear got Atti on the bus and raced home from work to pick him up, I laid on the couch watching old episodes of the Bachelor and moaning.

Every ounce of energy that wasn’t necessary for breathing was draining into my ovaries. I slept and slept and slept and I was still exhausted as my egg factories were kicked into hyperdrive, reacting to the oodles of medication I was taking every day. My belly was so swollen I looked like a waterbed, and I was covered from hip to belly button in giant bruises and puncture marks.

Since I’m one of those women who has pain during ovulation, and here I was hyper ovulating, it was not only exhausting, but PAINFUL. And even taking advil freaked me out, panicked I’d be causing harm to the eggs or risking the whole process. I used a heating pad to try and get a little relief but even then I was too worried about making hard boiled eggs to have it help much.

But all of that investment in energy paid off when we got news that there were over 30 eggs waiting to be retrieved. I went in for a quick procedure where they sedated me and then used a needle to aspirate up each of those little eggs. By the time I woke up they were already at the lab being joined by a sperm that had been individually chosen as the best candidate. I had visions of embryologists looking through their microscopes at a little sperm beauty pageant, the winner crowned and injected directly into the egg. Then we just had to wait and let nature take its course.

Of course, since I am, once again, a medical oddity, I had complications even from this little procedure. I had some bleeding that they couldn’t get stopped easily, which resulted in bleeding into my abdominal cavity. Apparently, I’ve learned the hard way, there is a major nerve that runs underneath the diaphragm and sends the impulse to move up and down to breathe. This nerve gets aggressively irritated by blood. So for nearly three weeks this nerve was driving me to distraction. The first night I felt like I was drowning, it felt like I couldn’t get my lungs to fill. Then as my body slowly, slowly, slowly absorbed the blood that was causing all the problems, I began to breathe easier, but I still had intense shooting nerve pain up into my shoulder. After a month of exhaustion making the eggs, I had another month of pain just trying to heal from getting them.

It was disheartening to watch the numbers go down at each stage of development – 30+ eggs retrieved, 16 fertilized, 12 grew to day 2, 8 made it to “blast stage” and on and on. I kept trying to remind myself that it didn’t matter how many embryos we had as long as we got a baby at the end, but it was terrifying to think of everything I’d put in to this process and know that it could all still go wrong at so many different points.

Just before we were ready to proceed to the implantation stage – where they put the embryos into my uterus and wait to see if a pregnancy is achieved – we got yet another twist thanks to my dang malfunctioning body. My hormone levels were out of whack and they felt it was best to wait before trying to get pregnant. So they took our little embryos and popped them in the freezer until I could get everything all cozy for them. I admit, I was crushed. This just felt one too far. After all the pain and exhaustion and sacrifice, to still not have it work out for us, I just about lost it. But once I could calm down and think it all through, I was kind of glad to have a little time to heal before launching into a pregnancy (knock on wood). This whole process has been so rough, it ended up being a good thing to be able to get myself back together before dealing with pregnancy symptoms on top of all the pain and exhaustion I’d just gotten through.

We’ve got four little embryos waiting for us in the freezer, and now we’re just waiting until I can dedicate another month to shots and daily office visits to see if all of this suffering of the last year and a half will prove fruitful. Hopefully August will be a lucky month. Hopefully those four little popsicle babies will actually make it into this world. And hopefully they’ll all be just like Atticus.

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JORD watch giveaway

JORD watch
While I was sick I had to quit a lot of gigs. I left design teams, I returned products and money for posts I’d agreed to write, there were a whole lot of opportunities I had to let go of in order to get healthy. That’s hard on a whole number of levels. It’s hard to have your work suffer, it’s hard to feel like you’re burning bridges or letting people down, it’s hard to admit your limitations. Everyone was nice and understanding, but there was one company that went so far above and beyond that I have to brag about them at the same time I brag about their product.

Months ago, like maybe around Mother’s Day, the folks at JORD watches approached me about reviewing their product and hosting a giveaway. I went through my usual screening process, checking what the corporate values were, if the product was sustainable, and of course, whether I would actually spend my own money on the product. JORD is committed to using sustainable resources in the sourcing of their products, and when I first started learning about them they had just released a special watch design with proceedes going to the Pujols Family Foundation, a charity dedicated to those living with Down Syndrome and those in poverty in the Dominican Republic. The watches passed all my tests so I asked them to send me one that I could try out.

For real – it is indescribably gorgeous.

I love it. I truly love it. Wood is such a beautiful material that I love having something so fine to celebrate it. It’s not cold and it doesn’t trap my arm hairs like a metal band, but it also doesn’t sweat like a leather band. I wore this throughout a sweaty summer and felt just fine. It’s surprisingly light, and it’s so unique I get comments every time I wear it. It’s the best thing I’ve gotten in ages.


So even if all that happened was that I got a beautiful new watch I was totally besotted with and recommended it to you guys, it would be a successful partnership. But how the marketing manager I worked with treated me was what bumped this up from a post about showing off something pretty to an unqualified rave.

Like I said, everyone was nice. All the corporations wished me a speedy recovery, they all held doors open for me to come back, everyone was understanding and supportive. But they also have a job to do, so most of them went for the quickest resolution to our relationships. One company emailed me several times a week to make sure that we settled on square terms – not really easy for me to deal with when my health was such a concern, but never rude or unwarranted. JORD, however, just sent me support and well wishes and told me to take my time, they’d check back in around the holidays. They never suggested that I send the watch back – which would have broken my heart but they would have been well within their rights to do it. I never got an email that didn’t first address their support and concern for me, and by the way, could I just give them a timeline, and also, if they could do anything to help me they would.

I’ve worked corporate marketing jobs, so I know that one individual nice person can only go so far. That nice person has bosses with their own timelines and agendas. They want to know how their marketing budget is working out, where to put their future marketing dollars, and see some return on their investment. The fact that they set all that to the side, along with the concern that I’d never fulfill my agreement to them and just keep the watch with no marketing at all, meant that they prioritized respect for people over their business agenda.

How rarely does that happen?! As major chains make their employees come in on Thanksgiving, it’s getting harder and harder to find companies that make you feel like you’re putting your money in a good place. I’m so happy to recommend a company that makes a beautiful product made by good people.

wooden watch
And you can have one too! JORD has earmarked another of these beauties to give to one of my readers. Just leave a comment and I’ll pick a random winner on Black Friday. Good luck!

**Disclaimer** JORD gave me a watch to try but all thoughts and pictures and opinions are my own.

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