This was my Mother’s Day present from Atti, and it’s a pretty fitting metaphor for what I’m up to right now.

Remember when I talked about Therapeutic Boredom? And how being forced to slow down because of all the crazy hormones was forcing me to learn stuff? I had no idea.

I work really really hard at being emotionally healthy, I think that’s clear. And most days I feel like I’m pretty on top of things in that department. I know when to rest and when to push and what cues to listen to, and I make it a real priority. That’s how somebody can come from my kind of background and wind up as the person I am. A lot of really hard scary emotional work.

And other than what it takes to live with my mental illnesses, I feel like I’m pretty sorted. The stuff of my childhood doesn’t grieve me like it used to. Entire weeks will go by without me thinking about what used to cause me tremendous pain. I didn’t see a breakthrough coming because I didn’t think I needed a breakthrough.

But apparently I did. And forgive me for vague blogging again, but for once it’s too personal to blog about. I didn’t think I would have a limit, but what do you know? I do!

It’s actually all great news. Once upon a time I would have come up against something that brought the grief back and I would have taken to my bed for a week. This time, I actually feel better. I feel like a literal weight is off of me. I feel proud of myself for being strong and brave enough to face hard things, and proud that I can use the tools I’ve acquired to take care of myself. I’ve been meditating, and taking long baths, and seeking quiet and candlelight, and making myself as physically relaxed and comfortable as I can be so that I can do the hard interior work of facing the worst, darkest, most terrifying corners and scrubbing them clean.

This might sound twisted, but I’m actually enjoying it. My body is not healthy enough to let me use it to feel powerful. No marathons or unassisted births for me. But this? This feels powerful. I am healing myself with the power of my own mind. I am sorting through old scripts, beliefs that don’t serve me, things that other people believe about me that I don’t, casting them all away, and watching as it’s so effective I feel it physically.

I don’t know why it is I seem to need hard horrible times to learn lessons, but I do. At least I can be grateful I’m learning the lessons. Maybe then I’ll never need to go through this again.


Seen Elsewhere

Rhinestone Shoes
My slow down here at the blog doesn’t mean I haven’t been creating. I mentioned I’ve been working on my Master Bedroom, but I’ve also been working at a new gig as part of the Darice design team at Live.Craft.Love.

DIY Lucky Necklace
It’s kind of a dream job. Every month I get to look through the extensive Darice catalog, which is pretty much like walking the aisles at your favorite craft store since, if they don’t make the supplies themselves they distribute them, and come up with a couple of projects. It’s a little like the Nickelodeon Super Toy Run, but for crafters.

DIY Drum Shade
Twice a month I’ve got projects that show up over there, and I share the space with a bunch of other really great bloggers. Follow along for crafting inspiration every day.


Feeling Rebirthed

Easter 2014
We had a quiet Easter over here. Just the three of us with a no-frills ham dinner, matching clothes courtesy of Old Navy so I didn’t even have to work at that, the first hour of church and then a visit to Bear’s work to check in on the patients and spend the holiday with his work family, then home for a nap. It was exactly the speed I’m running right now.

Last week I went in to get my second shot of Lupron and they couldn’t give it to me. The medicine got recalled and they didn’t have any new stuff. They seemed to feel that the dose I got didn’t apply to the recall, but I’m wondering if that’s why things have been so different this time. Why my emotions are on overdrive and completely disconnected from my brain, why I’m still feeling pain a month in, why I’m still living with the worst of the endo symptoms and the worst of the Lupron symptoms at the same time.

But all this time being forced off my feet has been so good for me in so many ways. I’m a big believer in what Joyce Carol Oates calls “Therapeutic Boredom.” That it’s only in the still and quiet times that healing can take place and discoveries can come to light. I’ve made a whole bunch of changes behind the scenes that are too inside baseball to bother talking about since they won’t change much about the blog but change everything about my workload. I’ve spent time examining my goals to see if what I’m spending my time on is what I really truly want out of life or if it’s where I’m spending my time because it’s “enough” for me. I’ve asked myself if I’m doing what I really want to be doing or if I’m doing things as a distraction from taking the risks I really want to be taking. And I’ve found some new horizons for myself.

Like I said, all this vague blogging won’t change a ton here, and it’s all too early to discuss even if it would, but I’m writing about it because I feel like I’m not alone.

I worked at a M&A firm back in the early 2000’s, and when the economy dropped our work dribbled away from a crazy torrent to a whole lot of nothing. My boss at the time called me into her office to talk to me about how much time I was spending on the internet and she said something that’s stuck with me, “We have to be careful not to let the work expand to fill our time. We have to let our time expand our work.” It was a great reminder then to use our slow time productively and to work just as hard in the slow times as I did in the fast times. But I also think about it a lot in my motherhood.

I can get so obsessed with getting a recipe right that I go a whole week without making dinner for my family. I can take something like a Halloween costume and make it as time consuming and important as the Oscars. I can have a big idea or a big dream and put it off for months or years while I work on holiday decorations or printables. None of those things are invalid or wrong by themselves, but they are a distraction if they’re not what I truly want for myself.

So with this slow down I’ve been forced to take, I’ve been asking myself some hard questions and reshuffling my priorities. And then a funny thing happened. I rediscovered my love for what I’ve been doing all along. I longed to come back here and talk through all my thoughts, I felt my creativity revving back up, but I also found the drive to tackle the big dreams. I had just let things get out of order and putting everything back where it belonged helped me rediscover my love and enthusiasm for all of it.

So hopefully soon I’ll have the big dreams far enough along to share, but in the meantime I still have some great things coming up. I’ve finally begun tackling the Master Bedroom makeover I’ve had as a crafty goal for more years than I can count and I have some pretty amazing results to share with you. And a whole new attitude while I do it.


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


Quilters Bib Necklace

Quilt Inspired Bib Necklace

Remember all that great stuff I got at CHA? This is what I made with it, and now I need your help. The grand prize is $1000, and the winner is determined by votes. I need you lovely people to go here, search for my Quilter’s Bib Necklace Pattern and vote for me. Voting is once per device. And then once the contest is over I’ll show you how to make this little gem. You don’t have to login or make an account or anything.

Go Vote! (Thank you, and I won’t ask for this again. Promise.)


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.


One Little Word: Strive

One Little Word Cross Stitch
Last year one of my big goals was to start more seasonal family traditions. I think there’s more I can do on that front, but I’m really pleased with what we’ve added. A Christmas open house, birthday lanterns, even Atti and my first camping trip (Bear remains a holdout.) But I think this one is my favorite. Around Christmas time we have lots of ways that we display our family values. I have a whole tree dedicated to it, for goodness sake, and our collection of Newlywed ornaments is always a big hit. I love that these little leaves bring that tradition in all year long.

Bear and I sat around one night brainstorming our Word of the Year in between commercial breaks, and we both kept coming back to ‘Work.’ But out of context that could mean anything, and for a couple of people a little too dedicated to our work, maybe we didn’t need that encouragement. We both felt like this coming year was going to be one that required our diligence. Atti will probably, hopefully, possibly, getting the big surgery we’ve been waiting on for two years, and if that ever actually happens it’s going to be a major step back in his ability before a (hopeful) leap forward. Bear’s work is relentless, and mine is as big or small as I’d want to make it. My angsty posts of late probably reflect a bit of dissatisfaction there, but it’s one borne of analyzing what I’m trying to accomplish. I think I might have found an answer, but it’s going to take more work.

So all of our goals this year require us to aim high and work for what we want. So we’re going to strive.

Word of the year Needlepoint
With only two years of this tradition, I’m still keeping my little leaves in a bowl, but once I’ve got three leaves, I’m getting myself a little tree to put them on. And as the years go by it will fill with more and more of our goals as our little family works on becoming who we want to be.


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.


CHA 2014 Recap

Fashion Show
Vanna White emceeing the Lion Brand fashion show

Today is the close of the 2014 Craft and Hobby Association trade show, and, I confess, I had to cry uncle. After a couple of days of pounding the concrete and being overwhelmed with eye candy, I had to wrap things up. It was an exhausting embarrassment of riches.

CHA is where the craft manufacturers all get together in one giant convention center, pull out all the stops, bring out their newest and most exciting products, and introduce them to all the buyers, designers, and press that come out to gawk. It’s four solid days of the most beautiful, innovative, and inspiring stuff you can imagine. It’s like if Willy Wonka made paper.

Martha Stewart Screenprinting
Martha Stewart’s Screenprint Stencils for Plaid Enterprises

You can always count on Martha to come up with something fabulous, and her screen-printing stencils don’t disappoint. As easy to use at home as a regular old stencil, but with the intricate detail of a screen print, and in Martha’s signature classic designs. Plaid offered a stenciled chalkboard as a make-and-take, so I got to try it out first hand. The stencils work beautifully.

Rupert and me
Me and Survivor’s Rupert Boneham

Lots of celebrities came out to the show this year, including honorary tie dye spokesperson Rupert, from Survivor. He was teaching some tie dye skills in the Tulip I Love to Create booth, but whenever I saw him he just ended up dying the shirts himself. There were a lot of fans who wanted a Rupert original. I caught up with him as they were turning the lights out and he was still a cheerful good sport when all I could think about was how badly I wanted to take my shoes off.

Anthony Ryan thinks I'm hilarious
Anthony Ryan thinks I’m hilarious

Another good sport was Anthony Ryan Auld from Project Runway, attending the show with Brother and demonstrating the new ScanNCut cutting system. He let me fawn all over him on behalf of my mother-in-law, and sent me home with a message just for her, so I think that means that I get all the daughter-in-law points ever.

Brother ScanNCut
Brother ScanNCut cutting system in action

But honestly, his delightful presence was kind of overkill. This machine was easily my favorite find of the show, and it’s made everyone’s best lists. It blew my mind. When I was getting a demonstration, they kept laughing at my enthusiasm — but it was about all I could do to not drop down to my knees and worship like Wayne and Garth.

There are plenty of cutting systems on the market, but what makes this one so spectacular is that instead of buying special cartridges or being hooked up to your computer, the ScanNCut works by scanning the image you want to cut — whether that’s letters or cowboys or even a high-contrast photograph — and converting that into a file it knows how to cut out. Anything you can draw, or print, or imagine, this machine can cut out of paper, vinyl, fabric, leather, cardboard…I’m sorry. I got a little misty-eyed again.

I’ve been a scrapbooker since the days when we had to buy a separate punch for every shape we had to cut out. The gal who owned an entire alphabet was the most popular gal at crop night. In my garage I still have a tackle box, well, a Martha Stewart “craft organizer” in the shape of a tackle box, stuffed with forgotten punches I bought thinking they were an investment. It’s kind of ridiculous how much we have at our fingertips now.


Blogging: Art vs. Commerce

Media Tag
I have a few blogging friends that I can count on when I need a vent session, and unfortunately I didn’t get to see enough of them on this most recent trip, so I have to take my angst and spill it here.

I kid, I kid. Mostly. After ten years of blogging (oh gosh typing that makes me feel ANCIENT) I have a pretty quick turnaround from when I register something rude or unpleasant happening to when I’m dusting it off my shoulders. Blogging is awesome and I’m obviously a more fervent convert than most if I’ve stuck it out this long, but whenever I go to a trade show or conference, it always brings blogging into harsh contrast. The good parts are heavenly and make me want to start a commune, the bad parts are hell and make me look for something handy to burn to the ground.

Whenever you deal with people who work on the internet you’re going to have some weird encounters. Usually people who work online work there for a reason, and bringing that out into meatspace can have some interesting results. Plus you add free drinks and a bunch of people who are there to sell themselves as experts in one thing or another, and you’re going to get a lot of opinions you didn’t ask for.

I’ve been getting this from the very beginning. The truth is that if I only wrote about Atticus, or only wrote about crafts, or food, or whatever, I’d be more successful. If what you define as success is the number of hits your blog gets. And going to these conferences it’s really really (really really really) easy to get caught up in thinking that how easily google can find what you write, and how few words you can use to describe what you do, is what makes you a good blogger.

There comes a point in every SEO conversation where I find myself just going limp and nodding along, waiting for the barrage to be over, trying to ignore the advice that tells me I’m doing everything wrong and if I want readers everything has to be smaller and more easily digestible and listicles and bullet points. I try to tell myself that it’s not that these people are wrong, exactly, they certainly have the traffic to prove their point, it’s just that none of that feels like it applies to me.

I’m an old-school blogger, and in my day, we told stories. And that’s still what I have to offer. Even if the story I’m telling that day is why I decided to make a puffy jacket Christmas ornament. Watching the hits come into my stat tracker doesn’t move me like telling a story does, and stories aren’t just made up of keywords.

I was on the phone with Bear while I was away, telling him about a few encounters I had where SEO came up, people wanted to talk numbers, and how that made me feel. I was struggling to try and find a way to explain how I felt like my mission was different without disparaging other bloggers. Because some of the bloggers I admire most are MASTERS at SEO and have filled a niche like it was a memory foam mattress. I don’t think there needs to be a value judgment in approaches to blogging, even if it’s a way that is different than mine. Bear said to me, “It’s almost like what you’re trying to do is an art, and what they’re trying to do is business.” It wasn’t a perfect analogy, but it solved the problem for me.

It *is* like what I’m trying to do is an art, but it also is a business. And every other blogger is doing it that way too. So let’s look at another artform: novel writing.

Lately I can’t read enough Anne Lamott. No matter what is going on on the page I find tears at the corner of my eyes just because I recognize my reality in her words. I love her and I will fight anyone who tries to make her change a dreadlock on her head. But she doesn’t sell as many books as Tom Clancy. They don’t make movies out of everything she writes like Elmore Leonard. If those were the only criteria for being a good novelist, my beloved Anne would be out in the cold. But lucky for me publishing houses recognize that not everyone needs to be Tom Clancy. Anne Lamott can be recognized as a great novelist on her own terms.

Blogging doesn’t seem to be there yet. We have the odd award or showcase for quality writing, but other than that we just hear the drumbeat of SEO and statistics. As an industry we largely recognize the commerce, but not the art. And trade shows and conferences are ALL about the commerce. It’s just that the way things are done are unsatisfying to me. I’d like to have a bigger audience, just like anybody, but not at the expense of how I’m doing things. For me, there’s no joy in that route.

So I guess I’ll just continue being stubborn and blogging my own way. I’ll be Ani DiFranco when everyone else says I’d do better if I was Katy Perry. I’ll go to the conferences to try and learn tricks I can bend to my blog, and not bend my blog to the tricks, and because, every once in a while, I meet someone who gets me. I meet a reader, or another lone blogger drifting out in this wild west, and it gives me the incentives I need to keep going. Until someday, when bloggers will get that there’s more than one way to blog. Or I get a book deal. Either one.