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.

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Year of Pleasures: Miss Fisher Mysteries

Miss Fisher's Mysteries

While I’ve been coping with all my body’s craziness over here, exacerbated by periods of high emotion and the colds my generous germy son keeps giving me, I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to be still. Which is always a major battle for me, no matter how bad I feel. A major help has been discovering Miss Fisher’s Mysteries. I cannot stop watching this show.

Phryne Fisher (pronounced FRY-nee) is a modern woman of Australia in the 20’s. She drinks, listens to jazz music, and wears skirts that show her kneecaps. And because of her experiences losing a sister at a young age and serving in the war, she’s also unafraid to tackle the most heinous crimes.

This show is adorable and wonderful and makes me so happy, and also makes me want to wear cloches everywhere I go. The first season is available on Netflix Instant Streaming, but the second season isn’t available in the US yet.

And that’s when I made my next great discovery. Acorn.tv. You sign up there and get a free 30 days to watch all the British television you can stand. After the 30 days it’s $5 a month but at the rate I’m going through episodes I won’t need it.

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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.

Brain
An owl is a symbol of wisdom

Heart
A lovebird is a symbol of love

Voice
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.

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Year of Pleasures: Tide Pods

Tide Pods
I know because this is such a naked recommendation this might seem like a commercial, but I promise, nobody is paying me or has even asked me to say this: Tide Pods may have changed my life.

I saw the commercials and it seemed like such a trivial thing – using a pod instead of measuring – that I rolled my eyes at one new thing to try and get us folks excited about laundry detergent, and how lazy our society is that we can’t use a measuring cup and how the kids today won’t get off my lawn. But then it was on sale and I figured, eh, why not, and I fell in love.

No measuring means no more drippy soap containers in my cabinet, crusting all over everything. It means never having to search for a measuring cup because I ran it through the wash and lost it in the dryer. No more using too much soap because I can’t stop pouring in time and it overflows all over me and the clothes I’m wearing.

It is a trivial thing, but it means there is one stupid chore in this stupid grown up life that I no longer have to dread.

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Year of Pleasures: Creative Friends

Galentines Cards
My friend Elisabeth got a bunch of our friends together to do a Galentine’s Card exchange, and the results have been trickling in all week. These friends are all connected by enjoying the Maximum Fun universe. Most of us have met through MaxFunCon or hang out on the forums and over twitter, and they are just a relentlessly awesome group of folks.

Galentines Display
If I ever doubted their awesomeness, this Galentine’s exchange would have fixed that right up. Hilarious, beautiful, talented, these cards are amazing. And now have a place of honor on my desk. They’re exactly the antidote I need for internet meanness.

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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.

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Year of Pleasures: Dreamhouse

Dreamhouse

I tried to take a short cut home from Atti’s school the other day and ended up getting lost. But around here that just means getting to take an unexpected drive through the country. I passed by this house and had to pull over to absorb it. This is exactly what I want to have someday, wrap around porch and all.

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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.

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Weekend of Adventure!

Thanksgiving at the beach
Bear’s extended family owns a beach house down in LA, so every Thanksgiving, this is my view. It’s pretty heavenly snapping green beans to the sound of waves, but since Thanksgiving was so late this year we had to jam a whole lot of fun into one brief weekend.


For the 5th year in a row we spent Black Friday getting the real best deal in town. A ten dollar ticket bought us 14 hours of comedy from some of the best comedians working today. If you are a comedy nerd like me, the guest list at this show is enough to make you geek out all year. This year Jimmy Pardo let me take some clips of the show so I could share just how ridiculous this day is. I look forward to it all year.

A video of the show will be sold with benefits going to Smile Train, so check here if you want to see the fun for yourself.


Despite having a couple of sore bums from 14 hours in one place, there was no time to rest. Without my typical week in November to gear up, I had to hit Christmas in a sprint, so we rushed back home from LA and spent Sunday (our only chance to do it) going up the mountain to pick out a fresh tree. And, or course, chancing upon a Main Street Christmas Parade while we were at it.

That is a whole lot of fun in just a few days and I am still feeling exhausted. In fact, as I’m typing this it’s 7pm and my eyes are blurry and I’m wondering how soon Atti will let me put him to bed.

But I won’t go to sleep yet! There’s more fun to be had!

I couldn’t let another day go by without announcing my themed tree for the year!

I took last year off of trees to focus on the new Youtube channel, and because the house we were in at the time really couldn’t support it. But I sure don’t have that problem this year! And so many of you sweet people emailed and commented about missing the tradition that I’ve been on pins and needles with anticipation to bring it back.

This year, the theme is…. Cozy Christmas!

I’m thinking of hats and scarves and bundling up in front of the fire, sweaters and mittens and blankets, ear muffs, ski jackets, and flannel shirts. I couldn’t do a tree like this without knitting, but there’s not a lot. I have ideas for every skill level and using all sorts of techniques. There will be something here for everybody, and by everybody I mean anyone who thinks miniature hats with earflaps are hilarious, so, everybody.

Tomorrow I’m kicking off the tree talk with a video and blog post featuring all my best tree decorating tips. If you’ve ever wondered why your tree looks kinda blah, or if my years of decorating exponentially more trees than a sane person has given me a ridiculously overthought tree decorating philosophy, tomorrow you will have your answers!! (Hint: The answer to that last question is: Yes.)

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Year of Pleasures: Freckle Face

Freckle Face

Those four little freckles just kill me.

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