Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Week In Pictures-When Depression Strikes

This past week has been one of restoration and taking it slow-bouts of deep borderline personality disorder depression tend to have that affect on me.

I've learned, as I've grown older, that when depression strikes me, the best thing for me, personally(I can't tell you what's best for you-I'm no doctor, yo) is to just let go of all the things that can wait and, as the Beatles would say, let it be. I get through bouts much more quickly if I just let go of any expectations for the foreseeable future and just let myself work through it without putting any extra pressure on myself. Sometimes that means I sleep more than usual. Sometimes it means I get lost in books, I let the housework go, I spend more time outside or I eat a bunch of cake and drink a bunch of tea and watch a bunch of movies with my kids.

Depression flicks a switch in my body that makes me unbearably weak. I cave under the weight of my own self hatred. One week I was doing an hour and a half of the strongest yoga I've practiced yet, almost every night. The next week(this past week), I tried downward dog and crumbled to the earth in a sad heap, because I just could not hold myself up. I don't pretend to fully understand the mechanics of my disorder. And I don't beat myself up over it anymore. The depression goes away much more quickly if I just work around it and do what I can, rather than fight it with strategies that often make me feel even worse because I can't execute them in a manner that magically makes the depression flee.

So this past week, when depression sank her sleek, icy claws into my spine, I rolled with her. A few nights I couldn't sleep, so I binge watched season 3 of Parks and Recreation, which always makes me laugh. A few nights I went to bed at nine and woke up at seven with the kids, which is more sleep than I usually feel is respectable for a crazy, obsessed artist. One morning I was too exhausted to bake breakfast, so the kids had leftover chocolate cake. They were not upset by this. I even managed to paint the living room, I just did it so slowly, it was like something out of a lame prank pulling television show. Three walls literally took me all day. I would paint a quarter of a wall then sit down and watch part of season three of Justified, or read the next chapter of An Echo In The Bone(Outlander series), then get up and paint the next portion. My kids were at their grandma's house, so I had the luxury of being able to take all day. I didn't spend any time feeling bad about the molasses dripping pace or the intense fatigue, I just held on and went for the slooooooooowwwwww ride. And with lots of meditation, cuddles from my kids, chocolate, tea, and nature it was over almost as soon as it began. And I'm still here. And we all survived just fine.

In fact, my daughter commented at one point, "Daddy bought us a cake instead of you baking it because you're extra tired and sad right now, right?" And she said this as if it were no big thing, as if I wasn't baking it because I had a cold, or a migraine or the flu. And honestly, I think that's great. I shed tears at that observation, because it means my kid, who can't yet really fully understand depression(and we have talked about it at length), can at least understand that it is as normal a part of life as any other malady, and that the best course of action when dealing with someone who has depression, is just acceptance and love. Maybe she can't understand why I have this thing I have to deal with, but she can understand what having a bad cold is like, how it comes out of nowhere and makes her weak and not herself, and because she understands that, she can accept that depression is something that I can't help, or fully understand myself.

So here are a few snapshots from this week. I chose only happy ones, because despite this being a week of depression, there was much beauty and love and happiness to be found.

I spent last weekend binge watching Game of Thrones, so I had to start the week off by sketching something cute and sweet to try and shake off all the icky feels that Game of Thrones always gives me. 

Is there any show less pleasant to binge watch?! So much hatred and violence and murder. Ugh. Outlander(my favorite!) can be equally as violent, but at least you have the underlying love story of Claire and Jamie to make you feel warm and fuzzies, in your belly.

I found these cute ice cream cone pens in the back to school section at Target. I know they are Chinese plastic junk, but I fell victim to their shiny, candy colored cuteness. I'm not proud.

I will keep them forever and refill them, though.

This little spider hitchhiked in on the mint I picked one morning. I joked that she was my doppleganger-so white she's translucent with a big ole booty. 

My herbs have been a great comfort to me during times of depression. They smell wonderful in the garden, especially after it rains, and they give me something very methodical to do with my hands, a task that I don't have to think much about but can always feel good about when I have completed it. As I sort my dried herbs into their respective glass jars, I think of the warm tisanes to come and the comfort they provide, and I am granted peace and happiness and joy. 

A friend told me that she had learned in an Indigenous Peoples class, that seeing a white spider means that goodness is coming, packaged in chaos. I find this terribly beautiful, and completely appropriate for my life. It also made me glad that I had returned the little lady to her residence in the mint patch.

Is there anything that sprinkles can't make just a little bit better?
My kids don't seem to think so. 

These banana walnut chocolate chip coconut gluten free muffins didn't have enough crap in them, so the kids demanded sprinkles. I admit, they made everybody smile. 

I drink lots of tea and tisanes when I'm depressed. Partially for the uplifting and soothing effects of herbs and honey and steam, and partially for the chance to use all my shiny, happy tea cups and tea pots. They are good reminders that there is silliness and color and joy to be found, even in the dark depths of depression. I try to surround myself with bright, happy things and colors, because my happy places are alternately super gaudy or super natural. I'm a libra. We're all about balance. Ha.

Cheesy french toast and turmeric spiced broccoli made me feel a little less guilt about all the chocolate and cake.

Sunday is Goodwill day. 

Books are something I often don't take time for these days, so when I'm experiencing all encompassing darkness, and the fatigue that goes with it, I sometimes go buy books. If I can't get out of bed, I figure I might as well find something that I can do from there. 

This week I found an extra super interesting stash of religious and philosophical texts. I think maybe someone must have been unloading their required readings from college courses. 

How wonderful that so much education and enrichment can be had for less than a dollar a pop! 

Sunrise and sunset, these things I take time out for on a daily basis They are constant and steady, and yet no two ever look alike. There is something very comforting and reassuring about that. 

And my very best bet for getting through a bout of depression with as little damage and turmoil as possible? Hands down, it is nature. I live in a Mississippi River town, and though we make jokes a plenty about how dirty the muddy Miss is, I love the river. I love watching barges lock through the dam, I love hunting for rocks along the shore, I love examining the basic ecology of the river in depth and up close. I love picking up litter. I love it all.

Time stands still when you're listening to the waves lap against the sand or rocks, and the lazy shrieks of gulls or the brassy honking of geese. Especially when the river is high and particularly noisy-you can close your eyes and almost forget that you are sitting in little ole Iowa(or Illinois), and not on some exotic coastal beach a thousand miles away. It really is wonderful.

So I gathered up all the energy I could muster, and I went to the river with my little family this weekend. And those last little fingernails of depression reluctantly broke off, skittered down my spine, fell into the waves and rolled away from me, like so many tiny bits of broken shells and rock, dancing in the water as it crashed around my legs and feet.

I always bring a few small rocks home with me. They are beautiful reminders of where I've been, and how sometimes being lost and tumbled in the waves polishes out your sharpest edges and can make you even more beautiful, strong and accessible than you were before you were submerged in the chaos.

Depression is no joke, in any form. And though I wouldn't wish the symptoms of borderline personality disorder on anyone, I sometimes think that I am lucky to experience the all consuming, viciously dark and scary lows that I do, because it makes me appreciate and treasure the simple beauty of life and love and why all the more when I finally come into the light.

And mercifully, thus far, I have always made it back into the light.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

That Time I Lost My Kid And Felt Like The Worst Parent In The World

Fair warning: This post is words. Lots of words. Not many pictures.

Or, not any pictures at all. None. Zip. Zilch.

Ok, so for those of you who don't know,  there's lots of thing that people don't warn you about before you have kids.

Like, how good the odds are that you will end up with your child's poop, pee or vomit in your mouth at least once before they turn five. Or like, how the odds of your child ending up with their own poop in their mouth at least once before the age of five are even better. OR, like how there is a very good possibility that your child, yes YOU, person who is highly educated, successful with above average intelligence, YOUR CHILD is likely to paint on your walls with their own poop, at least once, before they turn five.

For your sake, I hope they do it before the age of eighteen months, because it only gets bigger and stinkier from there, y'all.

And then there are the really scary things people don't warn you about. Things like third degree  perineal tears, postpartum depression and how you aren't allowed to make any mistakes as a parent.

That last one, well that's a big one. Social media and the internet, I really feel, have created a generation of parents who are terrified of every decision they have to make in regards to parenting, because making a mistake these days isn't just a personal learning experience, or an opportunity to be an example for those around you to learn by. No, making a mistake these days sometimes creates an opportunity for the entire world to create a lynch mob and come after you in a matter of hours or in some cases even minutes. Even if you don't put your story out there, it is all too easy for someone else to do it for you. And it seems like everybody has a quick opinion these days. Not only that, but so many people feel it their personal duty to go a step further and not only have an opinion, but to make sure the person who inspires the opinion knows that they are inspiring opinions. And some truly industrious souls not only go out of their way to make their opinions about other people known, but they take the time to hand down virtual judgements, sentencing and punishments as well.

So I'm going to share this story, knowing full well that in the eyes of some people, it will make me look like a bad parent. Like a parent who deserves to lose their kid because they are terribly neglectful. I'm going to share it because I know that's not true, and because maybe there are other parents out there who are beating themselves up tonight over close calls, near misses or even horrible mistakes. You need to know that you are not alone. We all make mistakes. I'm convinced that most of us probably aren't even fully aware of just how many we actually make, and the fact that any kid makes it to adulthood is a miracle. Truly.

I couldn't sleep last night after watching the DNC coverage, so about midnight, I started combining paint remnants into a single can so I could begin painting the tannish colored walls of my living room. I'm an enormously paranoid person, and I have OCD, so this was a slow process(once you add it in, you can't take it out man!), adding yellow to blue a little at a time, and then a shade of brown and peach until I arrived at a green I liked. Around 2 a.m. I had this conversation with myself:

"What THE HELL are you doing? I mean, really, it is 2 a.m. And you're mixing paint. The kids will be up in like, four hours. You're gonna be so damn tired..."

"I know, I know. What's new? But, I just can't look at those walls anymore! So uninspiring."

"If you go to sleep, YOU WON'T HAVE TO LOOK AT THEM!"

"Ugh, why are you always yelling at me? Lame."

"Look, ok, I can compromise. Paint a big swatch and then let's meditate and go to sleep."

"Oh alright. But I'm doing it under protest."

So I painted my swatch and meditated and finally fell asleep.

My three year old was up before the sun.

He was pissy. I was pissy. Then the seven year old came downstairs and the three year old made her pissy which made me even more pissy, so we were all  thoroughly pissy until nap time.

Naps did little to help defuse the pissiness. At that point I had had enough. It was time for cookies. Because dammit, when everybody is pissy, cookies and sprinkles never fail to make things better.

So we made cookies. And everybody was magically happier!

And then the three year old peed on the potty, and I mean literally ON the potty-it was like watching a monkey with a fire hose-that shizz was going everywhere, but I didn't care that I had to clean it up because he's actually trying and that's a big milestone!

This is how the day went on, just the normal ebb and flow of emotions and events that any stay at home mom experiences during summer break with more than one child-small moments of misery(tantrums and fighting) mixed with victory and joy(all the other stuff).

I've been doing a major possession de-stash over the last couple months(goal is 75% of our possessions to local charities), and was in the middle of cleaning out our small appliance cabinet when their dad decided to go to the library. He left and called me a few minutes later to ask if I wanted to read the next installment of the Outlander series. I said yes and walked from the kitchen to the dining room with the phone in one hand and a book that needed to be put away in the other. I noticed my son trying to put my tall, back rubber boots on.

"I don't think you wanna do that, Dude, you're gonna hurt you thighs," I remarked as I passed him on the way to my pie cabinet, where the book was headed. I walked back into the kitchen, phone call finished, and that's when I noticed my son was gone.

We have a fairly large home. It used to be a duplex. So when my son is not within sight, I holler so I know where he is, then go check on him if he isn't with his sister or in the next room where I can easily check on him.

I hollered. And waited. And hollered again. He didn't answer.

This is not unusual. So I started going through the rooms(there's 14), and I hollered up to his sister. I assumed he was up there(where he isn't supposed to be during the day, unless I am with him).

But he wasn't. And he wasn't answering. At this point I was starting to feel panicky. He's hidden from me before, if he's found a piece of candy or something he isn't supposed to have, but he usually gives himself away pretty quickly because he's terrible at hide and seek. Even when he hides in the house though, I worry, because he could choke on something and suffocate or who knows what else(paranoid person here).

My daughter started searching for him at that point, and I could tell that she could tell that I was starting to freak out. I went back to the kitchen thinking maybe he had lured me out so he could hop the counter to the candy jar, and that's when I noticed that the back door was wide open and my boots were gone. A glance out the back door showed me that the gate to the fence was open as well.

And that's when the literal panic set in. I barreled out the door, screaming my son's name, fear gripping my heart and lungs and throat like a vice.

All of this happened in the span of less than five minutes, but it felt like an eternity as every worst case scenario I could imagine ripped through my brain like the claws of a thousand tiny demons. You see, I am not that parent that lets their kid wander the neighborhood. I am that parent who doesn't let my kids out of my sight for fear of sex offenders, sex traffickers and rabies carrying stray cats. My kids don't even play in our fenced in yard unless I am outside with them.

I almost collided with him, for as I was running out the gate barefoot, he was plodding his way back towards my voice, wearing my black rain boots up to his thighs, a diaper, a tie dye shirt and a grin.

As I scooped him up and clutched him, arms quivering and hands shaking, a torrential rain of tears
soaked his shirt and mine.

He found it hilarious when my voice cracked as I said only the words, "You scared me!" before whisking him into the house. "Please don't ever do that again!" I croaked, as I held his squishy face in my hands.


He sighed this, like he was doing me a big favor that he didn't want do, but would do so long as it didn't inconvenience him too terribly.

And even now, several hours later, my eyes are full of tears and I feel absolutely sick to my stomach because I know all the ways that the situation could have gone wrong. I've gone over all the "what ifs". He could have been kidnapped. Or bitten by a dog. Or hit by a car. Or wandered into any one of the abandoned houses in our neighborhood and been hurt, or worse.

He didn't. But he could have.

And how would I have looked, having to explain to the police that my three year old literally walked out the door, out of my yard and into the dangers of the world, completely alone, with nobody stopping him?

Because he didn't endure or cause any harm(beyond almost giving me a heart attack) this will likely end up being just another of the many, many, MANY, funny anecdotes we look back on someday(less embarrassing to him than the myriad poop and penis stories, I'm sure), but the thing is, the fact that no permanent damage was done doesn't change the fact that a mistake was made in the first place.

Had this story ended in a different way, there's a good chance that in this day and age, I'd have people sending me death threats, calling CPS on me, telling me that I don't deserve to have kids, that I'm the worst parent in the world, and that I should go to jail, because of a very simple mistake that a very intelligent and opportunistic child took full advantage of. And I am in NO WAY blaming my child, he's three FFS, but I think sometimes we forget that children aren't little dolls that you sit and pose in a doll house, with full control over their every move. Even the most on guard parent gets one-upped occasionally. And if it has never happened to you-congratulations on your perfect life, man. Or woman. Some of us are human, and have human children, and we make mistakes.

Which is why I'm even bothering to write this post. There's so much pressure on parents these days, especially moms, to be perfect. Which makes the punishment for mistakes of every size, even if only in your own head and conscience, so much more severe.

Interestingly, my wayward son's father is not 1/10th as concerned about the incident as I am. He carries no internal pressure to be perfect, and thinks I am making a big deal about nothing. "These things happen." he said. And that's that. Can you tell he doesn't visit the interwebs much?

But me,  I'm beating myself up over it all. Totally.

But only for tonight. Because you know what? I love that kid, and his sister, more than life itself. I have never been so scared as I was in those moments when I was frantically searching for my kid, thinking there was a possibility that I might never see him again. And I have never been so relieved as I was when I found him. I'm not a bad parent, just an exhausted one, who let one thing out of a thousand slip by her today, and who will pay better attention to the doors from now on.

I'm also that parent who will put herself out there for the other imperfect parents. Yo, you made a mistake and want to talk to somebody who won't judge you? I'm your girl. Let's do this.

And if talking about it doesn't make you feel better about life, we can always make cookies.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Weekend Skies

The sky has been doing some rad things this weekend.

Yesterday the sun pierced through a heavy patchwork of clouds like candlelight through a punched tin lantern.

And today, tropical colored stormy skies.

I am ALL about this stuff. Nature produces the most beautiful art there is.

Friday, July 22, 2016

The Simple Things

My best friend passed away in November of last year. I've not addressed it here on my blog because I'm still not ready to yet. I can't condense my thoughts and feelings on him and his unexpected death in a short, sweet blog friendly manner, so I'm just not going to try yet.

However, I must at least acknowledge it, because it has been the catalyst for so much upheaval and change in my life over the past 8 months.

Losing your best friend at such a young age, well, to call it a reality check is an understatement. There were so many things left unsaid and undone and they added to the already impossibly heavy burden of all consuming grief.  I became angry. Over so many things. Over every thing.

I realized that I wasn't living the kind of life I wanted, or being the person I am deep down inside, or showing people the kind of love I actually feel for them. My life was not not positively contributing to the world in any meaningful way. I was a zombie. I wasn't being who the universe intended me to be.

More importantly, I realized why I wasn't.


Fear of repercussion, of rebuke, of disappointing people, of being preached at, and of being laughed at, of being alone, of being a failure, of being reproached and believe it or not, fear of being condemned to hell. By the people who are supposed to love me.

And yet, I couldn't stop thinking about what would happen if I died today.

How did I want to be remembered?

As a person who did her best to maximize her potential to be a positive influence on the world in all areas of her life.

How did I want to die?

Not wishing I had done more to put good things into the world.

And so my anger over losing my friend began to morph into a sort of resolve, to be the best version of myself that I can be. And though it is obviously a journey that can only be ended by death, and some days have better weather than others, overall, I feel more like myself now than I ever have in my entire life.

The best part is that it hasn't taken any crazy products or life style changes or commitments to make this happen. Just love and kindness and simplifying my life. The simple things are so much more satisfying when they become the major threads through your life and not just some novel concept that you occasionally take note of for a well timed social media photograph.

I know it sounds cliche, but it is so true.

Love, especially, comes in so many wonderful, simple forms.

Sometimes it is in the form of little handmade gifts, like this peppermint flower bouquet I made for my best friend's mom. I used a crochet flower my mom made and a piece of ribbon saved from the wrapping of an etsy purchase, to pretty up an empty Martinelli's apple juice glass. This literally cost me nothing to put together, but it expresses love as much as much as anything I could buy at a store, because it required time and thoughtfulness to assemble and deliver.

And because self love is important, I also made one for myself! It brings me so much joy as it sits on my kitchen counter and blesses me with wafts of sweet pepperminty scent as I buzz about the kitchen.

Baking is another way I like to show people that I love them. Like this fruit crisp(and quart of purchased ice cream) I also took over to my best friend's mom. Her son used to bake for her, when he was still with us, and so in some way, I feel like he moves through me when I bake for her. It is keeping his spirit alive by carrying on his traditions. Because the crisp was made with peaches and blackberries that I grew, it was not only tasty but had extra special personal meaning to it.

Yesterday I was blessed by a friend who brought over a bag of little bitty pears to share with me. This too is an act of love. She didn't have to go out of her way for me, but she knew I would enjoy her home grown produce, so she brought me some. And my kids and I were blessed. She didn't ask for anything in return, but I knew she had liked a couple of my embroideries, so I sent them with her, because I wanted to be sure she knew how much I appreciated her thinking of me. The world needs more of this-love and bartering.

Organic gardening has become an important part of my simplified life. Growing herbs and fruits and vegetables is not only mental and emotional therapy, but a form of love. Love for the earth, for myself and for my family. I make sure to harbor realistic expectations though, or else it becomes  a source of stress and a reason to mentally beat myself up because I tend to feel like I should be doing more than what I am capable of. I try to focus on just one or two areas at a time. Like seed harvesting coriander and radishes during blackberry picking season. As my children grown and I have more time to devote to food production, I'll add more plants to the garden and be able to produce and preserve more things.

I'm focusing on eating more simply too. This year I am learning about all sorts of new foods that are already present in my garden-like radish seed pods and day lilies and dandelion greens! I am also growing my own herbs like peppermint and echinacea, then drying them for use in tisanes and tea mixtures come this winter.

I've really freed myself when it comes to the art pieces I am making, too. These newest pieces fully embrace the chaos that comes from mixing elements together in completely unrestrained ways. The message I am trying to convey is when you embrace the chaos of your life, instead of always trying to control it and rid yourself of it, sometimes beautiful, happy, bright things occur.

More than anything, though, I'm making myself slow down and really open my ears, eyes and heart. I do yoga and I meditate almost every day. I enjoy the ritual of tea with honey, not just a hastily chugged, refined sugar filled cup. I make a point of looking for the moon, quietly observing the birds and bugs and bees, gazing at the stars, watching the sunset with no distractions around me and using what I already have to make love gifts for others, to entertain my kids and help them find ways to entertain themselves.

Less movies we've already seen a thousand times, and more making things together. Less Dairy Queen and more home made blender ice cream. Less whining about the things we want, and more satisfaction from feeling blessed by what we have and doing what we can to share our blessings with others.


Can you see the rainbow?

Do you see the little moon?

There are so many beautiful, joyful, peaceful, exciting, wondrous, magical and lovely things all around us, waiting for us to enjoy them, and be blessed by them, if we just open our eyes and hearts and minds and souls and spirits up to the possibilities, and to the fulfillment that simplicity brings.

So that's where I currently am. And as I move forward, that's what I hope to continue to offer you- love, laughter, hope, peace, joy, encouragement, community and creativity.

Because in an increasingly scary world, those things often feel like they are in short supply.

But, they definitely don't have to be.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Apples And Toast

Before I had children, many moons ago, I used to fancy myself an amateur photographer. I was really into beauty makeovers(I was in beauty school after all) as well, and I'd line my friends(and more so, myself) up for makeovers followed by impromptu portrait sessions.

Sometimes these took place inside of Walmart.

In the Halloween aisles.

Or the toy department.

Or the bath sponge aisle.

Yes, I was one of those.

And probably still would be too,  if I had more time.

But alas,  I'm a parent now. I don't have time for those types of shenanigans. Instead, I now have a whole photo album of stuff like this on my Mac-

What is this?

This, my friend, is the food that my three year old screams and whines and tantrums for, in the exact places that I find it in. An hour, a day, a week later.

Why? Why do I take pictures of this stuff?

I have no idea.

But since I do, I think I'll make one of those snappy little Shutterfly photo books for him and give it to him when he gets older.

"Congratulations on your graduation from college, Son. Here's a picture book of all the apples and toast that you wasted when you were three."

*Blank stare from son*

"Yeah, I don't know either. Insomnia made it seem like a good idea at the time."