My Hard Drive, My Heart

A few weeks ago, my external hard drive broke. I suppose I broke my external hard drive is a more accurate way to say it, but I'm still not sure exactly how. Not thinking, I picked up my laptop with the hard drive attached, and the little box swung on its cable. It didn't hit anything, but I suppose the whiplash-like movement of swinging back and forth was too much for it. A few minutes later I noticed a tinny whirring sound and then a clicking, and that's when I started to panic. 

Even then, I didn't realize how bad things were until the glib guy behind the counter at the computer store gave me a brochure for a place in California where I could send it, telling me there was a good chance it couldn't be fixed but that if it could be, it would likely cost "in the thousands." 

I sat in the parking lot and called the number on the brochure, sure that the computer guy was wrong. But my phone conversation suggested the opposite - clicking means mechanical failure, possible scratching off of data with every click, it has to be opened in a "clean room" to avoid destroying the data on the tiny little discs, and the minimum for the place on the brochure is $700 (with a max of $2700). 

I balked, ran to Facebook to ask questions of people who know about these things, started researching online, called friends. No one had a magic solution that sounded any better. 

Several people did report good experiences with the Geek Squad at Best Buy, so I decided to try there (with a minimum of $250) rather than jumping straight to the more expensive solution. 

You know what they say about getting what you pay for. I got the call a few days ago that they couldn't retrieve the data on the hard drive without sending it to their clean room, with a minimum price tag of $1400. Since I thought that's what they had already been doing these last 2 weeks while I waited anxiously, I asked them to send it back so I can send it to Drive Savers (the place in California), which is what I should have done in the first place. 

I'm waiting.

I feel like a part of me is missing. Or rather, many parts of me. Some I remember, some I don't.

The post I was hashing out, the several stories I'd been revising, the ideas that were just paragraphs of drivel waiting for something more, the photos - thousands and thousands of photos from the last ten years, my entire iPhoto library, our trip to the Grand Canyon, my mom's wedding, our vacation to Guatemala and Costa Rica, the random shots that didn't make it to Instagram, the pictures of flowers and autumn leaves and Jammer and us and nothing and everything. 

I can't bring myself to believe that they might be gone forever, that I might not ever have those things back. The thought makes my chest and my stomach tighten into little knots. 

I think back over and over again to how I didn't upgrade to the Dropbox pro account where I was storing blog photos when I ran out of space. In my mind, I see the pop-up box telling me my account is full, and I will my former self to take action as if I could turn back time with the strength of my desire. 

People lose things everyday. Their keys, their mittens, their wallets, their dogs, their friends, their babies, their husbands, their wives, their parents. A decade of photos and writing is small, infinitesimal really, against the backdrop of real lives, real loss. 

And yet that hard drive is filled with my real life, with the life I have been working to make, one filled with words and images, one where I am an artist, a writer, a creator. I feel frozen in the wake of its loss. I don't know how to start again. 

I am plagued by a sense that my greatest creativity, my greatest ideas were in those drafts. A self-indulgent fear, I suppose. And yet there it sits, in my chest and in my stomach and in my tear ducts. 

I wait. And I write. And I practice beginning again in the hope that I don't actually have to.

p.s. In a moment of what I now consider pure genius, I moved the novel I have been working on since November 2013 to Google Drive. Praise be.

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Project Pie: Apple Raspberry Pie (Vegan + Whole Wheat)

After the struggle I've been having with my pie crusts lately, I decided to go back to the basics. Nothing fancy for this pie - just some fruit in a regular whole wheat crust. 

But it seems that this weekend my brain was turned off while I was cooking. I burned an entire pan of granola because I thought Hey, it would be great to bake it along with the pie! and then totally didn't think about the fact that I normally bake granola at 250 degrees and pie at 375 degrees. And man is it disappointing to waste all those granola ingredients. 

I thought that was the only kitchen snafu until I sat down to write this post and hopped back over to the pie crust recipe I was using from my old potato and zucchini pie post. There I saw the ingredient list, including 8 tablespoons of Earth Balance from the freezer. And my mind flashed to the half stick of Earth Balance I cut into little squares before dropping into my flour. 4 tablespoons, not 8. I'd been contemplating only making half the recipe and not having a top crust and then changed my mind but forgot to change the Earth Balance amount.

That's the mystery of baking, and especially pie crusts. 

Everyone can talk about how precise you need to be with the ingredients, and then you can put in half of one of the most critical ones and end up with a pretty delicious crust. I looked back at what I said about the pie crust in that old post and realized I'd talked about how it was sticky and hard to work with, which I had totally forgotten. This time, with my Earth Balance mess-up, I had a not-sticky crust that I could roll out and put into my pie plate and that tastes pretty darn good. Maybe a little dry to work with, so I might play around with the proportion of Earth Balance, but I won't go back up to 8 tablespoons again. Obviously that's just too much for a whole wheat crust. 

And I never would have known if I hadn't totally goofed. 

I look at some people in my life and think things would be so much better for me if I could just be more like them - more organized, in control, disciplined. They seem to have it all together. And then something like this happens, where my frazzled brain leads to a discovery in the midst of a messy kitchen and a burning pan of granola - my accidental 4 tablespoons works better than the recipe's 8 tablespoons. 

I guess I'll take the discoveries where I can find them and continue trying to accept that "having it all together" isn't always the best option. 

Vegan + Whole Wheat Apple Raspberry Pie


2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons cold Earth Balance (or other non-dairy butter)
1/2 cup shortening, room temperature
1/2 cup ice water

1. Quickly mix the flour, sugar, and salt together in a large bowl. 
2. Break the shortening into large chunks and cut your butter (from the freezer) into small pieces. Add the butter and shortening to the flour mixture. Cut it into the dry ingredients by chopping vigorously with a pastry blender or cutting it with two knives. Work quickly so the butter does not melt. Make sure you are getting all the flour off the bottom of the bowl. Stop when the mixture has some pea-sized pieces and is mostly a consistency of dry, coarse crumbs, like cornmeal. 
3. Drizzle the ice water over the top. Using the blade side of a rubber spatula, cut into the mixture until it is evenly moistened and small balls begin to form. If balls of dough stick together, you're done. If they don't, drizzle 1-2 more tablespoons of water over the top. 
4. Press the dough together until it forms a ball. It should be rough, not smooth. Divide the dough in half and press each into a flat, round disk. Wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. You can refrigerate for up to several days. 

Apple Raspberry Filling:

5-6 apples (I used Macoun)
3 cups fresh or frozen raspberries (I used frozen)
2 tablespoons whole wheat flour (I used white whole wheat)
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons coconut palm sugar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice

1. Peel and cut up the apples - I used a simple corer/slicer and then cut each slice into four chunks.
2. Put the apples (plus the raspberries, if frozen) into a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 5-6 minutes. 
3. Drain the liquid from the apples and add in the rest of the ingredients and mix until incorporated. 

Putting it together:

1. Pour the apple raspberry mixture into your chilled pie crust. 
2. Roll out your second chunk of dough until it's about 1/8 inch thick and use a sharp un-serrated knife to cut the dough into a chevron shape.
3. Place the chevrons onto your pie crust and crimp the edges. 
4. Bake the pie at 375 degrees for 1 hour. If the edges start to brown or burn, use tin foil to cover them and continue cooking. 
5. Serve warm. 

p.s. Kind of like how messiness is connected to creativity, at least for me. 

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Not Writing

All last week I looked forward to Sunday. My wife had to work for a few hours, and I was going to spend that time writing - some for the blog, some for a few other pieces I'm working on, some for fiction. I was going to sit down with my computer and a cup of tea and access all that creativity that's been pinned up inside. 

Things I did Sunday instead of write:

1. Go to Costco. I mean, the price of organic frozen fruit at the grocery store is bananas, and how can we live without our smoothies? What else could I possibly eat for breakfast?
2. Make a huge vat of homemade pizza sauce from the tomatoes I froze during the summer. Honestly, I bill myself as this Little House on the Prairie-loving gardener-type. What would people think if I didn't make a big batch of something and can it? 
3. Make homemade pizza dough. There is absolutely no store-bought pizza dough that's 100% whole wheat and doesn't add sugar, and how else are we going to eat the pizza sauce?
4. Wash dishes and load the dishwasher. All that cooking makes so many dirty dishes, and I can't just leave them there, can I?
5. Create a spreadsheet analysis of the different options for consolidating/refinancing my student loans. Okay, that's totally legit. They're out of control. 

I will spend hours thinking about how I want to write. I will listen to writing podcasts as I drive to and from work. I will bemoan the lack of time for writing, and then when I could write, I will not write. All these other things pop up that I "need" to do. And what's frustrating is that, in the moment, I really do think I "need" to do them.

Why is it so hard to set aside time for writing? 

I keep thinking that there's a deep psychological reason I haven't figured out yet, some key that will surface when I put the correct puzzle pieces together. But I never seem to find the right ones. 

When I'm able to get up early in the morning, I have the most success at getting words on the page. Aside from sleeping, there's nothing else to interfere at 5:00 am. I'm not going to get out of bed and start making strawberry jam. And yet, though it is 5:22 am, and I'm here on the couch putting words into this machine, the early morning routine feels tenuous. I had it for so many months, and then I lost it. I have missed it, that quiet time just for me. And yet missing it has not made it easier to get out of bed in the morning. 

I can't tell you how many times I've set the alarm for 4:30 or 5:00 and then woken up at 3:15 to turn over or go to the bathroom and thought Oh hell no. I am TIRED, and opened up my phone to turn off the alarm. 

And it wouldn't matter - writing doesn't have to happen first thing in the morning - except that I will apparently do almost anything else during the day than sit down and write. It doesn't make a lick of sense because I long to write all the time. I think about writing. I come up with little snippets of dialogue or story lines or themes. 

Don't even get me started about all the times I plan to write when I get home from work. At 10 am, when I'm thinking about an article idea while sitting in a meeting, that sounds perfect. At 7 pm when I pull into the driveway? All I want is to watch The Mysteries of Laura and eat a giant bowl of pasta.

I'm reaching out here for serious, folks: Are there things you love to do that you somehow never find time to do? Or, are you amazing at finding/making time to do the things you love to do? Tell me your secret. (I know it's not a secret. It's just making time to do it. But pretend it's a secret so I'll feel better!)

p.s. I spilled coffee in my J.B. Fletcher tote bag this week. Total fail.

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Galette-Style Plum Pie (Whole Wheat + Vegan)


Project Pie: I'll be baking 24 pies before Pi Day 2016 to get over my fear of baking pies. And to eat delicious things. You can join me by posting about your pies in the comments or tagging your twitter, instagram, or facebook posts with #projectpie. Make something scrumptious and gooey!

I’m supposed to be getting better at this, right? Pie #13 is supposed to roll out more easily, taste more amazing, smell more inviting than Pie #1?

Ah, the infernal “supposed to.”

How many times has it stopped me (you?) in my (your?) tracks? 

This isn’t working the way it’s supposed to, I’ve said. I must be doing it wrong. I must not be the right person for this. This must not be the right time, the right place, the right reason, the right anything.

What would it look like if I could let go of “supposed to”?

If, when this crust was miserably difficult to roll out and stuck to the butcher-block countertop, I had thought, “How funny! Look at what’s happening this time!” and laughed and chalked it up to experience?

In yoga and meditation, teachers always talk about curiosity versus judgment. The idea is to notice what is happening in your body or your mind without placing any value judgments on it. For instance, I might say, I’m not that good at meditating. I always have such a hard time staying focused on what I’m doing. Or, instead, I could say I often have a lot of thoughts while meditating. I wonder why?

One sets me up for a feeling of failure. The other opens the door to more exploration, to trying again.

If I were not committed to making 24 pies, I would likely quit after the last few. I’m having a terrible time with the crusts. They stick. They fall apart. They’re not supposed to.


I’ve been using a lot of different crust recipes lately, trying things out. Some of them are challenging! When I used a totally new recipe while on vacation in an unfamiliar kitchen and with a wine bottle as a rolling pin, the crust was extra challenging. How interesting. I wonder how it would have been if I’d been making it at home. Or in the food processor?

Anne over at Modern Mrs. Darcy wrote recently about a spirit of experimentation as a way to work through perfectionism.

“When I try an experiment, success is getting an outcome. Any outcome. The goal is to get results, not a win.”

I loved that. I’ve been experimenting with it myself. I often fall back into the “supposed to” of perfectionism (how interesting!), so this conversation about letting go of how I think something should go and noticing how it is going has become a mainstay in my internal dialogue.

This pie was no exception.

The results of my experiment?

Crust: Challenging to roll out; delicious flavor; nice crumble
Filling: Challenging to peel plums; yummy combo of sweet and tart; pleasing texture
Katie: Frustrated with dough and plums; practiced deep breathing; ate whole piece of pie




Galette-Style Plum Pie
Adapted from First Prize Pies


2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup Earth Balance, frozen and cut into ½ inch pieces
1/4-1/2 cup ice water

1. Mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl. 
2. Add the frozen Earth Balance chunks to the flour mixture. Cut it into the dry ingredients by chopping vigorously with a pastry blender or cutting it with two knives. Work quickly so the butter does not melt. Make sure you are getting all the flour off the bottom of the bowl. Stop when the mixture has some pea-sized pieces and is mostly a consistency of dry, coarse crumbs, like cornmeal. 
3. Drizzle the ice water over the top, starting with ¼ cup. Using the blade side of a rubber spatula, cut into the mixture until it is evenly moistened and small balls begin to form. If balls of dough stick together, you're done. If they don't, drizzle 1-2 more tablespoons of water at a time over the top, cutting with the rubber spatula each time and then testing to see if the dough sticks together. 
4. Press the dough together until it forms a ball. It should be rough, not smooth. Press into a flat, round disk. Wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. You can refrigerate for up to several days. 


2-3 pounds ripe plums, pitted, peeled, and sliced
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup coconut palm sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Bring a large pot of water to boil and prepare a bowl of ice water.
2. With a small knife, make a shallow X in the bottom of each plum.
3. Place the plums in the boiling water for 45-60 seconds or until the skin of the plums begins to pucker and pull away from the X.
4. Remove the plums from the boiling water and place them immediately into the bowl of ice water.
5. When the plums have cooled, peel the skin off with your fingers and slice the plums, removing the pits.
6. In a mixing bowl, mix together the sliced plums, honey, and vanilla.
7. In a separate small bowl, mix together the last three filling ingredients.

Putting it Together

1. Remove the crust dough from the freezer and roll out into a large round disc, about ¼ inch thick and 5-6 inches wider than your pie plate.
2. Place the crust into the pie plate.
3. Mix together the dry cornstarch mix and the plum mixture.
4. Pour the mixture into the crust, and loosely fold over the edges of the pie crust.
5. Place the pie plate on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees, turning once.
6. After 20 minutes, reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake for 35 minutes, or until the crust is golden and the plums are juicy.
7. Allow the pie to cool for at least one hour before serving. 

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What Is Your X?

I met Caitlin at a gigantic fabric store in Maryland, just outside DC. She was working behind the desk, cutting the right length off those big bolts, and I was deciding on a bundle of fat quarters for an upcoming quilting class - my first. 

In an uncharacteristically outgoing moment, I brought a few fat quarter bundles up to the counter and asked for her opinion. As we got to chatting about the various patterns and what I was making, we discovered we were registered for the same class. 

She had already made a few simple quilts and sold some cross-stitched pieces on Etsy, and she told me right then that she wanted to sew and own her own fabric shop one day. I remember thinking at the time, Wow. That's what she wants, so she's working in a fabric store. Smart. 

It's stupidly simple - almost. Sure, it makes sense to do things that will move you toward what you want. But I've always been deeply envious of people who know what they want. Or, maybe more accurately, people who can tap into a place of honesty about what they want and then go for it. 

For  as long as I can remember, I've wanted a zillion different things and, sometimes more than I wanted the things themselves, I've wanted affirmation that the things I want are the right things to want, the smart things to want. I've wanted them to be things I could be sure of, which can mean never getting to the threshold question - what do I want? 

Caitlin and I crafted together a few times, and then she got a job at Spoonflower and moved down to North Carolina and we eventually lost touch. 

She's begun popping up in my Instagram feed again recently with these incredibly beautiful quilts, so I headed over to her blog to see more. And lo and behold, she's selling her gorgeous quilts and her fabric on Etsy and at craft shows. 

She's doing it. In 2010, she told me she wanted to make quilts and sell fabric. And she is. I don't know what the rest of her life looks like, but I'm struck by the seemingly simple nature of the formula. You want to do X? Put down everything else, and start doing X. If you can't do X yet, work for someone who does X. Surround yourself with X. Eventually, you will do X. 

And I'm struck by how incomprehensible that formula seems to me. I want to become an actor? I watch a lot of television and learn to crochet. I want to become a teacher? I go to law school. I want to do public interest law? I go to work at a big firm. I want to become awesome at photography? I learn to knit. I want to focus my time on becoming a better writer? I take on more responsibility at work. 

Of course, we know all about hindsight, but looking back on all these decisions feels a little like watching a tiny mouse version of myself running through a maze but constantly going the wrong way, like I'm standing there, shouting incredulously from outside the box Hey! What are you doing?! The cheese is THAT WAY!!

I don't know what the answer is here. I don't know if there is an answer. 

I have a lot of interests. I always have, and I'd say that my task here is to just accept that as who I am - a person with a zillion hobbies and no expertise. Except that there's something deeper underneath. There are longings and desires that I think I keep hidden even from myself most of the time. I have the sense often that I'm standing in my own way, but I don't know which direction to move. Or how.

And fear. There is so much fear - often masquerading as confusion or overwhelm. 

Comparison is a tricky game - it's not that I'm trying to look at one person's success and ask why I'm not there. But I am trying to ask myself what is your X?  Really, seriously, right now. What is your X? 

p.s. I wrote basically this same post three years ago. Oy. 

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BlogHer 15: I'm Not Here to Make Friends

Me and a couple other fabulous ladies on a small blogger panel at BlogHer 12

Me and a couple other fabulous ladies on a small blogger panel at BlogHer 12

In two days I'll drive down to New York for the BlogHer Conference, that annual extravaganza where a small town's worth of bloggers (most women) descend on a hotel for a few nights of non-stop schmoozing, partying, and talking shop. 

Or panicking, looking around awkwardly, and hiding in corners. 

To each her own, right?

Okay, so my title was a bit much. I'm not on a reality television show, I'm not here to "win it," and I'm not anti-social (at least not on purpose). I paid good money to spend 48 hours with these thousands of women, and I've been looking forward to it for months. I want to have an awesome time and meet lots of fun new people. But the closer I get, the louder my inner middle schooler gets. Will they like me? Who will I sit with at lunch? What if I'm dressed wrong? What if someone notices I've gained weight? (a sign that things have really derailed, but one of my mind's favorite completely irrelevant things to throw into any 'ol insecurity fest) How can I be here when I took over a year off blogging? How can I talk to these REAL bloggers? Who do I think I am?

There is no lack of information online about how to "do" blogging conferences, and especially this one, as an introvert or an anxious person. Take things at your own pace. Go back to your room to recharge. Let your business cards talk for you. Remember to just have fun.

And they're all good points. Many of these articles end with the author sharing how they overcame their overwhelm, discovered their tribe, and went home with the best friends of their life, whom they've reconnected with every year at the conference. 

Here's the problem: I went to BlogHer. Back in 2012. I read all those articles in preparation, and I was ready for transformation and serious best-friend-making. There were some awesome parts of the trip. But I spent a lot of time standing around feeling awkward. I didn't know what to talk to people about. Or I did - blogging. But I still felt 12 years old and shy and like I didn't belong. I didn't come home with new friends, let alone a best friend. Sure, I left with some new twitter accounts to follow and some new folks I super-duper admired and mildly stalked, but no one that I maintained a real friendship with. 

And I'm a friendly person. But I couldn't relax. I felt the whole time like I was on overdrive. Afterwards I couldn't figure out how to keep any of the smaller connections going. I commented on some people's blogs. They commented on mine. But eventually the connection wore thin. Those that kept a thread at all seemed more like bloggy acquaintances. I've admitted I'm not that great at online friendships anyway

I felt overwhelmed and like a failure. What had I done wrong?

I noticed the BlogHer Conference emails and the twitter posts the next few years, but I pushed away any desire I felt to go by remembering that feeling of failure.  

This year I wanted to go back. It's been three years, and I feel newly recommitted to blogging. There are things I want to learn about and improve. I want to hear from experts, and I want to talk to some brands, and yes, I want to say Hi to a few people I read on the web. 

And what has occurred to me is this: maybe the BlogHer Conference is just that - a conference. It's not where I'll meet my best friend (I already have some awesome ones). It's not where I'll discover my true home (I have a great one). It's not where I'll finally feel like I can be myself (I'm learning to do that over and over everyday, everywhere). 

My expectations were all out of whack. 

It's so awesome that there are people who go to BlogHer and find their perfect place, who party until they can't stand up anymore, who meet their friendship soul mates. Maybe this year I'll surprise myself and become one of them. But I don't think so. 

No, BlogHer is where I will learn more about being a good writer and crafting interesting headlines and engaging my readers. It's where I'll figure out what's really involved in "partnering" with a brand. It's where I will meet other bloggers and talk about creativity and finding time to show up and developing an online presence. It's where I'll become inspired my hearing the truly exceptional words of authors I admire. It's where I will focus on the skills to help me become better at this thing I love. 

I have no doubt I'll meet some freaking awesome folks in between.

But as for making fabulous life-long friends and having the best weekend of my life? 

I'm letting my 12-year old self off the hook on that one. 

p.s. I did get to pretend to be a Rockette, which made my 12-year old self very happy.


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Simple Weaving

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At a friend's house in middle school, I played with one of those little looms that kids used to make potholders. I don't know how I'd never encountered one before, but I was enamored by the way a simple over and under pattern with stretchy fabric loops could hold together to create something so thick and sturdy. 

Since then, looms and weaving have fascinated me. The end result seems magical. But beyond making a multi-colored potholder, I always considered weaving something that was done only on giant expensive looms by people with exceptional skill. I sought them out at craft fairs. I watched women in a dark little shop in Guatemala, adeptly sliding the shuttle back and forth. 

I actually considered buying a loom once when a coworker told me his mom was selling one (after I went on about my desire to one day weave), but I ultimately passed, primarily because of my penchant for purchasing craft-related things and then allowing them to languish. 

So when I started to see these weaving projects on the internet a couple years ago, I was intrigued. But it took me a while to jump on the bandwagon, mostly because the weaving I'd always appreciated was functional - making scarves or blankets or rugs. The artsy little wall hangings popping up on every craft blog seemed a bit weird to me. 

And then Elise Blaha Cripe created a massive one, and it triggered again that fascination with all things woven. Since then, it's been on my never-ending crafty to-do list, and I got very excited when I saw some tutorials for weaving without purchasing a loom (see purchasing penchant, above).

Last weekend I finally sat down with all the materials, created my little cardboard loom and got to sending that yarn back and forth. 

Oh boy, is this addictive. I wove for four hours straight, until I was finished. I couldn't stop. The  motion is meditative, like knitting is and crocheting has been for me. 

I used this tutorial and this tutorial primarily.



I'm pretty sure I completely screwed up getting it off the loom. The stitches are inconsistent, the fringe point is a little off-center, and I messed up a couple rows without realizing it. But I love it in spite of its imperfections. Or because of? I love it mainly because I so loved making it. 

The lighting in this room is terrible, so the pictures leave a little to be desired, but as I sit here on the couch, I'm looking at my weaving, my ticker tape quilt, my instagram magnets, and my rag quilt and feeling so much gratitude for materials to craft with, working hands, and a home to display the things I've made. 



p.s. You are so loved.


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90210 Lesbians

"You know why I'm not getting my hair cut, right?" my wife asked me the other morning as we stood in front of our shared closet, each trying to figure out what to wear.

I looked at her, my eyebrows raised in a question mark.

"Because then we'd have the same hair," she said, the silent "duh" remaining unspoken.

I laughed and told her she was ridiculous. 

She continued to avoid making a hair appointment.

My wife has thick, curly hair that hasn't been touched by a brush for more than a decade. I've always loved her curls for their wildness. They're a bit all over the place, and it suits her. Her favorite way to wear it is chin length, a little stacked in the back, but right now it's grown out to her shoulders.

Mine has, for the bulk of our almost-8 years together, been straight by virtue of blow drying and flat ironing and generally taming into place. I've always known that I have some curl, but I wasn't sure how to work with it. It's been long and short and everywhere in between, always a bit of a hassle. And then a series of good hair events led me to my perfect hair.

Joy of joys.

But without realizing it, I walked straight into a situation no less horrible than the

Kelly and Brenda spring dance dress debacle.

Because apparently my perfect hair is also my wife's perfect hair. 

And I'll be damned if I'm going to give it up. 

I mean, let's take a little lesson from our friends in Beverly Hills - they both looked awesome in that dress (at least by 90s style standards). After a little scuffle, Brenda got busy with Dylan, and Kelly got crowned spring princess. There was room at that dance for two high school hotties in off the shoulder black and white dresses. They lived it up and both went home happy. 

So to my wife I say

There is room in this relationship for two hotties with perfect hair. 

Let's live it up, 90210 style. 


Our Wedding

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Writer's Block Wednesday

No, this is not a new series where I have writer's block once a week. Or at least I hope not.

I sat at my computer this morning at 5 am, totally blank. I noodled around on the internet trying to find some inspiration (which is almost never where inspiration appears). I began a few words of a post that I abandoned for lack of adequate interest and research. I began a few words of a second post and closed it out for the same reason.

And at 5:41, I gave in to the truth. For the first time since January 29, when, under the umbrella of practice makes perfect, I committed to myself to post 5 days a week, I can't think of anything to say.

Perhaps it's because you guys gave me such love yesterday and now the pressure is on.

But more likely, it is simply the cycle of inspiration and the effects of tiredness and a busy work life that has nothing to do with these pages.

Either way, the words are missing. 

And yet, look what we have here: words on a page. 

You know what they say. Showing up is half the battle. Also, practice makes perfect. 

In truth, I think sometimes showing up might be the whole battle. And practice makes space for more practice, better practice, practice again tomorrow. 

See you then. 

p.s. The Ease of Wanting

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Brokenness and Community

My sewing machine is broken. Or its user is. Maybe both.

I figured out how to change the foot and the needle. So proud of myself, I pressed it down onto the knit fabric - my first time sewing on anything other than cotton - and it jammed up. Thread stuck in the bobbin and wrapped around it and held firm, and the needle wouldn't budge. I pulled out the manual and took apart the bobbin case and put it back together and tried again. Jammed again. 

I took the manual back out and removed the machine from its table. Nothing I said to the man at the repair shop seemed to ring a bell. Not the "I know exactly what the problem is" I'd been hoping for. He said he'd give it a tune up, and when I returned for the machine four days later, that's what he'd done. He found no problems, just adjusted the bobbin tension a bit. 

I brought it home, screwed it back to the table, sat in my chair, put the fabric back under there. Jammed. 

I cursed and put my hands over my face and tried again with the same result, the sewing project I had planned for the blog thwarted for the second week in a row. 

* * * 

There's this thing that happens as a blogger, where you spend a lot of time typing some part of yourself into the keys of your computer, and no matter how much you try to be "real," the story that comes out is inaccurate. At least it seems that way as you see it mirrored back to you in the words of friends or readers, when people start using phrases like "do it all" or "have it all together."

In a world where so many of us use the successes of others as weapons against ourselves, as proof of our own failures, I feel some obligation to set the record straight. To say that these pages are a tiny piece of the story and sometimes I am talking about Facebook or pie or quilts, and while you are reading those words, I am at home falling apart or screaming at my sewing machine, that I have a billion questions and almost no answers, that I cry and yell and think mean thoughts and sometimes say unfair things. That I have worries and fears and goals that I'm too embarrassed or ashamed or protective to share on these pages. Or they just don't belong here.

And yet somehow the simple act of writing these words down and sharing them with you here gives the impression of having sealed it all up in a tidy bow. I don't know how to kick that. Maybe I'm not supposed to.

Writing is reflective. It's not tidy, but it does provide some context, some meaning, to its subject. A broken sewing machine (or a broken user) is no longer just that. On the page, I am no longer the woman sitting in tearful frustration in front of an antique machine that befuddles her. Instead, I am a woman acknowledging her limits, sharing her humanity - with you and with herself. 

* * * 

I've read a lot of sewing blogs over the years. I've seen countless projects - bags and dresses and shirts and table runners and quilts. I've never read a word about someone fighting with their sewing machine, jamming the bobbin, perpetually screwing up the tension, at least not from someone who isn't sitting down at a machine for the very first time. As far as I can tell, I'm the only craft-oriented blogger on the internet who can't figure this crap out. I'm the only one who's dumb enough to be bested by this hunk of metal.

And yet that can't be true, right? I am not so unique that I can claim this particular frustration as mine alone. I don't want to. 

I want a community around it. I want all of the people staring at their sewing machines in confusion and anger to yell across the web to each other, "ME TOO!" and wave their hands and then point and laugh at their screwed up projects because hey, we're all in this together. 

I am just as broken as you. Maybe more so, depending on the day. What you see on these pages, what looks like life tied up in a bow is me, seeking community. It is me, sharing my humanity and, in my deepest dreams, creating a space for you to share your humanity too. To wave from across the internet and say hey, me too. And to smile because you're not alone. And neither am I. 

p.s. Fickle or Renaissance?

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The Well Runneth Dry

Over the winter, we woke one morning to find that our faucets would produce only the tiniest trickle of water. My wife and I began rushing around in a panic, yelling across the house at each other as we turned on each one, hoping for more than a dribble. No luck. Our town listserv had been busy with stories of frozen pipes for days, and we finally stopped and looked at each other in resignation.

We called some plumbers, who said what we were dealing with didn't sound like frozen pipes. Great! we thought. Frozen pipes had been our biggest concern - in fact, we'd been leaving the faucets slightly dripping on the coldest nights just to be sure. So what else could it be, we wondered. And that's when we heard the truly terrifying words.

Shut off your valves. It might be that your well's run dry.

I was afraid to ask what we would do if that turned out to be the case.

We'd either dig down deeper or dig you another well.

I sat at the dining room table, foot tapping, fingers jumping on my keys, pretending to work while the man from the well company knelt outside in the snow to test the level of the well. I hopped up and walked to the front door when I heard him step onto the porch. I looked at him, eyebrows raised in a question.

Well, you've got water. 

I let out my breath and then asked what happened. Why did we lose water if our pipes hadn't frozen and our well hadn't run dry?

He explained that wells can run temporarily dry. Basically, the use of the water outpaces the flow of groundwater into the well. It can happen in really dry seasons or really cold ones when the frost reaches deep into the ground. Or it can happen when there's a leak, even a tiny one. He checked our faucets and our toilets and tightened some things up. Those little drips could add up to a lot of water over time, he said. 

* * *

Today my well is dry. Perhaps it's temporary, and I just need to find the leak. Shut off the valve, tighten a few things, and wait for the inspiration to fill me back up.

Or maybe it's truly spent. Empty. No more. And then what?

Dig down deeper.

Or dig another well.

p.s. Hello.

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Opting Out

A few weeks ago I read this post by Sarah over at Yes and Yes. 

"I remembered that freeing feeling of opting out and started applying it to other areas of my life. And I realized that there were plenty of things I could opt out of - things I could simply choose to not care about."

Perhaps it sounds simple, but when I read her post, a lightbulb went off for me about the difference between not being able to do something and choosing not to do something. 

A few months ago, I signed up for the trial period on one of those online exercise programs. You know these sites, right? You pay $10 or $15 dollars a month, and you get access to a library of work out (or yoga, pilates, etc) videos that you can do in your own home. Usually there are a bunch of filters you can use to find just the video that works for you in that moment. For instance, you can sort the videos by length. So if you only have 20 minutes, you can find a video that's short and only do those squats and lunges for 17 minutes. 

I tried out Barre 3 after learning about it from (never home) maker, and I did one of the 10 minute videos and liked it. And then every day, for the next 15 days, I thought about how I should do a video. But I didn't. I was busy or tired or forgot when I was actually at home. The next day I would chastise myself a bit for the previous day's failure and promise to sign on today. 

13 days came and went. 

And then I read Sarah's post, and it hit me. 

I could choose not to do these videos. In fact, I was choosing not to do these videos, but I wasn't thinking about it in those terms. Instead, I planned every day to do a workout video, and every day I failed. I was viewing myself either as a failure or as someone way too busy to fit in working out, both of which left me feeling crappy and not in control of my own life. 

What if I decided that walking my dog twice a day was all the exercise I was going to get? Maybe not forever, but for right now. What if I decided that having toned legs and sexy arms just wasn't on my priority list?

What if I opted out? 

I cancelled the membership. 

I have a lot going on, and I choose not to add home exercise videos to that list. 30 minutes of sitting on the couch and knitting while I watch The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is on the list, but home exercise videos are not. That's just how it is right now. I opt out.

I started looking for other places in my life I could opt out. 

Making the bed
Looking fashionable on the weekends (see photo above)
Getting my inbox down to zero
Saving old clothes to re-purpose them (now I just consign)
Giving up coffee 
Being an emotional stoic

I'm *this* close on high heels.

Opting out is basically about honesty. Either you're opting out already but not owning the decision or you're opting in but feeling miserable and stressed out. 

By finding places to opt out, I'm realigning my time and my energy. Sometimes you have to figure out what you don't want so that you can make time for what you do

I encourage you to do the same. 

Opt out.

p.s. Our stenciled bathroom.

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Disorganized Meal Planning: Two Months Later

A couple Sundays ago, my wife and I sat across from each other at brunch discussing the upcoming week and what nights we'd both be home for dinner. We were looking at the calendars on our phones, and I had papers strewn on the table with previous weeks' meal plans and recipes. The waiter came over - a friendly young guy with a wild mop of sandy blond hair. 

"Looks like you got some work here," he said. 

"We're meal planning," I told him. 

"Meal planning??" He looked at me, incredulous and amused. He tilted his head and asked again. "Meal planning?" 

I laughed and told him it makes things a lot easier. 

He raised his eyebrows, shrugged his shoulders, and smiled at me before asking if we were ready to order. 

When he left the table, Navah and I looked at each other and nodded.

"We're old," I said. 


Old our not, my disorganized meal planning has been really good for us.

Since I started the process a little over 2 months ago, I have created a weekly meal plan six times. So I've missed a couple weeks - for no real reason other than my level of disorganization keeping me from using even a meal planning process designed for disorganized people. 

Also, developing a habit takes a bit of time. The first few weeks were the most difficult, the ones where I was most likely to remember the whole idea of meal planning at 9:30 on Sunday night. 

But for those 6 weeks that I planned our meals, there were three major benefits: 

1. We ate healthier food. 

When I'm not meal planning, my 5:00 pm self is making the dinner decisions. She's hungry and tired, and all she wants are some carbs and a hunk of cheese. Not inherently horrible, but also not great for many nights in a row. By planning out our meals, I ensured (with relatively little effort) that we would consume some vegetables and a little protein most nights. 

Ironically, having a list of "in rotation" easy meals has also diversified our dinners. I started with a list of 12 meals that I could make without a recipe. I now have 20 meals on the list, some of which require a quick look at a recipe but are still very simple and familiar. With a growing list of meals to choose from, I'm more apt to plan a week with some variety as opposed to the frequent carb and cheese meals we were having before. 

2. We took fewer trips to the grocery store. 

Hallelujah! I stopped going to the grocery store 3 or 4 times a week. On the weeks that I meal planned, I put my plan and list together on Saturday or Sunday morning and did the grocery shopping on Sunday afternoon. Then no more grocery store until the next Sunday! There were a couple times that one of us had to stop to pick up something specific that didn't make it into my meal plan (aka, toilet paper or some other staple), but even so, it drastically reduced the amount of time I spend shopping. 

3. I was less stressed out.

This is, perhaps, directly related to #2 above. Fewer trips to the store meant I had more time at home and a more relaxed cooking experience. I did not come home and wander back and forth between the refrigerator and the pantry trying to decide what to make for dinner, a process that I hate. Instead, I knew exactly what was on the plan, and I knew I had the ingredients for it. My evenings were much more pleasant. Weeknight grocery shopping is the pits (at least for me).

These three things are enough to keep me going with my meal planning, but you might have noticed one glaring omission from the benefits list. 

We didn't save money. 

I thought we would. Each week we did the meal planning, I felt like we were spending less. But when I went back to our bank account and checked the numbers, I was wrong. We spent almost exactly the same amount on groceries in the last 2 months that we did in the 2 months before. Since I did have a bit of a financial motive for the meal planning, I was disappointed by this information. 

I haven't been keeping good enough records to figure out whether there's something specific that's keeping our grocery bills high, but I'm going to keep monitoring it. 

That being said, I'm sold on my disorganized cook's meal planning. 

And I don't even care if it means I'm old. 

Old and well-fed?

I'll take it.

p.s. Taco salad with DIY taco bowls.

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The Messy Shot

not really that messy, but you get the idea

Over the weekend, I walked past my studio and said "Woooh, looks like someone's creating things in there!" Navah laughed, "Is that what we're calling messy these days?"

"When it's in my studio, it is," I smirked.

We both laughed. 

And then I thought about it for the rest of the day. 

When I'm really in my creative space, when I'm painting and scheming and cooking and making things, my home looks like a disaster. The mess is huge - it can spread across multiple rooms. And sometimes I have to leave it like that for a day or four or a week or more while I tend to other things or think about what comes next. 

And thank goodness I have the space (and the understanding spouse) to do that. To make an enormous mess in the name of creating something special. 

That's what I was thinking as I got back to my painting project on the floor of my studio. And as I brushed on the metallic paint, I had this realization. 

My life is messy. I'm always saying that. 

It's messy and disorganized and chaotic and difficult. I'm always trying to figure out some way to add more structure, to contain things, to clean it up. And I'm not just talking about my house or my car or my inbox or my desk. I'm talking about my life. I'm talking about my thoughts and emotions, my behavior, my dreams, and my love. 

I spend so much time wishing it would all make sense. I want to know why I feel what I feel, and I want to be able to turn it off if it doesn't suit me. 

I told my therapist the other day that every time I am feeling upset or experiencing anxiety, my first instinct (and often my only instinct) is to make it go away. Return to neutral. I almost never think This feels terrible, and then just stop and feel terrible. I feel terrible while simultaneously attempting to neaten everything up, to figure out (a) why I feel terrible, and (b) what I need to do to stop feeling terrible, and (c) how quickly I can do that thing. And I'd like to figure all that out in a way that can be summed up in an alphabetized outline.

When my life is messy, my instinct is always to try to clean it up. 

But guess what we're calling messy these days? 


The mess is where the creation happens. Not the cleaning up. 

The mess is the indicator. The mess says Work in Progress. The mess says Take Note. Things Are Happening Here.

The mess is being made in the name of creating something special. 

Honor the mess.

p.s. No, I can't.

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5 Things You Can Do Today to Get Out of Your Funk

March can be rough, especially up here in New England where the promise of Spring rings hollow when you're tromping through the snow. If you, like me, are finding yourself knee deep in a classic funk, here are five things you can do today to help move yourself in a more positive direction. I won't call them easy because absolutely nothing is easy when you're in a funk. But these steps are short and straightforward and might give you just the jolt you need.


1. Go outside.

I know. It's cold and icy, and the fuzzy socks you're wearing are too thick for your boots. The couch and the blankets are embracing you in one giant soft hug, and they would probably be sad if you left. Also, you were just thinking about maybe doing some dishes. Maybe. And you can't do dishes if you're outside.

I know all of this. Go outside anyway. Look up at the sky. Look down at the ground under your feet. Put the palm of your hand against a tree. Breathe in. Breathe out.

2. Put down the food. 

Do not stop at the gas station for donuts. Shove that jar of peanut butter back into the pantry. And for the love of God, step away from the Cheetos. I'm not bashing the Cheetos - they're delicious. Except when you're eating them day after day after day to fill a void. Any food consumed for the purpose of filling a void tastes like cardboard dipped in nothing sauce. Even Cheetos.

This might be the hardest thing you have to do. Remember how it feels when the bag is empty and your fingers are orange and all you can think about is another bag. Hint: it feels like sh*t and not at all like being satiated.

3. Call a friend. 

Stop pretending that you lost your phone or that you can't hear me over the noise from the nine-thousandth episode of 30 Rock you've watched today. Put down the block of cheese, and dial the number for someone you like. Ask them how their day was, what's been going on with their marriage or their job or their kids or their art or the cute guy they've been obsessing over.

Listen. Listen to something other than the cranky ramblings of your own mind.

4. Dance.

I know. Your legs are sore from walking up and down the stairs to get more peanut butter. And dancing is the absolute last thing you want to do. You're tired - exhausted really - and not interested in anything so rambunctious. You're not even sure you could will your body to move in a happy way.

Maybe you're right. But try this for me anyway. Go into your kitchen (kitchen dancing is the best) and put on your favorite peppy music. No sad stuff. I know you like at least something with a beat. Lady Gaga or Taylor Swift or Sir Mix a Lot or the Four Seasons or the Beastie Boys or your Pitbull Pandora station. Absolutely no Adele. Give yourself ten minutes. No pressure. Just nod your head along to the music. See what happens.

5. Get it done.

Your to-do list is out of control, or else you've just stopped keeping one because honestly, you're so lazy and disorganized that what's the point? Your sink is full of dishes, your bedroom looks like it was robbed by a psychotic clothes whore, your inbox is a disaster, and everything you've ever promised anyone you'd do has fallen through the cracks.

I hear you. You're a complete and total waste of space. But just humor me on this one. Set a timer for 10 minutes. And then go. Don't think. Just do. Make your bed. Answer an email. Wash some dishes. Just for 10 minutes. Then this is the most important part: when the timer dings, pat yourself on the back. Literally reach your arm over your shoulder, pat yourself on the back, and say (out loud), "Hey, good job, you." Go sit back down on the couch or do another 10 minutes. Either way, well done.


Above all, be compassionate with yourself. You won't be perfect, and getting out of your funk takes time. Try not to berate yourself if you don't wake up tomorrow morning feeling like a million bucks. Also, one word of caution: when you're in a funk, being compassionate can get a little confusing. What seems like compassion at other times - hey, I had a long week. It's okay if I veg on the couch for 4 hours tonight watching a Friends marathon - might not be compassion when you're in a funk. When you're in a funk, your compassion might need to be a little tougher. Compassion might need to get you up off the couch and outside for a walk because staying there and watching the next episode guarantees you'll stay in that funk.

If you hadn't noticed, I could have titled this post "Dear Katie," but I thought there might be some other folks out there who'd benefit from the same advice I've been trying to give myself. And being nice to people is another thing that can help get you out of your funk. So there you go.

One final note: I'm not a therapist or a medical professional. If you think you may be clinically depressed or could just use someone to talk to, please seek out a therapist. Therapy is for winners.

p.s. Also, maybe you don't have a life that's meant to be gotten together either.

Goals and Balance

Yesterday when I got up to do my morning writing, I opened Gmail and sent some long overdue emails to several friends. It was a complete and total breaking of the rules. That quiet hour is sacred - no email, no twitter, no facebook. Just get out of bed and put words (blog words, fiction words, essay words - not email words) on the page (or screen).

I set certain creative goals for myself - I am meeting them, and this is the path. Determination and commitment, sacrifice, early mornings, and following the rules.

There is this image of the crazed writer - romantic and laudable - slaving away at his (always a him) typewriter in the rented room in the attic (always an attic) to finish the manuscript or the play or the essay that will seal his fate as one of the greats. He will forego sleep, food, comfort, haircuts, company, everything just to get those words on paper. That image calls to me with a sweet, syrupy voice. It promises fame and fortune and, most importantly, a singularity of purpose that avoids all of life's confusion and messiness. If only I could be as strong as that writer, it could all be mine.

But I am weak.

Thank the sweet lord. I am weak.

I need sleep and food and the company of good friends. I forget sometimes. I follow the voice a little too far down the path, and I start to see a frenzied look in the eyes in the mirror, a sure sign of commitment to the image, to the rules, instead of commitment to the creativity.

Yesterday I woke up early. I opened my computer, and I wrote to my friends instead.

p.s. A friend told me once that the Universe gives us the same lesson over and over again until we learn it. This is clearly part of my curriculum. 

Become a Better Person: Weekend Links

Here's your quick and dirty weekend reading list from around the web, guaranteed to make you a better human being.*

This weekend I'm granting you (and me) permission to be flawed and broken and wildly imperfect. You can read these awesome articles if you get tired of being so damn human.


A more creative person: Spoiler alert - Do You. Well, figure you out. And then do you.

A happier person (in the dating world): Some rules are made to be broken, but some might help you survive the single life.

A happier person (in any world): Start searching the #pygmygoats and #dwarfgoats hashtags on Instagram. Hours of delight (and procrastination).

An awe-filled person: Let yourself be amazed and touched and tickled by watching these little bald eagle babies do their thing (mostly sitting and looking around and eating).

A softer person: Blur the lines. Don't try to put grief in a box. It's won't be put.

A more informed person: The words we use matter.

*As I've said before, simply reading these articles probably won't make you a better person. But they're interesting, and anyway, I recommend seriously considering whether you're perfect already - just the way you are.

When Life is Hard

It's one of those times.

When I walked my dog yesterday morning, it was -16 degrees. And back home, our furnace is broken. It's leaking for the second time in six months, the temporary fix having given way and forced us onto the internet to look blindly at every review for an oil boiler we could find before taking that big financial plunge and buying a new one. To reduce the leaking, we're avoiding using hot water except when absolutely necessary and relying entirely on our pellet stove to heat the house.

The pellet stove can turn the downstairs into a summer oasis, but the upstairs (where the bedrooms, bathrooms, and kitchen are) can't get above a balmy 59 degrees. It's not too bad with a hat and scarf on, but putting that first toe onto the floor in the mornings is rough. And then, recently it's been doing weird things that make us concerned that it might shut itself down (causing the temperature in the house to drop and possibly our pipes to freeze) or catch on fire while we're not home.

And in addition to our heating issues and some other personal things, one of our garage doors is broken. And the door of our freezer is popping open almost imperceptibly each time we shut the refrigerator, something which we only discovered after it was slightly ajar all night, resulting in a major energy waste and a bunch of freezer-burned food. And the dog has had an upset stomach for reasons we can't identify. And my phone keeps shutting itself down every time I use it to take a photo. And I have a stye on my left eye.

Life feels so hard right now.

I'm overwhelmed by the number of things needing my attention and the financial outlay required of us. It seems that we're constantly rearranging our schedules to be home for a repair man or to take the dog to the vet. 

Right now the tiniest bother sends me over the edge.

This morning, when my closed toothpaste tube fell off the counter onto the bathroom floor, I yelled out, "OH COME ON" and huffed and stomped my foot, incensed that I had to reach down and pick it up.

It feels like crap, being this angry and overwhelmed, thinking the world has it out for you.

Before I lose it completely, I've been experimenting with a very gentle gratitude practice.

In the moment when I am most irate and overwhelmed about a particular thing - for instance, the broken boiler - I stop and ask myself one question: Is there anything in this situation that I can have gratitude for? Anything at all?

Usually, I can come up with something. At least one thing. In the case of the boiler, I came up with more than one.

I'm grateful that our boiler gave us a warning before dying completely so that we have time to buy a new one and weren't left without any heat or hot water.

I'm grateful that, though it wasn't in our budget, we have the money to buy a new boiler.

I'm grateful that we live in a place where someone will come out and install a contraption in our house that will heat the whole place with the push of a button.

I practice it with other things too - the garage door, for instance.

I'm grateful that we have a garage - what a luxury!

I'm grateful that someone will come out and repair the motor to our garage.

I'm grateful that we can afford to have someone come out and repair the motor for our garage.

And, most of the time, it works. I feel better, less cranky, less overwhelmed.

It doesn't always work, though. Sometimes I can't find anything to be grateful about. And that's okay. That's where I am in that moment. It's not because there isn't anything to be grateful about. It's because at that particular juncture, I can't get out from under the negative feelings to see the good.

I'm human. And expecting myself to be something other than human - some superhuman person who feels gratitude in every moment of my life - is a recipe for disaster.

So when I can find the gratitude, I brush off the welcome mat and bring it some tea. And in those moments, I'm grateful for gratitude.

Here's the other thing about this gentle gratitude practice - it's not a moral thing. Perhaps being grateful is the moral high ground. But focusing on morality isn't going to help you when you're down in the dregs of a life-is-hard mental meltdown. Being grateful because you should be grateful doesn't work in my experience. It just packs on another couple emotions - guilt and shame - to the anxiety, anger, overwhelm, depression that I'm already feeling. No, if you practice gratitude, practice it because it feels good. Be self-serving about it.

When you can stop long enough to recognize the overwhelm/life-is-hard spiral, be good to yourself and ask whether there's anything you can be grateful for.

If there's not, then set the question aside. Don't berate yourself. Just acknowledge that right now is just too hard and try again later. But if you can find something to be grateful for, sit with that gratitude. Honor it. Experience the moment of peace when your mind shifts away from anxiety.

It won't change the situation. Life will still be broken and expensive and wrong and not how you wanted it to be and maybe, sometimes, even devastating. But in that moment of gratitude, some little part of you may also know that life is miraculous and kind and beautiful.

One last note on practicing gratitude: it's a very personal thing. Because we're all human, experiencing our emotions in our own ways, and because a morality push rarely works on the gratitude front, it's rarely effective to tell another person to be grateful. One of my biggest pet peeves is the "at least" commentary in response to something I'm dealing with. I tell someone that my hair looks like crap that day, and they respond with "At least you have hair. You should be grateful for that." I say that my car is broken down, and they respond, "At least you have a car to get fixed. You should be grateful for that."

And it's not that I shouldn't be grateful. I should be - there are lots of people in worse-off situations. But like I said earlier, gratitude as a moral imperative rarely works for me. I just end up feeling ashamed and guilty (and annoyed with the "at least" person). Gratitude as a gentle reminder to release, if only for a moment, the negativity that is holding me hostage? That is helpful.

It's funny to me to be sharing a post about practicing gratitude. I can be the complainiest of the complainers, and I often feel like overwhelmed is my constant state of being. But that means I have a lot of opportunities to practice pulling myself out of the depths.

And when I'm able to, when I can get out from under it all to see the good, I am so grateful.

p.s. Practicing gratitude is constantly practice, at least for me.

You're Just Not That Good At It

I'm awful at sports. I have been for as long as I can remember. The thought of a "friendly" game of anything - softball, kickball, frisbee - can send me into a middle school angst I don't enjoy reliving. In my younger years, that was hard. I felt deficient.

But now it's just a part of me - something I can laugh about and honor. I love cheering people on from the sidelines. I'm excellent at shouting, "Woo-hoo! Keep it up guys!!"

I've accepted that rowdy games of touch football are not in my future. But there are these other things - things that I'm supposed to be good at, that the Me that I imagine myself to be is good at.

But, the thing is, I'm not actually good at them.

My wife gives me this particular look every time I come home with a plan for a home improvement project. Her eyes plead with me, Are you sure you want to do this? And my response every time is one of two things: dismissal or anger.

No matter how many times I have sat cursing or crying on the floor surrounded by a pile of screws and power tools, I refuse to believe that when it comes to carpentry projects, I'm just not that good at it. My picture of myself is as someone who is crafty and resourceful, who grew up with crafty and resourceful parents, who learned a little something from them, and who can drive a flipping screw into the wall without stripping it.

And yet.

Every time. Every. single. time. I strip a screw (or twelve). The anchors won't go in. I misjudge where the stud is (even though I'm using a stud finder). The shelf is crooked. The curtain rod is wiggly on one side. I ruin the board. The project that was supposed to take fifteen minutes is still unfinished two days later because I had to walk away after an hour and a half of struggling so I didn't throw my drill across the room.

The problem is not that all of these things happen. It's that every time, I refuse to accept that they're going to happen. Each time I pick up a screw or a hammer, I think this is the time that my natural handy abilities are going to kick in. This is the time that the fifteen minute project is going to take fifteen minutes. And each time, I battle against the realization that my perception of myself is flawed - at least in this regard.

So while it's frustrating to strip a screw or ruin a piece of wood, the real temper tantrum is about something more - it's about who I think I am and who I am repeatedly forced to realize I am not.

I'm not saying that I can't do carpentry projects, that I can't learn how to hang my own shelves and put up curtains. But I am saying that I am finally beginning to realize that I do have to ask for help. I do have to expect that the project will take me ten times longer than it's "supposed" to. I do have to plan to mess up.

Because while I want to be someone who is self-sufficient and can just pick up a hammer or a screwdriver and take care of anything in my house, I'm not that person. At least not yet.

I'm just not that good at it.

But I'm also beginning to realize that's okay. Because once you accept that you're just not that good at it, that's when you can be honest about how to get good at it. That's when you can stop battling and start learning.

So, help me out here and fess up. Are there things you think you're supposed to be good at, but you're just not?

p.s. I have completed one awesome carpentry project!

Crafting Mistakes (Baby sweater for a friend)

transitive verb

1: to blunder in the choice of
2a: to misunderstand the meaning or intention of
  b: to make a wrong judgment of the character or ability of 
3: to identify wrongly, confuse with another 


None of us wants to make mistakes. I mean, we might give some lip service to the notice of a mistake as a learning experience, but none of us goes into a project thinking, "Boy, I hope I blunder in the choices I make on this one!"

In fact, most of us begin every day of our lives with the desire to get it right across the board - to make the correct judgments, to understand completely, to be infallible. Whether we recognize that as a real possibility is beside the point. We want to be mistake-free. 

And it is, of course, worse for some of us than for others. We perfectionists have a more difficult time. Disorganized, impatient perfectionists like me have it particularly bad. 

Did you know there were disorganized, impatient perfectionists out there? 

We're the folks who never follow the advice "measure twice, cut once" because that takes too freaking long. Yet we expect our projects to turn our perfectly anyway, with no incorrect cuts, no mistakes. 

This turns out to be a major issue for me - this desire to never make a mistake combined with a shortcut work ethic for my hobbies and home projects. The result is often tears or cursing after putting a great deal of work into something that turns out not to be quite right - like this skirt I made a few years ago with not enough fabric (resulting in - shocker! - a too-short skirt).

But then sometimes, on that rarest of occasions, I make a mistake on a project that actually turns out to be in that genre of fairytale mistakes, where I can say it's truly better the mistake was made because the result, surprisingly, is superior to what might have been. 

And this tiny sweater for my friend's new, precious little baby boy is exactly one of those mistakes. 

I spent many hours knitting this cute cardigan (called Felix's Cardigan on Ravelry) only to find myself with one and a half sleeves and no more yarn. No big deal, I thought to myself, as I drove to Creative Habitat, our local craft store, for another skein. Except it had taken me so long to knit the sweater that the store had run out of that particular yarn color since I'd first purchased it. No big deal, I thought to myself, as I drove home to purchase a skein of it online. 

Except that when I got home, I couldn't find the tag that had been wrapped around the yarn, so I didn't know exactly what color it was. I went online and perused all the different possible colors and chose one that looked correct. Of course, when it arrived it was entirely wrong - you can't trust the colors on the screen.

So I put the little sweater aside, frustrated and angry with myself once again for not being more careful when I bought the yarn in the first place (either by buying enough or by at least keeping the tag). And it languished for a month or more.

But then! Glory of glories! My wife randomly found the tag while she was cleaning, and I hopped straight to the web and bought a new skein and wrote the dye lot number into the comments and waited impatiently for the mail. 

When it came, I headed straight for the couch and knitted up that second sleeve. 

Except something wasn't quite right. The color, to be exact, was not quite right. Of course I hadn't checked when the new skein arrived that it did actually have the same dye lot as the old skein (for non yarn crafters, having the same dye lot number ensures that your color will match when you're using multiple skeins of yarn for a project). And they didn't. So the sleeve was partially one color and partially a very similar but slightly different color. My wife swore she couldn't really tell (unless she looked very closely), but I could tell. 

So I angrily set it aside again until my mom came to visit and made the brilliant suggestion that I add some embellishments to the sweater to distract from the slight color variations. I spent some time online figuring out how to add embroidery to my knitting, picked a color, and began embellishing my little heart out. 

And folks, it's a winner. 

Blunder after blunder, and in the end, it might be the cutest thing I've ever made. 

Yep. I fairytaled the sh*t out of that mistake. 

p.s. If you'd like to see other ways I'm a total mess, check out this oldie but goodie from a couple years ago.