Sunday, July 23, 2017

I'm Well

About fifteen years ago, I learned that when someone asks how you are, it's not proper to say, "I'm good." It should be, "I'm well." A lot of people don't care about these things, but I thought, Hmm...I'd like to say that right. But habits are habits and I could never remember.

Some of you have been hearing about my struggle with fatigue since I learned a name for it and shared it way back here. After trying the current fads and typical adrenal fatigue treatment (and getting worse), I began eating a healing diet last spring. I believed it would give my body the best chance at solving its' own problems, since medicine didn't seem to have the answers.

It helped me lose my excess weight, but I didn't experience more energy. I added EMDR therapy to help me sort things on the emotional end and made some great strides. I figured, in time, the two would create a magical synergy and I'd find myself feeling better. I did experience more energy right before Christmas, possibly the joy of the season and being engrossed in preparation for it, but when it was over, my energy plummeted. I felt more tired than I had in a long time and outside stresses took a toll. I gained the weight back, even though I was still eating the healing diet.

I felt angry and fatalistic. Eating such a restricted diet for a year had been hard. How would I ever gain momentum when things I can't control come and trample all my progress? I started asking God what to do next, and didn't hear anything. 
Then we read James in Bible study. 

I wondered, "Why haven't I done this?" and proceeded to listened to stories of people who had. Some were healed immediately and some found healing later. It was interesting, but I didn't resolve to do it.

During times when I feel lost, I sometimes let songs be my prayers. Artists find words when I can't, so one day at work, I picked a worship playlist on Spotify to listen to. I had low expectations since I'm not a fan of Christian radio. I like things a little more soulful and earthy, so I expected to enjoy maybe every sixth song. But each song was a surprise. I found myself saving song after song to a playlist of my own, which became the soundtrack of my life. I listened constantly and began noticing themes the songs shared: 

The immense power of God - of his name
Her miracle-working ability
It is well with my soul
I will trust him - even if he doesn't fix this

That's when I realized God was my DJ that day. She picked those songs to nourish me and through each word, funneled faith into my heart. As I'd listen, I felt sure of those truths. I'd sing as loud as I could in the car because I wanted the universe to hear (and maybe the deepest parts of my soul too) that I'd love God no matter what happened. The faith I've wished for and prayed for filled me up and I had NO REASON to feel that way. I still had no idea how to help my body. I still had no money to spend on further treatment. I was at a dead end and I was bursting with hope.

I told my pastor about it and he said, "That's why they call it the peace that passes understanding." 

One morning I was showering and listening to my playlist. I started imagining who I'd want there if I were anointed. I pictured where I'd want to be and who would pray. I started crying when I thought of all the people who love me and would probably drop everything to come pray over me. I remembered my mom was anointed when I was a kid. Absorbed in my thoughts, I felt God say, "I want to do this FOR you." 

So I marched myself into the church and asked to be anointed. It was easy because for once I knew what the next right thing was. It was hard because I'd been ashamed of my mom when she'd been anointed and asking for help still didn't FEEL strong. Mom had complications after a surgery and doctors said the only solution was another surgery. She'd been in a robe when the elders came over and I was in junior high, so obviously, this was mortifying. I was so embarrassed I had either missed the fact or forgotten that she was healed instantly. No surgery needed.

Well I was anointed with my family around me, my mom, my in-laws, and a few of the precious friends who've walked with me through this struggle. They prayed over me and cried over me and put oil on my forehead. I wanted any healing Jesus had for me and didn't doubt some healing would come, whether it was freedom from guilt over napping or crazy amounts of energy. I just wanted him to touch me. 

The next day my inner voice drove me crazy asking, "How are you feeling now? How 'bout now?" All. Day. And I got scared. What if she didn't show up? That's the part about putting yourself out there in all your raw need. You know how devastating it will be if God doesn't come through. 

I've learned that sitting outside is therapy in itself, so I sat on my patio and prayed. Well, I held my aching heart up to God, but there weren't a lot of words. Then I looked up at the trees and saw two squirrels chasing each other through the branches. One of them was my black squirrel. (That's another story, but black squirrels remind me that Jesus loves me and in this difficult time, one seemed to have moved into our yard.) I watched him a long time and felt my soul quiet. It would be okay. God would always show up for me. 

And he has. For a while, I felt wide awake when I woke in the morning and could take or leave my usual nap. If I chose to take my normal (90 minute) nap, I'd be unable to sleep when I went to bed. I felt inspired and did projects I've wanted to do for years. My energy isn't quite so high or erratic now; it's more steady and I'm able to do a day without a nap and not be a zombie all evening. There's just more there. It's amazing. 

During the anointing, my husband said, "If this journey is like rowing across a lake, you've been rowing hard. I think it will feel different if you put the oars down and just ride." That's exactly what it was about and it's not easy. I reach for the oars every day, wanting that feeling of being in charge and taking myself somewhere. But I don't. 

And remarkably, after fifteen years of wanting to remember to say, "I'm well," instead of, "I'm good," I've been remembering ever since the anointing. Maybe it's because it's finally true. I'm well. Not fully healed, not fatigue-is-only-a-memory, but I'm definitely well in places I've never been before.

God showed up. 

In all her power and love.

So I'm well.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Guest Room Reveal

I've very slowly been working towards a new look for our guest room. The whole room was originally inspired by that spruce green lamp in the corner, but I paired it with brighter colors. It felt a little off to me, but it took me a while to think of a better color combo. Then one day, I pulled things I'd had in the family room way back when, and found some new peach items (especially art) from thrift stores. Remember when peach was in years ago? 

This bench was a project that held me up for a long time. It was a 70's dark wood veneer coffee table and I never had enough energy to take it on. It would make a great bench guests could put suitcases on or just sit on to tie shoes. Adding a cushion is very similar to recovering a chair seat, which I've done quite a bit. So when I had extra energy this spring, I spray painted the base and bought green foam from Joanns. I covered the foam with a layer of batting and a remnant of fabric. 

Here you can see the fabric a little better. It's wise to choose a heavier fabric, but not too stiff, as that will make the corners difficult. This one is a nice middle ground and while it seems durable, it feels soft. I went for REALLY soft when I did the one for my bedroom in baby blanket material. The green pillow was made from a two-sided place mat. I seem-ripped the bottom edge, added stuffing and antique buttons, and sewed it back up. The buttons are blush pink, but that's perfect because I don't want everything to match. A room that matches TOO well feels forced. Another way to keep it from looking too stiff (if you don't actually want to throw different colors in) is using multiple shades of your colors. Don't be the person who takes a paint swatch and matches everything to it, unless you want your room to look like a page from a JCPenney catalog! I was thrilled to find the second pillow because it has so much personality and anchors the boho feel. 

These baskets got the same spray paint as the bench. We put an extra blanket in one and guest towels and toilet paper in the other. I make sure toilet paper is in plain sight to prevent any stress on the part of guests. Or the embarrassment of asking. ;-\

Part of the reason it took so long to put this room together is it takes me forever to find funds for bedding, even from Target's kid section. The grey comforter and cacti sheets came from there and the bedspread at the foot of the bed was thrifted.

This old desk was free on the curb and though not all it's drawers work, it gives guests a comfortable place to put a laptop and work. I keep art supplies in the drawers that do work, since this is where I'll paint, if I ever do a large project.  

The opposite side of the bed looks like this, with my easel and canvases. Those two coral bowls are an example of how another shade looks great in a room where peach is the main color. This is the only mirror in our guest room, so I'm on the hunt for a full-length one. Guests have to come to the dining room to see how their outfits look... 

These are fake succulents. Since I don't go in this room much, it's not safe to have anything living in here. I found this spruce bowl at a thrift store and filled it with beans. 

This is my favorite art in this room. There's so much I love from the art deco era, including our house and this lady. Below is a favorite postcard from our family in northern California. 

I struggle to photograph art without a glare, but wanted you to see what pretty things area available second hand in the art department. I love the botanical print above, mixed with the other pieces on that wall. And to fill the wall opposite the bed, we used our house's original attic windows. 

So there's our guest room! A door knob and a mirror away from being completely done, but I love having a little boho retreat to offer our guests. What features make you comfortable in a guest room? I'd love to hear! 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

When Guilt Gets Too Heavy

Guilt has been heavy in my life. At the best, it's because I'm an idealist with an ideal way to handle every situation, but can't always make it happen. I believe wastefulness is passive violence, denying the truth that others don't have what they need. I'm aware fresh water makes up less than 1% of the earth's water, so even though water's cheap where I live, I don't like to use more than I need. I've got strong opinions about parenting, religion, effective management...the list goes on, creating high standards everywhere I turn.

At worst, it was because I believed God was moping around until I decided to spend some time with him. More recently, I think she's less than pleased when I'm trucking down a perilous path or even if I'm just listless because I don't know which direction is right. 

In other words, there has been a right way and a wrong way to do EVERYTHING. 

Which made me crazy. 

Which made me a failure.

Which made balance impossible. Because, if it's always right to show up to a fast food place with reusable cups, how do I treat myself kindly when I don't have them? If it's always right to get to yoga as often as possible, what do I do when my body says, "No." 


There's been a lot of that. 

Other common names are perfectionism, legalism, falling short, self-condemnation.

Well I'm sick of it. If there's a peace that passes understanding, I need to get in that line. Because there is NO PEACE when you obsess over what's right or best all the freaking time. 

Here's a real thing. I wrestle every day with whether I will make it to yoga or not. Some days I know from the get-go it won't happen, but I can't admit that to myself, so I bounce back and forth about it in my head ALL DAY LONG until every class is over. I weigh pros and cons. I ask myself what will I be happier about after the fact. Will I wish I'd gone? Will I be okay with it? How the hell do I know?! What do I look like? A mind reader? No. Apparently, I can't even read my own future mind. And that is a failure on my part too. Just add it to the list. 

I wrestle every day with what I eat. Will this Dr. Pepper make me a hunch-backed old lady? I've always believed in good foods and bad foods and I could feel good about myself only when I was eating the former. But if you do any reading or get any advice from anyone, you'll no longer be sure ANY food produced in the US is good (except organic veggies) and what are you left with? Guilt. Because...who eats only veggies.

I wrestle with how much we spend. My therapist said, "I hate to tell you this, but you don't have a healthy relationship with money." It's true. I've thought spending more than you make was pure evil. Being in debt, especially credit card debt, was a sign you did something terribly wrong somewhere along the way. This became a new guilt-either-way game for me because my healthcare costs more than we make, but shy of becoming a martyr and not taking care of myself...well, I feel guilty about that too.

So you see, this is madness. 

I've known it was madness a long time and I've known it was making me miserable, but what I didn't know what was throwing me off. 

Apparently I've been moralizing. Marc David talks about moralizing food in The Slow Down Diet, "Food is morally neutral. So is every other object in the universe. Is a baseball bat good or bad? It depends on how you use it. It can be used to hit a home run and make thousands of fans deliriously happy or it can be a tool of destruction, used to smash someone's car window and ruin her day." 

This is why there are variables. This is why the right answer isn't always the same. This is why my strict rules paralyze me - I can't decide anything without breaking one. Decisions can feel like the WORST THING EVER, when really, my freedom to choose is a blessingI've been painting a color picture in black and white and acting like it was so simple. 

I know where that comes from. It's a scarred little human hoping if she does everything right, she'll never find herself alone. Or destroyed, with no song to sing and no one to enjoy it.  

But I believe the stage I live on is lovingkindness. I will never step out of the spotlight that is God watching me and delighting in me. He thinks it's cute when I tie my freakin' shoes. He's made my guilt (real or imagined) a non issue, so we can be together forever. 

And since that's the case, I can stop judging every move I make on a moral measuring stick. I can journey and experiment and try things with curiosity to SEE IF they are right for me this time or not. And if not? NO BIG. I'm learning, questioning and discovering. And that's exactly where I'm supposed to be. 

At yoga or not. 

In debt or not.

Eating veggies or not.

No guilt. 

Just free. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Obsessed With Speed

This is the third of my trifecta. 

If I were writing a comic strip, I'd say something like, "The Invincible Ones are skinny, strong, and fast." Or maybe swift, for alliteration's sake. Definitely not speedy, because it sounds road-runnerish. Beep, beep.

Not impressive.

So, to be impressive, I work hard to be these things. Yes, there are others, but these are pretty painful right now. I may have gone on, blind to the third, except I recently experimented with eating slowly. As a kid, I did this naturally. It's one of those gifts grown-ups think are a curse. When I became a mom, I finally found the ability to eat at the speed of light and I've never stopped. 

But eating slowly gives your body a chance to absorb nutrients from food, which my fatigue suggest would be useful. I'm also hopeful it will also help me turn my experience of food inside-out. So during a meal, I told the rushing voices, "No, this is important. I'm going to take my time and there's nothing you can say about it." 

After a slow breakfast, I was driving to work and the pushy voice said, You're stopped at a light! Grab your phone and check your email! Normally, I'd probably say, "Brilliant! I'm so efficient. Look at me go!" But this morning's breakfast woke me up to having options and I told that pushy voice, "No." 

I felt pretty saucy about it too. 

The voice started blathering about getting behind and what people would think... 

I said it could shove it. 

In all these years, I've prided myself on being efficient. God's actually asked for my Rush and I've told him to shove it. Not in so many words, but with my actions. "I like being this way," I told myself. "I like going fast." And that's partly true. I like to go fast when I'm inspired, but that's because I'm in the flow and it comes from excitement about what's happening. It feels nothing like the Rush. Rush is pushy.

I had a moment of clarity during this little exchange. I realized the voice rushing me isn't a neutral, if-it's-best-for-you kind of voice. It's a my-way-or-the-highway voice. It's the jerky boss. The impossible coach. And I've been hustling to impress him far too long. 

He gets me all hyped up sometimes, telling me everything is riding on this one afternoon. He can get me low, berating me for how I blew it and all that that means. He's never pleased with anything and never gives me time to celebrate when I manage to do something well. He just pushes me on to the next thing. When things flop, he doesn't care how hard I tried. It counts for nothing. I count for nothing. I'm always trying to make the cut with him and know I never will. 

Well, not anymore. 

I see you, mean coach. 

I'm done hustling and going crazy for you. 

I'm out. 

Who knows what that looks like - I'm just glad I finally know that behind your "Go, go, go!" was a "You're not enough!" Because every time I tried for you, I unwittingly agreed with your premise. I taught myself, little by little, that it was true. 

But it's not. I am enough. I'll go when I go and I'll stop when I stop and none of it will have anything to do with whether I'm enough. 

My soul is free and I will untether myself from you as many times as it takes. 

Good-bye, Rush. 

Thursday, April 6, 2017

I'm Also Obsessed with Strength

Some people are saying strong is the new skinny. Well, crap. That just happens to be my other obsession. 

As long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be tough. I didn't cry easily as a girl and believed there was virtue in suffering silently. I hoped pretending my skin was thick would make it so, and everything would hurt less. If I got strong enough, I'd be safe.

I equated strength with muscle. I chose the hardest workouts and felt proud when I finished them. If I went to gentler classes, I'd wimped out. I wanted to feel good about myself and the only time I felt good about myself was when I was being strongI also felt weak when I opted for a c-section delivery. A real woman would push two babies out! When I met a woman who'd delivered twins vaginally, I felt a pang. See? She did it. I could've too, if I'd just been brave enough to try. The stupid thing is, I developed HELP syndrome and couldn't have delivered vaginally, even if I'd planned to. But logic doesn't help you feel better when you're afraid, does it? 

Childhood trauma taught me, You're never safe because the people you need most will hurt you on purpose. Unless...

Unless you're stronger than them. And the fantasy was born. 

A couple weeks ago my yoga teacher said, "You know it takes strength to be soft, right?" 

Yeah, yeah. I see it on other people. The strongest let you see how they feel, pushing past stigma to be honest and real, even when it means crumbling. But when it's my turn to crumble, I look for another way. A stoic, tidy way - those are my favorite. Crying til I need to blow my nose has got to be my least favorite. 

But that happened with two sweet yoga teachers. It didn't feel okay at all. I felt apologetic for the chaos I was feeling. While I hugged one teacher, the other teacher whispered, "This is strong." 

And do you know what that felt like? 

Trauma was like choosing between standing in a fire or submerging myself in a pool of water. Obviously, I dove for cover. It's not safe up there, I will stay here. Everything was muffled and blurry, but I couldn't stand being up there, fully alive in the face of so much pain. 

It seems nothing short of miraculous to come out of the water after so many years. But to come out of the water and find I'm safe?? 

I have no words.  


Well, maybe just a few: 

I'd really like to be a bad ass, but even more, I want to be alive and realize I'm loved and safe. 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Dear Skinny-Obsessed Me,

I know I've ignored you, wishing you'd eventually give up and leave. I've also blamed you and fought you, but today I want you to know, I finally understand.

I understand you grew up in the 80s when women were celebrated if they were skinny, tall and had legs for miles. Virginia Slims had the goal right in their name. Worse than that was hearing some of your favorite, most important people boil someone down to their weight. They judged it and insinuated things your little soul couldn't grasp, but you knew from their tone, it was bad. While you remember only a few of these comments, there were probably a hundred more you took to heart. 

All this created a web of beliefs that are amazingly strong. Fat people are out of control. They can't get their shit together. They're lazy. They've given up. They can't find happiness. They aren't attractive. They won't stay in love. They won't enjoy being respected by others. On the flip side, if you're skinny, the world is your oyster. All good things will come, including respect and belonging, admiration and love. 

I know you've seen exceptions - people who happen to be big living rich, happy lives. Over time, you've decided this is possible for some people, but you understand you're not one of them. You start in a deficit. You aren't on an equal playing field and for you, the only way to get there, is to be skinny. If you want a chance at love and a happy life, square one is being skinny. It's not life or death, but if it's happy life or hopeless life, the desperation feels about the same. 

So you hustle and try and feel guilty about unhealthy food choices and proud of healthy ones (when you know which are which). You feel good on days when you work out hard and bad on days when you don't or work out with less intensity. You feel angry when diet and exercise don't equal lost pounds and crazy when your weight goes up randomly. You feel disgusted when you see photographic evidence of the "extra." 

But then there are the wondrous days when the weight decides to come off. Seeing my smaller reflection in the mirror feels like you were handed a golden ticket. Today will be great, I think. I can hardly go wrong. After all, I'm so small. And you see the problem. There's no end to wanting to see a smaller reflection. You get it. That's dangerous. But it feels like heaven.

So recently, when I gave myself breaks from my healing diet, you hoped it would be okay. But it wasn't, was it? The weight came and you felt desperate. You panicked, thinking the disciplinarian needed to come back out to get us on track. I understand. You thought everything - literally everything hung in the balance. 

But it doesn't. I know why you thought that. I do. But...

Amazing, beautiful things happen in this world. Things beyond what we look like and it's what matters: love and wonder and life. All this greatness is happening and we are part of it simply because we were born. We can't demote ourselves and we can't disqualify ourselves no matter how much weight we gain. I am here and my whole purpose is to interact with the Divine and be part of all this greatness. 

So sweet little part of me, who is skinny-obsessed. I love you for trying to make me better and protect me from a terrible existence. But I want you to know we're going a different direction now. There will never again be a day, when we have no choice but to get the disciplinarian out or say mean things to our self or believe all the painful lies we've been told about what being fat means. There will never be a day when punishment by salad or boot camp will be the answer. We will walk in love and acceptance and let our body, our one precious body, know it's okay. 

We love it big.

We love it small.

We love it. 

How big will it get in the process? I don't know and it scares me too, but we are still going this way. If we find ourselves in a clearing that's skinny, but it's not love or acceptance, we will turn tale and run.

And we won't stop til we're home. 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Main Bathroom After

So here's what our bathroom looks like now. I apologize for the photo quality, as it's a very small room and tricky to photograph for an amateur like me. I'm making up for it in quantity, so get ready...

We kept the vanity, faucet, toilet and tub. It was really the walls and floors we changed. The gray is the same because I love it so...but added the surprise of a pink ceiling.

We had hoped to remodel this bathroom three summers before it was actually a possibility, so I had lots of time to acquire the perfect accessories. The piece of art below, came from the decor consignment shop where I used to work. The towels and towel hooks came from World Market. They no longer have the hooks or towels, but I highly recommend them as a towel option that has the beauty of Anthropologie towels without being so pricey. In fact, I'd love to have a set of these to switch out from time to time! You can see all their pretty towels here

These lights are my favorite. They were second hand as well, and offered the brass I craved, but they were just naked candles. I found frosted cylinders to make them a little more modern and now their light is nicely diffused. The link is not to the site where I got mine, but they came broken three times because of poor packing. 

This toilet paper holder was from CB2 and while they don't have the exact one available they have this one that's wonderful. I love the touches of brass, but also love that I didn't have to replace everything. My faucet is still brushed nickel and it looks great. So if you're in love with the brass trend, but nervous about making a total switch (or can't afford to), try some pieces mixed in. The mix of metals can give you a relaxed vibe. The overall effect is more organic and less perfect, which I love. 

I found this mirror second hand as well! I love having a mirror tall enough that Brian and I can see in it at the same time! Our medicine cabinet mirror had been too small to share. It also doesn't cast shadows like the medicine cabinet one did. 

Here's how Brian put tile around our shower, eliminating the need for curtains all the way around the tub. 

We also had nowhere to store anything, so we had a hanging pocket organizer that held our shampoos etc. I didn't take a picture of it, but by the time we took it down, the mesh fabric was orange with hard water stains. Needless to say, I love my new shelf. The only sad thing is the tile color wasn't what I'd hoped for. I wanted a punchier pink, but all I could find was blush or salmon. Blush is still pretty, but not being tile experts, we didn't realize you have to use a different thin-set with glass tile. The dark stuff we used shows through in places. It's unfortunate, but I have a shelf!

There's the ceiling. I'd love to find a pearlized finish to put on it, so if you know of something, I'd love to hear about it. 

At long last, we had everything finished and I took my inaugural shower. I was rejoicing until I opened the shower curtain and saw water pouring out of the ceiling vent. We had to open the ceiling and fix a plumbing problem and now it all works. We just have a drywall patch that's taped and waiting til we can hire someone to finish it for us. Again. 

So it did not go smoothly and it cost (gulp) $2,000 in the end. But it is done and I am glad and enjoy it every single day.