friends

Hidden Gifts

rainbow-jpgThis past year or so I’ve been trying to find the gifts in whatever life hands me. When I’m stuck in traffic, maybe it’s that I got to hear something really great on NPR before I reached my destination. If I dropped and shattered a favorite heirloom glass serving bowl, maybe it’s that when I swept the floor I found the missing earring I’ve been looking for under the fridge. You get the idea. The game is thus: can I find the gift no matter how deeply it’s hidden, because I really and truly have to believe in a God that cares about me so much, He would only give me a trauma wherein a gift is hidden just for me. Otherwise, I don’t think I could do this Life.

When I meditate in the mornings, I frequently have an old trauma come forward in my consciousness. It will be something from when I was young and vulnerable. Abuse of all kinds. Situations where I’ve been holding on to guilt and shame and anger. Most of them I felt like I’d already dealt with and let go, but I stopped being surprised to see them months ago. And what I’m learning is that I can’t really fully release them until I find the gift, even if I’ve dealt with the trauma. And with some of the stuff? It’s hard. HARD. Finding a gift when someone has sexually assaulted you is a tall order, my friend. But so far, in my own experience, it can be done. It may not be fast. It is definitely not easy. And who knows, I may run into one in the future that takes the rest of my life, but it won’t stop me from trying because the pay off is worth it. And just in case it’s not clear, this gift is NOT in any way from the person who perpetrated the crime. That person did not do me any favors in harming me. No. It’s just that my God is so powerful, He can turn anything for good on my behalf.

Which brings me to this election cycle and this past few months in particular. In case you don’t know who I am, I’ll sketch it for you.

I’m the most white woman possible coming in at 100% European octane, who has been in relationships previously with women and believes in marriage equality and safe living for all, and who fell in love with a half-Mexican man. I was abused and assaulted by those I knew and some I didn’t starting before age four. I went through most of my life challenged with mental health issues like bipolar and DID [ I was a consultant for the Showtime series, United States of Tara ] and I am a passionate mental health advocate. I have physical issues like Lupus. I’m a mother to four children and have two grandchildren. I was raised in an LDS family, left the church for about twenty years, and then came back to it about two years ago. I live in California in a warm seat of liberals with a local economy that does alright and even though I was raised by an ultra-conservative father who sent me to John Birch camp one summer, I lean more left than center in most things. My husband has a full-time job with benefits which makes it possible for me to work from home on a part-time basis mentoring and doing energy work for others who have compound physical and mental challenges. I also write, shoot photos, make jewelry, paint, and do pretty much any craft that exists.

Between my husband and myself, we have a lot of family, including many minority and gay family members and friends who live all across the country. We mostly live paycheck to paycheck but have modest 401Ks. We have three month’s food storage smack dab in my bedroom requiring me to get in bed by crawling over canned goods because we live in a tiny condo and there’s no other place to put it. We will not have a gun in our home. Neither of us has a Bachelor’s degree but two of our kids do and one will soon and the other one doesn’t seem to need one because he’s already making more per year than we do by a very large margin. We don’t care about material things and are usually late adopters. The largest TV we’ve ever owned is so small you can’t read the questions on the screen when you watch The Chase.

I volunteer for my church on a weekly basis and can’t imagine my life now without it, although I’m also deeply conflicted about multiple beliefs that are held by most members. I hate crowds and having conversations that mean nothing. I’d prefer an afternoon on my couch reading, snuggled up to Joe instead of heading to a fancy party. I’ve been known to be awkward in public settings because I have a hard time regulating my language if someone says or does something that rubs up against what I consider imperative like protecting the underdog or exhibiting blatant racism, misogyny, xenophobia, or anything that implies that person thinks they are better than any other person on the planet. I’m getting better at picking it up when it’s not so blatant.

That means that this past year I’ve been repeatedly hit by Donald Trump and his words and promises. I’ve been in fear. I’ve been angry. I’ve been confused. I’ve been worried about my friends and family that aren’t white and straight. I’ve been worried about the future and what it means for someone like me with preexisting health issues and how protected I need to be walking down the street alone because my body is now not my own and is open season for leering men who want to grab me and assault me (which is how minority people have felt for, oh, ever.). And I’ve been wondering how to just forget all the things Trump said he’d do now that he’s going to be the president like so many people suggest because of course HE’S NOT REALLY GOING TO DO any of those things (but I don’t believe that) and I’ve been wondering how it’s possible to expect all the people who are now committing violence in his name to just stop because he says to, IF he says to.

These are not hypothetical worries I have. They are very real. And I’m that 100% creamy mayo white lady living in the lap of liberal territory. I can’t imagine how my Muslim immigrant friends feel or my Mexican and Black family and friends in red states feel or my LGBTQ and Latinx friends feel who married someone of the same gender or simply hope to use a bathroom in a public place without getting beaten up. And what keeps me up at night are the thoughts about how this is trickling down into our youth. The stories of what the kids are doing to the other kids at school. I mean, you remember school, right? It’s a nightmare even when you’re popular and the going is good. Imagine how those kids are feeling. (And then donate to Kelly‘s Being Black at School because they are doing the work.)

Circling back to the beginning of my post –> where is the gift? That’s what I go to sleep asking my God. Where is the gift in this? And He didn’t answer. For months I’ve been asking and frustrated and angry because it felt like He wasn’t playing by the rules.

Wait on the Lord, I’d hear. Wait.

Election night, as Joe and our son, Tony, and I watched the election results come in, it was about the time Florida kept going back and forth that I realized, I mean, it HIT me, Trump could win this. The only hope I’d had for months was that Trump was about to get his hat handed to him with a thorough trouncing and then things would go back to normal. I needed that so bad.

Normal is not coming. It’s not happening. Normal doesn’t exist anymore and I don’t think it ever did but I didn’t know that in my bubble. All my worst fears came true. Trump won and reports of violence started pouring in. It was like someone took the cap off the slow leak of terrible things that had been happening and everything burst out. Conservatives pretty much across the board had one of three things to say: 1. Stop complaining. 2. Things are not that bad. 3. Voting for Trump doesn’t make me racist. Minority liberals had one thing to say: 1. I’m terrified.

Over the past three days I’ve been in a crash course of learning what I didn’t know. Normal for me looked like living in a bubble of information that I already knew. It meant not having important conversations with the conservative members of my family to see how they felt. It meant not looking deeply into why so many people in the middle states were hurting. It meant discounting the importance of listening to my minority friends who had been worried for MONTHS that this was going to turn out bad. It meant looking at everything through a simplistic telescope. It meant being slightly smug that I was smarter or “got it” and those in the red states didn’t. It meant being able to lie to myself that I knew everything would turn out how I wanted it to. Needed it to.

And then, that is not how it went down.

Joe and I wept that night and off and on the next day and the next day and even today. We listen to someone elses story, witness their pain and grief, and feel that connection that only comes from surviving trauma. Make no mistake about it, this has been a PTSD experience for thousands. This is severe trauma that taps into survival fears. The Flight/Fight response. People are fighting for their lives.

But there’s been a gradation of grief that has begun to dissipate from time to time and every now and again something extraordinary happens. I find a gift. I realized today that I had a few I could list and as I started listing, more and more came. It was as if my God was saying, “Hey there. Here’s your gifts. You thought you would just get one or two? Sillyhead.”

That’s often how it goes. He gives me way more than I was expecting.

  • I had to dig deep to find out what I believed about the world and in doing so, I know myself better.
  • I have an opportunity to shore up my boundaries about what I believe is acceptable and think up strategies for what to do when I see them being crossed.
  • My own capacity for being there for others has increased. I can be more present.
  • I have to open my eyes to see where I failed and what my own part is in this, which creates room for me to change, grow, and improve.
  • I’ve been shown where I dropped the ball in relationships, giving me a chance to reconnect and do better.
  • I’ve been brought closer to members of my family who I haven’t had any serious conversations with in quite some time.
  • I realize I’ve made it through terrible, horrible things in my life and no matter what happens now, I’ll find a way to be ok and I take it upon myself to help everyone I can to find that peace also.
  • I reaffirmed my determination to not be a victim in my own story. No one gets to decide but me what kind of person I am or how I will respond to a situation.
  • I see more ways to be emotionally useful to others.
  • The training I’ve had in energy work repeatedly comes in handy in supporting others.
  • Joe and I had conversations about emergency preparedness and survival that we should have had long ago.
  • The potential for growth and important learning is happening right now. Like, RIGHT NOW.
  • It’s ok if I don’t know how to do everything right the first time around. I can always learn if I stay open to it and don’t get defensive.
  • I’m more ok with other people feeling uncomfortable while they’re learning. It’s part of the process.
  • I’ve had a sneak peak into my own soul and I pretty much liked who I saw.
  • To Do:
  • Learn Spanish.
  • Take a Self-Defense class.
  • Learn how to peacefully protest.
  • Learn the art of agreeing to disagree so conversations can continue.
  • Choose even more deliberately where to spend my energy and which direction I want to go.
  • Try to get more “in-between” moments with the kids where the real connections happen.
  • Tell everyone I love them

None of these things changes the situation at large. Nothing I’ve learned makes it easier for anyone else. It only changes what’s happening inside me, but with those changes I can come from a place of peace and that might be helpful to others while they navigate this tricky and deeply upsetting terrain.

I believe real conversations are the only ones worth having, and I intend to make as many of them go as deep as I possibly can. It’s going to take a long time to release all the trauma that’s happened, not just for me but for so many this past year, especially because it’s ongoing. I have hope I can do my part now because of receiving so many gifts with which to process it all. I’ll keep waiting on the Lord, but I’m also going to do everything within my power to help those around me. It’s a sacred responsibility.

Holding Space for the Broken Hearted

The sister of Empathy is called Holding Space. They hold hands a lot and hang out together watching old episodes of M.A.S.H., sharing a bag of BBQ potato chips, and wiping their red-tipped fingers on their jeans.

Empathy, as we’ve discussed, is when you can feel what another person is feeling by making them human to you because you can identify their experience with something that’s happened in your own life.

Holding Space is when you give that other person all the room they need to process their emotions without judgment, shame, or irritation, and you don’t try to fix the problem.

Think about when you’ve gone through something challenging in your life. Was there someone who wanted you to hurry up and just get over it already? Probably a parent, sibling, or spouse depending on your age. Did someone tell you that you were dumb for being hurt in the first place? Did they shove it in your face that it was your own dang fault, whatever it was that happened? Did they refuse to take any responsibility if it was partly (or solely) their fault? Did they gas-light you and make you feel like you were going crazy for caring? Did they compare their own lives and hard things to yours to try and diminish your feelings? These are all things that are NOT holding space.

Here, you can watch it in action. Van Jones is trying to express his feelings of sadness and explain to Corey Lewandowski that people need a little time to heal and feel and Mr. Corey Lewandowski is having none of it.

Here’s the truth: we are all one, big family on this earth and if some of us are hurting, we’re doing it wrong. We need for everyone to be getting their needs met. The more selfish and ignorant people there are who refuse to acknowledge the pain of others, the more hurt, strife, war, hardships, sadness, grief, and pain the world has to hold. And when there is a spike like there is right now in our political climate, it’s too much for us, as a group, to hold and it spills over into violence and hate speech as a way to protect us from things we don’t understand. Small skirmishes everywhere. People hurting other people intentionally. There will probably always be people who have every intention of hurting others and they do it very well, so as many people as I can persuade who are doing it UNintentionally and would like to change, the better.

When you hold space for someone, you are in essence saying, “Here. Let me create safety around you to process and go through all the stages you need to. No really, go ahead. Be mad, sad, angry, yell about it, cry about it, laugh about it, say salty words if you want. Tell me how utterly alone you feel and how gut-wrenchingly unfair it is. I’ll just sit here and love you.” Sometimes that’s enough. Don’t underestimate how huge it is for someone to fully feel heard. Other times, when they are done sharing, ask how you can help support them. Many people won’t want you to try and fix it for them, but they will welcome your support in creating change.

We ALL go through several stages when we work through any big feelings. We’ve got the stages of grief, sure, but your body cycles through lots of feelings, one after the other, when lots of different kinds of things happen. It’s how we’re built and it can lead to overwhelm. Sometimes we have these little tea kettle bursts of anger that help reset our equilibrium. We “take it out” on whomever is closest because something they say or do or just ARE triggers something in us. (Here’s some more constructive ways to let off steam.)

We also have a lot of knee-jerk emotions that pop to the surface before we’ve even had a chance to think logically about anything. Our lizard brains are always turned on for Flight/Fight response and if our adult, mature self isn’t in control, we’re going to say things we feel intensely in that moment when we feel threatened, but they are things that we don’t want to invite to live with us forever. We need the freedom to feel those things, free of judgement, own them, look at them, and then let them go as we move on to the next thing until we can CHOOSE on PURPOSE where we want to land. And that takes time!

Right now, in this moment, as a country, we need people who can hold space for each other like I haven’t felt in years. This is huge, what’s happening. People are in SO MUCH PAIN. Other Highly Sensitive People and empaths like me can feel it like a churning thrum under the surface of everything. My head felt like it was encased in silly putty all day yesterday and my stomach was in knots. I spent a lot of time trying to help others process their emotions by holding space. It was the only way I survived.

You might not be an empath or an HSP and that’s great. You might have the normal range of emotions and if you’re not affected that much by the thought of a Trump presidency, and you don’t get what the big deal is, now is your time to learn how to hold space. Find someone in your circle who is hurting. It shouldn’t be too hard, because they are everywhere. Watch how your internal dialogue is speaking to them. Are you saying things in your head like, “Geez. Drama much?” or “This isn’t that big of a deal.” or “Why do they want to play the victim?” as they are crying or showing signs of being upset, scared, or worried? Are you comparing the situation to something hard you went through and thinking, “This is nothing like when (insert hard thing) happened to me!” Are you just super uncomfortable with people having so many feelings all over the place? Take a beat and breathe. Instead of judging them for how YOU would be handling the situation or feeling, just allow them to have their feelings. Don’t get offended. Don’t take it on. Just listen and be a safe person. They will thank you.

If you are an HSP or empath, you will already be familiar with what I’m talking about, and your challenge is the opposite. DON’T take on their feelings, instead be a flowing stream. DON’T internalize what they’re saying and own it and make it yours and let it take root because it will make you ill. You can’t help them if you are, yourself, deep in the feels. You need to remember what is yours and what is theirs. It’s a kindness to them if you can keep your gentle strength while you let them unpack all their stuff. Take breaks throughout the day for your health. Do your grounding exercise. Clear your chakras. Meditate. Check how your energy is running. And then dive back in for more, because there is an immense amount of pain to be felt and gone through.

And no matter who you are, hold space for yourself first, because you being balanced means you’ve already run through your big emotional overwhelm and come out of the other side OR you’re able to set your own work aside and help someone else do theirs. It’s ok to say, “I need a short break,” if you’re holding space for someone else and you get triggered. You know you’re triggered if you start saying things that aren’t supportive and you feel defensive and/or you feel your emotions rise.

Things to watch out for:

  • Don’t justify your position.
  • Don’t compare.
  • Don’t try to fix it while they’re talking.
  • Don’t belittle.
  • Don’t roll your eyes.
  • Don’t even talk unless it’s really, truly kind.
  • Do listen, listen, listen.
  • Do try and put yourself in their shoes.
  • Do try to imagine that person as God would see them: Perfectly Imperfect.
  • Do be encouraging.
  • Do be gentle.
  • Do apologize if you, for a moment, get pulled back into your own feelings and react instead of act. “I’m sorry about what I just said. It was judgemental. Let me try again.”
  • Do ask for more information if you don’t understand what they’re saying. “Can you tell me more about that? It sounds really hard.” or “No, I don’t understand but I love you very much. Can you explain it a different way?”
  • Do ask if and how you can be on their team and what it would take to support them after they’re done sharing.

This takes work to learn! But I believe everyone can do it with practice. Please try. We need you. <3

A BBQ With Friends

We talked about what you’re supposed to say on a day like this. You don’t want to say, Happy Memorial Day. That sounds….wrong. But saying something like, “I hope you spend the day thinking about all the people that have died for you to enjoy said day,” sounds like a bit too much.

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You know that many of your friends and family are getting to spend the day with their loved ones and that’s happy. You aren’t near your own family so you do the next best thing and spend it with good friends.

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You remember the brave service men and women that gave their lives so all of us have the opportunity to sit around an outside table in 80 degree weather, watching meat slowly cook while sipping the beverage of our choice. You appreciate the people currently in service and you worry a little about your own kids, partners, parents and other friends and family who are in the military and keep the hope of peace in your heart.

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You make your mom’s favorite potato salad recipe because you miss her and then you find out your sister in Seattle made it, too, and you feel just a little closer than 1,255 miles. You make the 7, no 8! Layer Dip that’s made you famous. In fact, I hear you’re “known for your 7 Layer Dip.”

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You make fresh croutons and BBQ sauce because anything less wouldn’t be right for today and you’re resourceful and creative and they’re delicious enough that a non-grain eater eats them.

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You feel lazy and unhurried in a way only an extra long weekend provides. You wander around the backyard, feet burning on the hot pavement until you borrow someone’s flipflops to get around.

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You take the time to inspect the seeds on unripe strawberries promises and the blossoms dropping off the cucumber vine.

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You’re charmed to find the tiniest globe hidden in a flowered archway and take the wee selfie.

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There’s a dog.

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There’s hopefully always a dog.

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A very cute dog.

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You drink beer and sweet tea out of mason jars because that’s how it’s done on a day like today, where you have the luxury of time and friends and family and love.

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You ask your friends to pose so you can practice a new camera setting and they oblige because that’s the kind of friends they are and we’ve all got nothing but time today, anyway, so why not. But, mostly they do it because they’re your friends.

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The sun keeps peeping through the green leaves and winking at you.

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You’re so glad you get to be lazy and drink out of mason jars and spend the day with good friends and pet adorable dogs and your heart feels bursty.

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And then it’s time to eat grilled chicken with homemade Alabama White BBQ Sauce and you don’t even like BBQ sauce but this is different and it’s the best you’ve ever had and you’re already looking forward to leftovers the next day.

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Thanks, Chad & Jen.

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And Bailey.

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Marci and Delaney

I had the good fortune to spend the afternoon with Marci and her two lovely daughters plus a group of the nicest women you’ve ever met a few weeks back. (Fun fact – I actually realized I knew some of them from years ago and it was so nice to see them again!)

Marci’s friends threw her a Girl Shower, all about how great it is to be a girl. Everything was pink and floral and the weather was perfect. It was such a lovely day.

This is my favorite shot from all 600+ shots I took. (I know! So many! But little girls are pretty and fun and everything was, as I think I mentioned earlier, lovely. I couldn’t stop taking photos.)

Just look at that joy.

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You can hire me for a photo shoot here.

Storytellers

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You guys. I’m just going to go ahead and apologize ahead of time because I’m going to be using phrases like, “I remember when,” and “Back in the old days,” and I’m very aware of how tedious and eye-rolly that can be. BUT.

Back in the old days (See? I wasn’t kidding.) when I first started online journaling in the late 90s, it was a brand new world where I could share a story on my computer with my family who lived miles and miles away. I’d post pictures and write what was essentially a monthly update about the kids and it was fun and it meant something personal.

And then in 2002 when Joe moved me to WordPress, my mind was blown with how easy it was to add posts and update more often and easily put in images and add headers and and and…

But it was the day he introduced me to Dooce.com and said, “Look. Here’s someone else writing about their life and sharing it with the others,” that I realized there was the possibility of a real community out there in the innernets.

Soon after that I started my sidebar blogroll and kept people listed there that I felt a connection to and I started my interview series to highlight interesting writers and photographers and “internet people.”

We had a smaller group then. It was 2004 by that time and more and more people were beginning to write their stories but it still felt like we could keep track of each other. It still felt small even as it was growing. I kept seeking out new bloggers so other people could find them and I loved it! And then at some point the world of blogging wasn’t about storytelling anymore. It was all about “Brands” and “Cultivating an Audience” and sidebar ads, which I tried out in various forms myself and have nothing against in the abstract.

But things changed over the next few years, didn’t they? We started having fewer and fewer storytellers and leaving comments on blogs became a way for people to make money. Traffic was king and everyone was being judged on their numbers. We could look up each others stats and decide if that person was worth knowing on or offline at a conference. If they were worth our time. If what they were saying mattered because other people said it mattered. Oh, popularity. Just like High School.

That was when I didn’t want to do interviews anymore and I shut my series with bloggers down. It wasn’t fun to get emails from people saying they should be interviewed by me because “they were getting 10,000 uniques a month and wasn’t that enough? Why wouldn’t I interview them? What was wrong with them?”

I stuck to Google Reader. I went in and read the websites I loved every single day and left comments when it struck me to do so based on their stories and not on their brands. I still felt a part of a community of friends.

When Google Reader went away, I really felt like I was being abandoned. (I’m still kinda upset about it.) The other options of feed readers were all lacking (for my needs) so I just dropped out. And I’ve missed out and I’ve missed you!

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I miss the real stories. They are still out there. I see some of my old friends are still blogging and talking like real humans without all the freshly pressed look of a fine magazine going on. Not that I’m dissing fine magazines. I like them. But I’m much less likely to leave a comment on a post that isn’t a personal story. That’s where the heart is.

I recently noticed that Angela has an old-fashioned sidebar blogroll (You don’t mind if I call it old-fashioned, do you Angela? Not you, it!) and it got me thinking. I should stop complaining about missing Google Reader and woe-is-me-ing and do something about it.

So here it is, finally, the request I have for you. If you know of a writer/blogger who is telling personal stories and not “crafting their brand for an audience,” would you let me know? I’d like to add them to my Storytellers page. I’d like to read them and connect with them. I’d like to cultivate a community again. I’ve missed it. I’ve missed you! I know there have to be thousands out there that I’ve missed out on while my head’s been in the sand.

Personal story telling and this community is what’s helped me through some really tough times. Really feeling other people’s stories is what it’s all about for me. Help me find you.

Alta Vista Gardens

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Today I went to Alta Vista Gardens with my friend, Debbie Friedrich. I brought an In-n-Out cheeseburger, protein-style, for my picnic lunch because that’s how I picnic. And then Debbie showed me the gardens. You guys. They are lovely. You should go. Somewhere in the images below there is a self portrait. A frillion dollars if you can spot it. (Debbie took the nice photo of me below. She takes really great photos in general.)

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Birthday Blue Orchids

Turning 43 has just helped reinforce what I felt when I turned 42 – I’m so happy in my 40s. I love it here! My brain works well, my physical body has never been healthier and I no longer worry so much about what other people think about me. That has been a long time coming.

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For my birthday this year, my daughter, her fiance, my son and my husband all put on a game night in my building’s rec center. Some of my friends and extended family showed up and we hung out and played games. It was completely low-key and perfect. I may have made about 10-gallons of Mac-and-Cheese for everyone.

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Alex picked these blue orchids for some of the table decorations. I can’t stop staring at them. There is something very silky and sultry and full of passion about them.

They are totally and uniquely themselves. They embrace their variations of vibrant color and show it off with pride. And in the recesses, way in the centers, you can see the deep, still wisdom that lies there.

I suppose that’s what I’m going to be aspiring to this year.

Fussy’s FBA Drawing

You all know of Eden‘s drawings project, yes? Well, much to my delight, and I don’t just throw that word around lightly, I got one of my very own thanks to my husband’s planning and sneakery.

Of all the things Eden could have put in my drawing, she chose The Bear, which is one of my favorite things she draws. And he’s a friendly bear that’s just kind of friendily swatting at the birds helping him hold up the banner. Like they’re old pals. You can practically hear the bird twittering, “Oh, you old so-and-so!

It makes me smile every day.

Date Day/Night

First, Joe Drawsomethinged me an image of pancakes. And then I yelled, “Let’s go get pancakes!”

Friends, riddle me this: How many times does a girl have to eat the perfect three bites out of the center of a delicious buttermilk pancake to learn that even those three mouth-watering, delectable bites will probably send her on emergent trips to the restroom a scant few hours later while the Target pharmacist is trying to talk to her about getting all her meds to auto-refill on the same day of the month? I eat Paleo for a reason. And yet. Every. Single. Time.

Here’s what I love about this picture:

1. I haven’t yet eaten 3 bites of a pancake that are going to make me ill.
2. Joe’s hair. I mean, really.

Here are our shoes while we wait for a table.

I assure you, Joe does have another shoe attached to another leg just to the right, off frame.

And then, and I know this is really exciting for you all, I changed shoes a few hours later and put on these before we went out with friends:

You guys, I love these shoes. I really, really, do. They are orange. They are cork. My husband says they are sexy. Most importantly, I can walk in them and not fall down.

Also, they match the beautiful orange scarf I received while at Alt Summit from Jeannine Harvey direct from FashionABLE that is so near and dear to my heart. It’s a WinWinWinWinWin. 5 wins. Five.

The evening ended at Top of the Hyatt with friends where we imbibed cocktails and talked for hours and stared at the view. I love being able to see Emerald Plaza from up there (green rings far right in the image below).

Alt Summit 2013

I went to ALT Summit this year. I’ve wanted to go since it began a few years ago and thankfully, this turned out to be *the* magic year thanks to Heather and Joss & Main, who had a last minute extra ticket and generously invited me to take it.

I reconnected with some friends at the conference (which is always my favorite part of any conference) and had a slumber party every night because Amy Turn Sharp and Anna Beth Chao were also staying with Heather and they know how to have a good time.

The Joss & Main Clue party was a highlight. Here we are getting ready in Helen Jane‘s room. 100% class.

I went to the Clue party as Madam Fuchsia, Miss Scarlet’s older, wiser cousin.

My two main takeaways from this conference were:

1) I still haven’t figured out how to tell people who I am very well. I watched person after person introduce themselves and rock-it with the 10-second spiel and I am just SO BAD at that. I can’t sell my paintings to someone who already wants to buy them and I can’t explain what I do in less than 5 minutes and not without a lot of “ums” and “well, and also, kind of like“s. It’s horrifying. This is a skill I really need and would like to develop.

2) I have yet to figure out how to fit in when a cluster of people gets larger than four. There’s three of us? Awesome. Someone else comes along? Cool, let’s keep talking. This is good. And now someone *else* comes to our little group and makes it five? Hhmm. Ok. But I’m going to have a harder time talking, but I’m still listening and I’ll try and pipe in now and again. Wait, what? Someone else? So, six? Seven? Eight? Dude. I’ll just be over here on the edge of the group and smiling and nodding but feeling totally unable to connect anymore. Like, the group is now “The Group” and I’m “Not Part Of It.” And this is all people that I like and want to talk to. People I’ve been waiting to talk to. I find myself later feeling really disappointed in myself that I wasn’t able to pull myself out of whatever that invisible wall was and participate in what appears to be a really great conversation. I used to be good at stuff like that.

Here is me (not shown), taking a photo of a group of people having a great conversation while I watched. On my left are even more really nice people that you can’t see, making our group about 10 or so.

(L-R: Maxwell Ryan, Apartment Therapy, Anna Beth Chao, Heather Armstrong, Dooce.com, Helen Jane, Amy Turn Sharp)

So, yeah, I’m going to work on that.

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