Life Textures

rose

It would be easy to say as things get older they automatically go towards entropy like moths to a flame in the witching hour.

But the truth is, the easy answer isn’t always the true answer and where entropy is falling a little closer towards chaos and disorder every moment, we actually keep following along the perfect arc towards the inevitable, sure, but it isn’t chaos. It’s exactly what’s supposed to happen next.

minneola

If I had to narrow down and categorize all the things I’ve done in the past three years that have made a huge difference in my life and just pick one to share with you, one thing that literally shifted my life into healing, it would be this: Positive Energy.

sm_wall

Part of that is accepting life as it comes, in all its myriad layers and textures and believing that on some level, this too is for my good, whatever it is. Embracing the next thing that comes, choosing to see it as an exciting challenge instead of an attack on the fabric of my soul.

sm_carpet

It can be scary at first and it’s still hard from time to time, but I take that opportunity to look at myself in the mirror, smile, and say, “I love you! You are doing so great!” even if it’s a smile through tears, because that weeping smile is no less real and valid than a smile done in pure joy. I really and truly am doing great, the very best I can do at any given moment. And so are you.

nose

I’m getting older, no question. New wrinkles. Thighs of cellulite. Gray hairs to beat the band. And along with that a whole new way of perceiving my life. Maybe a little bit of wisdom? Do I dare call it that? I tread lightly here because the past has shown me that on the occasion I think I know something, I might not really know that something and soon may fall flat on my face in a sea of faulty expectations.

sm_shadow

But on this particular day, yes, I am so bold. Living in a more positive light, choosing to see life as trying to provide me with the very best it has to offer me, looking for the good, allowing others in my life to make mistakes and knowing they are doing their very best as well – this has made my life sweeter and more satisfying than any other change.

Next time you’re in front of a mirror, pause and smile. Tell you that you love you. 15 seconds of fake smiling triggers the same endorphins of a real smile, and a real smile hits your pleasure center the same as thousands in cash or bars and bars of chocolate. Pretty valuable smiles.

IMG_7144

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.

MarciSwing

You can hire me for a photo shoot here.

Storyteller: Charity Cole aka Giggles & Grimaces

Charity Cole I have been blogging since February 2010. I started my blog as a way to force me to capture life with, at the time, 2 little girls, and to give me an outlet to share who I was. It became a way to share about my third pregnancy, subsequent postpartum depression and now bipolar 2 depression. Then we added in homeschooling to make life even more interesting. I love telling about things my girls do, or we do as a family and in homeschooling, but the biggest message for me is letting others know the real ins and outs of parenting/living with mental illness.

I fill my days with kids. Kids, kids, kids. I stopped working outside the home about a year and a half ago. So, I thought, hey, let’s home-school. We decided the day before school started, at 10 pm, to home educate. It has been great. I love it, but it means I am ALWAYS with kids. I will admit, I wondered about homeschooling with bipolar. It does affect it some. When I am hypo-manic (heightened mood), learning is a lot more interactive, a lot more hands on. When things head south, depression, it’s a little quieter, more worksheets and book work, but it’s good. It forces me to have a rhythm to my day, to put one foot in front of the other no matter what my mind says.

If I had a million dollars…well the house would be bigger and have more than one bathroom and a school room, so my kitchen could be a kitchen! Then I would go a little crazy buying homeschooling curriculum and hands on learning materials. Finally, I would give money…to Postpartum Progress, an online foundation that helps families living with a postpartum mood disorder, to my friends getting ready to go on the mission field, and to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.

Tell you a secret…I don’t really have any, I spill just about everything on my blog, but I guess, it would be to have my writing noticed, to have people say, “You know, her writing and her blog matter.Having a voice is my biggest wish. I want to be heard. I want others to acknowledge the words I string together.

Storytellers

Storytellers1

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!

Storytellers3

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.

When the Water Calls

When my kids were young, when we first came back from Germany, when my marriage to the other guy was being held together with tape and googly eyes, when I couldn’t breathe, when I couldn’t think, when I wasn’t on meds and needed them badly, when I was dissociating, I took the kids to the beach.

1

My feet, which had walked way too far and way too long to get there, were suddenly surrounded by rushing water and the Space of Nothing I needed. The water was cold and fast and then pulled at my soul before it receded, taking my fears, confusion, disappointments and grief with it on its way back out to sea.

19

This was “Our Beach” and the kids knew how far they could walk and still yell into the surf and find me. There were huge boulders and small crabs and hot sand for miles. There was my daughter wearing her suit with the rainbow, ruffled rumba-butt, worried what might be lurking in the water that she couldn’t see. And my oldest refusing to have fun because he was just-that-much-too-cool and pulling a towel over his body, taking a nap nestled in the grains of sand while the sun kissed a slice over his leg when the make-due-blanket slid down.

18

And there were my other two boys, unashamed to have hard, wild and loud fun, running into the waves, grabbing boogie boards and refusing to let me swipe sunscreen on them because they just can’t stop running right now, Mommy. Can’t stop right now, but soon.

7

I sat. I watched. I stood at the edge of the world where the packed, wet sand meets eternity, with my feet sinking lower and lower with every pull of water and wondered who I was, where I went, and how I could find me.

22

In the summer more people came. More and more each year. Parking got harder. Walking was further. The jugs of water, towels, sunbathers and canopies that dotted the sand got closer and closer together. The water began to burst with more and more surfers and swimmers but we didn’t stop going to Our Beach because, well, it was ours. No matter what else it was, it was ours.

13

The world ended one spring, just as we had started going back to Our Beach that year, and I had a vacation in a mental hospital with strangers that knew me better than anyone else. Within minutes the kids had moved with their dad to what might as well have been another country and I had no passport. The gates closed on Our Beach and we never went back.

4

I spent the next ten years or forever driving past Our Beach every other weekend and sometimes in the middle of the week on a Thursday to see them play sports or be in a play, using any excuse to get to watch their faces talk about everything, anything, please talk about something, to me.

15

I looked out the window at that water and wondered what it did with all my secrets. But I never went back to Our Beach because it wasn’t ours anymore. It was just a regular beach now, like a hundred other beaches, one that belonged to everyone else in the world more than me or us.

16

I’m finding new beaches now with my guy, the guy that stands by me when the tide is high or low. I don’t claim these wild beaches or try to make them my own. I understand better that the magic when the water races to the shore and dances around your feet, pulling out the grief and sadness, belongs to everyone. You can’t own a wild thing, anyway. It’s just pretending to think you can and I don’t need to pretend anymore.

9

I sit. I breathe. I stand in the surf on the edge of the world and watch my guy swim out into the magic and feel so much joy it hurts in a delicious and comforting way, now that I’m healing, now that I’m happy in my soul where it’s quiet, now that I can breathe, now that I can think, now that I’ve found myself.

11

Heal Something Good is available for Pre-Order here.

Grain-Free Cooking: Brussels Chips Exclamation Point

1sm

If you like Brussels Sprouts, and even if you don’t care for them so much because you’ve only had them water-soggy or over-cooked, this recipe is for you. For you!

When I stopped eating grains, vegetables became a bigger part of my intake and Brussels Sprouts is a weekly contender. I ate them before I even knew how to cook them correctly. And NOW. Well.

Here’s the thing – soggy Brussels sprouts are the pits. But if you roast them with some olive oil? Hoo-boy. And when you peel of a bunch of outer layers so they get crispy while you’re roasting the inner brain-looking nubbins? Delectable.

Here. Let me show you.

Roasted Brussels Chips

  • A Buncha Brussels Sprouts
  • Olive Oil
  • Sea Salt
  • Fresh Cracked Pepper

1. First things first: soak those sprouts for about 5 minutes, pushing them under the water a few times.

2sm

2. Next, shake off the water and cut the ends off each sprout high enough up from the bottom that the damaged outer layers are discarded. Then (AND THIS IS THE BEST PART) keep peeling off a few more layers until the little brain part is too tight to keep peeling. When you get to the core, but it in half or thirds. Put all the layers plus the brain nuggets on a cookie sheet.

4sm3sm

3. Pour some olive oil over the whole messagoodness and mix well with your hands. Maybe 2-3 tablespoons? Well, fine. I guess you could put them in a bowl and then use a spoon and carefully do this part so you don’t get oily, but that just makes more dishes. Plus olive oil is good for your skin. But the choice is yours!

5sm

4. Grind some real salt (check the ingredients of your sea salt for non-caking agents and trade up if you see it listed) and fresh cracked pepper on the leaves. Do it real good, friend.

6sm

5. Bake at 425F for ten minutes, taking out every 3-4 minutes to mix with a wooden spoon or spatula. You know it’s done when the little brains are nicely browned on at least one side and soft when pierced with a fork. The chips should be crispy and brown (AND DELICIOUS).

6point5sm

You’ll never go back to steamed or boiled sprouts again. (Fun addition! Add some super crispy real bacon bits to the top after baking and before inhaling.)

8sm

7sm

This recipe is included in Heal Something Good.

This Thursday’s Meetup Class – Managing Mental Health

Birds in FlightThis week’s class is super close to my heart. With all the “getting-well” I’ve been doing these past three years, managing how my brain is responding to the changes I’m making has been sometimes challenging but mostly exciting.

I’m really looking forward to this week’s group and going in more depth about the process I’ve used and what might work for others. Getting your head on straight goes hand-in-hand with healing the other parts of your body, especially your gut.

See you there?

PS. The photo above reminds me of what it feels like when I’m trying to find the direction I want to go with my life. This way? Or that way?

FBA Tshirts – Book Tour 2014!

Oh, look! It’s new Flawed but Authentic Tshirts, available for a limited time only, just in time for Heal Something Good‘s debut.

Look how cute and how many varieties there are! You can buy them directly from RedBubble.

Pre-Orders will get a Tshirt for *FREE!* (Choice of Floral or Plain design. See Details below.)

Flawed But Authentic Tshirts

We purchased some of Joe‘s design of the surfing bear California flag last Christmas and I can tell you that the Tshirts from RedBubble are well made and the screen-printing is stellar.

Details: The free Tshirts will be done in one bulk order, most likely in May/June. They will be grey Tshirts in either Male w/Plain design or Female w/Floral design sizes S to 2X. Pre-Order a copy of Heal Something Good here.

Pre-Order Heal Something Good

Heal Something Good BookYou guys. I’m oh-so-close to being done with Heal Something Good, the book I’ve been working on for the past three years.

This has been a labor of love. My last book, Not Otherwise Specified, was such a deep journey of mental discovery that I would never call it “Light” or “Nurturing.” I mean, the subject matter includes suicide attempts and graphic material. It’s an important book for what it is and I continue to get letters of appreciation from people who have found it helpful on their own journeys, which is why I leave it up and available.

But. But! Heal Something Good is light and nurturing and full of joy. It’s educational and fun. I’ve enjoyed every moment of writing and putting it together. Who knew learning about supporting our whole body in healing could be so fun?!

I was asked the other day if my new book was *just* for someone healing from chronic illness or *just* someone healing from mental illness and the answer is an emphatic no.

Show me someone who doesn’t have some physical, emotional or mental healing to attend to and I’ll show you someone who is an imaginary person. Life happens and during that “happens” we encounter all kinds of things that damage us. And surprise! It’s all connected inside us. Our emotions are connected to our body systems are connected to our mental well-being is connected to our emotions. (See what I did there?)

Heal Something Good hits on all that and more. If you have experienced life, I dare say you’ll find it helpful.

Pre-Orders get 25% off the book price plus a free hour of mentoring PLUS a book mark inked & water-colored by yours truly. Today is a great day to pre-order!

The image below was taken just the other day when the sun was out and tapping me on the shoulder and whispering in my ear and I was thinking about you, how happy I feel and how I want to tell you all about it.

Leah Peterson

What I Am

Fortunes

“But, what do you have? What are you?”

Oh, right. This is the part where I’m supposed to list all the illnesses and diseases and disorders I’ve collected over my lifetime and use their proper medical terms. This is how we measure each other up, to find out where we fall in the Diagnosis Scale. Are we the same? Are we different? If I told you, would you have an immediate recognition of how I feel right now because you’ve got “IT,” too?

Using this shorthand is not meant to be insulting or belittling. It’s meant to cut to the chase and find out where your battle scars are. It’s the fastest and easiest way to get to know someone else sitting in the waiting room to see the doctor or in line at the grocery store reading a magazine about health. It’s the quickest way to find out if you want to keep having a conversation with this person. And if you’ve been struggling for months, years, maybe they know of a good support group or a treatment you haven’t yet tried.

It’s Dating for Sick People.

After years and years, I’ve collected quite a pile. My suitcase is full. Disorder-this and Ailment-that. And when I open up the case and take a look I realize – hey. I don’t really want those.

How validating is it to have a medical professional tell you that what you’ve been feeling, what you’ve been struggling with for so long, what you’ve been trying to tell people about and make them believe is happening to you, that THING that is making you feel like the pits – is real? And it has a name. And here is that name. Blessings, my child, now we know what to call you.

You feel like you’re going crazy, what with all the symptoms that don’t add up and the tests you’ve been taking that come back negative and the unexplained pain and trips to Urgent Care on the weekend. Can’t someone just please tell me what is wrong with me? And if one more doctor pats you on the head and tells you to just go home and get some rest, maybe consider an anti-depressant, you’re going to go crazy. Maybe you are crazy. You’re tired of being “ish.”

Peacock

And then they do. They do finally tell you what’s wrong with you and they give it a name, a diagnosis, and then that’s that. You have IT. Are IT.

And it’s such a relief, right, that it has a name? And you can tell people like Judgy McJudgerson that have doubted you all this time that Name and that you have IT, and it feels better, just a little bit, that they know a doctor told you what it was. That the tests were positive. And sometimes it even has a treatment plan, along with drugs meant to help stop whatever is happening that’s causing you such distress. And sometimes those drugs *do* help and sometimes they only have *a few* side effects and dangit, that’s awesome and you’re thankful.

When you get woken up with pain or you can’t get out of bed or you miss your kids school event or have to go home because the mall was too crowded and too loud or you get tired just walking down the driveway to get the mail – you remind yourself that it’s ok, because you have IT. People have to understand and you can be easier on yourself, let go of the shame and guilt. You know IT’s name.

SanteFeTile

So. There I am looking in my suitcase and whoa. There’s a lot in there and they are varied and some are “worse” than others and I don’t want them anymore. I don’t want to use it as a shorthand to allow someone to get to know me faster and easier. I don’t want to own them at all.

I’m going to dis-own them. Maybe one-by-one like petals from a flower. Maybe all at once and watch them swirl down the drain like foamy residue from shampooing.

I don’t want to be called “mentally ill” or “physically ill” ever again. I’m not those things. And neither are you.

And there’s something so freeing in banning “fibromyalgia” and “lupus” and “bipolar” and and and….. I’m not a diagnosis or a disease. I’m no one and nothing that can be categorized and typecast with such simple terms.

What I am is healing and getting better and better every day. What I am is a human with some bodily systems that need support. What I am is in love with my body that continues to try and try and has kept me alive for 43 years. What I am is ecstatic that I keep getting new days and new mornings where the sun comes out and I can tell my Self in the mirror that it’s going to be a great day. And mean it. And every step I take away from the name of a disease that has been hanging on me for years I feel more joy and happiness than I can express. We aren’t meant to be burdened with illness.

Heart

What you are is strong and brilliant. You wouldn’t be alive right now if you weren’t. Your body is trying and coping in the best way it can to help you survive. You, too, could try calling yourself by, and talking about yourself in, more-than-illness terms. Don’t let IT own you. Let go of the validating feeling you get from reminding yourself you have IT and instead validate your body in new ways. The guilt and shame you carry for “failing” at doing the things you want to do in your life due to your “Illnesses” isn’t needed. It never was. Being kind and gentle with your body that is STILL ALIVE and working on your behalf? That’s enough. That’s perfect.

Thank you, stomach, for trying your best to digest the food I eat. Thank you, ribs, for holding together for me every day. Thank you, knees, for hanging in there all these years. And thanks, circulatory system and hypothalamus, for heating up and letting me know I need to slow it down a little.

I See You

TwitterBG_leaf

I see you.

You’re at that place where you’re realizing that the people around you, those people that maybe love you more than anyone else in the world, those people, they are telling you those things about yourself and it isn’t really you.

Maybe it once was. Maybe it was a shadow of you. More likely it was their perception of who you were, their version of you after they took the pieces and assembled them so they fit inside them easily, in their own system. But maybe, to be fair, it’s a completely accurate image of you then. Then.

What they see when they look but don’t really look at you now? That’s not you. What they say when their mouths are moving up and down and back and forth like cows chewing cud, sometimes well-intentioned, sometimes not, that’s not really about you, either. It’s all about them and their needs. I can see how you got that confused. It’s so easy to do.

So, look at them. Really look and see how they’ve constructed their version of you just right on top of the real you. See how they feel safe in their faulty perceptions and old news and rod-straight unwillingness or unable-ness to change. See how they keep pulling up old days, old behaviors, old habits, old words, old worlds and trying to make them fit on you now, to stretch them across your bones even when they are too tight, too small, the wrong shade of green.

Look at their hooded eyes and incapability and really feel their frustration with them. You don’t seem quite the same. Are you? Of course you are. Because they need you to be. They need you to be exactly who they think you are so their lives can keep rotating around the sun without interruption and at least one thing in their lives can ring true. Otherwise, maybe their lives don’t make sense anymore. Otherwise, maybe they would have to change.

Once you see them, really see them, with their faulty perceptions and narrow glasses looking at you wrongly, and you’re feeling your full sense of righteous indignation that is duly yours, send them love and disconnect. Then drop the indignation, righteous or no, because it heals nothing.

I love you. Disconnect.Remove that cord that creeps like a vine, or maybe a root, from them to your gut and continues to suck your energy and very life-force from the marrow of your bones. Pull it out and throw it down or even hand it back with a simple, “No thank you,” if you want to be polite. But take it out of you where it doesn’t belong anymore, if it ever did, and heal that spot with love to yourself, from yourself, because this is just the beginning.

They will be sad. They will be angry. They will try with all their might to make sure you understand just how much you are still the same, the same, the same as you ever were. They will do this when they don’t even know why they are doing it. They will do it when they try not to. They will do it, these people who love you the most in all the world, because you’ve gone and done something extraordinarily difficult and upset the universe and all they know and all they understand and now they are afraid. And that’s alright. That is theirs to deal with and work on and it is not you. Still, that is not you.

Look at them, really see them, and send them compassion for their pain and love for their hurt and then refuse to cross over healthy boundaries to make them feel better during their confusing pain because it will hurt you and they will see you as broken and the same as you ever were. It will make them feel better when you break down and soothe them by acting like the old you and falling into old habits. It will make them feel better because all will be right in their universe again, see? You are just the same. And then they can comfort you. Yes, there, there. It’s ok. (I knew you would never change.)

And you’ll be holding that drink or smoking that cigarette or exhausted from an angry fight or crying in the corner or sporting a new bruise or out with someone unsafe or eating an entire bag of chips or cutting your arm or thinking about using or dropping out of school or shoplifting something you never needed even when you needed things because doing that thing, that very act, puts you back in the place of broken where it fits what they think they see.

And in that moment when they see you and it feels right to them and wrong to you, but right to you, too, because that gnawing ache of Different is soothed, you’ll remember I told you this might happen and that it’s ok. It’s a process. And next time when the vortex comes to suck you up, you’ll maybe make a different choice. Maybe not that time, but maybe the next time after that, because you will start to see you, too, like I see you.

And when that happens, if that happens, know I love you. This is hard, this thing you’re doing. You’re Becoming even when those around you, who you count on for support, who you gave your heart to with nothing held back, wish you would stop.

Remember they are afraid, but you be fearless. Let them move forward on their own journey at their own pace and Embrace your Self with all your might. Let your heart sing your new song, which is really your old song that got covered with layer after layer of hurt years ago. But it sounds new because it is so happy and you are so happy in there. I’ll tell you now, that’s called joy, so you know its name in case you forgot. Sing louder when you are lonely. I am smart. I am beautiful. I am free. I am joy. I am enough.

Keep track of that broken record that plays in the back of your mind, the one that replays all the old hits like, “People never really change,” and “Who do you think you are, anyway?” and everyone’s favorite, “You tried your best, just leave well enough alone,” and when you hear those old familiar phrases, take a step back and say, Oh, hello. I see you. You are not me.

It’s no longer about patience or explaining for hours with your jaw until it’s aching and your teeth want to fall out. It’s no longer about long-suffering. It’s no longer about keeping the peace. Now it’s about owning your power and seeing, then projecting who you really are. The more you sing your heart song, the more you pull your strength from the floor and gather it around you like a cloak, the more completely you reveal your true nature underneath all their misconceptions, the more you refuse to see yourself as broken, then you are whole and they will eventually have no choice but to see you that way as well, if they truly love you. You will reflect your song so loud and strong and true that they cannot help but hear it and see it.

And if they don’t truly love you, if their perceptions of you simply cannot budge, if they can’t hear your song, I’m sorry for them, but only for a short time. Because we don’t have time for that or for them. You and I? We’re too busy Becoming.

Page 5 of 118« First...34567...102030...Last »