Thursday, September 30, 2010

Wired and Inspired

I'm creating jewelry again.

Over the summer I stopped creating new pieces because the kids were home full time and we were so busy. I kept up with the orders in my Etsy shop, which chugged along during the lazy days of summer at a reasonable pace, but I hadn't made anything new in weeks.

I didn't realize how much I missed it until I started creating again. That spark that lay dormant for months sprang to life; I found myself waking up in the middle of the night with ideas, sketching them down on a pad I keep next to my bed for just such a purpose.

It fuels me, this creative energy. For the first year and a half or so I felt almost apologetic about my jewelry business, like it was some cute little hobby I did on the side. I was unable to mentally commit to it, to call myself an artist, to dream that maybe - just maybe - this is something I could actually do for a living.

Finn starts Kindergarten next fall, and I want making jewelry to be what I do for a living. I will need to be working - not just for the needed additional income, but for my own sanity. I'm looking at the next year as my opportunity to really invest time and attention into getting Shining Stones up and running.

As some of you may recall, my husband made me a store. He cleared out our seldom-used dining room, and created attractive jewelry displays and a pretty sun-splashed work station. One of my biggest joys is having customers and friends stop by to shop and pick out ready-made jewelry, or poke through my selection of stones, beads and crystals.

I've been making a lot of custom jewelry, which I love to do, using stones that carry special meanings and messages for people who need a lift.

So I'm squaring my shoulders, owning my creative spark, my artistry, and losing myself for hours in creating new pieces, stocking up my store and my Etsy shop. I'm having a ball.

Part of this, of course, is facing my fears about marketing and promotion. It's something I've always struggled with, but if this is going to be what I do, I'm going to have to get over it.

So I'm looking for ways to get the word out there. If you are interested in advertising Shining Stones on your blog, please send me an email. For the next couple of months, I'm also having a 'giveaway blitz'. If you would like to host a giveaway of a piece of my jewelry on your blog, I'm providing discounts and other incentives for your readers (and you!) and I'm really excited. I've had a great initial response to my tweeting and facebooking (totally a verb) about it, so if you're interested in hosting a giveaway please contact me and we can talk about it further. My email is

Thank you!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Do It Anyway

I'm going to Los Angeles - actually I'm going to Ojai - in mid October to attend Creative Alliance '10.   It's a blogging conference, of sorts, with an emphasis on creating authentic, meaningful alliances in the online creative community.   

I will know some of the people there - my good friends Heather and Robin will be attending, as well as other incredible women I met at BlogHer in New York City who I've gotten to know a bit better over the past several weeks. 

When Lee mentioned this conference to me at BlogHer my first thought was:  of course I'm not going.   Not simply because of the time and expense involved in getting myself to LA, but because my gut chimed in to tell me I'm not a good enough blogger -- I'm too small, too inexperienced, too inconsequential.    There are only 40 attendees, and the core group of organizers reads like a list of my most favorite bloggers ever.   I'm in awe of these women, of their raw talent.   

My ego began whispering in my ear:  you can't afford to take the time, you hate to fly, you won't fit in, you'll feel worse about yourself if you go, you can't afford to go chasing dreams right now,.   It's the same voice that whispered to me about my drinking:  go ahead, have another, you don't amount to much anyway.  

I'm so tired of that voice.   I know in my gut she's dead wrong, but shoving her away is more difficult than I'd like to admit.

See, I love blogging.   I don't know why, but I feel an embarrassed tug when I admit that out loud.   I mean, what good does blogging do?   How is it additive in the world?    It amazes me that I prattle away here on this space about whatever is pinging around in my brain, and people come read it?   Why does anybody care?   Why do I care?

I know the answer, of course.    I care because of the incredible people I've met, the inspiration and hope I get from reading other peoples' blogs, the healing I feel when I write, the connection I feel from comments and emails.

I'm intimidated because the women who will be going to Creative Alliance '10 represent, to me, the cream of the crop.    They aren't caught up in boasting rights for readerships, they aren't in competition with each other.   They cheer each other on, and have a balanced approach to what it means to be successful in this crazy space.

I want that.

If I want that, I have to set aside my fears and insecurities and just go.   If you want to learn to ski, you don't go join a class of people who ski worse than you do just so you can feel better about yourself.   You draft behind the really talented skiers and try to keep up, so you can watch and learn.

Here's how the core team describes their objective for the conference:
The Core Team of the inaugural CA ’10 will help facilitate discussions and encourage conversation so we can all share with each other our expertise and experience from our individual online journeys.  The goal is to have all of us engage in meaningful conversation in a relaxed environment so we can build lasting alliances as we each work to make our creative business ventures exactly what we dream them to be.
For me, blogging is only meaningful if it's building a community around a shared purpose.  In my case - both here and at Crying Out Now - it's a space to share humanity, struggles, courage and hope.   Whether it's about addiction and recovery, or the trials and tribulations of parenting, or weight loss, my objective is to create an honest, safe space for sharing our experience, strength and hope.   

Networking and marketing to promote my blog will always make me uncomfortable.   I'm not doing this to build popularity or validation (okay, maybe a little validation); I'm not focused on the numbers, I'm focused on the quality of the connections and friendships.  

I feel even more strongly about this when it comes to Crying Out Now.   But the path is clearer for me in that space:  I want more people to know about it, to come read, to submit their stories, because I believe in the incredible healing found there.    So I'm going to CA '10 to learn how to do this - how to stay true to the cause, build a meaningful community around a collective goal, but also grow this community safely and purposefully.    I'm thrilled Robin, who is a co-moderator of Crying Out Now, will be there to experience this with me. 

So I'm ignoring those whispering voices.   I'm going.   And I'm mostly excited about it.   I'm not the biggest fan of flying, so that is a challenge for me.   It's so easy for me to succumb to the irrational fears:  you have no business putting yourself in danger just to go to a blogging conference, what if something happens and you leave your kids without a mother?   You are so selfish.      THAT'S the kind of crazy that lives in my head.

But it's far too easy to take the cheap, easy, fearful way out.   In all aspects of my life I'm trying not to be driven by fear, but by hope.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

What A Girl Wants

When I asked Greta a few weeks ago what she wanted for her birthday, she sat and pondered for a few minutes, then looked up at me shyly and said, "I don't know, Momma. You know what I want.  You know me."

You know what I want.  You know me. 

Such simple statements, and yet they echoed through my heart, transported me back through the past eight years.

I remembered sitting in the car with Steve after we left our 22 week ultrasound appointment, clutching the black and white photo in my hands.    I traced my finger along the silhouette of her little scrunched up face and whispered, in awe: we made a girl.  

When the nurse placed her in my arms mere seconds after birth, I felt two things simultaneously:  unbounded joy and sheer terror.   She was perfect.    How on earth was I going to do this ... this motherhood thing?    I had mistakenly assumed that if my body could produce a whole baby and know exactly what to do without any prior instruction or experience, that somehow the same intuition about how to raise a child would mysteriously appear in my brain the moment she arrived.

I kept thinking that one day I would get it, intuitively know exactly what I was doing.    It didn't matter how many times more experienced moms told me that every new mother is overwhelmed, that nobody knows what they are doing.   Especially not with their first child, and especially not when they are babies.

Greta was colicky, cried a lot, slept very little, and nothing I did seemed to soothe her.   As my anxiety and sleep deprivation grew they eclipsed any feelings of joy, wonder and confidence.    I was not one of those mothers who could sit and stare at her baby in awe for hours on end.   I felt like a cat in a cage - everything that had been familiar to me was gone:  my body, my career, my peace of mind, my happiness.    She would wail and wail, and I would lock myself in the bathroom and scream into a pillow:  WHAT?  WHAT IS IT?  WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME?

I was miserable, and my misery stoked the fires of guilt.   Wasn't I supposed to love this?   Wasn't I supposed to know what to do?   I didn't know how to ask for help, how to express my feelings about what I perceived to be my copyrighted failure.    So I retreated into a bottle.   Over the next few years I escaped from her neediness, her dependency on me, her love, the only way I could find.   I drank.

When I emerged from the fog of alcoholism Greta was almost five.    As I got to know myself sober, I had to get to know her, too.    As I pieced myself back together I had to learn not only how to be a mother, but what motherhood meant to me.    I pushed through my feelings of guilt and told myself the truth:  I was scared. 

I looked that monster in the closet dead in the eye and said:  I'm scared, but I'm going to do the best I can.    I finally understood that my fear was born out of a fiercest love of all:  mother-love.   I loved her so limitlessly, so deeply, that I could never, ever live up to everything I wanted for her.    But I could finally answer my own question, screamed into a pillow all those years ago:   What do you want from me?  

What she wants is me.   She doesn't want some version of me that I'd like her to see.   She wants me, with all my fault lines and laugh lines.    For all those years I couldn't give her the one thing she wanted, because I didn't know who I was.  You can't give something you don't have.

Greta turns eight on Wednesday.   And she's right - I know her.   I feel her, right down to my very core.   I don't really remember who I was before she came along and made me a mother.   I no longer mourn that version of me.  I had to figure out that to be the best mother I can be I had to make peace with myself, first.    Once I start over thinking, I'm in trouble.  If I hold myself up to some blueprint of motherhood, compare myself to anyone but me, of course I'm going to come up short.    I acknowledge my mistakes.  Actually, I embrace them.   Because inside a mistake, if I'm paying attention, is growth.

Now I don't come from a place of fear, because I understand my own limitations.   I simply don't have the kind of power I thought I had.   She's her own person.  

I know her, but I also know she isn't a mini version of me.   She's a mini version of her.    I'm here to cheer her on, prop her up, pass on what I've learned of the world so far, and love her.   

The rest is up to her.  And she's doing a damn fine job.


Happy Birthday, Greta.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Pieces of Life. In Pictures

There are little pockets of my life that become so ordinary to me that I forget to remember how much they mean to me.   Every day, ordinary things that bring me pleasure, simplicity, peace, or companionship.   

I can't describe these things easily, so I thought I'd show them instead.  Pieces of life.  In pictures.

I love it when my fridge is full.   When the shopping and the schlepping are done, and each shelf is chock full of healthy (er, just ignore the Redi-Whip... and the chocolate sauce) fresh foods.   And that little container on the second shelf down, on the right?   Those are fresh eggs.   From our chickens.    I love that.

This is Coffee Corner.   Because one coffee maker simply won't do, I have two.  Because sometimes you want just one cup, a little pick-me-up - hence the Keurig.    But some mornings high octane coffee, and large amounts of it, are necessary.   Hence the 12 cup coffee maker.    And tucked on the left there are Tension Tamer and Sleepytime teas, to bring my frazzled nerves back to baseline in the evenings.   Heaven.

Why does this jumbled mess make me happy?   Because it's the Everything Drawer.     It never lets me down.  Where else can I put my hand on three different kinds of ointments or cold remedies, a plethora of hair implements, toothpaste, tape, thermometers, extension cords, light bulbs, missing lego pieces, chap sticks, pens ... well, you get the idea.    MacGyver ain't got nothing on me.

This is the Whiteboard of Certainty.   It is my new best friend.   I've complained on this blog several times that I have trouble with organization, but this little $12 purchase from Target has plugged most of the holes for me.  Each week, I write what I need to remember (where the heck are the kids?  who are we picking up?  when is soccer/girl scouts/basketball?  who is coming over?)  on the Whiteboard of Certainty, smack dab in the middle of my fridge where I can't miss it.   If it needs to be done, it's there.   And I just swipe a paper towel across it when it's completed, giving me the sense that I do, in fact, accomplish something on occasion.

This is Buddha corner.   No matter how crazy or messy the rest of our bedroom gets, Buddha corner always looks just like this - serene, simple, peaceful.    In the morning, the sunlight streams in through the window just right, creating the perfect spot for some quiet reflection before I start my day.   

My husband found this at a local consignment shop; it's an old typesetter's cabinet.   There are about thirty drawers, each with dozens of little compartments.   Each compartment is filled with semi-precious stones, pearls, crystals and charms, sorted by color.    It is my own personal paradise.  

A bunch of books at my bedside.  I'm always reading three or four books at once.   One can never have too many books.   Ever.

Our dog, Casper.   She's a nine year old Slovensky Cuvac (pronounced "chew-vatch").    Steve and I got her before children, the first year we were married.   She's getting on in years, now, and is most likely to be found snoozing in a sunny corner, sighing happily.     She is such an important part of our family, but all too often she gets forgotten in the hustle-bustle of life.   So these days we're trying to give her extra hugs, to remind her that we love her.  

Has there ever been a sweeter sight than your own sleeping children?   I love that even though Finn could have his own room, they still want to be together.   It won't be for much longer now, I don't think, so I'm soaking it in while I can.

And every night, without fail, I tiptoe into their room and give a prayer of thanks.   For everything, big and small, for all the richness in my life. 

Because it's important to remember.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Sorry, I Couldn't Hear You Over All The Crinkling

I had one of those moments the other day, something that has been happening more frequently.   I was talking to a friend of mine and we were joking about morning hair.   I was laughing about how when I woke up that morning my hair looked like the lead singer of the Flock of Seagulls.

"What?"  she said.  "Your hair looked like a seagull?"

So I busted out an 80s dance move and said, "You know..  I raaaaan.  I ran so far awaaaaaay,"  and she looked at me like I'd lost my ever-loving mind.

It hit me that she didn't have the first clue what I was talking about.

"The band?"  I clarified.  "Flock of Seagulls?  They were huge in the early 80s?"

"OH!" she said, and I sighed in relief until she went on to say, "Sorry, I was born in 1978."

She's thirty two?   NINE years younger than me?

I have this habit of thinking everyone is just like me.   I meet you, we become friends, and I just presume you're my age because we get along so well.   Sure, maybe I notice you must have a better anti-aging cream than me, because you don't have one frigging laugh line.   But it never occurs to me that you might just be younger than me.

With one exception:  I can't figure out the age of anyone under twenty-five.   I'll think someone is barely out of their teens when she'll casually mention she's in her residency at the local hospital.   She's about to become a pediatrician, for crying out loud, and I was about to ask if she had a driver's license.

Suddenly everyone is impossibly young.   At the second grade open house I was introduced to a lovely young woman - I'm thinking she's a nanny, perhaps? - who went on to explain that she's the TEACHER.   I went to have an annual physical and the doctor's dewy, unlined face was more than a little disconcerting to me.   Call me old-fashioned, but I want my doctor to be downright craggy, weighted down with life experience and tomes of medical knowledge.  

I was chatting amiably with my dentist a few months ago, rambling on about my children, and I finished by saying, "But what are you going to do.  Kids, you know?" 

"Actually, I don't have kids yet," he said, aiming for my mouth with a terrifying pointy instrument.  "I'm engaged and getting married next year.  Open wide!"

Don't get me wrong.  I'm not worried about aging, or getting older.   I loved turning 40.   It felt liberating to be at a life stage where I didn't have to wring my existential hands and wonder what the heck I was going to do when I grew up.   I am the grown-up.   Right?

The kids don't help, though.   The other night we were having dinner, and Finn was talking about how he wanted to be a Dad one day.

"But then you'll be the grandmother, Momma,"  he said.

"I can't wait to be a grandmother," I smiled.

He was quiet for a minute, poking at his peas, and then he looked up sheepishly and said, "But, Momma?   Could you try not to get too crinkly?"

Sure, kid.  I've got hundreds of dollars worth of facial creams upstairs that are trying to do just that. 

"Everyone gets wrinkles," I said.  "It's natural."

"It's okay to get a little crinkly," he replied.   "Like the ones you have around your eyes?   Oh, and your mouth?   And those right there on your forehead?  They're okay.   But, if your neck gets really crinkly that would be too weird."

Last weekend we went for a walk on some forest trails on a beautiful autumn afternoon.   I felt alive, vibrant, kicking my feet through the leaves and breathing the cool air.   Greta and Finn were walking ahead of me, shoulder-to-shoulder.  I commented on how cute they looked together.

"Oh, we're tour guides,"  Greta said casting a glance my way over her shoulder.   "And you're our customer."

"What a lovely tour!"  I exclaimed, falling into my role.   "What gorgeous leaves!"


"Why are you yelling?"  I asked.

"Oh," she said.   "It's the Senior Citizen tour.  I wanted to be sure you could hear me okay."

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Heart Song

Last Saturday, I was feeling itchy, edgy.   It was a typical Saturday - full of soccer games, errands and playdates.   Nothing was particularly wrong, or particularly right.   Everything just was

I get like this sometimes, and when I do, I go to the bookstore. 

This is not a new habit.   I have always loved libraries and bookstores; the peaceful atmosphere full of whispering words calms my babbling mind.    Even the smell of all those pages warms my spirit. 

I wasn't looking for a particular book, but I was hungry for something; I wanted just the right book to leap off the shelf at me.   I wandered the spirituality section for over an hour, then the biography and recovery sections, perusing titles, flipping through pages.   Nothing stood out to me; I didn't know what I wanted, but I knew I would know it when I saw it.

I left the store a couple of hours later, empty handed.

As I pulled in the driveway, I decided to check the mail.   Sitting innocently in my mailbox was a padded mailer, addressed to me, with an unfamiliar return address.  

I went inside, ripped open the package, and a book fell out.   It took me a moment to remember an email exchange I had earlier in the week with a woman who read my post about God and spirituality, and contacted me to say she was sending me a copy of her book, which she thought I would enjoy.

The title grabbed me instantly:   Let Go, Let Miracles Happen; The Art of Spiritual Surrender, by Kathy Cordova.   I knew immediately that this was the book I had been looking for, just waiting for me in my mailbox.

I finished the book in two days.

It was exactly - and I mean exactly - what I needed to read.   Kathy writes beautifully about her own experience with spiritual surrender, and shares stories from dozens of others whose lives have been transformed by the power of letting go.  

I've been feeling a vague sense of something missing lately, and I haven't been able to put my finger on what.   As I read her book, I knew what has been bothering me:  I haven't surrendered to something important in my life:  writing.

Earlier this year, I was all fired up about writing a book, a memoir.   I tackled writing it the way I approach so much in my life:  full of determination and an exacting desire to get it done.  I stayed up late into the night, clacking away at my keyboard.    This went on for a few exhausting months, then the doubts started to creep in:  What are you thinking?  YOU can't write a book!   The world doesn't need another addiction story.  What if you spend all this time writing it, and nobody will publish it?   Even if it's published, what if you don't sell any?  Who do you think you ARE?

Eventually, the voices wore me down.  Without consciously realizing it, I stopped writing.

In her book, Kathy Cordova writes about following your intuition, learning how to ignore the babbling ego:
The ego tells us that it's only looking out for our best interests, and that can be a tempting argument.   The world has trained us to listen to our egos at the expense of our intuition, so it seems like we're doing the sensible thing when we let our ego be our guide.

So how do you know if you're listening to your ego or your intuition?   The key question is:

Is the message one of love or fear? 
This last sentence hit me like a punch in the gut.   My ego, which I do indeed think is looking out for my best interests, whispers to me that it's better to stay safe, to stick with the familiar, rather than to stick my neck out and risk injury, insecurity or rejection. 

She goes on to write:
But what if we believe we hear our intuition, and we're too scared to follow it?   We must ask ourselves,  "What is the overriding factor:  fear or love?"

Are we hesitant to make a change because we love the situation we're in now?  Or are we just scared of the unknown?
I have thought about this a lot over the past week.   Deciding whether or not to write a book isn't one of life's hard choices, not when compared to making decisions about love, work or family.    But it has been tugging away at my periphery for a long time now, and I want to get to the bottom of it.    I realized, reading Kathy's words, that I'm afraid, and it's my ego's fault.

It's very difficult for me to write without thinking about the endgame, especially when the subject matter is intensely personal.    I couldn't get my mind around the concept of success.    What makes a successful book?   Profits?   Sales?   Rave reviews?   Fans?    My ego, childishly jumping up and down, answers Yes!  Yes!  Yes!  to all of these.  So it's no head scratcher that when I'm listening to my ego all I can think about is the ways that I could fail following these criterion.

But my heart speaks differently.   My heart tells me that writing is healing, that it doesn't matter if I even publish a book, that getting my story on paper is cathartic, cleansing.     It tells me to surrender to the process, and just write, dammit. 

Is the message one of love or fear?   

It's love.   I love to write.   When I sit quietly and listen to my heart song I know that I don't write out of a need for validation or popularity, no matter what my ego says.     When I'm writing, I feel complete inside myself, like I'm filling up my skin.     When I'm not writing there is a whistling void somewhere deep inside, one that calls to me in dreams, or in supermarket aisles when I'm hit with an idea clear out of the blue.  

And so, I'm writing.  I'm letting go of the outcome, seeing where the Universe takes me.  After all, it delivered me the perfect book at exactly the right time, through Kathy's generosity, and I try to pay attention to the messages sent my way.   

I'm giving my ego one giant time-out, and letting my heart take the wheel for a while.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Visit From the Ugly Step Sisters

I have basically hit my goal weight.

I say 'basically', because now I'm in maintenance mode, and it is proving to have its challenges.    I know, logically, that I don't hit that miracle number and just stay there.    Everyone's weight fluctuates up and down a few pounds here and there.   What I wasn't expecting was the mental game this would provoke in me.

Once again, the parallels to getting sober are staggering.   When I was newly sober, and the cravings were bad, the obsession hadn't gone away, every time I made it through another 24 hours without a drink I felt really good, really proud.     It wasn't easy in the early days, but the rewards felt more immediate - feeling better, looking better, my relationships improved, I had more energy.    Not only was I feeling better about myself, but the people around me were checking in constantly, offering support and encouragement.

With time, the cravings went away and the obsession to drink shriveled up and died.   I received medallions for each milestone:  3 months, 6 months, 9 months, one year.  It was motivating, having a little parade for myself as I hit each one.

A little over one year sober, new challenges arose.    People got used to the sober me.  It no longer seemed like such a big deal that I made it another month ... it became my new normal.    The feelings showed up, in droves.   It was no longer simply about not drinking, it was about learning to live a sober life.  

I hit my goal weight a couple of weeks ago.   Since then, it has been a challenge to get used to the new normal, to stay on track even though the scale numbers weren't dropping every week.    It was easy to stay motivated when every week more weight would come off, and I was fitting into smaller and smaller jeans.    I was so focused on getting here, that I didn't think enough about what it would be like when I arrived.  Even the word 'arrive' trips me up, because it isn't a destination, it's a journey.   Logically, I know this.  But keeping my focus for the past couple of weeks has been really hard.

It took me a while to put my finger on why.   This past week I've been hit with cravings, a bottomless hunger that I hadn't experienced before, even in the early days of losing weight.    I couldn't stop thinking about food.   I wanted ice cream, pizza, fistfuls of potato chips.    I didn't eat them, but I couldn't stop obsessing.   It was driving me crazy.

I finally talked to a good friend of mine, who is also in recovery, about how I was feeling.  Through tears I told her how much I was struggling.   She listened sympathetically, and then said, "Honey.  You're afraid."

It hit me, immediately, that she was right.    I am afraid.   Afraid that somehow this new me isn't real, that I won't be able to maintain my weight now that the immediate rewards of losing weight are gone.  I've even had nightmares about this - like the dreams I'd have when I was newly sober that I drank, called "drunk dreams" - I have been plagued by dreams that I wake up and I'm back at my former weight.

I know, logically, that this fear isn't based on anything real.   But getting my brain to realize this is another matter.  In response to the constant fear I was feeling, my brain went into overdrive, went directly to control.    I started over-thinking every bit of food I ate, counting calories like Scrooge counted pennies.   

Control's ugly step-sisters - obsession and compulsion - showed up and made themselves at home.    Because of my fear that this weight loss was some kind of fluke - instead of a consistent, constant process of eating well and exercising - I behaved like a kid who thought someone was going to snatch away her candy; I was fearful, angry, possessive.

Control is a classic response to fear.   When we feel like things are spiraling away from us, we focus our energies on the things we think we can control.  In my case, it was constant calorie counting - something I didn't do much at all for months.  I ate well, exercised, did the next right thing, and the weight came off.    My fear that somehow the weight loss won't stay unless I try harder, do more, led to the obsessive thoughts.   The obsessive thoughts led to cravings.  It owned me. 

I've been here before, in sobriety, and I know what I'm supposed to do.   I'm supposed to surrender my will. 

It's hard.   Such a simple concept, and so difficult to do.   When the obsessive thoughts come, and now that I'm aware of them they aren't hard to identify, I say a simple prayer, like a mantra:   Let go.  Do the next right thing and let go of the outcome.  All you can do is the next thing, so do that, and don't worry about the rest of it. 

I know if I do this, my body will be the size it's supposed to be.   I can't be trusted to know what it is, either.  

I talked to my Jenny Craig consultant about all this, and she understood immediately.   "Don't weigh yourself at home, EVER," she said.   "Come here once a week and we'll walk through it together."     The goal, she went on to explain, is to anesthetize myself to focusing on the number, to begin to trust the process.   "Maintenance is really hard," she said.  "It takes a while to realize that by eating well and exercising, you'll be fine.  It's no more complicated than that."

Just like sobriety: trust the process, let go, do the next right thing and get the hell out of the way. 

Monday, September 13, 2010

New Items and a HUGE Sale!

Now that the kids are back to school I'm refocusing on my jewelry business, and I'm excited to kick-off Fall with some new items, and a HUGE Sale! 

I'm going to be all mysterious about the sale, because in order to take advantage of it you need to be a Newsletter Subscriber.   The good news is .....  it's quick and easy to subscribe and I PROMISE I only send emails out about every 4-6 weeks and your information is never, ever shared with any third party.

To subscribe to the Newsletter, look on my right-hand sidebar (almost all the way down near the bottom), and enter your email address.   That's it!   Painless.   The newsletter will be sent to your Inbox, where you can read how to take advantage of the sale I'm having through October 1st.

And, a little preview of some new Fall items!

Love Pandora Style, but don't love the cost?!?!    I'm now making beautiful, affordable, Pandora (large hole) Style Bracelets!   Pictured above (click here to see it in my Etsy shop)  is the Luscious Lavender Bracelet.

And here is one of my favorites, made with pretty floral polymer clay beads:

Click here to see this item in my Etsy shop.

Many other styles and colors are available, so if you have a color scheme or style in mind, just email me at and run your ideas and inspirations by me!  

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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Life of The Party

There's a question I'm asked every now and then from people who want to know what it's like not drinking at parties:

"Is it hard for you?"

The answer, finally, is No.

It wasn't always this way.  This summer, my third sober summer, is the first time I can honestly say that not drinking wasn't hard, most of the time.   

During the first couple of years of sobriety I would get a pit in my stomach every June.  As I anticipated summer, I felt a kind of sadness as I thought about barbeques, summer evenings and parties without the pleasant lubrication of alcohol.   Each new experience - my first trip to the beach house, for example, watching the sun set while munching on hot dogs and hamburgers - I felt the loss of alcohol like I would a dearly departed loved one.   It was like grief, in a way, the ache I felt in my bones that I couldn't just have a couple of drinks like 'normal' people.

At parties I would stare at people drinking, fixate on them as they raised their wineglass to their lips.   I was jealous of them; it was like watching an ex-boyfriend dance with another woman at a party.   Even though I knew the ex-boyfriend was bad for me, and I was mostly glad to be rid of him, it still hurt to see.

I monitored everyone's drinking.    Look at her, she's walking away from a half-full glass of wine.   I think that is his fourth drink, maybe he has a problem?  

Getting ready to go out for the evening was particularly difficult.   I didn't realize how important having a couple glasses of wine as I put on make-up and fixed my hair were to me until I could no longer have them.    Walking into a party stone cold sober felt completely alien.    How would I carry on a conversation?   Laugh?  Meet new people?   I felt like everyone was staring at me as I sipped my club soda with lemon,  thinking: poor thing, she can't drink.

We had a busy Labor Day weekend.   We went to two parties, one with friends from town and another with old friends we hadn't seen in a while.   It didn't occur to me until the weekend had passed that the old jealousy was gone.   As I dashed around to get ready for a party on Saturday night, slipping into my new little black dress and putting makeup on, all I thought about was how fun it would be to reconnect with friends, have a evening out with my husband.   

I almost forgot to be grateful.

But later in the evening on Saturday I felt the atmosphere of the party shift, and I remembered:  Oh yeah, I'm not drinking.   I can practically set my watch to it, this shift, and it happens around 10:30pm every time.   Conversations get louder.   And less interesting.    People start repeating themselves, get a little slurry, a little sloppy, and I know it's my cue to leave.   

It's the time of night when, before, I would have crossed that line between social drinking and having too many.   I never wanted to leave parties when I was drinking.  I always stayed until the hostess went to bed or the bar flicked the lights on and off, signaling that the bar was closing.   

I got home around 11pm, paid the sitter and went out onto my back porch to breathe the cool night air.    I sent up a prayer of thanks, of gratitude, that I was free of the need to drink in order to have a good time.   I said thank you for my friends, for the amazing people I'm getting to know in town.   

When I was drinking I would have been so fixated on having more to drink that I would cut conversations off in order to go to the bar.   I would hover near the alcohol all night, and the next day I wouldn't remember names of the people I had met, or what we talked about.   I would have a pit in my stomach, wondering:  Did I make a fool of myself?   Could people tell I had too many? 

I drifted off to sleep that night with a contented smile on my face.   I woke up the next morning, refreshed and hangover-free, and had a wonderful day with my kids.   I wasn't short with them because I had a headache, or because I slept that itchy sleep too much alcohol brings.    

There are difficult moments, of course.   But they pass quickly, because all I have to do is remember all the gifts I have received in sobriety.    I can be present in my life all the time.    Drinking felt like a prison; I could never let go, be myself, because my mind was constantly tugged toward the need for more.  

Now?   Now I am free.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Chasing God

I thought I wanted to talk about God.

I have started and stopped this post dozens of times.   It's a touchy subject.   People have strong feelings about God, whether they ardently believe or steadfastly don't believe, and I have felt fearful about dipping my toe into these waters.  Part of the problem, the reason for all the starting and stopping, is I'm still figuring out how I feel about it all.  

For most of my life, God was this unknown entity I thought about only in church.   As a child, I would kneel and fold my hands with the rest of the congregation, peeking out of the corner of my eye to get the pose just right.  I would close my eyes and think:  Um, hello?   God?   I don't know if you can hear me, but if you can I just wanted to say, well, HI. 

During the prayers for the departed, I would diligently name everyone I had ever known who passed away, thinking:  God, could you please look out for them?   They are really special.

I've done my share of Tea Bag Praying - praying only when I'm in hot water - but for the most part God didn't play much of an active role in my life.

And then I got sober, and all the talk about a Higher Power got me thinking:  what does God mean to me

People would talk about their Higher Power, and it didn't scare me or produce any feelings of cynicism.   What I mostly felt was curiosity.  I would hear people talk about their Higher Power like a good friend or loving parent, and I would wonder how do they DO that?   How do they just talk to their Higher Power like he is on the other end of some divine telephone line? 

Over time, I figured out what was wrong.   I stumble over the word God.   Not in a does-He-exist-or-doesn't-He kind of way.   It's just that the word God always produces a mental picture of a man in flowing robes and a long white beard sitting on a cloud with a ferocious, inaccessible look on his face.   I probably saw it in a picture book, or in Sunday School, and the image stuck.

So I tried to let go of any pre-conceived notions I had of God.   It only sort of worked, partly because I couldn't lose a ritualistic feeling around prayer.   I would kneel to pray and I would spend the whole time wondering if I was doing it right.   Was I fervent enough?   Was I allowed to do this if I wasn't sure about my feelings about God?  

I've been reading a lot of texts about Buddhism, and I'm really drawn to it.    Buddhism, to me, revolves around acceptance, compassion and nurturing an ability to live in the moment, to accept what life dishes your way instead of trying to control or alter reality.

What I learn in my program of recovery and through Buddhist teachings helps me understand that what I crave is spirituality, as opposed to religion.   I bristle at the dogma of religion, the idea that there is a right way and a wrong way to communicate with God.   I've never been comfortable with the notion of Heaven or Hell - to me it has always placed pressure on doing it right, like I won't be allowed entry into the afterlife if I don't follow a certain set of rules.

I heard this expression, which is somewhat tongue-in-cheek but rang true for me:  religion is for people who don't want to go to Hell, and spirituality is for people who have been to Hell and are looking for a way out of it. 

Active alcoholism was so all about me - about my pain, my ego, my self-esteem (or lack thereof), my fears.  Spirituality, for me, is the pathway away from the self-centered fear of rejection; it leads me towards compassion, towards acceptance of myself and others.

I pray all the time.   I don't worry about who I'm praying to anymore.   It doesn't matter, really.   I give my will over to a kind of Divine Spirit, having faith that life isn't about a blueprint of right or wrong, that life is about millions of moments, and inside each moment is an opportunity to commune with compassion and love.   

And you know what?   It works.   I focus my energies away from self, away from Ego.   When I pray, I don't pray for outcomes as much as energies.    I pray for guidance to do the next right thing. I pray for compassion, gratitude and enthusiam.   Most importantly, to me, I pray for acceptance.   When I'm trying to bend the world to suit my needs, I'm moving away from compassion, away from love, away from the Divine. 

Surrendering my will, getting out of my own way, has produced so many miracles in my life.   When I'm not trying to force the world to yield to my desires, I'm pleasantly surprised all the time.    When life gets hard, when I'm faced with a challenge I don't think I can overcome, I think:  Oh yeah.  I don't have to overcome it, because it's not up to me.   If I get out of the way and focus on gratitude, acceptance and doing the next right thing - moment to moment - my molehills don't become mountains.   Problems that seem unresolvable settle into solutions, bit by bit, that I couldn't ever have imagined.

Now, I believe this to be true:  the world gives you back exactly what you put into it.

If I'm putting negativity, pain and anger into the world, that is what I will receive in return.    If I'm putting compassion, light and love into the world, then I'm getting compassion, light and love back.

I may not fully understand how I feel about God, and that's okay.   What I do know, now, is that I believe.   I believe in the energies that flow around and through us all.

Edited to add:  I would really love to hear from you.   If you have thoughts about all this, please share.  I promise I'm not grubbing for comments -- I'm truly curious to hear other persepectives on this - it helps me to learn more.   

Thursday, September 2, 2010

A Letter to my Big Second Grader

Dear Greta:

You're a second grader now.   You said to me this morning, "I'm a little excited, a little nervous, a little calm and a little happy.   And I have the butterflies in my stomach."

You're so grown up now.   It seems only yesterday you were heading off to the first day of preschool, with your little ponytails and your first backpack:

Today you were chatting away about seeing your friends, about finally being the second grader on the bus:

Of course, your little brother was hovering all around you, looking up to you.  Someday, Finn:

Thankfully, there was an inch worm to distract him after you left, because he misses you when you're at school:

And, of course, we posed for our "First Day of School" picture, like we do every year:

I know the first day of anything brings butterflies of excitement and nerves, and you're so brave.   You have many amazing adventures ahead of you this year.   I'm so proud of you.

Happy first day of school, my big second grader.   We love you!