Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Second Annual Blogoversary Giveaway Extravaganza!!! $50 Gift Certificate!

Congrats to Alex at Late Enough, who won last month's giveaway!   Thank you to all who entered!!

To celebrate my two year blogoversary, this month I'm giving away a $50 gift certificate good toward any item(s) in my shop!!

Here is a sampling of some of the pieces currently listed:

Choose from over 160 bracelets, necklaces, earrings and rings - or customize a special piece all your own!

Like last year, there are ways to secure additional entries:

1) "Like" my facebook page (see right hand sidebar) - TWO additional entries

2) Follow me on Twitter (see right hand sidebar) - TWO additional entries

3) Follow my blog (see right hand sidebar) - TWO additional entries

4) Tweet about the giveaway with a link to this post (please copy @onecraftyellie in the tweet so I can track it) - FIVE additional entries

5) Itemize your favorite item(s) in a comment below - ONE additional entry for each piece you list.

6) Last but not least - become a subscriber to my newsletter!  It is quick and easy  - see the upper right hand corner of my sidebar - just pop your email in box provided!  I only send newsletters once a month, I never spam and I don't share your email with any third parties.  And I always give GREAT discounts to newsletters subscribers only!   - FIVE additional entries!

If you are already a Facebook, Blog or Twitter follower, please say so and you will be granted the extra entries.

Please leave your email in the comments so I know where to reach you if you win (or email me directly at onecraftyellie@gmail.com).  If you win, I will send you instructions on how to redeem your gift certificate.

The winner will be chosen at random (my daughter draws a name from a hat) on July 1st!

This giveaway is open internationally.

Thank you so much!

Sunday, May 29, 2011


Today is my two year blogoversary.  

Lately I've been feeling sort of distant from my blog.  It's nothing dramatic; I simply don't get the urge to write as much as I used to.  It's okay.  I know these things ebb and flow.

But as I near the two year mark, I'm reflecting on the gifts this blog has given me, and the gifts are plentiful. 

Two years ago I didn't have unbelieveable friendships with these talented, warm, generous women.  They have changed my life forever:

Yeah.  She's that awesome.

Can I take a minute to talk about Heather?   She loves it when I gush about her ... (not).  Heather was the first bloggy friend I made, and I still wonder how on earth I got so lucky.   She is smart, funny, loving and authentic.  She sparkles.  Because of Heather, over the past year I have jogged through Central Park in  a TuTu, sat in a Yurt on a mountainside in California and flash mobbed in Nashville. Not to mention countless (and sometimes ass-saving) giggling phone calls.  She is a touchstone, a lifeline and a creative kindred spirit.   I love her to pieces.

Two years ago I was almost two years sober, and only beginning to find some peace of mind, some clarity, a slice of sunshine through the fog.  One day I spontaneously sat down at my keyboard, googled "blogging" and jumped in without the slightest clue about anything.  I see that moment now as some kind of divine intervention, a God nudge of sorts, because being able to write in this space has been so healing for me.  Writing here helped me find my footing, my authenticity, my voice.   

Two years ago I was feeling the doldrums of sobriety, 65 lbs overweight, and embarking on a journey inward, although I didn't know it then. Bit by bit I started getting honest, getting real, and pouring my feelings out onto the keyboard.  

I want to thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for being here to listen.  Your comments, your emails, tweets and facebook posts mean a lot to me.   Thank you for trusting me with your truths, too.   Your voices matter.  So much.

Thank you for supporting my little jewelry business, for sending notes of encouragement, tweeting and facebooking about my shop and helping to spread the word.   I'm hoping it's what I can do for work, full time, when Finn is in Kindergarten next year, and all of you are a big part of helping me realize that dream.

Thank you for helping me build Crying Out Now.  Even more than this blog, Crying Out Now is near and dear to my heart, and it is reaching thousands of women across the globe.  I wish I could share some of the emails I get from women thanking the team at Crying Out Now for giving them a safe place to explore, ask themselves some hard questions, find a sense of community and hope.   It is growing by leaps and bounds, and I couldn't do it without your support.

Lately, as I said, I've been flailing a bit about what to write here.  Each time I sit down at the keyboard I think: but I already talked about that.   A lot of the things I've been working on over the past couple of years are stable, at least at the moment, like my sobriety and my weight loss.   It is an astonishing amount of work to achieve stable, I'm learning, but I'm fearful of sounding like a broken record, so lately I've been giving those topics a bit of a breather.  

It occurred to me today, as I was pondering what to say in my blogoversary post, that what I've been doing lately instead of writing a lot, is living.   I am in a peaceful place, an ordinary place, and for the first time in a long time I'm wallowing in the regularness (that's totally a word) of it all.  Or at least I'm trying to.  

And, it turns out, regularness is hard work, too.  I'm trying to lean into gratitude, away from negativity and focus on the gifts. 

Like today.  Just a regular Saturday, but oh - it was so full of gifts:  Greta scoring two goals in her soccer game, and saving several more playing goalie for the first time ever.  Her proud chocolate-covered smile as she devoured a celebratory ice cream.  The kids splashing in the water at the beach - the BEACH - when one week ago we were shivering in the drizzling rain.  Watching them laugh with friends, build a hermit crab hotel and then squealing as the tide came in and swept it away.  

The blogger in me was writing a post - like a ticker-tape in the back of my mind - for each of these moments.   I used to beat myself up about it, wonder if the blogging was robbing me of being in the moment.   I realize now, though, that blogging helps me metabolize these moments, capture their simplicity and their beauty in a way that I never could, before.  

I am trying to live - and write - with a grateful heart.

Thank you for being on this journey with me.  I'm so glad you're here.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Out From Behind the Curtain

I was awake unusually late last night, after indulging in the frivolity of the finales of Dancing With The Stars and The Biggest Loser, so I happened to see the 11pm news. 

I had heard about the tragedy in Joplin, MO, where tornadoes devastated the community, and my heart ached for them.  Something happens to me, though, when I'm faced with incomprehensible tragedy; a mental curtain comes down and I simply can't process it all.   The photos are staggering - house upon house flattened, over one hundred people dead, hundreds more homeless in the blink of an eye.

Oh, those poor people, I think, and then BAM.  The curtain comes down and my brain shuts down.  It's the luxury of the observer: it's not my community.  My family is safe and warm in their beds. I don't want to think about that anymore.

Last night the newscasters said, with wide eyes, that more tornadoes were crashing through the Midwest, and once again heading for Joplin and much of the surrounding area.  

This time the curtain didn't come down, as I listened to a mother describe how she threw herself over her baby, in the middle of the night, to protect him from flying debris as a tornado raged near her house.  I felt her pain, the unimaginable fear.

I wanted to do something to help, but as usual I thought:  what can I do?  It's all so BIG.  And I'm so far away. 

So I was very grateful to be asked by the amazing women of  Bigger Picture Blogs to donate an item for their auction to raise money to help those in Joplin rebuild their lives.   It seems like such a small gesture, but it's something, and it brings me out from behind my curtain of denial to remember that this tragedy could happen to anyone, and it's important to help.   You don't need to break your bank account; each and every little bit counts.

Bigger Picture Blogs is hosting an auction chock full of beautiful items you can bid on to raise money that will go directly to the Salvation Army and the people on the front lines helping Joplin.   Every hour, today and tomorrow (5/25 and 5/26) a new item will come up for bidding.  My Strength and Hope necklace will go up for bidding tomorrow (5/26) morning, but it is only one of dozens of amazing items to bid on, starting today. You can help a devastated community and get something for yourself, too.  

Please, step out from behind the curtain with me and come help.   Bids start at $10 - only $10!   

Edited to include the list of items to bid on:

Wednesday May 25:

8am Assorted Watercolor Note Cards from Cards Direct ($40 value)

9am Art of Doing Nothing Poster from Tammy Lee Bradley ($28)

10am Gussy Sews Shop Credit ($25)

11am Thai Silk Pillow Covers from Jaime Shaw ($40)

12noon Hand Knit Market Tote from A Soft Landing ($35)

1pm Secret Hope Necklace from Create Beauty Daily ($38)

2pm Busy Body Book Bundle from Busy Body Books ($40)

3pm Handmade Ring Sling from Prairie Mama ($75)

4pm {So} Sack from {So} Sartina ($29)

5pm $100 Sweet Deal Credit from Mamapedia ($100)

6pm Pair of Spring/Summer Shoes from Hotter Comfort Concept Shoes ($100-140)

Thursday May 26:

8am Strength and Hope Necklace from Shining Stones ($20)

9am $25 Stonyfield Organic Product & Cookbook ($43)

10am Fractured Glass Print from Tammy Lee Bradley ($25)

11am DaySpring Collection ($40)

12noon Monster Softie from Samster Mommy ($35)

1pm Vintage Fabric Fat Quarters from Sew Lovely Designs ($20)

2pm Love Print from Beth Fletcher Photography and June Afternoons ($25)

3pm Flutter Sleeve Ruffle Peasant Dress from Smashed Peas and Carrots ($36)

4pm Camera Strap Cover from Eclectic Whatnot ($38.50)

5pm $50 Gift Certificate from The Vintage Pearl ($50)

6pm Logo Design from NW Designs ($100)

7pm Ultimate Fan Pack from Discovery Channel ($200)

Don't see anything you want to bid on? There are other ways to help:

•Donate directly to the Salvation Army
•Spread the word about the auction
•Post our button on your blog, Facebook or Twitter
•Tweet using the hashtag #Help4Joplin

Click on over to Bigger Picture Blogs and help out.  Your generosity is really, really appreciated. 

Thank you.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Roller Coaster

Finn is sitting happily in the tub, splashing bubbles around, and I'm fuming.

"Finn, get out of the tub. NOW," I say with a dangerous edge to my voice.   I've been standing here for about three minutes, holding out a towel like an idiot, waiting for him to do one more thing, Momma.  He loves my irritation; it puts him firmly in control.

I can feel it welling up inside me, a tidal wave of disproportionate rage, and I tremble with the effort to keep it down.

"It's okay, Momma," he says in a singsong voice.  "It's not like I'm going to stay in the tub forevah." 

All day has been a series of fits and starts. This isn't different from any other day, but for whatever reason today I have been on edge, tired and cranky, my emotions slithering dangerously close to the surface.  

"GET. OUT. NOW."  

Finn giggles and plops a handful of bubbles onto his head.

My vision goes white with rage; I'm so tired - so damn tired - of having every simple moment be a struggle:  where are your shoes, why did you take your socks off, sit still, no you can't have another snack, why did you hit your sister, put that down, pick that up, come here, go away.

"AAAGGHHHH!" I scream, throw the towel on the floor and storm out.  I slump down in the hallway, put my face in my hands, and count to ten.   It's such a small thing, but it's the proverbial last straw, and although I know I'm completely out of control I can't help it.

I can hear Finn laughing to himself in the tub.  He's won again, I think.  He invited me to a fight and I came ..  hook, line and sinker.  

It's no big deal if he doesn't get out of the tub right now, of course.  It's just that it's so close to bedtime, so close to silence in the house, my book and a cup of tea.  I can't get there fast enough.  

I take deep breaths, and try to calm down.   Through the bathroom door, I hear muffled singing.

"Momma's fwustawated because I won't get out of the ba -aa- aath.  I just want to play wif the bubbles, they are so fuu-uu-un.  Maybe if Momma played wif more bubbles she wouldn't be so maaa- aa- aad."

Despite myself, I smile.   The rage evaporates in an instant, and I poke my head in the door to see his slippery little naked body covered from head to toe in bubbles.   He grins up at me. 

"You still mad, Momma?"

"Kinda," I reply, with a sigh.  "I'm tired of you not listening to me.  It's very frustrating."

"Yes," he says solemnly.  "That IS fwusterwating. I'll get out now."

I rub his body down with the towel and fluff his hair into a faux-hawk like I've been doing since he was two.  He peeks at his reflection in the steamy mirror and laughs like he has never seen it before.  After he wriggles into his jammies he leans over and gives me a damp, warm hug.  

"I want to tell you a secret, Momma," he says.  He presses his lips right onto my ear and whispers, "I'm sorry."

This is what he does to me, my youngest.  He takes me on a roller coaster ride of emotions, propelling me into the depths of rage and then mere seconds later melting my heart.  He's a little obstinate ball of love, impish and thoughtful, testing limits and then running back into my arms.   On the good days I can maintain balance and some semblance of authority, or at least consistency.  Other days - like today - I'm putty in his hands, exhausted and too worn down to keep an even keel. 

My daughter is so much more like me.  We avoid confrontation, nurture and over-identify.   Parenting a child who is exactly like you comes with its own challenges, of course, but I get her. I can read her next move, understand her reactions, empathize to a fault.  I can count on one hand the number of times I have had to raise my voice to Greta, but Finn won't stop until he hears that magical decibel level; the one that tells him he's got me right where he wants me.

It's amazing, isn't it, how two children from the same genetic pool can be so different?   I have to split my personality to parent them; what works for one inevitably doesn't work at all for the other.  Greta, who hates confrontation of any kind, gets nervous and stressed out when Finn is in trouble, thinking somehow she's in trouble, too.

Finn needs constant discpline, needs to know where the boundaries are, and more often than not some level of irritation or anger is needed from me to get him to understand where the line is.  He loves the line.  He'd live there permanently if he could. 

It's exhausting.  And exhilerating. 

And tomorrow we'll get up and do it all again. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

On Not Drinking

Sometimes not drinking makes people uncomfortable.

Usually, it is when I'm hanging out with a bunch of Moms and at some point - almost every time - the conversation turns to alcohol.  Sometimes it is tongue-in-cheek:  is it wine o'clock yet?   Sometimes the humor is laced with something edgier:  all the coffee in the world can't touch this hangover.   Sometimes it is simply planning the next girls' night out:  how about Margarita night?  We can do that on a Tuesday... why not?   Usually, though, it is aimed at how moms deserve their wine after the long hectic days:  this might be a three glass night.

Eventually someone remembers I'm standing there and will cast a nervous glance in my direction.    Sometimes someone will say, "Oh, sorry.  Does this bother you?"   Sometimes there will be nervous laughter and a change of topic. 

When I made the decision to be open about my recovery, I did it with an open mind.  I never get offended when people talk about alcohol, or ask me if I'm bothered by the topic.  I don't get to choose how people respond to my recovery.

Sometimes, though, I'll get an edgy feeling, a little twinge of - what is it - jealousy, I guess, when I see facebook pages full of pictures of my friends hanging out, drinking.   I'm not sure what is behind that, exactly.  Maybe it's a realization that there are some events I'm not going to get invited to because I don't drink.  Some people don't invite me because they think it might make me uncomfortable.  Sometimes my not drinking feels like a downer to people who want to tear it up. 

I understand.  Being around people who didn't drink bummed me out when I was drinking, too.

A friend said to me a while ago (okay, after she had a few) that she feels like I'm watching everyone's drinking, keeping tabs on how much everyone is consuming.

"I used to do that, when I first got sober" I admitted.  "I was on the lookout for other people with a problem, because I was desperate to feel like I wasn't the only one."

I don't do that anymore because I know I'm not the only one, and I no longer need to feel better about myself by comparing myself to others.   I also know, now, that there is no way to tell if someone has a problem or not just from watching their behavior at a party.  The quiet one in the corner, the one who only had one or two but is going to go home and drink like she wants to, is just as likely to have a problem as the woman who always makes a spectacle of herself.    Either way, it's none of my business.

"I avoided you in the beginning, I'm ashamed to say," said my friend.  "Drinking in front of you made me feel so badly.  It would be so hard to be at a party and not drink.  I mean, everyone drinks." 

I felt a rush of relief.  It was so refreshing to have someone speak honestly to me about it all, instead of tiptoeing around the topic.   And I had to smile to myself, just a little.  Because not everyone drinks.  Not even close.

Eventually she edged her way around to her point.  "Do you think I have a problem?" she asked, clutching her wineglass.

"Do you think you have a problem?" I responded.  This is how I always answer this question.  And more often than not I only get this question from someone who has been drinking.

She laughed.  "No, I don't," she said.  "But I know I wouldn't want to stop drinking, and sometimes that worries me."

"Well," I smiled, "if you ever feel like drinking is becoming a problem, you know where to find me."

She was thoughtful for a moment.  "I read somewhere that people who don't have a drinking problem never wonder about whether or not they have a drinking problem."

"There is some truth to that," I said.  "It's definitely something to pay attention to.  But I also think that wondering about anything we do that isn't altogether healthy - eating habits, drinking habits, lack of exercise, the excuses we tell ourselves - is a good thing to do.   Far too many people wait until something is totally out of hand before they will talk about it   So I support asking questions, talking about things, getting information."

She nodded.  "I guess I think it's possible drinking could become too important to me if I'm not careful," she said.  "Is that bad?"

"No, that's honest," I replied.  "And very brave.  It lessens the chance that it will get away from you without you knowing about it."

Moments like this more than make up for all the awkwardness of being the only one not drinking at a party, or a few missed invitations.  

I love it when people talk honestly with me about how they feel about my not drinking, or their own drinking - whether they have a problem or not.   I love it when people ask me questions, like whether or not it's hard for me, or if I want to come to an event that will have alcohol.  I take it as a sign of love, respect, for my sobriety.  

I know not everyone feels this way, and I'm not recommending going out and asking someone who doesn't drink all sorts of questions.  Most people, I think, don't want to be singled out in this way, because the stigma is still so strong.

But I don't mind.  I love it when people email questions, ask me the stuff they don't feel comfortable asking anyone else.  I would love to see a world where someone wondering about their drinking can talk openly about it, like someone who is wondering about their weight, starting a new diet.   People often rally around someone starting a diet or exercise program - sometimes they even jump on the bandwagon, too.  Food struggles are so similar to drinking struggles, and I dream of the day when they can both be discussed openly, without fear and shame.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Messy Bed, Messy Head

I cleaned.

And I don't just mean tidied up - I purged; a throw-open-the-windows-get-down-on-your-hands-and-knees scrubbing.

I tackled my house - and my mind - with a vigor I haven't felt in a long time, sweeping away cobwebs of stagnation and infusing my creative space with a energy and light.

As my recent posts reflect, I've been feeling creatively and existentially stuck lately.   I woke up Sunday morning early to work on orders, and as I walked into my studio I felt a heaviness, a kind of dread, as I sat down at my work station.   Every inch of my desk was covered in detritus; beads, little snips of wire, discarded scrap metal, and it hit me:  messy bed, messy head.

My counselors in rehab used to chirp this at us bright and early each morning; we were required to make our beds and tidy up our room every day before morning meditation.  I grumbled about it every morning, failing to see what was so important about this menial chore.

Yesterday, it all tumbled into place:  my studio was a physical manifestation of my mental clutter, my stuckness.

It took me five hours, but I cleared every surface.  I scrubbed and organized and gutted out every drawer, every dark corner full of junk.   I rearranged my entire space, pushing my work table up against a window and separating my office space from my creative space. 

When it was done, I rubbed my aching back and stood back to admire my work.  I felt a quickening in my pulse, an eagerness to get to work.   I'll be damned, I thought.   It worked.

Next I tacked my in-home store (read: converted dining room).  I separated the store space from the studio space, moved in a comfy chair and organized all my jewelry displays.

Without any before pictures, it's hard to get a sense of the light and space this purging created, but it's much better.    I used to kind of dread when people would stop by to shop; my work station was always cluttered and messy, and there were no places to sit and chat.  I have more plans for this space, down the road: a coffee station, pretty display cases, a nook with a set-up to teach classes.   Now I can actually feel how this will be possible, some day.

I woke up this morning refueled, recharged and totally inspired.   I spent a few minutes just sitting in my studio, sipping coffee and dreaming.   With a big smile on my face.

I'm back.

Friday, May 13, 2011


It’s 4am; the world is dark and silent.

After tossing and turning for hours, I give up hope of sleep and tiptoe downstairs in the predawn darkness.

I prowl through the house, restless and edgy. It makes me uncomfortable, this sleeplessness, because it reminds me of old behaviors. When I was drinking I never slept well, and would often find myself sitting on my couch in the middle of the night, pondering about where things went wrong, and searching desperately for answers just about any place except where I needed to look.

I try to read, but my eyes skip across the page, unable to absorb a single word. In desperation, I step quietly outside onto the porch to feel the cool early morning air on my skin.

As the very first wisps of light appear on the horizon, I sit and think. And think.

I don’t like how I’m feeling these days, and I try to figure out what it at the root of it all. All I know for sure is I can’t seem to shake this restless feeling.

Finally, I slide down onto my knees. I haven’t done this for a long time, and I feel self-conscious, silly.

I stay on my knees, my mind a blank slate, and wait for some kind of answer to appear. When it does, it’s so obvious I almost laugh.


I can’t get out of my own way. I’m over thinking, restless and edgy, wondering about the point of everything. I’m groping for satisfaction like a drowning woman searching for a life preserver, thinking if I try hard enough it will appear. I’m living life like there’s a finish line just out of reach, a magical moment that will appear when I can say: there! I’ve arrived!

By now I should know that when I’m dissatisfied with everything around me, the problem lies within. I’ve wrapped my stubborn hands around the steering wheel again; I’m revving the gas but stuck in neutral. I’m caught in that web of self, where I think I can fix everything if I try harder.

That’s the funny thing about control; you can never have enough of it and you can lose yourself in the trying.

I came very close to throwing the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. Yesterday’s post is a telling example of my profound dissatisfaction. I was ready to shut down the business, chuck it all away because it isn’t growing fast enough to keep up with my out-of-control expectations.

I’m in that place, again, where I’m searching for self-worth based on what I do, rather than who I am; I've wrapped my identity up in whether (or not) I’m a meaningful financial contributor. I tap my existential foot and think:  I’ve been doing this for three years now, I should have more to show for it. What’s the point of the long hours, the constant juggling of my kids’ schedules, keeping up a household and maintaining a foothold in the social media world? It’s all just one great big shiny object meant to keep me from going nuts, but it will never amount to anything.

Perched on my knees outside in the chilly dawn air this morning it finally hit me: of course I’m dissatisfied, because I’m not doing my best and then letting go of the outcome. Instead, I’m looking at the world through my own skewed frame of reference, because when I’m in control I’m never trying hard enough, never succeeding, because the only way my brain knows how to motivate itself is to keep moving the bar just out of reach, hold myself up against all I haven’t accomplished, instead of all that I have.

When I surrender, get out of the way - work hard but with a grateful heart - I have peace of mind, because I’m letting things unfold the way they are meant to, in their own time.

In early sobriety people would prattle on and on about surrender, and I would think they all sounded like a bunch of quitters. Which, ironically, they were. They quit drinking, quit manufacturing the feelings they wanted, quit thinking they were ultimately in control.

Now I understand surrender, although it’s a difficult thing to actually do. Getting out of the way feels like giving up, but in reality it is giving over.

I have a visual I use when I need to surrender. I picture myself hauling around a heavy sack full of expectations and desired outcomes, slung over my shoulder and weighing me down.

This morning I mentally unclenched my hands, dropped the heavy sack, and walked away.

The sun is up, now, and the birds are madly chirping. It’s the start of a new day, and I step into it with a grateful heart. I’d like to think I know what the day will bring – I certainly have my own version of how I’d like it to be – but I’m letting go, simply along for the ride.

And maybe the Universe is sending me a message, because I went to publish this post on blogger, and the post I wrote yesterday is gone. I didn’t delete it (although I came close to deleting it many times yesterday); it’s just not there anymore. I’m sure it’s a Blogger glitch, and perhaps it will magically reappear when Blogger is up and running again (I’m typing this on Word, because I can’t access Blogger, but here’s me letting that go).

Either way: message received, Universe.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

No Knots

Three years ago this week I opened my Etsy shop.  

Jewelry making started on a whim; I was searching for some creative outlet, a way to channel all the restless energy I felt in new sobriety.

I trolled arts & crafts stores, looking for something- anything - to do with my hands, to occupy my racing mind.  I tried needlepoint, drawing and toyed with the idea of knitting.   Around here somewhere are the lumpy, misshapen and laughable results of these endeavors.

One day my eyes settled on a simple beading kit, and I thought ah-ha!   I took it home and started playing around, learning basic techniques through trial and error.  Mostly error.  One afternoon I was talking with a friend of mine, showing her the early results of my fledgling hobby, and she came up with the idea of creating twelve step prayer beads.   My idea was to give these as anniversary gifts to people in recovery; I never dreamed I would be able to successfully sell my jewelry one day.

A few weeks later my brother told me about Etsy, and I impulsively opened a shop, mostly for kicks.   Within a few months I was making a sale here and there, and I was hooked.

I could never have imagined a day when jewelry making would be a viable business, one that paid for my son's school and gave me a little extra money on the side.   Every time I sold an item I would think, really?  You really want to buy this?   I felt like a kid playing grown-up, but it was helping me stay sober, so I stuck with it.

The blog came about about a year later as a way to promote my shop; my idea was to talk about creativity and post about new items.   Almost immediately it turned into something else; I didn't think anyone would ever read the words I wrote, so I started opening up about recovery, alcoholism and parenting.    Every time someone would leave a comment, the same feelings of excitement and doubt would appear:  really?  You really want to read this? 

May is a milestone month for me, with the anniversaries of the birth of my Etsy shop and my blog coming within two weeks of each other.   

Lately I have been feeling flat, uninspired, on autopilot.   I get up every day and go through the motions - business is still plugging along and I dutifully make orders and toy with new designs, but the spark feels dim.   Since January I have released two new product lines:  hand-stamped jewelry and leather woven wraparound bracelets.   Now it's only May and I'm itching to figure out what is next

I'm starting to realize this is a pattern for me, this impulsive jumping into things and getting completely wrapped up in them, only to grow restless a few short weeks later.    Instead of sitting back and appreciating where jewelry making and blogging have taken me, I'm feeling itchy, bored and kind of meh about it all.    I spend hours daydreaming, trying to cook up the next big thing.   Lately I've been fantasizing about opening up a store, a kind of co-op for handmade artists to sell their pieces and teach classes.   I can't shake the idea from my brain, even though I know it's far-fetched and there is no way I can pursue this dream at this moment in my life.

The same thing is true with blogging, lately.  I sit down to write and stare at the blank white screen feeling totally uninspired.  I doubt myself, why I'm here, what I could possibly have to say that would interest anyone.    Like with the jewelry, if you had told me three years ago that my blog would lead to incredible friendships, an appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show and blogging conferences all over the country I would have laughed, and now I'm sitting here thinking:  what's the point?

Why?  Why do I struggle so mightily with the concept of enough?    What I have built here, on Crying Out Now and with my jewelry has far exceeded my wildest expectations, but somehow all I want is more

I know part of it is a lack of gratitude.  Even as I type these words I see how whiny, petulant and self-indulgent I sound.   I am grateful, truly, despite how it may seem.   I've noticed how these dichotomies live in me - grateful, but wanting more.   Content, but restless.   Happy, but bored.    Confident, but worried about not measuring up.

Perhaps it is the addict in me - give me a taste of something and I want it all.   Perhaps it is the perfectionist in me, who can't embrace successes for what they are and constantly seeks to improve, enhance, build.   It is probably a healthy dose of both.

I have to resist the urge to rip it all down, these things I have built, because some days it all seems so silly.    I know, though, that this urge comes from that self-destructive addict that lives inside me.  I am a chaos junkie; I love tying my life into knots and then seeing if I can wiggle my way out.   It's been a long time since I've created any knots in my life, and lately I kind of miss it.  

Recovery is about stability, serenity, gratitude and self-love for a reason, because these things are the antidote for that self-destructive, ungrateful addict who always wants more.   

So I'm writing about it, trying to wrench myself back into a place of gratitude, satisfaction and peace.  I won't stop dreaming - I don't think I could even if I really wanted to, which I don't - but I can't let dreams eclipse all that I have today.  

I don't want to be one of those people who has to have something bad happen to appreciate all that I have here, now.   I don't want to be that petulant never-satisfied person who has more than her share of good things in life and still isn't content.   I believe in my heart I'm not that person, but sometimes?   Sometimes, it's hard to see her.

Four short years ago I longed for stability, creativity and peace of mind.  Four years ago I would have done anything to have a fraction of what I have now.

I need to remember that, carry it in my heart in a way that is meaningful right here, right now.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

From the Ashes

I was working full time at a professional services firm when I got pregnant with Greta.  

I didn't think too much about what becoming a mother would mean for me.  It just felt, well, next.  I had been married for a few years, was edging towards my mid-thirties, and having a baby seemed like the next right thing.  Looking back through the lens of today, I'm embarrassed at my arrogance and presumptuousness.

My boss at the time chided me as my stomach grew rounder.  "Ahhh, diapers.  Sleepless nights. Crying," he'd joke.  "I'm not worried that you won't want to come back."

"Oh, I'll be back alright," I would answer with a sly grin. "Something tells me I'm not cut out for full time mommying."  

I would rub my ever-expanding waist line, though, and wonder:  will I be back?  While I couldn't imagine my life without The Job, without zipping off to major cities to meet with Important People, I made the wry comments about not being cut out for motherhood without much enthusiasm.   I'll be a great Mom, I would think.

When Greta was three months old, I decided to stay home full time.  By this time I knew that motherhood was tough:  long, sleepless nights, a colicky baby, my marriage reduced to a series of negotiations about diaper changing and naps.

In retrospect, I think I made the decision to stay home full time simply because I never backed down from a challenge.  I had something to prove.  A twelve pound ball of chubby cuteness wasn't going to kick my ass. 

I was all about control, struggling mightily for a structured day.  My life revolved around nap times, feeding schedules and constructive play.  When she wouldn't sleep when I wanted her to, eat on schedule or preferred crinkling paper to an expensive educational toy, I was reduced to tears.  The days were long and boring, but I told myself I loved being a mom, loved being able to be home with my baby.

I hated it, because it was so far from my vision of how motherhood was supposed to be.

I buried this nasty little truth deep inside, tucked it so far down into my subconscious that even I didn't have access to it.  It wasn't part of my plan, all this boredom, frustration and ineptitude, so I ignored the reality of my situation and faked it as hard as I could.

It didn't work.

By now the story is familiar.  Becoming a mother accelerated my burgeoning drinking problem into full blown alcoholism.  It didn't happen right away, but by the time Greta was two I had figured out that wine made it all better.

This is a second nasty truth I chose to ignore: motherhood propelled me into addiction.

Today is Mother's Day, and I have attempted to write a flowery post about motherhood at least five times, to no avail.  

I'm simply not a flowery type of Mom.

I adore my kids; I love them beyond measure.  But today I have to live in the reality that there is a lot about being a mom that drives me nuts.  I can't afford to live in a carefully constructed world of denial anymore, because I know where that path leads, and for me it isn't anywhere good.

When Finn was about one I had the opportunity to go back to work 30 hours a week from home at the same professional services firm I left when I had Greta.

This is it, I thought.  This will be the answer to all my problems.  I can be here for my kids when they need me and still feel like a productive member of society.   The best of both worlds.

It was a disaster.

Instead of the best of both worlds, I had the worst parts of each situation: clients who needed me when they needed me and kids who needed me when they needed me.  Neither side cared much about the other, and I wasn't measuring up to my own high standards with anything.  It was the beginning of the end of my self-induced fairy tale.   I slid quickly into the dark pit of addiction, and when I emerged months later absolutely nothing about my life felt familiar anymore.  I had burned it all to the ground, metaphorically speaking.

Today I know this unmitigated failure saved my life.  It forced me to start over, re-evaluate everything, and rebuild something meaningful, something real.    The family I nearly lost now felt like a priceless treasure, an immeasurable gift.

From the ashes of my former life I was able to sift through the lies I told myself, face some hard truths and embrace my own humanity.   My biggest mistake ended up being the most valuable thing that has ever happened to me.

So what does motherhood mean to me now?  Boundaries. Truth.  Love on love's terms. 

But most of all, for me motherhood is about surrender.

I no longer seek to wrench my children into a picture-perfect postcard of my own creation. I wallow in their individuality; I adore watching them develop into who they are meant to be, instead of who I think they should be.  

I go easy on myself. I know today that I learn far more from my mistakes than I ever learn from the things I get right the first time, and there are plenty of mistakes to choose from. 

At the end of each day, as I look at their sleeping faces, I think about the things I could have done or said better, but I do it with forgiveness and love in my heart.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


The interior of the ambulance is bright - too bright - and it hurts my eyes.  I desperately want to sleep, but I'm strapped to a stretcher and a paramedic's anxious face hovers above mine.

"Don't sleep, Ellie," he says.  "Stay with me now."

I fight to keep my eyes open, but I'm tired.  I'm so very tired.  

"Do you know where you are?"  he asks.   I wish he'd leave me alone.

"I'm in an ambulance," I mumble.   I can hear the muffled sounds of the siren and see flashing red lights reflecting off the shiny machinery that surrounds me.   There is a tube of some sort in my arm, and a beeping device hooked up to my chest.

"Do you know why you're in an ambulance?"

"Yes," I mutter, the past hour and a half coming back to me in a rush.  

"You were too sick to stay at the rehab," the paramedic says slowly, like he's talking to a two year old.  "Your blood pressure spiked.  You were vomiting blood.  Do you remember that?" 

He's shouting at me; why is he shouting?  

I realize I have closed my eyes again; the darkness feels so good.

"ELLIE!" he yells again, and then gives my cheek a little slap.  "STAY WITH ME!"

I open my eyes a slit and see his face at the end of a long tunnel.   His lips are moving but I can't hear what he is saying.   He grabs my shoulders and gives me shake, but my eyes slide shut and I lose myself in the darkness.


I sit up in bed with a start; my heart is pounding and I'm sweating.   What a horrible dream, I think.  

I take a moment to catch my breath and take in my familiar surroundings.  I'm home.  I'm safe.  My husband is sleeping peacefully next to me.   As I pad into the bathroom to splash water on my face, it hits me:   that wasn't a dream.  

That was a memory.

Shaken, I sit down on the cool tile floor, and I let myself remember.  


It all happened so fast; it felt to me like I went from nightly drinking to spiraling into a cycle of addiction almost overnight.  In reality, it happened over about a week.  It took me one week to cross the invisible line from emotional addiction to alcohol to physical addiction.   If I didn't drink I would shake and sweat and be filled with crippling anxiety.   The minute I had something to drink, the symptoms stopped.  I was trying to control it; just a sip here and there to take the edge off.  

Then one afternoon Steve came home for lunch and found me passed out on the couch.

In desperation, he checked me into a local rehab.  Nobody understood how sick I really was, how dangerous my withdrawal was going to be, because nobody knew how much I was really drinking.   Even I didn't know, so deep was my denial.   It only took an hour and a half for the withdrawal symptoms to become perilous, and an ambulance was called to transport me - urgently - to the nearest Emergency Room.

I remember that I wasn't scared at all.   What I felt was relief.  Maybe I would finally slip away, get out of everyone's way, quietly disappear.

The paramedic's name was Mike, I recall.   He fought to keep me conscious all the way to the hospital.   He asked me about my children, where I grew up, what my favorite color was.  He talked all the way there, struggling to keep me away from the dark.

At the ER they whisked me down a bright hallway, still strapped to the stretcher, and administered some intravenous drug to lower my blood pressure and take the edge off the withdrawal symptoms.  Then they slid me into a far corner, yanked the curtain closed in disgust, and left me there.   For hours.    I remember crying a lot.   I remember telling a nurse that if she would just let me drink I would be okay.    And then hours of staring at the ceiling tiles, contemplating the mess I was in.  

Many hours later, a hand drew the curtain back a crack, and a soft voice said, "Mind if I come in?"   Mike stepped up to the side of the gurney and looked at me with kind eyes.   "You look better," he said.  "You gave me quite a scare."

I was a 37 year old mother of two left forgotten in a dank corner of an emergency room, and the last sympathetic voice left in my life came from a complete stranger.  This is where alcohol took me.

"Thank you," I croaked.   "For saving me.  I think."  I gave him a bitter smile.

"Is it worth it?"  he asked without anger or disdain.

"Is what worth it?"

"Drinking.  Is it worth it?"

I looked at him for a long moment, waiting for defiance, bitterness or rage to come.   Instead, I felt something break, something give way deep inside.   "No," I said.   "No, it's not worth it."

He took my hand, gently, and said, "I see a lot of people die from drinking.  And do you know what they all have in common?   They don't think they are that bad.  None of them think they are that close to death.   It's really sad.  Please don't be one of those people."

And with that, he left.


I haven't thought about that night in a long, long time.  It's one of those too-horrible-to-think-about moments.   It feels very far away.  So far away that I tell myself that it probably didn't happen that way.

But it did.

And I need to remember.  I've been feeling really good lately.   Really strong.   My kids are thriving, my business is booming and I'm very busy.    So busy, in fact, that recovery is taking a back seat to things that feel more important.    I haven't been going to many meetings.  It always feels like there is a good reason, and besides I'm doing great.  

That memory surfaced when it did, swam up from the depths of my subconscious, because I cannot afford to forget.    Ever.   That desperate, forgotten woman lives in me still.   I'm grateful she showed up when she did, because I know that I can feel great all the way to a drink.    

It's one of the sneaky ways the disease can get you.

No matter what stage of drinking we're in, how far down the path we have travelled, this is one thing the disease always tells us:  you aren't that bad.

In recovery, the tense shifts, but the message is the same:  you weren't that bad.

When that voice starts whispering in my ear, I know what I have to do.  So I'm doing it.  I tell on myself, I ask for help, I reach out to people who understand.

If you're wondering about your own drinking; if you're reading this and thinking that woman in the ambulance could never be you, if you're telling yourself  'I'll never be that bad', consider this a warning.  

It happens fast, and more often than not we don't see it coming, because we're too afraid to look.

So please look.

Sunday, May 1, 2011


As I slide the last warm curler from her hair, I step back to admire the long dark brown curls cascading down her back.  A sigh hitches in my throat as I think back to her three year old self, when - desperate for some girly hair to play with - I would scrunch what little hair she had into ponytails that jutted straight off her head.

I sweep up the curls and secure them in a pearly white barrette.  Greta looks bashfully at her reflection in the mirror.   "That looks so pretty, Momma," she whispers.  "Wow."

She juts her chin up and shakes her head.  The curls sway to and fro. 

"You look beautiful," I choke.  

Color blooms in her cheeks and she casts her eyes to the floor, but she is smiling from ear to ear.

We're preparing for her First Communion later this afternoon.   The past few days have been a whirlwind of shopping, cleaning and checklists.   As she steps into her white dress, I take a moment to soak her in.

It goes so fast, I think. 

Two years ago she still had all her baby teeth, and now only one remains, loose and stubbornly jutting forward, refusing to come out.   It mocks me, this last remnant of her babyhood.

She slips her feet into her sandals, and I clip little white fabric flowers into her hair. 

"Let me get a good look at you," I smile.  She spins for me, and the dress swishes around her legs.   This long-limbed beauty before me takes me breath away.


The other night I perched on a stool in a steamy bathroom, quizzing her in preparation for a geography exam while she showered.

"What is the largest mountain range in Europe," I shout over the noise of the rushing water.

"The Alps!" she shouts back.  "Give me a harder one!"

"Name two landmarks in Asia!"

"The Taj Mahal, and the Great Wall of China!"  she replies immediately.  "And the biggest river is the Yangtze!"

Images of her little chubby self splashing in the tub, laughing at the bubbles, flash through my mind.  Now I'm quizzing her on world geography.

She giggles on the phone with friends, dribbles a soccer ball effortlessly past a defensive line and writes in a diary every night.    She pulls her hand from mine when we walk through parking lots, casting her eyes about to see if any of her friends are around.   

She is growing up.

I feel perched at the beginning of something - the next beginning.  There are so many beginnings, aren't there? 


That night, after the ceremony and celebration, I pull her aside and tell her I have a special gift for her.   She rips off the paper to reveal a pretty gold box adorned with handmade paper flowers*.   

"It's a God Box," I explain.   "If you're worried or anxious, or you have something you need help with, or want to pray about, you write it on a piece of paper and put it in the God Box.   It helps God help you."

She runs her fingers over the flowers and smiles.  "Thank you, Momma," she says.   I love that she still calls me Momma.   "Can I put things in there that I'm excited about, too?"

"Of course," I reply.  "You can talk to God about anything."

Later, as I read a story to Finn, she scribbles something on a piece of scrap paper, folds it into a tiny square and places it carefully in the God Box.   "It's something I'm both nervous and excited about," she says.  "Do I have to tell you what it is?"

"Of course not," I reply. 

She smiles.  "I'll probably tell you about it soon," she says.  "But right now it's between me and God."

I'm letting her go bit by bit, I think, but she'll never be alone

I lean over and give her a kiss, completing the nightly ritual we have done since she was a baby.   My heart aches for the day when this may change.    I smell her cherry blossom hair and stroke her cheek.

"I'm so proud of you, you know," I whisper.

"I know," she says. 

*God Box handmade by my talented friend Catherine.  Her Etsy shop, Ellis Lynn Studios, is here.
**Black & White photos by my brother, and professional photographer, Rob Strong.

Monthly Giveaway - New Item!

Congratulations to The Wandering Lady, who won the Little Cup Earring and Necklace set!  Thank you to everyone who entered!

This month I'm giving away one of my new leather wraparound bracelets:  the Green Apple Bracelet:

Click here to view this item in my Etsy Shop

This bracelet is made from beautiful Grade A Jade stones woven onto sturdy black leather (Jade symbolizes wisdom, mercy, humility, generosity, peace, and harmony. It is protective and lucky when worn as jewelry).

It wraps comfortably around average wrist sizes (6 - 7 1/2"), and is finished with a trendy silver button closure.

To enter, please leave a comment below with your email address so I know how to reach you if you are the winner.   If you are more comfortable emailing me your entry, please send a message to onecraftyellie@gmail.com.

My daughter will pick the winner randomly (she draws a name from a hat) on June 1st!

This giveaway is open internationally.

Thanks so much!