What’s wrong with America, Part 1

Have you ever heard someone upon hearing about something dumb or frustrating exclaim with gusto “and THAT’S why America can’t have nice things!!”?  Or alternatively “and THAT’S what’s wrong with America!!”?

I have, and to explain what *I* think is really wrong with America (or at least one of a handful of things that I don’t think bode well for my country) I’d like to tell you about the first time I saw a set of dentures.

It was the mid 90s and I was on vacation with my parents in Maine.  We had gone to visit relatives that I had never met and that my parents hadn’t seen in a decade.  I couldn’t have been more than 6 or 8 years old and on one of my first nights staying with my Aunt and Uncle I found a set of dentures soaking in a jar in the bathroom while getting ready for bed.  I had never seen dentures before and I didn’t know anyone with any kind of fake appendages to be honest.  So my response to finding a full set of what appeared to be human teeth and gums in a jar was to step into the hallway and shout out into the living room “Mummie!  Does everyone in Maine keep their teeth in a jar!?!?”

For most people a small child asking a question in a rude manner would be a mild annoyance; something they roll their eyes at and then move on with their day.  But not for my Aunt.  Noooo, my Aunt proceeded to call me a “princess” and ask my parents how they could stand such a spoilt brat for a child.

To recap:

Because I had an adverse reaction to someone letting their teeth rot out of their head before their 40th birthday they made fun of me.  And the reason they didn’t have teeth?  They didn’t have dental insurance.

THAT’S what’s wrong with America though: If you feel like people should have a good standard of living, if you’re confused by a world where people let the teeth rot out of their head from lack of dental insurance, if you value proper hygiene then you’re a spoilt princess.  That’s pretty screwed up guys.

Not all my stories will be “political” so if you’re not in love with this one-no stress.  There’ll be more later.  This is just something I’d been thinking about a lot recently.

Lizz

Realizations.

So I started this blog because at the time it felt like the thing one does:

You lose a child, you grieve, you start some profound blog that offers advice, teaches a skill, or whatever.

But here’s the deal, it’s bullshit.  I have zero interest in teaching other people stuff.  I was a substitute teacher for a couple months once, and I didn’t enjoy teaching then either.  And while I enjoy crafting, it’s really something I do privately similar to how one uses meditation.

Want to know what I do enjoy?

Telling people stories.

I’ve lived a pretty colorful life and I like telling people the stories I’ve accumulated over the years.  So that’s what I’m going to do.  From now on this blog will be a collection of short stories of experiences I’ve had and maybe the occasional bit of philosophizing about what those experiences mean for the human condition.  Who knows, maybe I’ll tell you stories that could even make you laugh!

 

Vita Abundantior.

Lizz

 

A life update.

So I promise I didn’t mean to stop writing for 6 months, but it happened so I figure I’ll update you guys and start anew.

Earlier, at the start of this new year my husband and I decided we wanted to try for a second child.  It had been 12 months since Enoch’s death, and we were feeling positive about trying again and I felt like my body had really healed well enough to start that journey.  I got pregnant on the first try and then at 6 weeks and 2 days the heartbeat disappeared and I had a miscarriage.  I elected to let my miscarriage proceed naturally as I felt that route was the best option for my body, but after 2 weeks I needed medical intervention to prevent infection and to put an end to the excruciating pain I was experiencing.  At that point I had what the medical community calls a “D & C” where they dilate your cervix and literally scrape your uterus with what appears to be a tiny metal spatula.  I’ll be the first to tell you that while it’s a straight forward and even an easy procedure, it is by far the most painful thing I have ever had done.  (And I say that having had a c-section and one of my organs removed…)  If you ever have a miscarriage, and I sincerely hope you never do, definitely at least try the natural way first to try and avoid the D&C.

During my miscarriage I went to work like nothing had happened, and until the pain became so unbearable that I needed my husband to come rescue from my job to have the D&C no one knew anything had happened.  I intended to march on with my life and not let this get me down.  I knew the statistics (something like 20-25% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage before week 8) but those numbers didn’t help.  I began to feel like I was useless.  I felt like I was never going to be able to do something that 15 year old drug addled teenagers seemed to do effortlessly.  And I know fully well how horrible and self centered that sounds, but it’s how I felt.  I wondered what was wrong with me, I wondered why I couldn’t do the one thing I wanted to do, I wondered how many more times I could disappoint my husband before he’d give up.  And then I wondered what the point of my existence was, and that’s when I picked up my phone and called my doctor.  I recognized that my thoughts were more than merely being sad, or disappointed.  My thoughts were beginning to get dangerous and so I sought help.  I went back on the lexapro that saved me after Enoch died, and I began focusing more energy on creative endeavors, and with time I have gotten much better.  I’m not sure if I’m better enough to be able to go off my medication yet, but I know that someday I will be and that someday we’ll try again for another baby and that it’ll work out fine.

I tell you all of this for 2 reasons.

#1.  Miscarriage and infant loss is too often swept under the rug.  It’s not something you talk about in polite society.  It’s often viewed as something you or your partner have done wrong, and there is a lot of blame tossed around.  I’m here to tell you that all of that is bullshit.  The moment you are brutally honest with someone about why you have no children (“I have 1 but he died”) that’s when their story of their own miscarriage or their cousins ectopic pregnancy, or their best friend’s stillbirth crops up.  I do not know a single person who has never experienced some variety of child loss, or who isn’t close with someone who has experienced child loss.  So do not feel ashamed if you have lost a child/pregnancy.  It is not your fault, and it is not a shameful thing.  Celebrate your babies, both those you get to keep, and those you do not.

And

#2.  Seeking help for mental illness is not viewed very positively in America today.  It’s either something to mock (“oh, she’s crazier than a shit house rat” being a common phrase in my childhood home….) or it’s evidence of some personal failing, or weakness.  Let me make this very clear:  Reaching out for help in your darkest hour, when you feel like you’re nothing and you’re worthless, takes MOUNTAINS OF COURAGE.  Do not downplay how hard you work when trying to recover from mental illness.  And do not let anyone tell you that taking medicine for mental illness is a crutch or sign of the fact that you’re just not TRYING hard enough to feel better.  If you had diabetes, or high blood pressure, or chronic acid reflux no one would bat an eye if you were prescribed medicine to help you manage your condition.  It would be viewed as a very natural step in the course of your treatment to give you medicine.  And similarly taking medicine to help with depression or other mental illnesses is a very natural step in helping you manage your condition.  This isn’t a joke, you’re not weak, it’s not that you need to try harder, it’s that you have a chemical imbalance in your brain chemistry and you needed chemical help balancing that imbalance.

Please know how much I love you guys and remember to take good care of yourselves and be on the look out for more stuff from me this summer.

-Lizz

Comfort Food

Sometimes it’s easy to get overwhelmed.  This time of year often breeds that feeling with all the shopping, and doing, and holiday parties to go to.  There is a lot going on during the holidays, we all know that.  For me the feeling of being overwhelmed this time of year very quickly leads to feeling depressed because I feel like I’m spinning out of control and I should be better prepared for life.  It’s in those times that I need a little comfort food.

Comfort food, to me, is something that should be easy and fast to make, doesn’t break your budget, is preferably served hot, and is carb heavy.  This is not health food, I’m not going to sugar coat that.  But once in a while it’s ok to eat something that is unhealthy, if it helps you keep your mental health in check.  And the following recipe is one of my favorite recipes to make when I’m stressed and overwhelmed.

Easy Chicken and Dumplings

Prep time:5 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes

Feeds:2-6 people

Ingredients:

2 cans of Campbell’s chicken and stars soup (or the store brand equivalent.  You can also use chicken and rice, or just regular chicken noodle soup, or pretty much any soup you like.)

1 small to medium size can of canned chicken (I prefer the white meat kind , but any canned chicken will do.  Get what you can afford.  Do not drain the juice from the can before using.)

1 small bag of mixed frozen veggies (Think the mix you got in the school cafeteria when you were little:  corn, peas, diced carrots, chopped green beans, lima beans etc.  If you prefer, or already have on hand, canned veggies work just as well for this too, just remember to drain them before use.)

2 cups bisquick baking mix

2/3 cup of milk

Directions:

In a small bowl, mix the 2 cups of bisquick and the 2/3 cup of milk together until a soft dough forms, it’s ok if it’s a little lumpy.  Set this aside for a couple minutes.  Now in a large stock pot put the 2 cans of soup, the canned chicken (DO NOT drain the liquid off before hand, put that liquid gold right in the soup.), and the veggies, and bring the soup mixture to a boil.  The Campbell’s canned soup is condensed, so you should dilute it.  Usually the cans say one can of water per can of soup you use, if you do that this will come out a little thicker than “soup”, which I like.  But if you want a thinner soup (or you’re trying to stretch one pot to feed extra guests) add a third can of water to the pot.  Once you have the soup boiling for a couple minutes, spoon the bisquick dumpling mix onto the top of the soup in little ball shapes.  Make them as big or as little as you want, it’s up to you(they cook the same either way), and don’t flip out if they sink a little bit at first, they’ll come back.  Once all the dumpling mix is spooned onto the top of the soup, continue to simmer the soup on medium heat UNcovered for 10 minutes, then COVER the soup and simmer it on medium heat for an additional 10 minutes.  Now it’s done, spoon this comfort food into bowls, make sure everyone gets a dumpling, and chow down.

This is great for those nights between the thanksgiving and christmas madness when you don’t really feel like cooking, but don’t want to order pizza either.  In total you can make a meal for 6 for less than $10-$14 depending on what you have in your pantry, and what you can get on sale. This is a pretty big hit with most people I make it for, and it’s especially popular with kids.  I hope your family likes it as well too, and remember, the holidays don’t have to be “perfect” or stressful.  Just enjoy family time and don’t sweat the small stuff.

 

♥  Lizz

Incantations

Recently I’ve been thinking about my childhood and how it prepared me for my adult life.  To be totally honest, nothing can really make losing a child ok, or even prepare you for what that’s like.  But I think the experiences of my childhood helped me when I had to confront the realities of Enoch dying.

I remember when I was young, after my brother died, my mom would take me to the cemetery to clean up my brother’s head stone and take him flowers.  I think maybe it was a means of handling her grief, but she put a lot of time and energy into keeping his grave nice, and keeping flowers in the vases near his headstone.  I didn’t always understand her desire to go to the cemetery every week, but it always struck me that my brother’s grave looked really nice when there were other graves that looked just about abandoned.  They looked like no one cared enough to even visit once a year, let alone once a month.  I could understand how that would happen to a grave that was really old, like a headstone from the 1930s, but I always wondered how people could leave their relatives’ graves in such a disarray when their relative had died recently.

Especially sad to me were the graves in the children’s section that seemed abandoned.  I understand now, why a mother and father might not go to the cemetery very often after losing their baby; facing the fact that your child is dead is extremely difficult.  I know now that for some people, it’s easier to just forget about your child all together, than  to go take flowers or a plush toy and confront their death on a regular basis.  But as a child I couldn’t fathom leaving your child’s grave so poorly kept.  And it really upset and worried me that some of the kids never had any flowers or plushies on their graves.  I would often ask my mom to stop in the children’s section to visit their graves.  I usually pulled a flower or two from the bouquet we brought for my brother and would save them for graves in the children’s section of the cemetery.

When we would stop, I would read their names out loud, and read their birthdays and death days.  I like to imagine that by saying their names out loud I did something.  Like some kind of incantation, I imagined I could help them know they werent’t forgotten by acknowledging them by name.  Sometimes we would do the math and figure out how old they were when they died, but sometimes their age at death was obvious.  Because sometimes, their birthday and death day were the same day.  I wondered about those babies and their families especially.  How hard it was to not even get a full day with your baby.  I wondered what went wrong, what could cause a beautiful new baby, someone who should just be starting out in life, to die.  Now I know what can cause a baby to die.  I wish I could say I didn’t, but I do.

I never imagined as a child visiting those tiny headstones that I might one day join that club.  That I too would have a child eligible to be buried in the section marked with the statue of children playing with lambs.  But now that I’m here, I see how visiting the children’s section of the cemetery helped me prepare for losing a child.  And I think I was right: saying their names out loud is a ritual that should not be stopped.  Saying Enoch’s name, helps me feel like he did exist, and he isn’t forgotten, and I really hope that one of the parents of the kids in the children’s section found one of my flowers and said their child’s name out loud, and felt comfort that they weren’t the only one to acknowledge their child’s existence.

 

Lizz

Life Update!!

So I know it’s been a long time since I’ve posted on here, and while I meant to keep up with the blog during the summer, that didn’t really happen.  This summer my husband and I moved back to Fairbanks, Alaska.  We had been living in rural Wyoming, but after Enoch died we came to the realization that our hearts were really in Fairbanks and that it was best for us to move home.  Unfortunately, when we got to Fairbanks we discovered that the family we had rented our house to had completely trashed the place.  The yard was covered with trash: old appliances and stuff they had drug home from the dump, coke cans, candy wrappers, McDonalds wrappers, old 55 gallon oil drums, and more.  They had been running a dog breeding operation in our yard and from the dog house and feces we had to clean up, the animals were kept in deplorable conditions.  Then when we saw the inside of the house we saw that it was covered wall to wall in deadly black mold.  We had to completely gut our house and start new.  Nothing could be saved.  Not a single wall, nor window, not the cabinets, nor the appliances.  We even had to redo the stairs.   And so that is what my husband and I have been doing all summer:  trying desperately to save our home, preferably before 40 below hits.  While we have been working on our house, we’ve been living in our 24′ camper and so crafting has kind of taking a back seat role in my life.  (You never really know how much you love someone until you live in 194 sq ft with them for months on end.) I still have all my crafting supplies in storage, and when we move back into the house(hopefully in the next 30 days!!!), I will be able to do more crafting.  A long term goal I have is to build a small shed to do my crafting in, but that’s probably not going to happen until the summer after next.

In other life news I recently got a job!  (Finally!)  I am a school bus driver with a local branch of a nation wide company.  I’m really excited about my new job and I love the kids I drive to school every day.  It took 2 weeks of training for me to get my CDL, then last Monday I started driving the route I had picked for myself.  I drive about 120 miles a day, mostly in the hills around the fairbanks area, and I get to see some amazing views from my office!  It’s really a fantastic job and I work with some amazing drivers.  It also allows me to spend the middle of the day with Michael.  I like the way my day has a nice long break in the middle of it!  It’s like a super long lunch lol!

Anyway, that’s all that’s been happing since we moved in May.  I’ll try and write more now that life is starting to slow down/get more of a routine to it.

Much love!

Lizz

P.S. Here are some pics of the house:

“Before” of the yard:

trashed yard

“After” of the yard:

clean level house

DIY Crazy Quilt Covered Blog Planner-Part 1

So today I’m going to be starting a short series on how to make your own blog planner.  This project is a little involved, and definitely not for younger children (there is pretty heavy use of sharp implements and a sewing machine), but for those who are willing to attempt it, they’ll be shocked at how easy it is to make your own books!

First though, a supply list:

  • paper to use as book pages
  • heavy cardboard for the book cover
  • embroidery floss (you’ll see it inside the book so pick a color you like/matches your pages)
  • a curved needle
  • an awl
  • a ruler
  • a cutting mat
  • an xacto knife

Day 1 of DIY Blog Planner:  Book binding!

For this project I used a free printable blog planner that can be found here:  blog planner.  I really love her stuff it’s super cute and clean and efficient, but there are TONS of free printables to be found on the internet, and there are even tutorials to teach you how to make your own lined paper (or alternatively you can just use fancy scrapbooking paper!).  So this project can easily be adapted to just be a regular journal, or a day planner or whatever you want.

Step one of this project is to print whatever you are going to use as the pages (if they need to be printed).

To make this easy to bind as a book using coptic stitch you have to manipulate your printer settings a little bit.  First of all, you cannot just hit print and print the whole thing.  Because you’re going to be folding these pages into signatures (a section of pages in a book that are bound together) in order to bind them into a more traditional looking book you have to print just a few pages at a time.  The most common size for signature is 4 pieces of paper that are then folded in half to make 8 pages (16 if you’re counting front and back area).  To print Ruth’s blog planner in a way that will allow you to fold it into signatures of 4 pages at a time you need to set your printer to look like this:

how to print signaturesOnce you finish printing pages 1-16 you can then print pages 17-32, 33-48, 49-64, 65-80, 81-96, 97-112, 113-128, 129-136.    As each set of pages prints, it a good idea to fold it while the next set of pages is printing.  The way you fold it is down the middle in the order they come out of the printer.  That way when you hold that one little section of pages like a book the pages flow in the right order.  Once that set of pages is folded set it aside, and fold the next set-being sure to stack the folded signatures in the right order.  It’s SUPER DUPER SERIOUSLY I CANNOT STRESS THIS ENOUGH IMPORTANT that you DO NOT GET THE PAGES MIXED UP!!  That is a nightmare, or at least it was for me, and so i literally had to start over. Fold as you go, don’t wait to fold everything at once.

Also, it’s really ok that the last set of pages isn’t going to make a 4 sheet signature.  That’s ok, to have the last signature be “short”.  But if it really bothers you, you can print 132-135 just like you did the other signature pages and then insert it in the middle of the last signature set.  Doing it that way won’t disrupt the page order, and all it does is give you extra “notes and ideas” pages.  And who couldn’t use more of those?

Once you have all your signatures folded and stacked appropriately, take the top signature and measure it.  Use those measurements to cut two covers for yourself from heavy cardboard.  I bought a 3 pack of cheap canvas covered boards for painting and cut them up to be the size I needed. But if you want to do this on a serious budget-RECYCLE!  Grab yourself a box and cut the covers from that.  Don’t worry if it doesn’t look pretty-it doesn’t have to look pretty, because in part 2 of this tutorial we’re going to cover the outside covers with some fun, funky, quilting!  (Trust me, not as hard as it sounds.)

Step two is to actually begin binding the signatures together into a book.

I could put the pictures of me doing this part up here for you to look at and try to figure out what’s going on, but honestly it’s much easier for everyone to understand how to actually bind their book if I send you to view a free video on the subject and then come back for part 2 of the DIY Blog Planner.  A few tips I’ve learned through experience though, before you go watch the video:

  1. It really is MUCH EASIER to bind using a curved needle.  You can get them in the craft section of walmart for literally $2 for a 4 pack.  They might be labeled as upholstery or quilting needles, but whatever the brand you buy calls them they should be seriously curved.  Like “C” shaped.
  2. Waxed thread isn’t really important.  I’ve used both waxed and unwaxed thread, and I’ve never had problems either way.  If you want to make your own waxed thread so you don’t have to order some off the internet, just take a small tea lite candle and run the thread of choice over the candle to wax it.  Zoila!  Waxed thread.
  3. The thread I’ve found to be easiest to use is embroidery floss.  It’s nice and heavy, doesn’t tangle much, and comes in a million colors to match any project.  Also it’s cheap.  You can do this whole book on a single skein of embroidery floss with floss left over, and at my local Walmart a skein of embroidery floss is literally $0.33.

And now without further delay!  Go watch this video from SeaLemon on how to coptic stitch bind books so you can finish part 1 of the DIY Blog Planner and be ready for Part 2 (Decorating!!!) next week!  When you’re all done it should look like this:

blog planner collage

Hope you guys like this new tutorial!  I’m excited to show you my “cheater” method for crazy quilting using a sewing machine!

Much Love!

Lizz