May 30, 2019

For Better or for Worse

I'd been awake for 2 hours and no breakfast. I took a shower, but the movement of my arm caused a great deal of pain. It's not going away. I'm dying.

I call out: "Can you please get me some breakfast?"

He comes in the room right away.

"Oh yes, what do you want?"
"Rice Crispies and a banana."

He brings me a bowl of Rice Crispies with milk, and a banana, unpeeled. He knows I can't use my left arm without searing pain. Will the banana strip itself?

"I can't peel the banana. Can you peel it, and slice it, and put it in the cereal?"

He takes it all away and a few minutes later brings me a bowl of Rice Crispies and skim milk, with a sliced banana in the cereal. 

After he walks away, I notice that the spoon isn't the right size. It's a large spoon, not a teaspoon. Who eats cereal with a jumbo spoon?

I call out: "Can you please get me a teaspoon? I can't eat cereal with a large spoon."

He brings me the teaspoon, but doesn't stay long enough to take away the large spoon. It's like he's running away from me. Am I supposed to eat the cereal with a huge spoon sitting there alongside the banana?

I call out: "Can you take away this spoon?"

He comes back and takes away the spoon.

I eat my cereal. It tastes good.

I get up, slowly. My laptop is in the way. I've got an empty bowl in my right hand and my laptop in my left. Searing pain hits my left shoulder area. I shouldn't be carrying this laptop, but I don't want to sit there with a laptop on my lap, and an empty cereal bowl sitting on my lap.

I finish getting up, and the remote control bangs to the wood floor. My phone follows. The blanket is in the way. I move slowly, trying to avoid tripping on the blanket and briefly wonder if my phone is broken.

I walk the one step to the bed and put my laptop on the bed. I carry the empty cereal bowl and spoon to the kitchen, place it on the counter, and walk back. I pick up the unbroken phone and the remote control and get back in the recliner. The pain is excruciating.

He comes back in.

"Do you want your laptop?"


As he hands me my laptop, he says "I'm making veggie chili tonight. Do you want cornbread or biscuits with it?"

We have a freezer full of food. Why is he cooking something else? What I really want is macaroni and cheese with a side of mashed potatoes. Any maybe some bacon sprinkled on top of all of it. I don't want healthy. For a brief moment I just want to be alone. It's not my job to figure out what we will be eating tonight. Just leave me alone.

"We have a freezer full of food. Why make anything else?"

"I want something healthy. We haven't been eating all that great lately."

So now it's my fault. It's my fault that I have a genetic heart disease. It's my fault that the coil in my heart moved and I had to have another surgery to fix the defibrillator -- the device that scares the hell out of me. It's my fault that you asked for hot dogs and tater tots, with a chaser of potato chips, the night before the surgery. It's my fault that you have no idea that cornbread or biscuits are not healthy. They are going to kill you anyway, so you might as well have real chili with real meat with real fat that will clog your real arteries.

I decide to take the high road: "You are doing all the work. Whomever cooks gets to decide what to cook."

"But figuring out what to eat is the hardest part."

Welcome to my world, buddy. I have to figure out what we eat every day. Now it's your turn. Deal with it. I'd been home from the hospital less than 2 hours when I got a bill from the hospital. And the bill is wrong. Despite my pain, I sent off a message to billing and explained why it was wrong. This morning the hospital wrote back. I was right. The bill is gone. There's $48.35 that I earned while in pain and fear. I'm handling everything. You can handle the life changing issue of biscuits or cornbread. And while I'm at it, no one eats chili with biscuits. That's just wrong.

As he leaves to go the grocery store, I call out: "Can you bring me back a frappuccino? With whipped cream?"


I can hear it in the "OK." I know what you are thinking. I need whipped cream like I need a heart attack. I don't care. I don't have clogged arteries and even if I did, I just don't care. Not today. I'll care tomorrow. Or the day after. Or Monday. Monday is a great day to start caring. I want what I want. I deserve whipped cream this morning.


He walks away. I love him so much.


I woke up around 4. I noticed she'd been awake on and off all night. She'd pick up her phone for a second to check the time and, even though she slept in the recliner, the light bothered me. I couldn't get back to sleep. I'm tired and the sun isn't up.

I want to go for a run this morning, before the guy shows up to work on our insulation issues, but I put off the run. I know she'll need me around to help, and I want to go to the grocery store soon. She filled up the freezer with food prior to the surgery, but the stress of another surgery had both of us eating poorly. I need some healthy food. And so does she.

Hmm. She's taking a shower. She must be feeling better. I'm so relieved. I hate seeing her in pain. I'm so worried that she's going to die on me and then.. . Forget it. I can't go there.

Finally finished upgrading our wi-fi so she can watch Netflix. She can't do much else, so this is the one thing I can do to really help.

I hear her calling out. I get up quickly to see what she wants.

"I'm hungry. I want breakfast. Please."

She has politics on. I can't be in the room when she does that. She knows it drives me crazy. But it's on and I don't say anything.

"What do you want?"

She sits there silent for a moment. Then: "Rice Crispies. And can I have a banana too?"


I bring her a bowl of Rice Crispies, with skim milk and a banana. Exactly like she said.

"Can you peel the banana?"

"Ok, do you want it on the side or in the cereal?"

"In the cereal. You know, I have a banana in my cereal all the time now. Remember, I said I really liked a banana with Rice Crispies, so I stopped buying Cheerios and started eating Rice Crispies with a sliced banana in the bowl? I mean I've been eating that every morning for the past 2 weeks? Didn't you notice?"

Must have missed that breaking news. I think it was drowned out by the sound of politics...

I take it all away and a few minutes later bring her a bowl of Rice Crispies and skim milk, with a sliced banana in the bowl.

After I walk away, I hear: "Can you please get me a teaspoon? I can't eat cereal with a large spoon."

I bring her a teaspoon. What do you do with the large one if you don't eat cereal with it? I eat my non fat yogurt with raisins with it all the time. Now that's a good breakfast. I think cereal is junk.

She calls out: "Can you take away this spoon?"

I walk back and take away the spoon. The large spoon. The spoon for which there is no obvious purpose in life.

I come back in.

"Do you want your laptop?"


I want to help. As I hand her the laptop, I say: "I'm making veggie chili tonight. Do you want cornbread or biscuits with it?"

"We have a freezer full of food. Why make something else?"

I'm not having lasagna or any of the other stuff in the freezer. I want something that isn't going to kill me. Or her. For a brief moment I just want to be alone. I want to go for a run, by myself. I want to go to Starbucks, sip a hot black coffee, and read my book. Alone. I don't want Netflix. I want music. I don't want to give her those pills or make dinner or slice a banana or get the small spoon or be here for the insulation guy. I want to get in my car and just keep on driving.

So I say, "We've had a lot of heavy food lately. I want something healthy. It would be good for both of us."

As soon as I say it, I know it was the wrong thing to say.

She tells me to figure it out myself, but as I leave, she calls out: "Can I have a frappuccino? With whipped cream?"


"Thanks, Mikey. I love you."

"I love you too."

I love her so much.


MOOD WHEN DONE: Grateful for the best husband in the world. I'll be back in a couple of weeks (maybe sooner?) with stamping!! 

May 22, 2019


Letting the color do the work here! Rub a couple of ink pads (Distress Oxide Picked Raspberry and Wild Honey) on some paper, and walk away while it dries. Stamp a nice large sentiment (from the Stamp Market's Bloominous), and add a tiny one (from Mama Elephant) that makes sense. Sit back and declare it done.

MOOD WHEN DONE: While I was working on this, all I could think of was how, when we were in school, we would say "hey," and the nuns would say "hay's for horses." I'm not sure "hey" is a word but I've given up on the grammar wars.

Speaking of 8th grade, our teacher (a nun) assigned our seats based on our grade point average (can you imagine that now?). The student with the highest GPA sat in the 1st row, 1st seat. It wasn't me, and a million years later I'm still grumbling about it! Funny, the (very nice) girl who had the highest GPA is now a nun. Fixed?

May 21, 2019

What More Do You Want?

My mom made essentially the same food every week (macaroni, meatloaf, hamburgers, chicken, eggplant in the winter, and hot dogs). It's a miracle none of us had a heart attack. Once in while she'd surprise us with something different -- usually a Polish dish that she liked or maybe she'd buy a pizza. Cooking wasn't her thing (it's not mine either). She'd put dinner on the table and say: "What more do you want?," meaning this is fine, this is enough, quit complaining.

Lately, when I'm stamping and (finally) make a card I like, I find myself thinking "What more do you want?"

Actually, I have a list but the inner critic must be quashed... 

Balloons from a retired Essentials by Ellen stamp. Stamped by paining Zig markers onto the stamp and then watercoloring. Hand drew the dots and the bows and strings. Sentiment from Altenew. All old stuff!

MOOD WHEN DONE: I'm good....

May 17, 2019

All About The Foiled Fox + A Sale!

I've got this bright card over on The Foiled Fox blog today, with lots of chatter (duh) to go with it. I hope you check it out here.

And the good news is that there's a sale going on!

I was delighted when Shauna Todd, owner of The Foiled Fox, asked me to guest design and thought I'd use this chance to tell you a little bit about the shop (she didn't ask me to do so, I just want to share my enthusiasm). 

I'm a customer. Here's my experiences with the shop as a straight up full pay customer (disclosure: Shauna sent me The Stamp Market's Bloominous stamp and die set). 

  • shipped in a day
  • free shipping in the US with you spend more than $50 
  • candy (as in sugar!) in the package
  • anything liquid or fragile was wrapped in bubble wrap (which I reuse)
  • what more do you want?
Foiled Fox is a family business (love that). Shauna Todd is the owner and her daughters, son-in-law, and her husband work together. But that's not all. The cutest part is that even Shauna's 7 year old granddaughter Mackenzie (Mac) lends a hand along with Oliver/Ollie/Ollibear, their granddog.

Shauna shared with me that, after a 40 year career, she finally decided to work where her passion is. When I read that, I was struck with how hard it must be to open a small business. Paper crafting is full of major corporations, big companies, and mom and pop shops. It's competitive. It's so much more than ordering fun products -- it's taxes and insurance and competition and social media and design and computers and shipping and customer service and stuff I can't imagine. I'm so impressed with folks who know what they want and take the risks to make them happen. 

Foiled Fox searches out unique products, and since Shauna is passionate about calligraphy, it carries calligraphy supplies. It carries many of the companies we see every day, but also a few new-to-me companies, such as PaperArtsy and Paper Rose. And I'm thrilled that they carry a large line of Penny Black products.

Ok, this is starting to sound like an ad, and I am not a salesperson -- just enthusiastic about supporting good people running small businesses. 

MOOD WHEN DONE:  Happy! Have a wonderful weekend. 

May 15, 2019

Learning Through Inspiration: Heather Telford Day 3

Please check out my post on the Penny Black blog, where I finish up my learning from the talented Heather Telford.  Thanks. I hope to be back on blogging here soon!

May 11, 2019

Happy Mother's Day. ps. Are You Depressed?

Gayle Madden (not her real name) was 28 and in my legal aid office. According to the paperwork she handed me, she was planning on giving away her daughters, 5 and 3, to the state. I looked at Gayle and the first thought I had was how uncomfortable she looked. She sat stiffly in the chair, her face scarred with acne, twirling her brown hair. After years of working in legal aid, I had learned how to spot someone with a serious mental illness. Gayle looked medicated and ill.

Eventually the story came out. Gayle suffered, and I mean suffered, from schizophrenia. I'm not familiar with current treatment options, but 35 years ago there wasn't much available to help Gayle, other than debilitating drugs. Gayle heard voices at times, was frequently forgetful, fearful, and disorganized. She couldn't work and could barely take care of herself. She definitely couldn't continue to take care of her kids.

It's horrible to be alone and so sick that you have to give away your kids. It's even worse when you aren't alone and have to give away your kids. The children had a father -- Gayle's ex-husband -- but he didn't want custody of his kids. So he had already signed away his rights. (Normally, you can't just walk away from your parental responsibilities and I never really understood why the state let him get away with that, but it had and there we were.) Gayle also had a mother and 2 sisters who lived about 50 miles away. They "weren't interested" in the kids either.

I had become adept at tamping down my emotions at work. You learn quickly to develop a bit of a shell in order to get the job done -- there's a lot of sadness out there. Sometimes we'd joke about our clients -- not in a mean way, but as a way of coping. I suspect that paramedics, teachers, nurses, doctors, social workers, and others with similar jobs do the same thing. But occasionally, I'd be blindsided by the sadness or injustice of some circumstances. This was one of those times.

I explained to Gayle that the court would have to find her "unfit" and that, if she changed her mind and thought she could take care of her children in the future, she would have the burden of proving that she was no longer an unfit parent. If they were adopted, there would be no such opportunity. In other words, once the Judge signed the order, it was unlikely her children would ever live with her again. She would never know what happened to her girls. I also explained that she would lose her welfare checks when she no longer had the children. Without her welfare checks, she would lose her Medicaid. Medicaid paid for her drugs and those drugs kept her out the hospital. But, we would help her apply for disability and get back her Medicaid. Her disability check would be smaller and it might take a while to get it; she would need to cope with that too. After a bit, I was satisfied Gayle understood and had the capacity to make the decision, so there wasn't much else for me to do.

A few weeks later we went to court and, after a short presentation by the state and no objection by me, the Judge asked Gayle a few questions and then declared Gayle to be an "unfit" parent. At that point, Gayle stood up, and in a moment of exquisite, heartbreaking clarity, told the Judge that she didn't think it was fair to be called unfit. As Gayle put it, it would be unfit of her to keep her children. She was acting out of love and concern, not neglect. She asked the Judge to please "just say I have been a good mom."

The Judge sat there silent. I fumed. Gayle was making the hardest decision I'd ever seen someone make and the Judge was inexplicably making it worse. So I stood up and asked the Judge to please tell Gayle that he agreed that she was a good mom, acting out of love and concern, and to please explain that the "unfit" language was an unfortunate technicality. The Judge then said "These proceedings are over." Banging his big dumb gavel, he got up, and walked out.

There was no happy ending. Mr. Madden didn't appear at the last minute to save the kids from foster care; the judge showed no compassion. There were no magic pills for Gayle to take and get better and regain custody. The children didn't send me a letter 10 years later thanking me for helping their mother. Rather, the social worker and I walked Gayle back to the street and we both went back to work. Gayle moved several times, was in and out of the hospital, but got her disability checks and had her Medicaid restored. And then I lost track of her. I don't know what happened to her girls.

It's been over 35 years since I thought about Gayle, but she was on my mind this week. I've been struggling with anxiety and a bit of depression lately. I know both quite well, and I have lots of techniques (including stamping) for squashing them. However, this week they got out of control.

Depression and anxiety rob us of simple joys and distort the truth. I began to dread Mother's Day. I'm not a big fan of these holidays anyway, as many end up feeling left out or disappointed. This is the first one where I had no occasion to make a card or send a gift as my mother-in-law died last May. I'm still adjusting to living in Dallas and I found myself wandering around the house trying to figure out a way to return to Virginia. I can't seem to make a decision about a medical issue and endlessly weigh the options.

As the rains fell and the sky stayed dark, my mood sunk even further. I'd walk in the house, put down a bag of groceries and cry as I thought of problems just mounting. I couldn't sleep, tossing and turning and feeling hopeless. I'd go on social media and resent all the happiness I thought I saw. I started thinking of every sad thing that has ever happened or could happen, including Gayle.

Remembering Gayle and her sad story changed my mood. Rather than make me feel more depressed, as I thought about her enormous sacrifice, and her children's circumstances, I once again was gripped with overwhelming gratitude for my life and all its gifts. Once gratitude took hold, there was little room to stay depressed.*

The heart decision could wait, and without depression's shade, doesn't seem that big of a deal anymore. The house felt cozy in the rain and thunder. I applied for another volunteer job (so far my other attempts haven't worked out), and I am looking forward to seeing our son on Mother's Day -- I plan on beating him at several board games! This is the first Mother's Day that we will be together since he was in high school. This is why we moved here. I began to feel foolish. If Gayle, whose situation was immeasurably worse than mine in every single aspect, could cope, so could I.

Depression makes small issues seem overwhelming and big issues impossible. Anxiety just messes with everything. Don't let them trick you. Don't let a holiday trick you. Don't let social media trick you. If you are struggling, perhaps just taking the time to remember all the Gayles out there will help you in the same way that it helped me.

*A serious clinical depression needs a serious response, whether it's medication, therapy, or other treatments, or a combination of them. Reading this blog is not a serious response!

ps. to all celebrating -- have a happy mother's day!

May 8, 2019

More Learning Through Inspiration

I'm happy to be back on the Penny Black blog today continuing my study of Heather Telford. You can read about my adventures here.

Here's a snippet of one of my cards --

Hope you like it!

May 1, 2019

Learning Through Inspiration: Heather Telford (Day One)

Here's a snippet of a card I made while learning from the fabulous Heather Telford. My series on learning from Heather starts today on the Penny Black blog here. Would love if you checked it out!