hand me another lemon.

hey life, hand me another lemon.

I dare you.

I’m not really sure if I’m being prepared for the life of an expert lemonade maker or if the universe is so full of sour that we all have to take on this much. but what I want to dive right into this week is how I have been feeling in this culture of “check in on your strong friend.” what I see a lot are the people in our lives who are the first to say how awful *insert struggle/crisis/trauma/grief* is. they offer advice and the occasional, “you’re so tough, this is only preparing you for something better.” I generally, and in the realm of faith, believe them as I am also reminded that this path was designed for me. I am never alone in my struggle; as I can, alternatively, always share in my joy. which brings me to the other people- the ones who cheer and congratulate how far you have come and how big the odds were once you have beat them. a friend who celebrates at the finish line. all these humans, full of kind words and support are necessary. but I’m wondering about the people in the kitchen helping you cut lemons. how very few times I am asked how I am WHILE I am doing the work, processing the feelings, or sitting alone wondering how I will make it all happen. now, don’t get me wrong, I have these humans for which I am grateful that ask me how my heart is and listen and show up. it is the casualness with which we tend only to validate the struggle and the victory that leaves me feeling pretty blah with interacting, most of the time. because no one wants to be uncomfortable or to hear a response loftier than fine.

social media has been an interesting place to observe the lack of appreciation for just being okay when okay is not your norm.

so last week, I took a break from sharing. I wanted to fully enjoy my evenings at home since work has been a huge tornado of 9am- 4pm intensive training days and problem solving meetings. I felt like I was playing catch-up all week. but I also needed a break from social media in general. I’d found an article about self care and shared, alongside it, some tips for friends of people with atypical mental health. I got a whole lot of friends asking if I was okay. I was. but very, very few of those people have ever asked me this before. they needed a flare gun to go off before initiating their kindness. most of the time, that’s gonna be too late. especially when the internet is your highlight reel. I ended up taking the story down. it made me feel guilty or like people assumed my happiness wasn’t real because I was also sad or that they somehow had an open door with which to discuss my stability.

the whole situation gave me weird feels because for me personally, this harvest season has brought with it a crop of highs and lows. in recent days, more external lows and internal highs, thankfully. but I am not one to hide that, even online. it’s sad that I regretted my vulnerability because I have been feeling more comfortable with myself. feeling secure in my ability to thrive not just survive. and with that comes less of a need to reach for validation. not that using social media always implies this, it’s just that I have often found myself aimlessly scrolling looking for the thing that will make me feel included or a page that justifies my thinking. I doubt I’m alone in this mechanism.

reflection is truly a humbling tool. one that I use to break my cycle of comparison. it helps me re-pattern my brain to be able to see beyond immediate obstacles. I want to be able to curate the landscape of my attitude. it is important to me that I honor the duality of each day and pay attention to my emotional response to each situation. this can be a struggle for the bipolar brain- keeping all the wires running and free of unnecessary kinks. documenting moments of my choosing helps to create a way for me to ease through irrational thought processing before it becomes a heightened reaction. this is how I have learned to balance my capabilities with my circumstances.

which is why I started The Pursuit of Joy Project at the beginning of last month. the list has made it to over 25 and I spent the better part of my free time away from social media reading over the moments I selected. (you can find them here) mostly, because I needed to find a clearer head space as I navigate through a couple life situations with inevitably difficult futures. (we are all fine but this mama heart is tired) I am finally finding an emotional place where I’m able to let my shoulders roll back and breathe through each moment for what it is. such a relief it has been to spend less & less time recovering from the lows and more & more time being present with my happiness. it’s nice to be able to share all of it with my humans even on the days I shut down and don’t want to.

takeaway from this week’s post- check on your friends, period.

be the friend that shows up for the in between. know that I ( and those in your life with mental health variances) will probably get by without you. they are filled with so much joy when they don’t have to. I have no idea what I would do without my people. I hope you have people too. if you don’t, you know where to find me. if you have the wrong people, the ones who only show up for the before & after to drink your delicious lemonade… reconsider your energy allotment. just sayin’.

candidly,

eliot.

*note- this is, in essence, my journal. you volunteered to read this. thank you for that. I have no intentions of ranting or educating about mental health. I’m just sharing my experience. not sure why I feel like all my posts need a disclaimer, but here we are.

check in/check out.

I didn’t really have a specific topic to discuss this week. in fact, I almost skipped this week entirely because we have been so damn busy over here. I have an exciting poetry reading this Friday that is occupying most of my free/creative time when we aren’t going from afterschool activities straight to bedtime. but I made a commitment to myself that I would produce content and speak out on whatever was in my heart, at least once a week. so, forgive me if this is a bit disjointed…

about this poetry reading- I do not enjoy public speaking or performing, at all. the element of catharsis is missing for me. but here I am, gearing up for probably the biggest event I’ve spoken at. it’s a lady-centric festival downtown with a stellar lineup of bands, artists, and performers. I’m nervous. I literally wrote my piece this week; a patchwork poem built almost entirely of captions pulled from my instagram over the last year. it is also the first piece I’m attempting to memorize and not read from a notebook with my forehead to the crowd. really nervous. butterflies have been going strong since I started recording my read throughs, which I usually do for creating pauses and emphasis and timing (if you’re curious). anyway, it’s going to be fine. this is the year of big things.

I don’t love performing, why do I do it? that’s been on my mind a lot lately. I think it’s simple- my desire to grow outweighs my fear 2:1 which I really enjoy about myself. maybe it’s a trait I haven’t admired about myself enough. and if I bomb, it was one moment and it’s over. a lesson that preparedness and passion get you to the edge and even if you never jump, the view is usually pretty decent.

along the lines of great views, we are sort of last minute planning a trip for fall break. leaf season in Asheville has been on my bucket list, directly behind blue firefly season in Asheville, for a while. we stopped through on our way to savannah last year and couldn’t wait any longer to go back. this trip is all about relaxing and navigating the forest so I won’t be creating any excel spreadsheets or making a budget. I’m going to see if I can actually enjoy vacation without micromanaging it. wish me luck. my only requests are a hot tub, the infamous Dolly Party mural, and some good food. open to suggestions on the last one so just drop your favorites in the comments.

i’ll wrap this week’s post up with a bit about my ongoing Pursuit of Joy Project. it’s been eye opening how much negative misses you when you open your eyes to finding the joy in other things. sometimes shit just sucks and you have to move past it. thankfully, there have been plenty of moments to jot down. but to be real, it hasn’t been without its trials either. a dear friend lost someone close to her and though it made for unexpected time with her, my heart was heavy with empathy/sympathy/understanding. I’ve also been wrestling a lot with letting go of things that don’t serve me but aren’t outwardly bad- friendships, habits, etc. it can be easier to walk away than to communicate the why’s and learn from them. I am grateful that I’ve grown into a person who can acknowledge the value of both, joy and trial, and I’ve learned how to use my voice effectively. so far September has been kind to me.

like I said in a previous post, this time of year is good for shedding. so I choose to let it and have faith that what is mine will stay.

as it is written, let it be done,

eliot.

vive l’avocat.

as if I needed another reason to love avocados.

here’s a bare minimum, crash course on the botanical/plant dyeing trend…

now, I firmly believe that crafting is equal parts perseverance & blind luck. so, despite the fact that every tutorial I read was thick with fancy jargon like molecular structure and ph balance, and had a laundry list of supplies, I embarked on this journey equipped with only six things: avocado skins & pits, filtered water, white vinegar, a (enamel coated) stock pot, my trusty wooden spoon, and some white clothing items I couldn’t bare to toss out.

I have been saving up the pits and any salvageable skins, making sure to scrub each clean. then left them in the windowsill to dry until I had 8 pits and a fair amount of skins. it is said that you should freeze them but I did not.

it is also said that pure, organic materials dye best. which is probably true. but I used what I had, which was a 55% linen- 45% rayon blend tunic that had many a coffee stain on it and a cheap cotton tank I got on clearance at target. since this blog is about personal experience and is, by no means, an education on plant dyeing, I’m gonna go ahead and recommend that you try it with whatever you got and hope for the best. there are also plenty of legit spots on the internet that will recommend pre-treating the fabric and testing the dye with ph strips, but you came here, and I found it to be unnecessary. to each their own.

the quantity of items you are dyeing and how many avocados you have accessible are going to change the variables quite a bit from here, but again, I’ll throw at you what I did and let y’all run with it.

I filled my stock pot about a third of the way up with filtered water and tossed in the avocado scraps. this needs to come to a boil and simmer for at least an hour with the lid on. you will be able to see the color turn from a latte/tan to pink fairly quickly. the intensity of the color will deepen if you’re lucky to a beet pink/purple. that will get you to the bright blush color that I achieved. if you want a lighter tone, shorten the soaking time or use less pits. darker colors can be reached with an overnight soak and/or super saturated dye. trial and error, of course. at this point, you can add in your fabrics of choice, making sure they are covered by enough liquid. I added in two more cups of water as some had evaporated out. stir it around every 30 minutes for the next two hours on a low simmer. the linen fabric was thicker and partially synthetic- in hindsight, I would have let this item marinate a bit longer bc the color took really well but washed out a bit more in the rinse step.

I made several laps of excitement around the kitchen and shouted several proclamations of magic while these colors developed.

nature is pretty cool.

remove the pot from the stove and let it cool down just a bit. a half hour maybe, before adding in the vinegar. I did a 4:1 water to vinegar combo. this will help set the color just like when dyeing easter eggs. give it another good stir and then leave it be. it was a sunny day that allowed for an additional two hours of soaking time on my deck. you can also just set the pot aside anywhere convenient and allow it to cool and soak for as long as you’d like. trial and error, of course. my rule of thumb would be to let it do its thing until the fabric is a few shades darker than what you want the final outcome to be.

for extra fun… while it all rested outside, I grabbed a few mason jars that I had saved from our easter egg plant dye experiment in the spring. just to see what we could make happen. I didn’t put these on the stove at all, sun bath only. and the results were mixed. I’d say the heat is a must going forward. anyway, here are some other good options for dyeing that I’ve tried and tested myself …

  • turmeric and curry- bright yellow
  • coffee and cayenne- rust orange to brown
  • onion skins- range from yellow to brown to orange
  • dried chamomile flowers- a very pale green/grey
  • red/purple cabbage leaves- bright blue
  • cocoa powder- a mauve brown
  • spinach leaves- pale yellow
  • hibiscus petals- bright pink

now, here are some untested ingredients that the fancy bloggers say will work: beets, black beans, almost any berry, cosmos flowers, goldenrod, dandelion roots, or onion skins.

Godspeed, but you’re on your own with these for now.

the last steps are to rinse with cool (not cold OR lukewarm) water until the excess runs clear and most of the vinegar smell is gone. I’d suggest air drying at least part of the way. I put mine on the drying rack outside in the shade but you can toss it in the dryer if you must.

after care tips- hand wash gently in cold water. air dry or toss on low heat.

see, that was pretty simple. I did this whole process while taking small breaks on a work from home day. it could have been even less hands on if I weren’t so fascinated by the whole thing. it has opened up a whole new world of dyeing possibilities, especially with spill-prone little humans. (and spill-prone adult humans too, for that matter)

I may never look at white fabric the same again!

 

À plus,

Eliot.

32 flavors of grace.

word of the year:

grace (noun).

  1. elegance or beauty of form, manner, motion, or action:
  2. a pleasing or attractive quality or endowment:
  3. favor or goodwill.
  4. mercy; clemency; pardon:
  5. moral strength:

my year started in a flood of beginnings. not just your typical new year’s resolutions but a divorce, a new job, and a new(ish) relationship all at once. pile that on to my existing mama life schedule and my forever attempt to maintain balance. to say I was overwhelmed, would be a gigantic understatement. being on the precipice of change can be the most exciting but I believe it’s how you hold it together while these changes unfold that says the most about you.

I think winter may be the best time for such things, honestly. the harshness of the cold is a reminder that it takes work to thrive. we can sit in our times of dormancy and allow the growth to stir below the surface but we cannot forget to thaw and bloom. it is easy to allow the ground to hold a grudge against the sun for all those grey days. so, I chose GRACE as my word of the year, hoping that Spring would arrive in abundance and summer and I would have a good laugh about all that wind and rain. surely, with many definitions to choose from, Grace, would be fitting for all the seasons had to offer me.

without diving too far into any one of my big life changes, I will say I have learned a lot:

a lot about taking up space & taking my time.

about asking for what I need and being open to actually receiving those things.

about how I wish to curate my life.

as a mama, I have three sets of eyes on all choices I make. I had somehow convinced myself that it was better to be content with what I had than to fail at reaching for better, for demanding better. I had not allowed myself the grace in failing. moving through these new things in my life, I’ve had to start paying attention to my phraseology. self-talk can be a mortifying mirror with which our kids reflect back how we feel about ourselves. I made a conscious effort to speak to myself the way I speak to them- with trust, honesty, and a realistic expectation of our capabilities. I watched my kids talk gentler with me as I became more open with them about how our future would be playing out. it’s always humbling to watch them learn the lessons alongside me.

I have also tried my best to invest the same communication with my partner, my friends, and all the other grown humans I encounter. the sooner we are all on the same page, the sooner we can move forward with positive energy. but you cannot force it. adults…it’s gonna be a struggle. Grace is not a luxury we often grant ourselves which projects into something we are not able to grant others. and, at the end of the day, you can only do that for yourself. it’s up to everyone else to perceive and reciprocate. once it’s tossed into the universe, you have to let it play out. which has been another lesson for me this year. I am not always at fault for how things come back to me. there are far too many factors involved. this is the grace of movement, of allowing things to come and go. I know I do not always make this easy, for myself or for others. not everyone gets the same dose of grace. but it has been a new practice of mine to apologize to all of us, where I otherwise would have retreated.

as summer ends and fall arrives to lay down all the “stuff” of this year, I can honestly say it’s sorting itself out. the divorce is final and my brand new, chosen last name (see first blog post) is an actual legal thing. (screams internally) the job is a most perfect fit for our family even when the schedule and work drives me insane. and the relationship is pleasantly private and managing to survive the twists and turns even when it has done the most evolving. I have seen how these changes were meant for me to endure concurrently. it was less about the what of the chaos and more about remaining who I am despite it.

I am not without failure. the lessons are still pouring in. my story still holds a lot of forgiveness.

and this year was hard. real hard. but I think I’m ready for the harsher seasons and the promise of another year to grow, fuller and wilder.

gracefully,

Eliot.

mama, do my thighs touch?

the first time I questioned the validity of my body, of the space it took up, I was in middle school. a boy told my best friend that she had nice legs. he said not a word to me. I sat back down at my desk watching the way my pale skin spread and covered the chair. took inventory of the other preteen legs and how they held shape, looked more tan, and had Less. with this simple situation the fascination began with my need to be less as a way to be more. at 32, I, of course, know better that to blame the boy for triggering this mental and emotional pattern that would continue my whole life.

this morning I sent my middle little girl off to sixth grade. clothed in enthusiasm and pride in her outfit choice. a girl prepared to take on middle school. she is strong and smart and funny. her love of herself extends just as far as her love of her friends and family. I admire and envy this quality in my sweet girl. but, do I fear that the end of her self-love is near? honestly… yea. it has me dissecting their conversations and paying special attention to how I talk about myself in front of them.

I over heard my youngest ask her sister if a pair of her shorts were too short the other day. the dress code for school was on the brain as we rapidly approached the end of their summer wardrobe freedom. I let them wear whatever they want, for the most part, and feel that school policies are antiquated and sexist. but, that’s a story for another day. as they rifled through their closet putting nothing back where they found it and executing the highest pitch excitement two girls can muster, I crept nearer hoping they wanted my advice. instead, my 9 year old spun around in her cartoon underwear atop a pile of discarded selections and asked, “mama, do my thighs touch when I stand like this? maybe that’s why I only like leggings and not jeans mom.”

now, let’s pretend that I had a reasonable response. that I was able to correct her for even asking because she’s beautiful and perfect in this body of hers. that I hugged her and reminded her how loving herself is a harder lesson to relearn as an adult so this negative talk had better get squashed. but, I sat on her bed and folded up clothes and asked her who told her that it mattered. I knew the answer. she had heard me on vacation complaining about my “bikini body” and how my thighs used to touch when I was fit and how I was thankful that being “thick & healthy” was in style now because these thighs of mine are blah, blah, blah.

having to answer for my bad habits at the cost of my girl’s is a game changer.

I have always talked very openly about my eating disorder recovery. doing a yearly check-in where I purge my thoughts and feelings on this self-propelled process of calling a thing what it is and making it better. this works for me. I know that I have to come home to myself so it’s best that I keep it tidy and treat it with care. up thirty pounds (give or take) from my smallest adult weight, I posted a transformation photo a last year. I had done a few modeling spots and was feeling confident in my curves and the new found sexiness that I could own. tucked away were the less present obsessive behaviors. diverted were times when I would restrict or limit. for the most part I was in control. I counted last year a success. enough to say I was moving through the disease as a battle and into it as a place of progress.

deep sigh. this is recovery.

being better has meant coming to terms with ED as an evolving disease. as it has morphed and disguised itself into healthy habits and #treatyourself and indulging in a society of often misguided self-care. I am starting to recognize that my behaviors have shifted from actual addictive behavior to an addiction to recovery. whoa, sounds weird, but in a social media climate that shoves natural lifestyle and acceptance down your throat it is easier to keep up the facade of recovery, even when I am not feeling at home in my skin. the mom community is perhaps the worst place for it, in my opinion. the life we live becomes only a small sliver of the life we curate for others to admire, criticize, and emulate. as if raising little humans isn’t hard enough, we also have to be picture perfect mamas with organic meals and eco friendly homes and little humans clad in conscious clothing. in reality, it has been a way for me use my disease as fashion, as trend. it demands to be stated that this is my experience only. truth- as hard as I am still working to maintain it is a bit discouraging to admit that I would love to lose weight if it weren’t so damn cool to be happy with who you are.

ultimately, I really am okay with where I am at with my body. I practice taking up space. the language in which I speak to myself is dramatically different, not perfect, but better. I keep myself, my home tidy.

call my current place in recovery regression, if I must, but I also call it awareness and grace. because I’m choosing to see the slip ups as an opportunity to change the way my girls will learn to love themselves. stopping to check myself because it is clear that I am already passing along some negative habits. by honoring the bad with the good and knowing which wins.

the year of BIG things.

“If I’m gonna tell a real story,

I’m gonna start with my name.”     -Kendrick Lamar

for the past decade, my name has been the most trivial aspect of my self.

trading it instead for mom. or calling sordid acquaintances by it. scribbling it on various paper works.

never has it felt my own or done much at all to describe who I am, who I’ve grown to be.

I had to think about how much my name actually means to me? the answer- not much. I wish it did. I would love to have a legacy denoted by a surname or a deep connection with the meaning behind my first name. other than the last name I share with my children, there’s not much else I like about it- sorry mom.

the way I see it, names are given to us by virtual strangers before we have any history to attribute to them. we spend most of our lives trying to live up to this title. presenting ourselves, name first, in almost every encounter. but what happens when our name is dictated by life not birth, can that be a liberation?

I believe it will be.

in the very near future, I will be divorced. my children’s last name will then be shared with their dad’s new wife. coincidentally, her name is also Stephanie. (trust me, this has gotten a few laughs.) I feel more unsettled about this aspect of the life change than I anticipated. my name will no longer be my own- whether I like it or not.  after struggling with the loss of this connection, I decided to craft a pen name, turned legal name (soon), approved by my littles and this is the place it begins.

when I ended my writing of 2017, on a magical night of poetry and read under my birth name for the last time, it felt like a release of all the topics and token words I had used to make my way through healing, like home and whiskey and ghosts, that seem to have found their way in to every single piece of writing on my old blog. they felt recycled and insincere by the end of this chapter in my life.  the piece I read that night ended with the lines, “I know I am a place to worship, even at my most empty. So, when I look my love and grief in eyes for the last time, full of more stillness than sacrifice, I will finally change my/our name.”

with that, I start 2018 by taking a breath. choosing to live a life full of captured opportunities, gratefulness for what is truly meant for me, and contentment in my own life. sitting in my hard-earned happiness until the words come back to me.