Huddle & Cuddle Guest Post

The following is a guest post I wrote a while back for a site called Huddle & Cuddle. Set up by Sophie of One Unique, Huddle and Cuddle is a campaign to help raise awareness of mental health issues by using social media. Influencers have teamed up to help this campaign and to spread the word, allowing people to never feel alone by sharing their experiences. Huddle and Cuddle wants people to get involved by talking to influencers, family members or a helpline about their thoughts and the challenges they may come across.

“Any drug allergies?” the doctor asks.

I’m seeing a new physician during the after hours clinic at my regular doctor’s office. I think I might have pink eye and I want to make sure the cold I’ve been nursing for a week isn’t pneumonia.

“No,” I say, which is a lie. But it shouldn’t matter. I don’t think the treatment for pink eye is going to involve the drug that caused me so many problems. Really, I just want to avoid the questions that come from the particular drug reaction I experienced.

“Says here you’re allergic to an antipsychotic medication.”

“I am.”

“What happened?”

Every appointment with a new doctor goes down this road.

“I had a psychotic episode when my daughter was born in 2005,” I tell her. “The antipsychotic medication caused muscle cramping.”

“Oh,” she says. “Are you on anything now?”

“No. I’ve been off of all medication for five years.”

“That’s great!”

“It is.”

Sort of a "before" picture during my perfect, easy pregnancy.
The exam continues (it was viral conjunctivitis and not pneumonia) and I congratulate myself on how nearly matter of fact the postpartum disorder conversation was on this day. It wasn’t always this easy.

My daughter was born in March of 2005, 7 pounds 4 ounces, beautiful and perfect. The birth was drug-free and if I’d had my full faculties on that first day after her midnight arrival, I’d have known something was wrong. It was as if my body was filled with electrical energy at the moment of delivery. I wheeled the baby’s bassinet from the delivery room to the postpartum unit as a nurse followed with an empty wheelchair. Everyone marveled at how well I was doing. There was no pain. No tiredness. Only this complete, invincible energy.

Sleepless nights became the norm. I did all of the nighttime feeding and comforting. I was going to breastfeed exclusively. There was no other option. Read the rest over at Huddle & Cuddle.

Our 15th Wedding Anniversary

It was the tail end of December 1996 when I was introduced to the boy that would eventually become the man I married.

Our first school dance together, Valentine's Day, 1997.
People called him Timmy back then. He didn't show his teeth when he smiled. He was funny and ornery. From the moment I met him, I never wanted to spend time with anyone else.

The professional wedding portrait, Friday, November 15, 2002.
We were married by a judge in the Washington County Courthouse on Friday, November 15, 2002 with our parents and my sister there as witnesses. The judge didn't even stand up for the ceremony. He pulled out a tiny notebook as we crowded awkwardly into his office. He surveyed us briefly, looked disgusted and croaked, "are you ready?"

We were and when it was over he commanded, "kiss her" and added his most sincere well wishes, "I hope it works out."

Summer of 2016 at Hocking Hills State Park in Ohio.
Today marks fifteen years since our wedding. In that time we've had four addresses, two dogs, and one kid. We've traveled. We've adventured. We've laughed.

There won't be any crystal gifts exchanged and he just got me a watch for Mother's Day. In fact, we're likely to forget to celebrate entirely. The usual routine is special enough. As long as we're together.

Quilling with Corrugated Cardboard

A view of the corrugated cardboard supply and the 5x7
photo mat I used to measure the cardboard backers
for the frames.
I am a Girl Scout leader and everyone knows it. Having a propensity for crafting has brought me all kinds of free stuff. Sea glass, jars, cardboard, corrugated flower printed cardboard, vintage pre-cut felt craft kits, and bags of yarn. These supplies have been arranged and re-arranged into two cabinets and a variety of bins. I've also got an extensive supply of field day games and fencing for a garden. So, occasionally, our troop crafts are planned with use of a certain ingredient in mind more than a specific outcome.

Such is the case with corrugated cardboard quilling. In a Pinterest search, I couldn't find much to do with this floral printed cardboard. I've got two giant bags of the stuff and when my first big idea (pawning it off on a preschool teacher) failed, I figured it was time to either hot glue it together or pitch it. I've found those are the two basic crafting options.

Fortunately, I found a way to use a whole lot of corrugated cardboard without glue. Even though the Girl Scouts are twelve and thirteen, it's best to avoid stickiness when possible. 

All of the Pinterest-y tutorials for this type of cardboard picture frame were written in foreign languages. Some languages were so foreign, they didn't even use our alphabet. This left me to figure out a plan of attack based on a few images. Since my materials are a bit different, I've created an all-new work of art:

Multi-Color Quilled Corrugated Cardboard Display Frames

A finished frame with seven others ready to be quilled by the Girl Scouts.

I'd estimate it took about six hours to complete one sample frame and prep seven others to be adorned by the troop. Here's what I did (in English):

Step One: Cut two small boxes into pieces and then over the course of several hours, hot glue said boxes back together to make them.... once again boxes.

The insanity of this operation occurred to me during the assembly of the third box. I used a 5x7 photo mat as a template and cut flat pieces of cardboard to make the front of the frame. Then I cut 3/4" strips of cardboard to create the sides of the quilled area. A piece of the floral print corrugated cardboard served as a backer and another wider strip of cardboard made a good stand.

Note: since the 3/4" pieces of cardboard give the frame support, I used the original boxes, flaps and all. 

Ready to cut that 5x7" picture frame opening.

Measuring to cut the 3/4" strips of cardboard.

Here's where I glued the corrugated cardboard onto the back.

Work in progress: two done, six to go!

Step Two: Cut the corrugated cardboard into roughly 1/2" wide strips. Cut until a bruise develops at the root of your thumb. Then cut more. Then decided the Girl Scouts can cut it on their own. (I'll let you know how that works out next week.)

I could use some scissors with a softer handle. Is that a thing?

Step Three: The fun part! Wind and coil the strips into shapes. Insert into the newly reshaped box frame. Keep jamming cardboard in there until it holds itself in place with no glue.

Note: Some of the coils did require a bit of tape to keep them from unraveling before pressure from their neighbors held them together.

This teardrop shape needed a touch of scotch tape to keep it from unwinding.

Here's a wee V-shape to fill in that opening between the two tear drops.

A strip isn't long enough? That's okay. Just add another and keep winding.

The work in progress. At this point, a sigh of relief that it actually does look somewhat nice.

Pinch the corners to make squares.

Keep pinching to make bigger squares.

Create shapes until the whole space is filled.

Our troop is working on the Cadette aMAZE journey right now. These frames are going to host some anti-bullying quotes to partially fulfill the "interact" part of the program. They can be reused at home as a Christmas decoration or as a picture frame. And the best part is that after our next meeting, I hope to be all out of floral print corrugated cardboard!

Everything's changed in the 22 years since I was 15

As I was rocking Taylor Swift karaoke on the eve of my 35th birthday, I had occasion to think about the twenty years that have passed since I was "Fifteen." That was already two years ago. It's been 22 years now since I was fifteen. This was written during those dark non-blogging years and saved. Why? Well, now it seems obvious.

So, anyway, I was singing my heart out that night and reflecting as follows:

In my head, I sound really good singing Taylor Swift's "Fifteen." As I belted out the familiar lyrics, I wondered what it would be like if you really “could go back and tell yourself what you know now.”

Here are a few things past me might be interested to know:

I was still hanging out with my childhood
pony, Sham, at 15. Younger me might be
surprised (or not) to learn that present day
me doesn't like horses. At all.
1. Boobs – At fifteen, I wondered extensively if mine were ever going to get any bigger. The women in my family are fairly buxom and it seemed a rather rude twist of fate to be sporting a pair of A’s. Really it was one nearly A and an A. I have pretty bad scoliosis which makes me an asymmetrical girl. By my late teen years, I’d discovered the Wonder Bra. I could take a punch right to the chest and never feel it. With the wonder of that special bra, my A’s looked like almost B’s.

At age 35, I could tell my younger self, unequivocally, that’s as good as it gets. The fall of 2015 offers no Wonder Bra that I can find. I wear a brassiere now due to a strange sense of obligation. If I was in an accident, I wouldn't want them just flopping around, would I? Also, the boys are getting lower.

Yes, all good news.

The fifteen-year-old me probably needs a dark corner for some alone time.

2. Skin—Countless hours were spent by that former version of myself cataloging flaws in pimple-prone skin. It was severe acne. Socially handicapping stuff. When is this going to go away? I wondered. How am I ever going to make it through this? I popped and I squeezed and I visited the dermatologist. I once gave up chocolate before prom. I coated foundation over red spots twice daily. Nothing ever worked.

Does the camera angle make my feet look big?
Yeah. It's just the camera angle.
Fast forward twenty years and I still have pimples. “Adult acne is much easier to control,” says the new dermatologist. She’s right. In the summer, sweat and sunscreen cause breakouts but the rest of the year things are kept in check by two creams and an adult me that can resist constantly touching my face. I’ve stopped wearing makeup. Totally.

It’s a victory for old me. Maybe. If I had hours to spare I could use them plucking those three stiff chin hairs that emerged at the 30-year mark. Or analyzing the five snow white hairs at the right side of my hairline. (2017 update: it's now over a dozen white hairs. Yay.) Those ones that cause my husband to sing Cruella de Ville’s theme song at me.

We’ll call it even, whippersnapper.

3. Feet—I’ve never been able to wear cute shoes. By age 15, I was sporting a size nine. It was okay. My mom wore size nine. It’s not like it was going to get any worse. Feet are constant. There should be no news about these puppies.

Except that my feet got bigger. I blame my kid again for this one. “Having a baby changes everything.” Even your feet. An especially unfortunate turn of events has me wearing shoes with a “wide toe box.” My new shoe shopping buddy is Ronald McDonald.

4. Friends— At fifteen, not one senior boy ever hazarded to “wink at [me] and smile.” The pimples made me behave like an awkward ugly duckling. Clearly, my high school experience was different than Taylor Swift’s after all. Boys aside, my friends were pretty cool at that age. We were all fifteen, took the same classes, liked the same boys, cheered for the high school football team. The biggest worry was which of the four lunch period assignments we’d get. Eating lunch with strangers for 180 days? No thank you.

Here in the mid-thirties, the friend pool is crazy. The obvious choice would be the parents of my daughter’s friends. Big thing in common there, right? Definitely.

But the sameness pretty much ends with the age and apparent compatibility of the offspring. I had one kid when I was twenty-four and then I was done. No more kids. She’s an only child.

No one does that.

Most people are just getting their baby makers warmed up around age thirty-five. Women with a ten-year-old kid run the gamut from those still having more babies to ladies with their uteruses falling out from disuse.

Sometimes it’s nice to talk about something other than the kid. Let’s check in with the class of ’98. We’re all 35. Should have loads in common.

You’re just married? I think I remember getting married. Sort of.

Newborn baby? The memory of that daily grind was wiped and I am glad.

Dressing your puppy in a tutu and taking it for a baby’s first birthday photo shoot? I got nothing.

It’s tough sledding in the BFF department.

5. Big Life Goals—Physical therapist, geneticist, landscape architect! At fifteen, I was jumping between fabulous career paths and their associated lives of awesomeness. Eventually I settled on corporate America. I was going to be the marketing director of a Fortune 500 company. That one’s written in the senior year book. I was an academic achiever. A mathlete. I was going places.

Twenty years later, I’m a wife, mother of one and an occasional (and mostly unpaid) writer. And I am happy. That life I planned wasn’t for me. This (except for the chin hairs, I could live without the chin hairs) is right where I want to be.

Fifteen-year-old me is by now completely and confused. Which brings us to…

6. It was pointless to try explaining this to you. Save it until you’re twenty-five. It will start making sense then.