A Publication in August

Yesterday the Atticus Review published my essay, Book of Proofs. I’m happy and proud to have the essay out in the world. I was asked recently why I choose to write about my mental illness. The fact of my writing about my mental illness is such a fundamental part of me that I rarely think explicitly anymore about why I choose to do it. But the reasons are all still there.  

I write about my experiences with bipolar disorder so that other people with mental illness will see a part of themselves reflected in the words. When I was first diagnosed at age 22, I couldn’t find much writing that I related to. It was lonely, isolating. I hope to help people to feel less isolated.  

I also write about my experiences with bipolar disorder to educate, to try to instill empathy in those who otherwise don’t have much experience with mental illness. The first time I was hospitalized, I found myself in an emergency room surrounded by people who didn’t treat me like I was a person too. I overheard one doctor say to my then boyfriend that I wouldn’t remember anything that was happening because I was mentally too far gone. Since they believed I wouldn’t remember anything, they didn’t bother to explain to me what was going on, or to say kind words. The experience, to put it mildly, was traumatic. I vowed to write about what I remembered to teach people that even while insane, I was human, and worthy of compassionate care. To teach people that anyone with a mental illness is human, and worthy of compassionate care.  

This essay began its life as a series of poems. These poems formed a section of my poetry book which appeared in my MFA dissertation. I tried for years to get the poems published with little success. Eventually, I took out all the line breaks, added some text, cut some text, moved things around, and turned the poems into this essay. I showed it to a writing friend, who was encouraging, and then sat on it for four years. This summer I found the essay in my files, cut the part my friend had suggested I cut, and sent it to the Atticus Review with a promise to myself that I’d send it to many other magazines this fall when submission periods opened. Only, to my great shock and delight, the Atticus Review accepted it. It is published now in their latest issue, and I’m so proud to be a part of it.

Joy Brings Me Back

It has been no secret inside my head that part of the hope behind my year of chasing joy was that it would start to lead me back to writing. For a long time after my son was born, writing was a pursuit on the margins of my life. He simply needed me too much, and I wrote at most 1-2 hours a week, often with him pounding on the closed office doors demanding to be let in. But eventually he started school, and time began to open up. Not as much time as you’d think, since I volunteered at school, there were therapy and doctor appointments, etc. But there was more time. And as he got older my school volunteering tapered off at his request, so there was even more time. But there wasn’t any joy. More and more I dreaded approaching the page. I dreaded working on my bipolar parenting memoir. When I did work on it, it felt terrible. The joy was simply not there, ever, it seemed.  

So I started using my time for other things. Embroidery at first. Then cross stitch. Then sewing, knitting, spinning, wool processing, sewing little quilts by hand, … As I’ve said, I gave myself permission to chase whatever joy I wanted to chase. And a little voice in my head said, maybe if you do this, you will find that sometimes writing brings you joy.  

I started returning to writing a couple months ago. I reread some old essays and found one that seemed done but had never been submitted anywhere. I submitted it to one place and promised myself I’d submit to many more this fall, when many magazines open for submissions. I took another essay that I’d been submitting for three years with no luck, and I submitted it to Mutha Magazine, which I’ve published in before. I sent it with a note, explaining that I knew the essay was wildly beyond their length limits, but that I thought it had value, and maybe she’d accept a part of it, or all of it installments? And I took yet another essay, a hard essay, one that deals with things I’ve been trying not to deal with for years (namely the childhood abuse I grew up with), and I started to work on it too.  

I’m still working on that essay. I think I’m getting close to being able to submit it to a bunch of places in September. It’s painful, working on it, but beneath the pain there is a sort of deep joy? I don’t exactly understand but it is there. In the meantime, that essay I submitted to one single magazine? That magazine accepted it and will publish it in August. And Meg, the head editor of Mutha, got back to me and said she’d like to take at least part of my essay, and then she got back to me a month later, and said she’d like to publish the whole thing in two installments, with her edits.  

I looked at the edits yesterday and was nearly moved to tears. She made the essay much shorter and fast moving but kept the parts that were important. She clearly spent a lot of time giving her loving editorial care to my words, more time than any editor has spent on my writing before, and I’m grateful. And joyful to know that the first of two installments will appear in Mutha in August or September.  

That’s my joy report. The chasing of joy is bringing me back to words. I’m not abandoning the rest of the stuff. I’ve got sewing plans, big ones. I’ve got three knitting projects going — a sweater, a colorwork and cabled sock, and a simple sock. I’m still spinning. I washed a damn fleece, found it was infested with wool moth grubs, and then by God found and washed a different fleece, which I’m learning to comb and spin. I’m ridiculous, and so very happy, even as parts of my life have been hard. That abuse essay, I think working on it inspired me to take a stand I didn’t have the bravery to take before. And that’s not easy. But behind it, the pain and the awfulness of it all, there is joy.

The Year of Chasing Joy

At the start of 2023, I didn’t exactly make a resolution, but I sort of organically came to the conclusion that this was going to be a year of chasing joy. As in, I was actively going to pursue the things that bring me joy to fullest extent possible, without worries about what I “should” be doing, if I was being reasonable or practical, none of that. Just, if it brought me joy, I was going to chase it. I’ve been calling it the Year of Chasing Joy in my head.

And I’ve been doing, I must say, a really good job of doing just that. I’ve still been doing mothering, and household tasks, and writing for church fundraising-type purposes. I’ve been a friend, and a wife, and things like that. But in the rest of my time, which is fairly plentiful, I’ve been chasing joy. I’ve continued on with sewing and embroidery, also re-learned how to knit, and started spinning. And other stuff too.


And, in my latest ridiculous pursuit, I’ve decided I really want to obtain a couple fleeces (you know, from sheep) and learn how to process them myself before I spin them. I’ve been doing research and networking and I think I’m on my way to getting a local Shetland fleece and a local Finn fleece. I found someone on my local No Buy group who also processes wool and offered to have me over for a demonstration. I’ve been learning online, but of course in person connections are excellent, and I’m definitely taking her up on this offer.

In the past, I also would find rabbit holes and dive down them with research. But I mostly wouldn’t actually complete the circuit and actually do the new thing I was researching. Because that would be silly. That would be too much. That wouldn’t be reasonable or practical. Because there were so many other things I should be doing. But this year, I don’t care about should. I’ve defined my responsibilities that I do not want to flake out on, and the rest of my time is for chasing joy.

And this month, that means texting and emailing sheep farmers, making plans to meet them at the upcoming Fiber Gathering in Edgewood, and learning how to scour, comb, and card my own wool. And also spin wool. And knit wool. And hand sew little quilts. And sew my own clothes. And learn a new form of embroidery with wool. And sew bags. It is ridiculous, and silly, and excessive, and I’ve NEVER had so much fun before. I’ve been so happy, even with my arthritic knees and various psychic wounds that I’ve been carrying around for decades.

So, if you’ve been wondering, this is a Year of Chasing Joy. Don’t worry about me. I’m just doing a thing. And I’m so lucky to be able to do it.

Doing it the Hard Way

I make excellent oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. The recipe isn’t a big secret. I found it online at the Quaker Oats site.  But the cookies are chewy and just what a cookie should be. I think I like them even better than regular chocolate chip cookies. Almost three years ago I baked a batch for my son’s birthday and sent him to school with them. He came home and said one of the kids told him it was the best cookie she’d ever had. A day later, the schools shut down because of the pandemic, but I like to think that wasn’t my cookies’ fault.

Today I baked a batch to send to school again. Tomorrow my son’s class is having a holiday party, and he requested the cookies. I have a stand mixer that lives on the counter, so making cookies is a breeze. But, for some reason I don’t entirely understand, I didn’t use it for the cookies today. Instead I creamed the butter and sugar together with a wooden spoon and my own muscles. By the time everything was as it should be, my arms were spent. The whole time I kept telling myself I could just use the mixer, but somehow using my arm strength and a spoon seemed easier.

The cookies turned out just right. 30 of them are in a tin for the class party tomorrow. Ten of them were designated for home, and we’ve been enjoying them. I had my cookie with a cup of decaf earl gray tea. There is no big moral or meaning in this story. Just, I made cookies today. I did it the hard way, and they came out well. Tomorrow a classroom of kids will eat them, and hopefully one or two will think, wow. Good cookie.

Special Breakfast

Every Sunday morning our family has what we fondly call Special Breakfast. I started making Special Breakfast on Sunday morning when my son was small, pretty much pre-verbal in fact. At first, I made the same pancake recipe every week. I remember one week my tiny son coming downstairs, seeing me at work in the kitchen, and running over to me, pointing and grinning and saying “Cake! Cake!” It felt good to be appreciated.

My Sunday morning efforts are still appreciated, though I’m not necessarily told so every week. I’ve branched out from the weekly pancakes, and now also make things like muffins and turkey bacon, biscuits and gravy, waffles, and more. I don’t always feel like cooking on Sunday morning, but I don’t like to break the tradition. And if I really don’t feel like cooking, I can always order doughnuts or breakfast burritos.

This morning I made banana muffins with chocolate chips and turkey bacon. In a break from tradition, we ate in front of the tv. That’s because the World Cup was on, and my husband decided we should watch. He’s mostly given up his old football habit, so it is rare that our family watches sports together these days. It was a treat this morning to watch the game and root for Argentina. I don’t think anyone remembered to thank me for making muffins, not until I gave myself a compliment. But it was still a good morning.

I stepped away from the game for an hour to attend Zoom church for my UU congregation. We’re hunkering down a bit right now in an attempt to avoid illness — it seems everyone around us is sick with something — and I’m grateful that Zoom church is still an option. It’s good to be connected, even as we aren’t seeing very many people in person right now. I suppose that is part of why I’ve been doing this daily blogging thing this month. It is a little tendril sent out into the world even as I mostly am sticking to home. Saying, hi, hello, we are still here, hope you are here too.

Early Morning

I’ve been waking early for months now. And by early, I mean this morning I got up at 4:30. I try to stay in bed until 5:00, but sometimes I just can’t manage it. I don’t want to wake this early. I’d much rather sleep until 6:00 or so, but my body has other ideas. This morning I padded around the kitchen and brewed the morning coffee, all before 5:00 a.m. After drinking a cup and reading the internet, I settled back in with my stitching.

I’m making good progress. I’d say I’m about halfway done with it, and this is the morning of my third day with the project. My husband still hasn’t mentioned it, despite my working on it with him mere feet away. At this point, I’m not sure if he just isn’t paying attention, if he’s messing with me, or if he’s politely not mentioning it because he knows it is meant as a gift for him. Me, I’m used to idly chatting about my stitching with him from time to time as I work and it feels really weird not doing so. I sort of wish he’d comment on it so that my circle of silence could be lifted.

But it remains good, working on the project. I’m still meditating on my late mother-in-law, and yesterday I made good headway into an audiobook too. She was a big fan of audiobooks, so that seems fitting for the project as well. I think she would have liked this one. It’s The Sewing Machine by Natalie Fergie, and I chose it for obvious reasons.

I’m looking forward to a quiet weekend of working on the piece, and also sheparding my 5th grader through a 5-paragraph research essay he has due on Monday morning. He’s already put together his outline for it, and I think won’t need help besides my company in the room while he works. He does prefer to have company while he does homework, even as he doesn’t want that company giving too much advice or otherwise interfering.

I taught high school for two years, and then undergrad 101 and 102 writing courses for around six years, so I’ve got Opinions about essay writing and the teaching of. I’ve been proud of myself for how I’ve been helping my 5th grader as he starts writing 5 paragraph essays. I’m not trying to impart all my wisdom on him, but rather have been sticking to gently guiding him through the process of making outlines, and also on paying attention to his teacher’s rubric (which is basically a list of all the things she wants to see in the essay). I figure if he has those two skills, he’ll be in good shape for much of the school writing assignments he encounters.

It is now 8:30 and I’ve been up for four hours now. Everyone else is up now too. Time to get dressed, feed the cats, and then get back to my stitching.


My mother-in-law passed away this month three years ago. Her death was sudden and unexpected — a terrible accident — and it still feels like a horrible surprise that she isn’t still with us. Her mother lived well into her 90s, and my husband and I always assumed the same would be true for his mother. We miss her, especially this time of year. Both because it is the anniversary of her passing, and because ever since our son was born, we used to host Christmas and she and my father-in-law would come to visit. It still feels strange and wrong to be planning Christmas in our house without taking them into consideration.

Recently Avlea Folk Embroidery released a small design with Scandinavian roots. I showed the kit to Eric and said I’d make it for him sometime next year. He saw it and said, oh yeah, he’d like that. He said it reminded him of the kind of thing his mother would have liked. I put it aside, planning to pick it up later.

Then someone on the Avlea forum posted about the design, and shared that she had stitched the whole thing in a single Sunday. In one day, I thought? Then I thought, there are ten days until Christmas. If she could stitch it in a single day, surely I could do so in ten? So yesterday I pulled out the kit and got to work.

I wasn’t expecting the work to be so sad. As I stitch, I can’t help but think of my mother-in-law. How if she were still living, I would probably be making the piece for her. I like stitching because it is meditative. But I wasn’t expecting that in this case, I’d be mediating on someone we’ve lost, and how we miss her. But I am. It is sad, but also good. It is good to think of her, and how kind and smart and wise she was. Each stitch, is a little meditation on her and how she is missed.

I’m half trying to keep the gift a secret from my husband. I work on it when he’s around, but I carefully don’t mention it and what it is. So far, he hasn’t noticed. He knows I’m sitting there stitching, but he isn’t actually paying attention to what it is I’m working on. If I manage to get it ready for Christmas for him without him ever noticing, I plan to tease him about it a bit. But only because gentle teasing is how we operate together. Mostly I’ll be glad to give him this little meditation on his mother.

Breakfast Songs

I am not a monster, so of course I sing to my cats. (I assume this is a universal thing? Making up and singing songs to your pets?) This summer their breakfast song went viral at my son’s summer sleep-away camp. He shared the song with the other campers and counselors, and apparently it got sung pretty much every day before breakfast. I heard from other parents afterwards that they heard their kids singing it in the mornings at home too. This came as a surprise to me, since I didn’t expect the song to ever be heard outside of our household. The song is also useful for photos. It is hard getting a cat to look at you for a photo. But all I have to do is sing the first few lines of the Breakfast Song, and I have cat eyes piercing right into my soul.

New songs for the cats can’t be forced. They kind of have to organically grow. Yesterday I came up with a SECOND breakfast song. This second one is sung to the tune of a sea shanty, and it is pretty fun to bellow it out in the morning. The cats, being little furry geniuses, seem to understand that this song too means they are about to get fed. I’ll have to try it on them at some point to see if it also helps for photos.

The Breakfast Song

Oh ho, its breakfast time! Oh yes its breakfast time!

Its time to sing a rhyme, because its breakfast time.

Its time to get in line, because its breakfast time.

Its time to get in line, because its breakfast time.

Its time to merp and peep, because you get to eat.

Oh ho, its breakfast time! Oh yes its breakfast time!

Its time to meow a lot, like you’re in Camelot.

Oh ho, it breakfast time! Oh yes its breakfast time!

The Second Breakfast Song, Chorus Only (main verse still in development)

Oh ho, the kitties come! To get their breakfast, to eat their yums.

Oh ho, the kitties come! To eat their breakfast down.


The house is a very loud place today. Men are up on the roof thumping, drilling, and hammering. The cats are freaking out and did not eat their breakfast. Since I got home, one cat has become my little furry shadow. I am giving her pats and I fed her some fish cookies (otherwise known as cat treats) to make up for no breakfast.

All the noise is for an excellent cause, as we’re having solar panels installed. We live in New Mexico where sunny days are the norm and the sun is strong. Solar panels just seem like a very good idea. Everyone is happy that the project is moving forward. Everyone but the cats, anyway.

The noise does make it hard to concentrate though. Thump. Thump thump thump. I was going to start working on my husband’s new curtains for his home office today. Thump. But I am not sure I will have the mental space. Thump thump thump.


Today I am feeling a little free. You see, this morning I mailed off four Christmas packages to family who live far away. I grew up in Wisconsin, but have lived in New Mexico since 1998. Most of my family is still in Wisconsin or surrounding states, and once we had a child, I declared we were no longer traveling for Christmas. I wanted him to have memories of the holiday rooted in his home. That means people either have to travel to us, or that I’m going to be mailing packages across the country.

Back when my mother and father in law were alive, they and my sister in law would travel to us. I was glad to have them. I wanted my kid to have family around at holidays. Sometimes my father would come too. Sadly, my in laws passed away, my FIL one year, and then my MIL a bit under two years later. And there has been Covid, which means my father is less likely to come as well (flying has no appeal, and a cross country drive in the heart of winter isn’t great either). So the past few years, Christmas has just been the three of us here in New Mexico. We’re pretty good at celebrating just the three of us, but I miss the fun and the stress of having family around.

But I was trying to talk about mailing packages. Mailing Christmas packages stresses me out every year. I don’t know why exactly. It is a task that hangs over my head and makes me fret. I put it off, and then worry about dealing with long lines at the post office. Long lines have even less appeal now that Covid is around, so this year the task was fretting me even more than usual. But I knew I needed to get everything out this week so that it would all arrive in time.

My dad suggested over the phone that UPS might be less crowded than the post office, which struck me as a true statement. So this morning, right after we dropped our kid off at school, Eric and I drove the UPS Store and I went in and found myself the only customer. Three came in while I was being helped, but even so, that was way less people than I likely would have found at the post office. And now the packages are on their way, and they are no longer fretting at my heart. I let them go. I hope they bring happiness to their recipients, but even if they don’t — I let them go.

My next holiday task is to sew curtains for Eric’s home office. But first I think I’ll spend the rest of today with my hand stitching. As a little gift to myself.  Because I’m feeling free.