Archive for Life

Finding Me

Posted in Mental Health, Writing with tags , , , , , , on October 19, 2017 by Jessica Crichton

Today, I’m thinking about paying it back.

Over the course of the last year, I have had some wonderful friends step up and help me out WAYYYY more than I ever wanted to need. Oftentimes this help came in the form of money, especially when I lost my job back in March. (Did I forget that part yesterday? Yeah… it was pretty easy to believe I’d lost every ounce of good luck I ever had for a while there!) I spent a great deal of time feeling guilty for that, and trying to figure out how to pay them back. For me, money was the only way to repay money, and I had none, so you can imagine how frustrating it became. A vicious cycle of feeling not good enough. One wonderful friend even made me promise NOT to pay her back. “I don’t want this to become a burden on our friendship,” she’d said. I’d appreciated that at the time, but didn’t understand how my presence in her life was at all beneficial to her – or anyone else, for that matter. In the darkest times, while I never considered suicide (because I refused to put my kids through that) I did seriously consider removing myself from everyone’s life for their own good. After all, the only thing I ever seemed to do anymore was take. I desperately wanted to give, but I literally had nothing to offer. For a long while, I didn’t even have the emotional energy to be there for them when they needed to talk about their own lives for once.

So why did my friends still want to be my friends?

Coming out of the dark has been a slow processes, but one big step up in it was finally landing a great, stable job with benefits in July. I now have an income again, but I’m still struggling a bit to get stabilized from the financial blast effect. For that reason I still can’t pay my friends back in money.

But if there’s anything I have learned this past year, it’s that money isn’t the most important thing in life.

Finding myself again has meant a lot of inner contemplation, meditation, therapy, and other hefty mental and emotional exercise. All to answer a question that some find easy to solve, but far too many struggle with:

What is GOOD about me?

I have always been GREAT at self-deprecation. Nobody has been better at owning my flaws than me. Even when I was shown this past year just how awful those flaws can be, while it was hard to see, it was soooo easy to accept. After all, I’d spent my whole life practicing the art of self-abuse. Self-hatred was only a natural next step in that processes.

And I have never hated myself more than I have this past year.

Healing doesn’t happen when you keep ripping off the scabs. Reliving my flaws every day, hating myself more and more, I could barely breathe, let alone heal. But for a long time I didn’t think I even had the right to. And that’s where any kind of hope to do so ended. In order to even begin healing, I had to learn to believe I deserved it, and I just didn’t have that in me. My self-hatred was so strong that I literally couldn’t come up with anything positive to say about myself without automatically adding a million “buts” and negative caveats to it.

I couldn’t SEE myself.

But my friends could.

Why did they keep helping me when all I deserved was pain? Why did they stay in my life when all I could give them was a burden? If I was such a terrible person, why did they still care about me?

Knowing the answer, I realized, was VITAL in finding a way to even begin crawling out of that terrible black hole.

And so I asked them. Sometimes on Facebook, sometimes in person, but never just once. I didn’t believe the answers. I desperately wanted to, but just… couldn’t. So I kept asking. It was almost a desperation, and not at all logical. Some people got tired of it, and more than a few unfriended and even blocked me. Many stated that I was needy, overly emotional, and shared too many personal things. Others never would be able to answer at all. My first ex, and father of my children, asked me “do you even HAVE friends anymore?” (I still don’t blame him for that, but to understand why you have to know details, and I won’t be giving any.)

But there were a few very special, wonderful friends who refused to give up on me. They answered my questions every time, always with the same answer, though sometimes stated differently.

Why did they keep helping me when all I deserved was pain?

Because I helped them in the past.

Why did they stay in my life when all I could give them was a burden?

Because I deserved friends and light in my life.

If I was such a terrible person, why did they still care about me?

Because I wasn’t a terrible person at all. Because I was a good person, and they loved me for me.

After a while, the questions and answers turned into conversations. They reminded me of things I did for them in the past: Listening to them when they needed me. Giving them food or helping them clean their homes, or teaching them things. Even being a source of inspiration as a writer and – and this was the hardest to accept – as a mother. Most of these things I had entirely forgotten about. I was good at remembering every terrible thing I had thought, done, and felt, but terrible at remembering anything good. My friends were my memory, and they helped me begin to see myself as a whole human again.

In the end, though, it was one of my children who finally broke through and let the full, glorious light in, by showing me a video he said he thought I needed to see. You can find it here, but warning: it may trigger some deep pain if you have ever hated yourself. That said, it is mighty in the healing department too. It’s funny though; I didn’t cry until my son turned to me and said, “Don’t listen to the demon, Mom.” Then everything came pouring out, and my children held me as I cried.

Even now, writing that brings tears. But they are good tears. Healing tears.

I’m still pulling myself out of the shadows. Some days they overwhelm me, even now. But my friends, and my children, have shown me how I not only CAN pay them back, but how I have paid them forward in the past. Not with money, but with the Me I forgot I was. The Me they reminded me of.

And you know what? I kinda like her, too.

I’m Writing This on My Break

Posted in Parenting, Shiny Happy Musings, Writing with tags , , , on July 18, 2013 by Jessica Crichton

For the last few months, I’ve been working on my master’s thesis and stressing out about everything from why the agency looking at my manuscript has been silent for so long (I suspect aliens; it’s always aliens), to where my kitchen and mud room sinks went (it MIGHT have something to do with dirty dishes… maybe). In fact, I’ve been so stressed and uptight that I stopped even noticing it. That is, until yesterday when I thought to wonder why my neck was always so hurty, and why, no matter how much sleep I got, I was still tired.

So today I took a break. From everything.

No worrying about bills.
No stress over landing a post-graduation job.
No obsessing on that wonderful, dreamy agency.
No checking and rechecking my email for either of the above.
No forcing myself to edit or revise anything. (Note: Sometimes, fellow writers, it ISN’T a good idea after all.)
No stressing over what my second thesis reader is going to tell me.

I’m at the park. Lying in the grass. Enjoying the birds and the sun and the flowered breeze whifting off the river nearby.

And you know what? I think, when I get home, I might actually get those dishes done after all.

On the Lighter Side… Custom Teabags!

Posted in Family, Kids, Shiny Happy Musings with tags , , , , , , , , on November 16, 2011 by Jessica Crichton

I’ve been working my tailfeathers off, as my eldest would say, on school lately, and just posted a new essay for you all to read and admire and tell me how smart and stuff I am. OK, not really; I just hope it helps some of my fellow writers who might be struggling with detail in their kids’ books, is all. Really.

Ahem.

So now let’s get on a lighter, and pretty much entirely different, trail. A while ago I said I was making a surprise for my thirteen-year-old who is at her father’s in South Dakota for the year and that I would post about it once she got the surprise so as not to ruin it for her. Well, that time has come.

One of the things that was always special between myself and Emily was our nighttime tea. Now, I make tea for all my kids all the time (though the younger two don’t get it before bed; peeing and all that), but for some reason, for Emily it’s even more special. Maybe that’s just me talking about a daughter I miss terribly right now, but whatever. She always asked for “Mommy tea” before bed, just as her big sister Cisily and her little sister Joei do (Cisily is 15 and Joei is 10). But for Emily, it’s always been a love thing; her way of bonding with me. See, Emily is one of those kids who has a hard time showing any kind of sappy emotion. You know, like love and gratitude and mommy-cuddles and stuff. Even as a baby she didn’t like to cuddle or hug. Now, as a sassy, sarcastic, self-titled skater/goth/tomboy teenager, Emily has a rep to uphold, you know.

But we have the tea. Always the tea.

Her asking for “mommy tea” every night was her way of saying “I love you, Mommy”. And my making it for her was my way of saying, “I love you too, and I promise not to be too obvious about it. Especially in front of your friends”. One of the things she said she would miss when she was at her dad’s was mommy tea, because she couldn’t get it without Mommy being there to make it for her.

So I decided to do the next best thing.

This works with any kind of tea, and/or you can do it with instant coffee bags too, if you’re so inclined. It’s a great idea for the hard to please person on your Holiday list, which is why I decided to post this now instead of two months ago when Emily first got the tea. An important note before we get started: It’s always best to ask permission when using images from the web. That is all.

Onward!

You will need:

  • Teabags. Any kind will do, though a mixture of flavors is always good for a gift. As I said, coffee bags will also work. I made a total of 50, but there is no set amount.
  • Printer paper.
  • A printer.
  • Ink, colored and black.
  • Double sided tape and/or strong glue stick.
  • A stapler and staples.
  • Scissors.
  • A small box, about the size of a baking soda box. (Optional)
  • Photoshop or the equivalent.
  • Microsoft Word or the equivalent.
  • An imagination.

So, here’s the steps in making custom teabags!

Step 1: Gather your supplies.

Step 2: Create a logo for your tea wrapper. Mine looked like this:

Again, it’s always a good idea to ask permission before using someone else’s images, or else you can make your own. You can even put a photo of yourself and the gifted together on your logo. Whatever. The important thing is to make sure it reflects the gifted’s personal tastes. As I said before, Emily is into goth styles, and her latest favorites are steampunk and anime. (I’ll take full responsibility for the first one… hehe.) So I found an image that was perfect and added the text in Photoshop. The font I used is Freebooter, but you can use any font you want. Make sure the logo is about 3×3 in., the standard size for a tea bag wrapper. (I found great step-by-step teabag wrapper making directions here.)

Step 3: Tea Tags!

Make a logo for the tea tags as well. These are smaller, at about 1.5×1 in. Unlike your teabag logo, the tag should be made so that it prints out as a mirror image of itself, like this:

It can be the same image as your bag, or different. As you can see, mine is the same style, but a different image.

Step 4: Change it up.

This step can be skipped if you’re only making one kind of tea. Starting with your original logos, which I used for black tea, mess with them in Photoshop a bit to come up with different colors and styles that still match each-other for your other flavors. I don’t have any pictures of my other flavors, sadly, but you get the gist.

Step 5: Print out your tags.

I found that pasting my logos into Word was the easiest way to print them how I wanted. Set the print options to landscape and print about four of your logos per page, along the top. Leave the rest of the page blank:

Your tags should be printed mirroring themselves, as I said before. Otherwise, however many you can fit on one piece of paper works!

Step 6: Form the wrappers.

Take a page that you printed your wrappers on and fold it backwards, along the bottom of the logos:

As you can see, the back of the paper is longer than the front. You want that.

Step 7: Glue your logos into wrappers.

This is tricky to explain, but easy to do. In between the paper sides, along the gaps between logos, you want to place either a strip of double sided tape each, or run the glue stick. I found the glue stick to work far better, but I also had industrial strength, so there’s that. Here’s a couple of images to hopefully help:

Here’s where you glue it…

And here is EXACTLY where you glue it.

Don’t forget to do the same on both sides of the logos, or your bookmark wrappers will only have one side glued!

Now, carefully fold the paper against the tape/glue like so:

Step 8: Separate your new wrappers.

This part is easy. Just cut along the gaps!

Step 9: Create the wrapper flaps.

All you have to do here is…

Step 10: Cut out your tea tags.

Remember to mirror them top to top.

Make sure they look like this:

And not like this:

Step 11: Dismember the original teabags.

Remove their wrappers and their tags. (I should note at this point that all measurements I have made pertain to flat teabags only. Those triangular things and etc. won’t fit in these wrappers.) What you should have left is a naked teabag and a naked string. Like this:

Step 12: Stuff!

Stuff the tea bag into a wrapper (which now resembles a tiny envelope). It should slide in easily, but if not, use a butter knife to gently push it in. Make sure not to tear the bag!

Notice that I have the string coming out of the far corner. That is important for the next step.

Step 13: Close and seal the top flap of your wrapper. Make sure not to glue/tape the tea string while you’re at it. 😉

Step 14: Staple the tea tag.

Take a tea tag and fold it in half so that the mirror images are now on either side. Slip the free end of the tea string in between the flaps as a loop…

… close down and and staple them all together.

And here is the finished product!

Do this with as many or as few tea bags as you like! I also made a little matching box to put them all in, but you can take it from there in whatever way you see fit, of course…

And yeah, Emily loved them. Win! 😀

Have fun and Happy Holidays! 🙂

John M. Cusick

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