Sunday, September 30, 2012

:: on why i'm not blogging (at least for now) ::

i blogged here regularly for almost six straight years - sometimes daily, sometimes less than that, but i was here often and happily.

and then this summer i just stopped writing.

for better or for worse i came to see that blogging was taking away from my ability - and my need - to communicate directly with the people in my life. i would put everything all on the line here on the blog and then sort of blindly hope that the people who i needed to know those things would read them, understand what they meant for me and for them, and respond in some appreciable and appropriate way.

and it does work that way sometimes. sometimes i write here about the things i find it really hard to say in real life, and then the right people read those things and eventually sort of find a quiet moment to tell me everything is okay or what i am feeling is normal or that they are feeling it, too.

mostly, though, it was other people - not the ones i was trying to kind of telepathically communicate with - who would pull me aside (literally or over email or whatever) and say that what i'd written had touched them and they found me brave and whatnot.

it will be those people who will bring me back to blogging if and when i return. it's those people who make me feel like blogging brings me closer to having some kind of meaning or purpose in my life. for whatever reason i'm blessed with a certain vulnerability and willingness to share that vulnerability, and i do feel like that vulnerability is the key to how i connect with and can help better the lives of other people.

but i've come to think that even though blogging honestly the way i do looks like bravery to a lot of people, for me it became a way of making myself less vulnerable and therefore less  brave. it makes me - has made me - less capable of being vulnerable with real people in face-to-face communication. i feel that is robbing me of something i need and that the people i love need from me.

blogging can't be my own means of communicating with the people in my day-to-day life. it can't be a surrogate for talking about what's happening in my life, how i'm feeling about it, etc., because it's too one-directional. i need to rekindle my ability to participate in bi-directional communication.

so i'm taking some time off. i'm not sure how or when i'll be back, but i do feel like i will want to eventually. i feel like i'll want to keep on making those crucial, vulnerable, brave connections with people i don't know. like i'll want to continue encouraging people to get the yucky stuff OUT into the world instead of inside their heads, and encouraging that by doing it. but i can't keep doing it at the expense of being able to get the yucky stuff OUT into my own daily world, if that makes any sense.

i've missed blogging the last few months, but i've also surprisingly not missed it. i haven't felt compelled to do it the way i used to.

am i communicating better in my life? maybe yes, maybe no. but at least i feel like i'm not doing the kind of indirect, smoke-and-mirrors faux-communicating i was doing before, writing all kinds of things and just hoping they'd magically get to their right recipients. so at least there's that.

see ya when i see ya.

(and if you want to keep up with my non-personal-business-y stuff, there's always the shop blog and my up up creative facebook page).

Sunday, July 8, 2012

:: what if? ::

so here's a question that's been asking itself in my head since last i wrote: what if i'm not depressed? what if i'm just ridiculously, chronically, exhaustingly, painfully stressed out?

or, what if i am depressed, but what if it's because i'm ridiculously, chronically, exhaustingly, painfully stressed out?

it's a worthy and empowering thought anyway.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

:: oh the things i'll achieve! ::

i find that the older i get, the more depressed i get.

strangely, though, i don't actually feel like my sads are particularly sadder than before, nor do i feel like i spend any less time happy than i did before, which is weird. my joys are as joyous as they ever were. i laugh as much. i make people laugh as much. i still rock out to my favorite songs when they come on the radio. i still delight in the grand fireworks finale. but some physiological and mental set point seems to be falling lower and lower, and somewhat regularly now i find myself in full-on crisis. 

i make no claims to understand this, and even metaphors, which usually help me both understand and explain how i am feeling, seem to fail me here.

i'm still on anti-depressants, which i think are what allow me to be here and not some darker, scarier place. and i'm still in therapy, which certainly has helped me better understand some of my more maladaptive behaviors and thought patterns. but objectively speaking, i'm more depressed than i was, say, a year ago, at which point i was more depressed, i think, than i was a year prior to that. 

up until now i have adopted the position that if i was feeling depressed, i needed to make a major overhaul. i have always felt like that's what i've needed: drastic and overarching change. a clean slate. stop writing the dissertation. start a new business. put the kids in full-time daycare and work a more typical 9-5 M-F work week. transfer to a different college. drop out of a particular program. quit a certain job.

with each big change there comes a sense of sureness: yes. this was the right choice. hooray.

still to this day i believe that each of those choices was the right one. i have never been happier that i gave myself permission to stop writing my dissertation. leaving my corporate IT consulting job and moving home to rochester was surely the best choice for me. i was much happier at cornell than i was at chapel hill. i stand by every single decision. each one put me in a better place than i had been in before.

but what if i'm only getting it partially right?

i'm wicked smart and super motivated. what i put my mind to i achieve. i don't just go to grad school. i go to grad school in a field i do not have an undergraduate degree in, i bypass the MA with special permission and head straight into my phd coursework, and i spend two of my five years on prestigious, merit-based fellowships. i take my first job out of college with one of the "big five" consulting firms, which provides me with a signing bonus, a car and a per diem, and moves me to two states i've never lived in before over the course of just six months. i don't just open an etsy shop; i open an etsy shop, code my own e-commerce shop to sit alongside it, revamp that three times over three years, get featured in BRIDES and other prestigious magazines (did i mention that martha stewart living recently requested some of my things to photograph for a story that may or may not be forthcoming?). i don't just start working after realizing that i can't only be a stay-at-home mom, i start overworking. i try to work full time and stay home with them. then i put them in full-time daycare, but not without first starting a new business that has incredibly fierce demands on my time. i don't just transfer to cornell. i transfer after my first semester at unc and then proceed to graduate from college a full year early, with highest honors, and with a GPA that put me among the top 1% at the entire (ivy league) university. when i decide to start running i end up completing my first triathlon. 

i am, to put it mildly, an overachiever. 

which it occurs to me now might just be the problem. or if not the problem, a problem.

i've had two major and two minor breakdowns in the last four years. four occasions in the last four years when life's demands became too overwhelming for me to continue to function normally. i couldn't eat or sleep. i couldn't be around my kids. i basically could not do the things a person needs to do to get through a day.

and i feel another one coming on. not, like, this weekend or anything. but in the coming weeks or months.

which leads me to this: i am a firm believer that the things we do in the space of our recovery from these mental breakdowns can teach us something. they are, as in yoga, counterposes meant to bring our psyches back into a more balanced state. they play yin to the yang of whatever it is that has led to the mental breakdown.

in my recoveries, i've benefitted the most from the following: talking with other human beings, reading, writing, taking walks, sleeping, being creative, asking for help handling day-to-day stressors, and spending time alone, in the quiet, often outdoors.

and when i feel better? when i feel better and my recovery period is "over" i usually feel i've done three things:

1 - i've given myself permission to make whatever change it is i feel i need to make.
2 - i've sorted out some problem that has been gnawing at me.
3 - i've figured out some new direction to move in.

and then i move in that direction. swiftly and with determination. at which point i promptly stop: talking with other human beings, reading, writing, taking walks, sleeping as much, being creative, asking for help handling day-to-day stressors, and spending time alone, in the quiet, often outdoors. but change feels good, and success feels good, and so i feel good. i'm "better" and i'm so glad about it.

until it's too much and i fall apart all over again.

in november of last year i had an idea: i would start a print shop. and in february of this year, i started it, right alongside my other business. and by the end of 2012, that print shop will almost certainly gross more than $100,000. possibly even significantly more than that. by the end of its second year i expect it will gross in the quarter-million range.  if i can keep up with it. which already i can't. 

which is where the impending breakdown comes in. i can see already how it will happen. i'll continue to work like crazy, pushing the business to grow even as it has already outstripped me of my ability to keep up. i'll bring on new and awesome customers. i'll buy more equipment and continue to talk about hiring. i might even actually hire. i'll work evenings and weekends to stay relatively on top of things, even though i'll feel perpetually behind. and then some life stressor, like a sick child or a car accident or some other uncontrollable and disconcerting event, will reduce me to an anxious mess. i won't be able to eat or sleep. i'll spend my time taking xanax and watching teen dramas from the CW on netflix for weeks, at which point i'll substitute healthier behaviors like reading and doing puzzles for the xanax and teen dramas, taking a month off from work to recover.

i tell myself that i work the way i do because we need the money.

i tell myself that i work the way i do because i need to feel empowered.

i tell myself that i achieve things because i'm smart and achieving things comes easily to me.

all of this is true. 

we need the money, i need the sense of purpose and personal fulfillment, and achieving at high levels really does come naturally, and even easily, to me. but at a cost.

which of course makes me feel like i need to make some major, overarching changes. which then of course gets me already started thinking about the amazing things i'll be able to accomplish when i make those changes. perhaps i'll write a book about it or something. or become a guru like leo babauta of zen habits. when i stop being an over achiever, oh the things i'll achieve!

some things i know that are true:

i am working too hard now.
i am under too much stress.
i spend too much time thinking about how to be more successful.
i also spend too much time thinking about how to be happier.
i do not exercise enough.
i do not have enough leisure time.
i have too many things going.
i spend too little time doing the things that make me feel healthy.
i cannot keep up the pace i have established.
no one can.

but what can i do with all of this? knowing my own patterns of overexertion / burnout / breakdown / solace / overexertion / repeat, how can i intervene and change the cycle? how can i stop experiencing burnout? how can i stop having breakdowns? is there a place between overexertion and complete and utter solace that might be a healthier, more balanced place?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

:: the road oft-traveled ::

i have officially reached the point in my business at which i need to hire an actual in-my-studio employee.

this is something i have been working toward for a long time. in some ways it was always part of the dream-slash-plan, but in an official spoken-aloud, fully-realized kind of way i've been thinking about it for about the last 13 months.

moving into my own studio, launching aper + pink, and making the move toward working full time have all been important steps along the way. now here i am.

and i'm not sure i want to do it.

there are the usual reasons - the strain + fear of becoming not just a creative being and a business owner but also a supervisor and manager; the burden of finding the right person; the hassle of hiring; the fear of possibly firing; the inability to let go; the added expenses of worker's compensation and taxes as well as things like a computer and a chair to sit on; the fear of being responsible for someone else's livelihood; the reality that i would have to pay my employee before i pay myself, which could be a big problem for my family if business income gets light. 

and there are also my own personal reasons - my really-quite-extraordinary need for solitude; my contrariness; my dislike for confrontation in even the mildest forms; the newly-won knowledge that my times of greatest mental-health-crisis are usually preceded by high stress; and perhaps most of all the very persistent fear that if i hire someone, i'll feel (and probably really be) less free. less free in my manner of working. less free to make crazy decisions. less free to take 180-degree turns in my business plan. less free to create. less free to listen to alix olsen in my studio.  less free to do this the way i want to do it.

if there's one thing that running up up creative (and now aper + pink) has given me over the years it's the sure sense that this can be whatever i need it to be at the time. i answer only to my family and my health.

part of what makes me able to come to work each day and slog through two hours of email and print seven orders and hit the post office on my way home and then do some graphic design at home at night is knowing that if tomorrow i don't want to do it, i don't have to. i can close up shop whenever i choose. i don't choose to, but knowing i could make that choice is part of the allure of the gig.

the truth is, i'm just not ready to hire someone. my business may be ready for me to do it, but i'm not.

but there are whispers in my head: what if i'm never ready? what does this mean for the plans? what does it mean for the way i conduct business now, given that the business is outgrowing me already?

i posted on facebook yesterday that i've been taking a minimalist approach to thinking about my business lately: i've been trying to identify the essential (essential for my happiness, for my bottom line, etc.) and then giving myself permission to eliminate the rest. my hope is that this will make it possible for me to make more space for the work i need and want to do without having to hire someone before i'm ready.

for example did you know that i have the following:
  • a facebook page for up up creative
  • a facebook page for aper + pink (set up, but not yet active)
  • a personal facebook account
  • a twitter account for up up creative
  • a twitter account for aper + pink (set up but not yet active)
  • a portfolio at behance (nothing there, i think)
  • an account at dribbble (nothing there, i think)
  • a portfolio in progress at
  • a pinterest account
  • this blog
  • a blog at
  • a blog/gallery at
  • an etsy shop
  • a shopify shop
  • jotform contact and order forms
  • an x-cart shop in development for aper+ pink
  • a big cartel account (with five shop items)
  • ongoing design work for snapfish, minted, and glo
  • greeting cards
  • wrapping paper
  • calendars
  • wedding invitations + accompaniments
  • a print shop for retail customers
  • a print shop for resellers
  • separate mailchimp lists for aper + pink, shopify, up up creative, and wholesale customers, 
  • workflowy + asana accounts; dropbox, mozy, and yousendit accounts
  • two paypal accounts
  • at least six different email addresses
  • and more!
this is not all necessary. it's not even all desirable. it's ridiculous is what it is. completely effing ridiculous.

things that must stay include this blog, pinterest, Facebook personal and Facebook business (one overarching business page should suffice though), print shop for resellers, one paypal account.

obvious things to go? the blogs at upupcreative and aperandpink, which i don't update anyway. twitter, which i don't use anymore. big cartel. greeting cards. behance and dribbble. 

but what else? what can i consolidate? what can i eliminate? what pays the bills and what doesn't? what adds extra time and expense? what weighs me down? 

i'm in pare-down town, friends. travel recommendations welcome.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

:: advice versus wisdom ::

big shock here: i don't ask for advice.

my therapist has her theories about this, which are so obvious they're probably right. but the important thing is that i don't ask. ever. and furthermore, i don't even discuss what i'm thinking, so that my decisions - even the biggest decisions - seem to drop into the laps of my friends and family without even a warning. my ideas appear to hatch from me, fully formed.

so my therapist suggested that i just experiment a little bit with asking for advice. see how it feels. and since i'm learning that people's suggestions are often quite helpful if i'm willing to admit that, i decided to try.

trouble is, i feel like when i ask for advice what i'm really doing is looking for someone to give me permission to come to a conclusion i have already reached.

perhaps i ask too late in the decision-making process?

what i'm finding i much prefer - and find very effective - is listening to the almost off-hand comments people make to me in my daily life. the questions they ask, or the jokes they make, or the things they tease me about. like my uncle who read my blog post from last week and told me to take it easy and go grocery shopping already. or the friend who, upon hearing my somewhat crazy idea of starting a print shop asked me if i wasn't worried that it would get too overwhelming. or the therapist who suggested i might want to start asking for advice. or who upon telling me that she couldn't meet at our usual time and we'd have to skip a session suggested i still reserve that hour and do something relaxing like get a massage (and did i? no. but i should have).

these little things - these small bits of whatever you want to call them - i'm learning that they're actually pieces of wisdom. and in my opinion - or my experience - they're best when i didn't go out seeking them.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

:: may take-away ::

it's may 31st, month's end, and i'm frustrated tonight. this month was totally great for my business: sales were (very!) high, customers were awesome, feedback was excellent. i got two new printers (bringing my tally to five), hired a virtual assistant, and made a lot of great business connections at NSS. i spent a lot of the month feeling really great about things.

but holy hell i worked my ass off. when i wasn't busy, i was beyond busy. there were days this week i was actually sweating, not from the heat but from my own frenzied work pace. i got no exercise this week. or last. didn't even have time to walk to my therapist's office like i usually do for my appointment. i was late picking up the kids twice this week and worked each night here at home until ten.

we have had an empty fridge since monday (it currently contains: week-old olives, soy milk, a baggie of leftover bacon, bread machine yeast, a smattering of condiments, a mostly-full tub of hummus, a few slices of american cheese, one 6oz. container of vanilla yogurt, V8 juice for the kids (the kind with fruit and veggies, not just the regular kind), diet coke, a few random beers, two kinds of jelly, and a bag of wrinkled sweet peppers. oh, and half a lemon i already zested. two weeks ago). neither brian nor i has had the chance to shop.

i'm torn between enthusiasm for the growth of the business and the sure sense that at this pace, i'm going to keel over.

i've been telling myself - and anyone who asks, actually - that i feel like i just need a few more months of this and then i'll be in the position to hire someone to help. my burden will be lifted.

which is where the fact that it's may 31st comes in.

i ran may's numbers and while the plus column is good, the minus column isn't. it's expected in the early months of a new business, of course. when i started this endeavor i calculated that it would be 9 months before i'd be breaking even, and i'm only 3.5 months in. trouble is, ignoring the usual kinds of "starting a new business" expenses, like buying new printers and such, operating expenses are (understandably) high. the question is, can i up my sales volume enough to allow for an employee when i'm already working at my own capacity? how can i increase my through-put capacity without working any harder, or longer? how can i make more money appear in the plus column without adding stuff to the minus column, or working through the night seven nights a week?

i've had offers of help, and the offers have been awesome. people have been so kind and willing. but i'm sitting here trying to plan for long-term viability, and free help isn't going to get me there. if the business model isn't working, it needs to fail on its own, not succeed with the help of kind free-working souls. otherwise, i can't figure out how best to strengthen it so that it can stand on its own, paying the people who make it work.

so i guess the take-away from may is this: things are good, very good, even, but not as good as my sanity needs them to be. i'm very happy to be able to keep putting money back into the business - to buy equipment and such - but i need to be able to do more than that.

bring it on, june.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

:: nss, a year later ::

i got back yesterday from NSS, which officially ended today. as i said on my facebook page, attending was in many ways very like those scenes in tv shows when characters are being brainwashed: intense visual stimulation, unending interaction, a constant thrumming pulse. i had a new idea with each passing minute. i scribbled notes and put reminders in my phone. i met all kinds of awesome and wonderful people.

then last night i conked out right in the middle of an episode of lost where one of my least favorite characters was about to not die again. that is how tired i was. but i digress.

being that i was walking the show this year after having debuted there last year as an exhibitor, pretty much everyone i spoke to wanted to know two things: was i happy to be walking instead of exhibiting (an enthusiastic yes! qualified by a bit of wistfulness brought on by just how awesome everysinglebooth there was), and did i think exhibiting last year was worth it.

strangely, up until even a few weeks ago i wouldn't have known how to answer the latter question. i would have said something about how i simultaneously learned a lot and felt a lot of resentment about going last year, and how i'm glad i didn't feel obligated to go again this year.

but when someone asked me this question on sunday i was surprised to say that even though it took an entire year to realize it, exhibiting last year was completely worth it. even financially, in the long run.

i think somewhere here on the blog i once figured out that during the 2011 show, i made in sales about 20% of what i had spent on exhibiting, which, as first-time attendance goes, is supposedly decent. unfortunately, i never did make much more than that as a result of the show.

but the certain kind of righteous i was about that financial fiasco (i know the spiel about how you can't look at it that way and it's not about recuperating all of your investment immediately, etc., but to me that seems like, um, crap) led directly to my crazy september experiment which in turn led directly to the sudden realization that i reallyreallyreally needed to start a fine-art short-run print shop.

and here i am a year later with 200% growth for 2012 ytd versus the same time period last year. and all of that only happened because i went to nss. i only had the knowledge to do it, and the confidence, and the contacts, because i'd been serious enough about my business to exhibit. i only heard the things i heard from buyers about my fantastic print quality because i exhibited. i only realized who my ideal customer was because i exhibited. my growth and the new direction things've taken are completely a result of doing nss last year.

and it only took me twelve months to figure that out.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

:: friday: be there or be square ::

Up Up Creative and Aper + Pink are having an open house on Friday, May 4th from 6 to 9 pm.

Come see the new studio, meet me, and catch a glimpse of Up Up Creative's newest work. You'll also have an opportunity to purchase graphic art by indie designers from around the country, all printed by Aper + Pink.

How to find us:
250 N. Goodman St., First Floor  |  Rochester, NY 14607
The building is next to Village Gate - entrance is on Anderson Ave.
Up Up Creative is in a shared space with Booksmart Studio and Pistachio Press, 
both of which have signs outside.


Monday, April 30, 2012

:: business or pleasure ::

i've been getting serious here so much lately i thought it was time to just share some pretty stuff. this little beauty -- one of my favorite designs ever ever ever -- is now available at minted. (remember, you can save 10% off any of my designs at minted using the code SHOPNV5FV6.)


Sunday, April 15, 2012

:: i am right here ::

this weekend, i admitted some scary things.

except no. i didn't really. i admitted some very reasonable and understandable and normal things, but admitting them was scary.

it was scary because of what i feared it would make people think about me. and it was scary because of how it made me feel about myself.

i admitted that sometimes, especially when i'm having a hard time personally, like when i'm anxious, i feel like i:

shouldn't be a mom
don't know how to be a mom
don't enjoy being a mom
can't take care of my kids
can't even take care of myself
wasn't meant to be a mom

and my rational mind knows that this is stuff ALL MOMS FEEL. but my irrational brain feels like i am the worst possible person in the world, i am selfish, i am going to ruin my children and my marriage, i am broken, i am crazy, i will never feel better.

but of course none of this is true, at least not as long as i keep talking about it and keep rational about it. we moms, we LOVE our children, but we don't always love being with them, and why would we? they need us constantly. and even when they don't have physical needs, they have wants. they need us to feed them and clothe them, but they also need us to talk with them, play with them, nurture them, listen to them say the same things over and over and over. and we do it because we love them.

and it's so scary to say that we don't always like it because we don't want our kids to know. or we don't want our spouses to know. we don't want anyone to think we're unnatural or scary or a risk to ourselves or others.

as i sobbed and sobbed over the phone finally admitting to a surprised listener yesterday that i often don't like the day-to-day caregiving of being a mom, the person on the line asked me if i feel like my children have stolen my life from me. at first i thought, "yes, maybe that's it." but that's not quite how it is. rather, i feel like i have willingly given my life to them the way we all give ourselves to our kids. i just haven't known how to keep myself healthy and okay in the meantime.

i work at least 40 hours a week, but my kids are only in daycare 17 hours a week. often, especially lately, i take my kids to the studio with me, sitting them on the floor with a laptop and a movie and plying them with snacks, paper and pens, cardboard boxes, lunch. they are good when they're there and they look forward to it, but obviously it's hard. from water spills i have to clean up to the jelly footprints all over my floor from someone who stepped in her bagel and then walked all over the studio, it's hard. they need me and i need them. i need to take care of them. i need to look at the pictures they draw while they're sitting on my studio floor. i need to take them to see the dogs my studio mates keep. i like the idea of having them there with me, having them know their mom as a person in the world, having them see my work and be creative with me.

but the reality is that it's hard.

duh, right?

the trouble i have is that for as self-aware as i seem, i can be really clueless when it comes to my own mental health. it wasn't until i started back up with therapy recently to deal with my anxiety and panic attacks and a specific phobia i have that i realized that underneath it all, i'm really depressed. i'm a mess. i work and i take care of the kids and i do almost nothing else, least of all take care of me. i shower every other day, and only because my hair looks too awful if i go longer than that. i don't take walks anymore, even though taking walks is like breathing for me. i don't exercise. i don't hang out with my own friends (because i don't really have any of my own friends, honestly). i never just sit and veg. i don't read anymore. i often work until ten, watch one episode of a show with brian, and then play iPhone games until i fall asleep with the phone in my hand.

and the clueless part isn't just that i didn't realize how depressed and unhealthy i am. the clueless part is that i honestly 100% thought that my work was my break. i thought it was the thing i do for myself to stay centered and peaceful and mentally healthy. i thought it was the solitude i crave to feel whole and sane.

i thought that because four years ago when this all started, right around the time evan turned one and i had a complete breakdown and had to leave home for 11 days and put evan in full time day care for the next 8 months (until we moved home to rochester and i was home with him 100% of the time again), up up creative was my therapy. making things each day and putting them into the world was the only thing that got me through the long days with evan out of the house. i read books, wrote incessantly in a journal, walked around the OSU campus at will, and mostly i made things. quilts. necklaces. all manner of things. i felt normal and connected and grounded and slowly, i felt happy. or happier, maybe. i felt like a human being again.

and in the years that have followed i've grown up up creative (and now aper + pink) into a serious business. a growing, bustling, busy business. and it continues to be such an important part of my life and of my sense of self. i love working. i love building the business. i need it.

but the "make a few things and put them in an etsy shop" beginnings of four years ago are a far cry from what things are like now, and somehow i failed to notice how much more time, energy, and work that business requires now.

and there's a second kid now, of course, too.

and here i am again, totally lost. i have given everything -- happily, often, and almost always willingly -- until i've come up dry and aching from the drought.

and then on top of all of that i've tormented myself about feeling this way. i've tried to ignore it. i've told myself how easy my life is, how much harder it can be. how much harder it is for other people.

my sister in law told me a couple of months ago about a friend of hers who started working full time after her kids were born and stopped after they had both gone off to first grade and were in school all day. she just knew she couldn't mother them all day long. my exact words were, "good for her. you have to know yourself." i one million percent believe that. i think that woman is amazing and that her kids are lucky.

but somehow when i even think of the same thing for us here, i cry. i feel like i have failed.

i wanted to stay home with my kids. i want to. but i can't. i don't know why but i just can't. and that feels so bad. it feels like acid in my veins. i don't know how to take care of them and still take care of me. i thought i was doing it but i was wrong.

but you know what? fuck it, that's what. fuck this idea of mine that there was one way to do it and i've done it wrong. fuck the idea that each decision i make is a permanent decision and that it will have permanent consequences. fuck being scared that my kids won't know how much i love them. you can't be around me and not know how much i love those two little red heads. how much i admire them. how proud i am of them.

it's hard because i know that right now, i need extra time. it's like i've been giving myself a penny each day instead of a dollar and so now i need to give myself a buck fifty each day for awhile until i'm on evener ground. i think i went into this thinking, "maybe i could give myself two pennies a day and eventually i'll make it all up." but that's ridiculous. that's not working.

today i let brian take the kids for a hike without me. i considered going because i didn't want to reinforce my depression and anxiety by avoiding an outing with them. it was a very logical reason to go. i didn't want to avoid them. i didn't want to stay at home and cry or sulk or be anxious.

but instead i let them go and decided that staying home didn't have to be about avoiding them but could be about looking for me.

so here i am.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

:: prints in progress ::

lots of orders sitting ready for trimming and/or packaging. the studio is busy busy these days.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

:: not a cry for help, a cry for change ::

life here at la maison green continues to be stressful. circumstances continue to suck, sometimes just a little, sometimes more than that, and sometimes a hell of a fucking lot. there have been big stresses and littler ones. some that have swept in quick and fierce and some that have simmered, simmered, simmered.

back on my medication for anxiety, i find i am less apt to have panic attacks now than i was a month ago, which is good. but now i'm finding warnings creeping into other parts of my life: i wake with tension headaches, for one; my left knee hurts, which makes my left calf muscle hurt, which in compensating for has made my left hip hurt, and that in turn has left me with a weird pain in my left foot. it's totally and completely ridiculous.

it's affecting brian, too. he gave himself a concussion a few weeks ago (silly, freakish accident involving a cupboard door and a two year old under foot, but still, it seems to be both a cause of the stress at our house and a symptom of it). and now he's the only 30-something i've ever heard diagnosed with shingles (the adult resurgence of chicken pox, which usually doesn't strike until you are in your 50s or 60s, if then).

our bodies are telling us that our life is too much for us right now. they are screaming at us to figure something out.

and yet we're able to look around and find people all around us who are in worse circumstances than we are in. we're surrounded by people struggling against greater foes than we are, facing less sleep, fighting stronger viruses and ailments.

i see these people, and i talk to these friends, and i give myself an "it could be worse" and a "life is hard" and i remind myself that for millennia people have known these things. life is suffering. isn't this literally buddhism's first noble truth?

i say this over and over to myself. life is hard. it's supposed to be hard. who told you it was going to be easy? your life isn't even that hard. it could be worse. after all, my kids are healthy. my marriage is good. no one in the family currently has cancer. we have a house and two cars that run. we have so many blessings we probably can't count them all. so i repeat the chorus to myself: life is supposed to be hard. it could be worse.

the trouble is, my very core just can't accept this. life may be hard, and yes it can certainly be worse than this, but to me, when circumstances get this bad and the stress mounts this high and our bodies yell out to us that things just ain't right, to me this is when you need to step back, reassess, and change something. accommodate the suffering, maybe. find a way to care less about it, perhaps. or maybe just give the suffering more room to breathe -- take away the things that compound the suffering. make life easier.

because i'm very open about my anxiety and depression, i find that people often come to me about it. i get a lot of emails, even some phone calls. this shit is widespread, my friends. many many of us experience it, sometimes acutely, sometimes indefinitely. and as you know i'm the first one to admit (and advocate for the fact) that sometimes, you just need help in the form of medications. but i also completely believe that these times of discomfort, pain, fear, anxiety, sadness -- these are our bodies' ways of saying CHANGE THINGS THE FUCK UP OR ELSE.

i'm in a place now where i'm just not sure what form the change needs to take. it's so much more complicated to change a family's life than to change a single person's. but my kids are still happy and seemingly unaffected yet by the chaos their parents find themselves embroiled in, and i want to keep it that way. i want to get us back out of the fire so that we can get back to not suffering all the time even when circumstances are bad.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

:: up up creative / aper + pink studio: BEFORE ::

you know you've been busy when it's march and you're just getting around to even looking at the before and after pictures you took of the studio you moved into around new year's day.

i still need a day or two to go through the after pictures and set up a real, honest studio tour, but i'll tease you mercilessly with the before shots.

yes, the whole room was brown. dark, hershey's bar brown. and there were two layers of brown carpeting covering what we hoped was a cement floor (but which turned out to be an old asbestos tile floor). those racks and things filling the room were eventually removed -- they belong to my landlord.

(slightly blurry photos courtesy of my old iphone. wish i'd had the new one.)

Sunday, March 11, 2012

:: but but but ::

i'm doing much better these days. thanks for your kind words and your patience these last few weeks.

i'm back with just a small update on life/business, just a dipping of the toe into the blogging waters. i'm sure i'll be swimming laps again in no time.

but here's the thing: i wanted to tell you how well the aper + pink launch went, and how well things continue to go on that front. i've got a small stack of print orders sitting here on my desk and have sent out a good number of orders already in the last few weeks, and the feedback has been awesome.

i mean, i knew it would be. the whole reason i even conceived of aper + pink was because i knew that what i was producing in-house was better than the stuff i had seen anywhere. but it's been so reassuring, and so gratifying, to hear the great feedback from customers.

i'm sitting here almost a month into things wondering, now, what my next step should be. do i let things grow organically? do i reach out to new audiences and potentially open the floodgates? i have so many ideas and the desire to be bold and grow, but there are always so many buts.

surely i've shown in the past that i'm not one to let the buts stop me. but still. scary.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

:: attacks ::

when i wrote last weekend about how work hasn't been helping me through my anxiety lately, i think i may have suggested somehow that my anxiety is itself work-related.

it is definitely not.

it's the result of a series of very personal crises that all occurred in the span of approximately a week.

i never used to have these sometimes weeks-long debilitating anxiety attacks. before i had kids i would get the occasional short-lived irrational panic surge that might course through my veins for maybe 15 minutes tops.

now i get anxiety that inhabits me and lives inside here for weeks. this is my third bout with this in less than four years, and the fact that it keeps happening both scares me and pisses me off.

the frustrating thing about it is that it really does come in these little explosions, all at once and with no warning. an event will trigger the initial anxiety attack and suddenly my entire body will be flooded with stress that feels like poison. slowly over days i lose the ability to eat, and then to sleep. i can't be around my kids. i become unable to function. twice now i've even had to go on sedatives to help me get through the toughest part.

but when the attack finally wanes, i'm fine. fine-fine-fine. fine for a while.

some women hate their thighs, or their hips, or their stomachs. some hate the backs of their arms or their profiles in a photograph.

this anxiety is the thing i hate about myself. i hate that it's in me. i hate that i can't control it. i hate that it makes things so difficult for my husband and my kids and all the relatives and babysitters who help us out. i hate that i have to be medicated for it. i hate that it's probably hereditary. i hate that it makes me feel weak. that it makes me avoid stress. i hate that it makes me uncomfortable with my family. i hate that when i'm in the middle of it i feel like i will never-never-ever get out of it. i hate that even if it's not caused by my children, they're a part of it. i hate that it makes me avoid them.

what if this continues to happen to me three times every four years? what if it starts to happen more often? what if one time the anxiety does settle in and never leaves?

these are the things my frenzied brain wonders, of course. my calmer self knows that the previous bouts have ended and so will this one. it knows that each time this has happened i've learned something about my anxiety from it.

but still: it's scary.