Monday, December 31, 2012

Two Little Birds

I know it's starting to feel like every time I post these days I'm announcing something new.

I'm excited to announce the grand opening of my new online store, Two Little Birds Studio, named (of course) after my own two little birds, Greta and Finn.  I created this store because it provides a better platform for me to sell hand-stamped, fully customizable pieces that celebrate the simple joys of life, provide comfort during difficult times, or celebrate recovery from illness or addiction.

Click here to go to the site!
To celebrate the grand opening I'm offering a 15% sale (and free shipping!) for the month of January - but to find out how to take advantage of this sale, you need to be a newsletter subscriber!  If you're not already a subscriber, look for the sign-up form on the right hand sidebar, enter your email, and I'll send the information along to you!

You can find Two Little Birds Studio on Facebook by clicking here; I'd be very grateful if you followed me there, and it's the best place to hear about new products and special promotions.  I'll be announcing many new products over the coming weeks!  I also have a Twitter page where you can follow Two Little Birds by clicking here!

I appreciate all the support you guys offer me with all my new endeavors.  I'm having the time of my life building these new sites, and forming a grand plan that ties them all together to support my main passion of helping break the stigma and denial that surround addiction and build communities of support for women who are struggling with drinking.  Hopefully, there will be more information on these plans in the weeks to come.

If you could help me spread the word about Two Little Birds I would greatly appreciate it!

And a BIG thank you to the amazing Shauna who built the Two Little Birds Studio site for me, responded faster than the speed of lightening and is an overall awesome person.  If you need a professional, fun, talented person to build a website for you, she's your woman!

Thank you!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Cafeteria Girl

I had a public snit fit on Facebook last night.

My finger hovered over "publish comment" for a good 30 seconds before I pressed on it with my eyes closed.  I decided to hit the button, because I didn't think I was the only one who felt this way, and it was embarrassing to admit, but I just had to know what people thought.

Here's what I (wince) said:
I am being ridiculously needy and superficial and immature about this, I know I am, but if I get two comments on a blog post these days it's a lot. I used to get dozens. Am I boring now? Am I asking for too much help with my projects? You can PM me if you want to give feedback that you don't want to put out there in public. It's been going on for a while now, and I have to admit (though I'm embarrassed to do so) that it's making me insecure.
 I have to watch the line of ego, attention seeking and people pleasing really closely, examine my motives for blogging, etc. - because those bugaboos are traps in my sobriety.  I worked hard to get beyond (mostly) what people think, to stay focused on the mission or writing for myself, from the inside, regardless of the response.

Sometimes I do a really good job of that. Other times, like last night?  Not so much.

Of course I received comments empathizing with how I felt, and offering suggestions, like people use FB as ways of giving feedback now, people read but don't comment as much, people read through their Google reader and it's hard to leave comments.  All polite ways to put me in my place:  it's SO not about you, Ellie.

I think I'm overly sensitive these days because of the new endeavors like The Bubble Hour and Shining Strong are SO important, and I'm an alcoholic and instant gratification takes TOO LONG and I want THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD to respond instantly.

That is something I have to watch closely, because in that impatience lies a drink for me. If I'm seeking validation from the outside in (as a friend gently PM'd me last night- you know who you are and thank you) - I'm looking in the wrong place and I'll never be satisfied.

But sometimes? I still feel like that girl holding her tray in the cafeteria and looking around for a place to sit without looking like she's looking around for a place to sit.  I'm human.

I do believe in the mission of Shining Strong, The Bubble Hour and Crying Out Now from the bottom of my heart - and that is driven from the inside out. It's in my DNA, because it's how my parents raised me.  So I take comfort in that, and try to forgive myself for my occasional snit-fits.  The response has been amazing, and I'm SO grateful to all of you who have liked my page(s) and left testimonials and sent me encouraging words.

Sometimes? This is what it's like dealing with an addict.  We can never get enough.

Last night I meditated and prayed on this, and at the end my heart felt so full.  I have enough.  I am enough. And it will be what it will be.  I was all brave talk a few posts ago about being okay with trying and failing, but not being okay with not trying.  And I feel in my heart that this is true.

I just have to keep an eye out for those bugaboos, and I have to plunk my cafeteria tray down wherever I damn well please and not be scared of acceptance.

On a logistical note?  If you want to be sure you get all the updates from Facebook (where I think most people hear about posts) for Crying Out Now, One Crafty Mother, The Bubble Hour or Shining Strong it's not enough to "like" the page anymore.  I found this out last night - you also have to go to each page and look for the "tool" icon (little wheel - next to the "Likes" box) and select "Add to Interests".  Then you'll get all the updates, if you want to.  Thanks, Facebook, for making things so complicated and making me have to come make more self-serving comments that make me itchy.

Bottom line, I guess, is that we never really shake Cafeteria Girl, do we?  But we can keep moving bravely forward, tell our truth, empathize with each other instead of being embarrassed about our truths and stick together.

You guys are all at my lunch table, and I thank you for it.  Truly.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Shining Strong Needs Your Help, Please

Hi all.  Ellie here. Again.

Just a quick follow-up post about the new website, Shining Strong, named in honor of my Dad who passed away in 2011.  He taught me from a young age the importance of giving back to your communities (especially those that gave freely to you) and he gave tirelessly of his time to those less fortunate, to those struggling with addiction and recovery (WAY before he knew he daughter would be one of those people one day, and even though the disease never touched him personally), to his church, town and friends in need.

It is his legacy that I honor with the website, which I hope to turn into a not-for-profit organization that can then try to raise funds through grants or sponsorships so we can continue to build our audience and reach more struggling women (and more women in recovery, too!).

Here is where you can help: if you or a loved one have been helped by Crying Out Now, can you please go to the Testimonials Section of Shining Strong (click the link) and leave a testimonial about how it has helped you?  You can do it anonymously if you'd like.  The more testimonials we have, the more chances we have of attracting additional funds without compromising the integrity of the mission of Crying Out Now (and The Bubble Hour).

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for all your support.  Without all of you NONE of this would be possible.

Thank you!


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Shining Strong - Working Towards My Dream

Of course it is probably premature to talk about this.

Of course I'm going to anyway.

My father (who died suddenly in June of 2011) brought me up to always try to give back to any community I serve, as he did for those he served (and they were plentiful).

I've written about my creative explosion, the coming together of several creative projects that I realized recently will always share a common goal, whether it is a website (like Crying Out Now) or an internet talk show/podcast (like the Bubble Hour) or even One Crafty Mother, or an income producing businesses like Shining Stones, the soon-to-be launched Two Little Birds Studio, and my book Let Me Get This Straight.

The mission of all these endeavors is to provide support, community, resources and comfort to women struggling with addiction or alcoholism, or simply looking for a safe place to explore their drinking, or to provide income to support these endeavors.

So I created a new website/organization with the goal of creating a not-for-profit that will be the umbrella organizations to all the endeavors.

I did a lot of soul searching when I was laid up with cancer; I had a lot of time to think.  As I've written about recently, it gave me this overpowering feeling to do something with my life, and not to aggressively wait for it to come to me, to take action, do my best and be ready for ANY outcome.

I can only do the next right thing, get advice from loved ones and professionals (which I'm doing) and hope that this dream will become a reality. I know it may not work, and I know it's a heart-dream because I'm okay with trying and failing with this project WAY more than I'm okay with not trying at all.

I've been afraid to start plenty of new ventures for fear of failing, but not this one.

There will be way more to come about Shining Strong, and it will take months to get all the pieces in place.  But I can get the footprint out there on the internet, get the infrastructure in place so if and when it becomes and official non-profit I am ready to go.

I'd be honored if you'd check out the brand spanking new website here, (be kind, grammarians, spell-checkers and designers .. it is in its infancy and is only barely ready for viewing).

I also created a new facebook page, and if you'd come "like" it, it would make me really happy.  :)  If you're up to it, it would be awesome if you'd follow the brand-new Twitter Page, too.  It's very lonely there at the moment.

I dedicate all of this in honor of the legacy of my father, who instilled in me - with my mother right beside him, doing the same, only I'm lucky enough that she is still here, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with me and cheering me on - the importance of giving back, especially when someone has given freely of themselves to you, like the women (and men) in my recovery community do for me every day.

I love you, Dad.  I hope you're up there smiling.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Real Gifts of Christmas

This time last year I had just started chemo and radiation, and I probably would have been more scared if I knew what was coming, but I didn't, and that was a blessing. I ate and I ate and I ate because I knew that was coming to an end, and all in all it was a great Christmas.

I think.

I don't remember much.  Clearly I was in some kind of shock.  But there are pictures of us all smiling, so it must have been good.

There were Christmases I didn't remember because I drank too much, unable to entertain or enjoy life without a glass of liquid courage.

I am a sober woman now, and don't need alcohol to enjoy the holidays.

This Christmas I'm taking it slow and easy, enjoying every moment I can, trying not to get too stressed about work, or presents, or what to feed people, or if my house is perfect, and I'm mostly doing a good job.

My life is good. I am grateful.  I am in remission from cancer, I am sober, and my kids have stars dancing in their eyes.

I take a deep breath in, and let it out slowly.  Out with my breath goes stress, grief and fear.

I breath in deeply again, and in comes peace, joy, acceptance and serenity.

My yoga class instructor always ends with a meditative reading.  I'll share it with you, because it helps me put my heart where it needs to be. I can give these gifts because I am still here, and I am sober. And OH so grateful:

On the first day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves: The gift of my Undivided Attention.
On the second day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves: The gift of Enthusiasm.
On the third day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves: The gift of Creative Energy.
On the fourth day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves: The gift of Simple Seasonal Pleasures.
On the fifth day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves: The gift of Tenderness.
On the Sixth day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves: The gift of Good Cheer.
On the Seventh day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves: The Gift of Beauty.
On the Eighth day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves: The gift Communication.
On the Ninth day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves: The gift of Surprise.
On the Tenth day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves: The gift of Wonder
On the Eleventh day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves: The gift of Peaceful Surroundings.
On the Twelfth day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves: The gift of Joy.

Peace to you and yours this holiday season.



Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Ghosts We Knew ~ Absorbing Tragedy and Finding Gratitude

I'm not talking about it much. I don't even think I'm actively thinking about it much, but I know I'm more profoundly effected by last Friday's CT tragedy than I'm even letting myself understand.

I sat down to do a holiday post - some funny anecdotes, cute things the kids have said, how Finn still fervently believes and I think Greta knows-but-doesn't-want-to-know.

I couldn't write a word. My head was full of all those people facing this season without their kids.

And I felt scared right down to my bones.

I'm personalizing it a little bit, I can't help it.  Losing my Dad last year brings up all sorts of stuff when sudden deaths hit (not to say this is the same - it isn't - but it's one of the "cage rattling" experiences where you realize life turns on a dime).

This time last year I had just started chemo and radiation and I have so much to be grateful for. SO MUCH.

But still, those families in CT won't leave my mind. I'm praying a lot; even when I don't even realize it.

So I didn't set out to do a "sad" post about loss. It just came.  Anyone who has ever lost a loved one knows what I mean about holidays being a little harder. I start imagining the parents of those children and my brain kind of shuts down - SLAM - and then on some odd level I feel unworthy of happiness. Even though I know that's selfish fear talking, I can't help it.

I'm holding my kids extra tight, praying extra hard, wishing I could have assurances that none of us are ever granted.

So tonight I leave you with this song my Mumford & Sons (please listen - it's gorgeous - but you may want a tissue handy) called "The Ghosts We Knew".  Here are the lyrics, and then down below is a widget where you can listen to them as you read.  Send some prayers to those suffering this year. Wallow in all you have, and hug your loved ones tight.

The Ghosts We Knew, by Mumford & Sons:

You saw my pain, washed out in the rain
Broken glass, saw the blood run from my veins
But you saw no fault no cracks in my heart
And you knelt beside my hope torn apart
But the ghosts that we knew will flicker from view
And we'll live a long life
So give me hope in the darkness that I will see the light
Cause oh they gave me such a fright
But I will hold as long as you like
Just promise me we'll be alright

So lead me back
Turn south from that place
And close my eyes to my recent disgrace
Cause you know my call
And we'll share my all
And our children come, they will hear me roar
So give me hope in the darkness that I will see the light
Cause oh they gave me such a fright
But I will hold as long as you like
Just promise me that we'll be alright

But hold me still bury my heart on the cold
And hold me still bury my heart next to yours

So give me hope in the darkness that I will see the light
Cause oh they gave me such a fright
And I will hold on with all of my might
Just promise me that we'll be alright

But the ghosts that we knew will flicker from view
And we'll live a long life

Monday, December 17, 2012

All Is Not Broken. But It Still Hurts.

I am in the mood to write and I'm all jammed up.

I do and I don't want to do a post about the CT shootings, because how could I? How could I possibly understand how those people are feeling?

The news is full of searches for answers: gun control, mental health, cracking down on school safety.

One sound byte caught my ear tonight on the PBS evening news:  "In many states it's easier to buy a gun than to get authorized to seek help for mental health problems.  And, of course, there's the stigma of admitting you need help.  That keeps so many people from seeking the treatment they need, and their family members from insisting they get it."

Now, I realize this is a generalization.  Many family members support their loved ones getting help.  Many brave people DO reach out for mental health (those who are lucky enough to have health insurance and can take that deep, courage-inducing breath and turn the card over to find the "mental health hot line").

I've had to do that.  A couple of times.  I'm not ashamed to admit that, because I know it takes a boatload of guts to ask for help.

But I also know that most people don't, can't or won't take that step.  Over time, perhaps, getting a gun or engaging in some other form or rage and fear induced retribution starts to seem like a good idea, I guess.

Who really knows?  There aren't any pat answers to this tragedy, or any of the other times someone walks into a public place and kills innocent people.

It's not just gun laws. It's not just school, or movie theater, or college campus safety. It's not just mental health reform.  Granted, all of those are contributing factors, but it's OH so much bigger than that.

Stigma. Think about it for a minute. Do you have one?  Do you know someone who does?  An alcoholic that everyone whispers about but nobody helps?  Someone who is on the fringe of accepted - socially awkward - who is avoided at parties?   Someone who is morbidly obese?  Or a hoarder?  There are a many ways to be on the "fringe" of what is considered socially acceptable. I don't know who made up what constitutes socially acceptable, but somehow we all know what it looks like.

So when we have a secret, or feel shame, remorse, abuse or addiction, it is so hard to put your hand up and say "I need help", because of that damn stigma. A man on PBS news spoke so eloquently about it tonight.  His point, essentially, was that there IS no social norm. And we need major reform in how easily we allow people to get access to help with mental health issues.

This unspeakable tragedy in CT has us all twisted up. Myself included. I'm walking down the aisle of Target contemplating this kind of coffee creamer, or the other one, and it hits me like a punch in the gut:  there are dead children. Dead teachers. Just because someone woke up one morning with the idea that going to that school (after shooting his mother) and executing kids was going to fix something in his broken soul. Oh, Dear God.

I am not going to search for answers. I am going to pray like mad for all the people directly and indirectly involved in this horrific event. I am going to pray for the shooter and his mother and their family.  I am going to keep praying, and I am not going to succumb to the notion that "humanity" is broken.  People keep saying "what has humanity come to?""

I think that's the wrong question.  I think the right question is "how can we not let events like this allow us to give up on the fundamental goodness of humanity?  How can we crush stigma, act with compassion, reach out to the suffering?"

Because we all understand suffering. We don't like to think about it, but we all do.  And every single person involved in this tragedy is suffering.

I am holding them in my heart, and I am not going to let these unimaginable horrors break my faith that there is more goodness is the world than not.

I'll end with two quotes. One from the Dalai Lama:

And then this, from my friend Susan, who is a beautiful soul inside and out. She left this comment on my wall, the day of the tragedy, and to me it is so wise, real and full of truth and light I had to share it here:

"Am trying to remember that when my heart holds such brokenness in the world that I am tricked into believing it is all broken. But it is not. Love always wins. Eventually. But this is beyond words. Gaping, hard, heavy and painful. I cannot imagine. So we pray, and we hold those we love and our hearts break and we let ourselves feel the brokenness and hopefully the love." -Susan McDonald

Friday, December 14, 2012

Turret Thinking, A Health Scare and A Message (or two) From The Universe

I appear to be in the midst of a creative explosion.

Back in the late summer, I told myself (and some recovery friends, and my yoga instructor) that I was going to focus on self-care in the fall.  I was still healing physically from the cancer treatments, but feeling better every day.

I joked and said I was going to postpone my world domination plans until after the first of the year, at least.

I made it until about late October, and then my creative brain went a little nuts. In mostly a good way, but it's got me wondering where is this all coming from?   I don't say this in a braggy way (because I'm not sure it's something to brag about anyway) but in the past few months I have launched a new internet talk show/website/twitter page, published a book, sold a record amount of jewelry with the revamping of my newsletter with more attention to marketing, and hired a web designer for a last, bigger project I'm not announcing until January or February.

Some of my close friends, who know me well, have called me on this whatever-it-is I'm doing thing. It's a bit manic, and I freely admit that.  The thing is, I'm happy.  I definitely get overwhelmed, but I've asked for help with my creative babies (and am SO grateful to get it from so many lovely, compassionate, creative people) so at least I'm not doing all this alone anymore.

Then I was meditating the other day and it came to me - I knew where this creative explosion was coming from.

I spent six months incapacitated by cancer, unable to do much but think and sleep.  And think I did.   I thought about what really matters; a life threatening illness will do that to you.  Of course family came out right at the top of the list.

But another phenomenon happened as well.  I've always had a crazy creative brain.  Heather and I call it our monkey brain.  Having a shortage of monkeys (ideas) has never been a problem for me.  I was only happiest when I was madly chasing a dream or a new idea or building something online or talking to someone about building something online.

Basically, I was running from the drudgery of real life. Endless amounts of laundry, dinners, homework, baths, packing lunches, cleaning.  Letting my monkeys run wild was my escape - the antidote to my self-inflicted "I'm more than just a Mom" syndrome.

I was running from.  Not towards.

What cancer did - or rather what that forced stop did - was cause me to re-evaluate where I spend my time, even my mental time, because suddenly that was a lot more precious than it used to be.

As I emerged from my illness, began to physically feel better, I realized I have a mission.  I've had it all along, but it has been scattered.  I said at a round-table discussion recently, "I like to build my castles from the turret down. Turrets are pretty and everyone looks at them and I like that. Then I get to the last brick at the foundation and find out I'm building on a swamp".  I'm impulsive, and I like starting at the most interesting (and, let's admit it) noticeable part.

I've always had a mission - help people (especially women and mothers) who struggle with addiction and/or recovery feel less alone.  My mission is not to run around getting people sober.  My mission is to throw the doors of the stigma and darkness and secrecy and ignorance surrounding the disease of addiction WIDE OPEN.

This creative explosion is because I know what I want, now. I know why I'm doing it. Even the jewelry is tied to my mission.  It all folds back in on itself, and I'm getting advice (new anti-turret behavior!) on pulling my mission together into something even tighter, more meaningful and structuring it in a way that it can reach even more ears.

I'm running towards, and it feels really good.

And then yesterday I had a scare.  At the risk of sharing too much information, I woke up yesterday morning with a mouth full of blood, and it wouldn't stop bleeding. I didn't know where it was coming from. It was terrifying.  As luck (HA! I don't believe in luck any more) would have it I already had a radiologist check-up scheduled for that day. I wasn't going to go, though, because I'm to busy and was feeling so great.

Sometimes the Universe whispers to you, and sometimes it SCREAMS.  I looked heavenward, through my fear, and said "point taken".  I should never, ever be too busy to take care of myself. I was feeling so good, so far away from Cancer Land, so distracted from how recently I finished treatments.

Suddenly there I was slammed back into Cancer Land - full of fear and awfulizing thoughts and "shoulding" all over myself. I should be beyond this fear, I should be able to handle this better, etc.

I took a deep breath, called/emailed and texted some sober friends and told them where I was headed, what was going on, and got them lined up in case I got bad news. I can't be left alone with bad news.

I headed into the Radiology Department at Mass General Hospital, full of fear, spitting blood into tissues.  Why now? I thought to myself, playing the victim. Things are going so well. 

For some reason you always wait at least an hour for a scheduled appointment,which doesn't do much for rising panic and fear. My phone was buzzing away with encouraging updates from friends, which helped so much, but finally I turned the phone off, centered myself, and meditated.  Me. Meditating in a cancer ward.  I never, ever thought THAT day would come.

I sat with the center of myself for a while, counting my breaths and listening to my strong heartbeat, when suddenly I heard the first jingling bars of beautiful guitar music.  I opened my eyes to see a woman playing the guitar and singing with a circle of children with cancer - all full of smiles and clapping along to the beat.

Perspective? Firmly in place.

My appointment was fine. I'm okay. They think the blood is from dry air/sinuses, and when they scoped my throat, they said "it looks fantastic".  I have a lot to be grateful for.

I drove home thinking, hard, about how lucky I am to have found the thing I want to do with my life, for as long as I can afford to do it.  Cancer gave me this gift. I don't know if I have a day or sixty years, but I intend to make the most of whatever time I have left.

The other lucky (HA!) things? That afternoon I had both my cancer support group and a recovery meeting to go to.  I dumped all this out to people who understand, and felt a million times better. Sometimes the Universe Screams, but sometimes it Pats You On The Back, too.

I have a lot of work to do, some dismantling of turrets and some laying of foundations on solid ground, but I'm excited.  I can feel in my bones that it's going somewhere good - and I don't mean wild financial success or millions of people staring at my turret.  I mean my purpose, my heart song, the footprint I'm meant to leave in this world.  As long as I can focus on balance, self-care and support, I will be okay.

Knowing my mission in life, being so certain it's why I'm here, is so freeing. Even though I'm busier than I've ever been, I'm calm (usually - I have my moments as I recently posted about,, I guess I should say I'm existentially calm). I'm purposeful. I'm focused. I'm able to follow my mission and spend time with my kids because those other monkeys that don't fit in my life aren't there anymore.

It may sound odd to some of you - I was telling a friend all this recently and she said, "Well, DUH!  I think you may be the last person to see this, you know."

But she doesn't understand how many monkeys have gone silent, and how many I've let run free. If the monkey doesn't fit my mission - even if I think it's a really good idea - I'm letting the monkey go.  That's HARD for someone like me.

I am still trying to prioritize self-care. I go to yoga, my cancer group meetings, my recovery meetings.  I'm still searching for that elusive balance, but because I'm on a heart mission it all feels like part of my balance.

And I have NO idea where it's going. I'm not planning that part - that's turret thinking.

I'm opening my heart (not my monkey mind) to the messages the Universe sends me (or hurls at my head, depending on how much I'm really paying attention).

I'm just laying the next brick, as carefully I can and with lots of help. advice and more than a little prayer.

I can't wait to see how the castle will turn out.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Looking Inward - A Very Brave Truthful Thursday

A note from Ellie:  Sorry for the symbol typos. I can't figure out how to get rid of them (they are buried in the HTML somewhere). My apologies to Anonymous.

***Submitted by Anonymous:

Ellie's statement for Truthful Thursdays said this:
Once you've identified a time when you have (or are) experiencing shame and vulnerability (almost always accompanied by their evil cousin fear) I want you to write about it.  If you don't have a blog, crack out pen and paper, or a word document, and just let it pour out.  Try, if you, can, to write about it in narrative form.  Close your eyes, picture yourself in that moment, or in that period of your life, and write it like a story.  Tell the truth, every part of it, especially the little nuggets of shame, fear or guilt you have mentally edited out because thinking about them makes you feel small.
OK, this is going to be hard.  I have thought about it before, and many times when Ellie writes something I almost, but almost, email her.  Or go to confession (I'€™m not Catholic) or write something. Somewhere.
Partly I don't know where to start.  Partly, the biggest part, is that shame.  The guilt.  The knowing that I feel so bad about it, that others would think the same.  I am writing anonymously, and will be emailing anonymously.  Not even Ellie should know it was ME.  So where do I start?  The shame is now, the event was six years ago. Or maybe seven.  
And yet, every time I read something like Ellie's post, the guilt gnaws at me.  €œRemember? You did that. That was you.  How could you open that up? No one must ever know.  That can't be forgiven.  
You can confess to God as much as you like, but it still happened.  And YOU did it. I try to be kind to myself, to be gentle with the person I was then; but it just sounds like excuses.  And the voice of shame and guilt comes back, and the knot in my heart tightens.
So, where do I start?  With the bald fact? I had an affair.  There, I have said it. You can stop reading now.  Turn away with the "How could she? Didn't she know? What an awful thing to have done." 
The shame, the disgust, the GUILT.
Or do I start with how it happened? But is that just making excuses?  Excuses for something that never SHOULD have happened.  Ever. Black and white.  But did happen.  To someone who claims to be, no not claims to be, IS a Christian no less.
I don't know. But unless I write it out, I may never find out.  Can there be forgiveness? CAN I move on?  Not have that memory lifted up EVERY communion? EVERY post about shame?  Acknowledge and be kind?
So, where to start?  At the beginning, I guess. You already know the ending.
I am keen, desperately keen. I want to get on in the world, to do the best I can. I am not ambitious in the traditional sense but I want to do more, to explore the possibilities.  And I am terrified in my job that I will get found out, that I will get put in my place.  I know I can do it, but I don't have the confidence to stand up to people.  Then an opportunity comes up to go on €˜make-or-break course.  
If I am successful, then there is so much out there for me.  If not?  No, there is no option of that...I HAVE to do well. 
And the course is exciting. There is so much to learn, I am bubbling over with enthusiasm.  And all the fear and lack of confidence is overtaken with excitement.  Too much so, I guess, because it doesn't go down so well with the others.  
I become the outsider. Again.  But I can't go back, I HAVE to stick it out.  I do my best, but it hurts.  I get pushed around, bullied in fact.  One of the course directors understands me, he can see through the fragile veneer around me, and reassures me I am OK.  Fundamentally, I AM an OK person, just too quick, too abrupt, too fragile for others to cope with.  Apart from the old technician.  He just takes it in his stride.  If I cry, he just hands me a tissue.  If I get left behind, he waits for me.  If the camp counselor bullies me (Oh, yes, that didn't help) and the group turns on me, he gives me a hug.
My husband? He complains about the state of the house. When I say I am in distress, he tells me about the tough time he is having at work.  
When I ask for a hug, he complains that I am not having sex. He says I am frigid, cold, that he doesn't know what works€™ for me. 
When I say he can ask and we can work it out, he says he tried that and nothing changed.  When I am exhausted, he pokes and pats me til 4 in the morning.  He puts me down. 
When I pluck up the courage to say that I was hurt by a particular comment, even though he may not have meant it, he says that he did mean it.  That the only way he can feel good about himself is to bring me down a bit if I get too high - it's like a teeter totter, only one can be up.
I try, and try.  Perhaps if I can clean the house better? Have sex more often? Be careful about what I say, or how I say it?  He is a good man, he has the confidence I admire, he has passion and drive.  But he is not always kind. If I cry, he complains that I am trying to manipulate him.
We try counseling.  The worst time, I am in the car with my mother and she is giving me a lift to the counselor because he has taken the car to go to his parents for an event.  I phone to ask if he will meet me there, or will we go together.  He is two hours away.  He got drunk the night before so had a lie in.  I have to phone the counselor myself and cancel.  15 minutes before the appointment, with my mother in the car hearing it all.
Looking back, we now know that he was suffering from depression.  It didn't manifest itself classically, so we didn't recognize it.  But I still had to live through it. And battle with my own.  
I remember sitting on the floor, rocking, stuffing my face with chocolate.  Every bite made me feel worse, and I knew it.  And I still couldn't stop.  That technician? Turned out he was an alcoholic. He understood.  He responded to me text for help, and talked me down.
Alcoholic. Uh-huh. Can you say €˜co-dependency?! But he understood. We had similar ways of thinking, similar sensitivities, and we would talk for hours on the phone, trying to make sense of the world we found ourselves in.  Me battling with my course, my life, ME.  And trying to get this friend to see he was killing himself.  Of course, I now know that an alcoholic can suck you right in to their drama.  A spiral of drama, soul searching, trying to make connections.
All I wanted was someone to understand me, to help me to understand myself, to function in the world as I saw other people doing so.  WAS I cold, frigid, unresponsive? I didn't think so. I could talk and bare my soul.  Even though my husband was not interested in listening.  
Was I insensitive in some way? Was I not picking up on cues? No, if anything I was TOO sensitive to micro-emotions in others.  That raised issues of my childhood, trying to make things right for my mom. Trying to do it RIGHT so I wouldn't trigger her.  I talked to counselors in my church.  Tried to do things RIGHT at home. 
The only place I didn't have to watch my tongue, to backtrack and say it wasn't how I meant it, a place where someone was interested enough to actually remember what I said, was with the alcoholic.  My friend.
It was inevitable, in a way.  And yet, why didn't I just walk away? Say no? Cut it all off?  I try to be kind to myself, to see that I was tangled in a web. And then the shame tells me that the web was of my own making.  Was it? What else could I have done?  Not have an affair, for a start. Yes, I know.  To my endless shame, I KNOW.  
But what could I do to make the world RIGHT that I hadn't already tried at the time?  How much more could I, SHOULD I have tried? But how much more strength did I have?  Without ANY support, would I have imploded?  Was there anywhere else I could have looked for support?  The church?  But how could I tell anyone that the man who looked the ideal husband wasn't always kind to me? Besides, it was my fault anyway, wasn't it?  No, you don't talk about things like that. 
Don't open the cracks for exposure.
So, for three months I did the unthinkable.  A physical affair.  And it ripped me apart.  I did start getting more help.  And started to put myself back together from where I had been shredded.  The comfort that I had experienced was now tainted, coated, with guilt.  But where did my heart belong?  Where did I belong?  Where did I go from now?  A few things happened, and my world shifted slightly.  Just a bit, but enough. I was strong enough to say no, to deal with the loss of support, to back away from trying to fix my friend, from making it right.™  And to try again to make it work with my husband.  And again.  And again.
Eventually? Yes, it worked.  His depression got treated. As did mine.  I grew stronger, learned more skills, built my internal strength rather than stronger barricades.  I stood up to my husband, and he respected it and me.  
Now, it is well. Really well.  Far, far better than ever before.  Before anything, but definitely before THAT.
But is that an excuse? A way of saying, See, everything happens for a reason.€™  It was all OK. 
Maybe, but having written this out, I can see that although it was not the RIGHT thing to do, it was what happened. I did what I did, because of the situation I was in at the time, with the internal resources I had at the time.  I did my best and, no, it wasn't good enough.  And, yes, there were some choices I could have - should have, even€“ made differently; points in time when I DID have the ability to choose differently, but didn't.  
But it is done.  It is gone.  I am trying to build my life, REBUILD it perhaps, with what I have now. 
And what I don't want is to try and build my life with a rotten cornerstone, with a sense of shame and guilt crumbling way at me.  
I don't know if that is possible, but I am making a start here and now.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Winner of My Book Giveaway - and a SURPRISE!

Congratulations, Florinda! You won a signed copy (if you want it signed - I can leave it blank if you want to give it as a present).  

Please send me an email to with your address info, and any inscription you'd like, and I will send it along to you!

Now for the surprise.  I'm so appreciative of all the support I've gotten from everyone, I've decided to giveaway a second book!

Drumroll, please.....................   the second winner is:   Shelley!   Congrats, Shelley!

(Both winners selected using

Please also email me your address and whether or not you'd like an inscription and I'll send it right along.

Thank you to everyone who entered!

If you're interested in an eBook (for Mac products), pdf (or PCs) or beautiful softcover (color) edition of Let Met Get This Straight - Best of One Crafty Mother (Volume 1), the proceeds go to support my heart projects: Crying Out Now and The Bubble Hour.

Anything you can do to help keep these projects going is much appreciated.  Thankfully they are growing by leaps and bounds, but have surpassed what I can afford to do on my own for maintenance, and eventually even more growth.  They help thousands of people (esp women) find their way to sobriety, so it's all for a good cause. :)

To get a copy, please click this link here.

Thanks, everyone, for all your support. It means so much to me and all the women you are helping to get sober.

Monday, December 10, 2012

In Which I Behave Badly

I take a deep breath and try to calm myself.

It's one of those Sundays where everything seems to collide in just the wrong way. Both my husband and I are very busy with work. The kids are full of holiday craziness and visions of sugarplums and dancing about asking to decorate the tree, go shopping for presents, make a gingerbread house, play a game.

Our internet crashed. Actually it crashed right in the beginning of a movie date my husband and I desperately needed on Saturday night. We were all snuggled up under a blanket in front of a roaring fire and - ziiiiiiiip.  No more Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones working on their marriage in Hope Springs.

It was only 8pm, but it was the final straw for me, and I went to bed. Sometimes that's the only way to end a day that is two steps forward and three steps back.

I have a confession to make (Mom - I'm sorry), but I can't stand decorating for Christmas. I love the end result, of course I do, but I'm not at my best schlepping boxes up from the cellar and wrangling with lights and my "is the tree straight" obsessed husband.  I simply don't enjoy it.  I don't  know how this happened, because my Mom is, hands down, the best Christmas decorator ever. No joke.

There, I got that off my chest. Feel free to criticize me all you want; it's just my truth.

Having to decorate becomes especially difficult when we're all so busy.  I think about priorities, how we're always going to be busy, and try to wrench myself back into the moment, but then I sneak off to finish a few orders and my printer breaks.

How do I handle this?

I have a complete and total foot-stomping tear streaked tantrum.  We're talking Toddler Tantrum.

Steve calmly steers me upstairs and tells me to lie down, take a few breaths, and come back down when I have composed myself, like I'm some kind of child.  Oh. Wait. Yeah.

I lie in my bed and stare angrily at the ceiling. It's too much, I think.  All the little details and permission slips and school performances and activities and play dates and homework and running a small business, and... and ... and ......

I close my eyes, stubborn tears still squeezing out from behind my squinched up eyelids.

One year ago I was gearing up to start chemotherapy and radiation. One year ago I would have done ANYTHING to have these petty little problems that aren't even problems.  I just have a terrible attitude because I want attention. I've been working my you-know-what off lately and the hamster wheel never stops and I just want someone to say "GREAT JOB, MOMMA!".

Now I know how Finn feels.  Sometimes bad attention is still attention.

I place my hands over my heart and count its beats; a trick I learned in my cancer support group, and in yoga.  I feel my life blood pulse through my fingers, and with each beat I say a little tiny prayer:  thank you.

Once my tears have dried and my heart and mind are back in the moment - this moment right here - I head downstairs, feeling blessed. Finally.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Sometimes The Universe Smiles

Please read to the end of this. There is a song you HAVE to hear. Plus this is kind of a cool story.

I have written several times about how much I adore Brene (pronounced "Bren-nay") Brown's writing and speaking, and how it has changed my life.

No joke.

Her TedX Houston talk went viral in 2010, when my blog was still in its infancy.  Watching this video was transformative for me, because I knew that writing vulnerably was helping me heal, and there was clear response from readers telling me it was helping them, too.

At that time I was writing about alcoholism and recovery, and I had no idea what was coming down the road: a weight loss journey of over 65 lbs that caused me to take a hard look at myself in uncomfortable ways, the sudden death of my father, and a tonsil cancer diagnosis.

I cannot put into words how cultivating the ability to try to be vulnerable and open about these difficult periods of my life saved me.  I truly trace it back to watching that video of Brene Brown bravely standing out in front of what she though would be a few hundred Houstonians, and ended up being the whole. entire. world.  She's a researcher - a PhD, not cut from the cloth of your average "inspirational speaker", and I don't  believe it was her intention to be inspiring.  She was simply sharing her experiences in a way she found interesting from a data perspective, and more importantly how it impacted her personally.

I identified with that, strongly.  I didn't set out on this blog to inspire anyone. It helped me to write about it, and if my words helped others that was a by-product, not an intention.

I had no idea where it would all lead, which I'm discovering is kind of the point. Trust your gut, talk to trusted friends, pray or meditate about it, do the next right thing and let go of the outcome. Pry your white-knuckled fingers off the damn steering wheel and take it moment by moment.  Most of the time it won't go where you planned, and that's likely a good thing.

Yesterday I went with my Mom to the MA Conference for Women, which was full of incredible speakers, including Deepak Chopra, Kristin Chenoweth, Arianna Huffington, Brene Brown and many more inspiring women.

There were also incredible round tables, and I got to sit and absorb advice from someone I admire greatly, who I'm getting to know as a friend, too,  Morra Aarons-Mele from the Mission List and Women Online. I admire her drive, heart and spirit so much, and she has a LOT to offer women everywhere.

I wrote recently how my mother wanted me to give a copy of my new book Let Me Get This Straight, to Brene Brown at the conference.  First of all, I thought she was out of her ever-loving mind, because how was I going to just "run into" Brene and shove my book in her face?  Not my style.  It felt arrogant and self-promotion-y and I'm so star-crossed about Brene I wasn't sure I'd get two words out of my mouth without crying or laughing like a lunatic, or something.

My Mom's response was "you just made me read this book Daring Greatly by Brene and now you won't do it?"

I knew she was right, but still didn't bring a copy of my book with me to the conference because I'm a big. fat. chicken.

My Mom, however, brought a copy, so when Brene sat down to sign books there I was about 10th in line with a copy of her book to sign for me, and my own little Charlie Brown book clutched in my hand (with an inscription by me telling her how much her work means to me).  Even as she signed a copy of her book for me I had no idea that the words, "And, if it's appropriate, can I give you a copy of my book?  It exists because you taught me how to be vulnerable, to Dare Greatly, and I'm eternally grateful".

Here's the thing about Brene Brown:  she is so totally not full of shit.  She gave me the most genuine smile, looked me dead in the eye, and said "I'd love a copy.  Thank you."

And then my Mom snapped a pic of one of the best moments of my life.  No joke:

Brene Brown holding my book! I'm giddy with Fan-Girl-Ness!

To me, this is the power of women coming together to support each other- even if she never reads it - she made me feel so good, and honored how much courage it took me to overcome feelings of inadequacy and rampant "who do I think I am's".   I will always be grateful to her for that.

At a wonderful cancer support group I go to called Women Moving Through Cancer (for people in remission) we talked this week about our dreams. Where do we want to take our lives? How do we want to make our mark?  I instantly though of Brene Brown. I think a LOT of us want to be Brene Brown.   I just want to embody her genuine spirit, her bravery, her willingness to share pieces of herself to help us all be a little braver, a little vulnerable, and share our experiences - no matter what they are - so we all know we're not alone.

Then the group leader asked us where we were in achieving our dream, our footprint in life.  It hit me that I'm  actually there, right now, and I don't have to be a world famous speaker or have a million readers (or any readers) to make that kind of impact.

Neither do you.

If we all come together as women (and men) and honor each other's vulnerability, bravery, truths and experiences, we're making the world a much less competitive, fast-paced, winner-takes-all kind of place.

Thank you, Brene, for planting this seed in me.  I'm having fun watching it grow - it has very little do to with me and everything to do with doing the next right thing and letting go of the outcome.

Beautiful things happen that way.  And sometimes?  Sometimes the Universe smiles.

The conference ended with a performance of "I Was Here" by Kristin Chenoweth of this gorgeous song.  I insist you listen to it. Please. It left me (and my Mom) in tears.  The good kind.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Truthful Thursday - Parenting a Special Needs Child

***Submitted by Anonymous

A note from Ellie: it takes so much courage to write a piece like this - every mother, not just mothers of a special needs child - can identify with a pang of shame about their kid.  NO comments that are inflammatory in any way will be tolerated.  This is a community of empathy and understanding, so please offer your support.  Thank you.

This morning, I drove around town looking for day cares for my younger daughter.  A few years ago, this process was very easy. Back then, I was searching for a spot for my now-3 year old, a clever and witty kid who has always exceeded any goal put before her. Back then, I bounded in to each Director’s office, declared that we needed a daycare, and was met with a welcome party. They practically begged me to enroll.

But with my 1 year old, the process is much more difficult and brings about very painful feelings of shame. My younger daughter is beautiful, smiley, and loving. She will reach out to any stranger and quickly bury her face in his shoulder. She will stand at her sister’s train table and laugh with glee at just the experience of being alive. She teaches me about true happiness. But she also has a very rare syndrome, one that causes developmental delays along with some health problems.

So at 15 months old, she isn’t walking or talking. I’m quick to say that she’s cruising, but she really isn’t. Cruising signifies gripping onto the couch and moving her way along. She’s taken a step or two, but I certainly wouldn’t call it cruising.

Today, when I met with each successive Director at another prospective daycare, I bragged that she was cruising. You see, they won’t move her into the toddler room until she’s walking. She needs to be “steady on her feet and confident.” Until she reaches that milestone, they’ll keep her in the infant room with 6 week old babies. However, sitting in an infant room all day will impede her development because she needs to learn from the older kids. But the Directors are adamant that any child who isn’t walking needs to be with the babies.

 All day long, I’ve had to explain her delay – had to reveal her syndrome. And I felt such shame. I’ve gotten way past the point of blaming her for any of this. I’ve moved well beyond those heart-wrenching and hurtful feelings of only a year ago. But I had to reveal that my child isn’t perfect. I had to explain the characteristics of her syndrome and then, upon seeing one worried look after another, had to follow-up with a happy-faced, bubbly disclaimer: “She’s doing so well though! She’s practically a typical child!” At one point, I said, “You wouldn’t even know there was anything wrong with her!”

That’s when one of the Directors looked at me kindly and said, “There isn’t anything wrong with her.”

I felt such shame. I’m supposed to be her unconditionally-loving mother. And I need someone else, a stranger, to tell me that there isn’t anything wrong with my child?

 But…if there isn’t anything wrong with her, then why did the Director then say: “Of course, I’ve never heard of this syndrome. So I’ll need to check with HR…”? Her sentence trailed off, but it’s obvious that she meant “…before we accept your application.”

I want so badly to accept my daughter for who she is. I don’t want to feel any shame or embarrassment when talking about her. But every time I have to beg to get her into another daycare, I feel that I’m explaining away who she is. I’m asking strangers for forgiveness over the needs of my own, incredibly special child. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

I Can't Believe It! And a giveaway!

It CAME today!  My new book!  I didn't expect it to arrive so quickly, and I'm SO happy with the way it turned out!

Please excuse morning hair and face. Too excited to get dolled up for the picture!

I am holding in my hand one of my dreams.  Granted, it's not the same as being published on Amazon or through a literary agent, but hey - it's a step in the right direction and I'm really proud of it.

The color edition of this book is more expensive than the black and white, and I went back and forth as to which one I should pick, but I'm so pleased with the color, and especially when it comes to the photos in the book, it makes such a difference:

I seriously cannot believe I'm holding a book in my hand with the words "by Ellie Schoenberger" on the cover. I can't even pretend to be modest or sheepish about it.  I'm thrilled.

As I wrote about before, the profits from book sales are going to fund Crying Out Now and The Bubble Hour.  These labors of love have reached hundreds of thousands of people, and I've reached the end of what I can afford to do on my own and still keep these sites going.  Some wonderful people (announcement coming soon) have volunteered their time to help me keep them going, but the actual expenses are growing (just to maintain the sites).

If you want to support these sites - if they have helped you or someone you love -and you want a "Best Of" compilation of my posts so far (talking about my journey through alcoholism/recovery, weight loss, my father's sudden death, cancer and the joys and trials of everyday life with two young kids) there is still time to receive it before the holidays.  The softcover (color) edition is pricier than normal, but it goes to a good cause.  You can also get the eBook edition (for MAC products) and pdf versions (for PCs) for $9.99.

But the book makes a great gift, if I do say so myself.  :)

Even if I never, ever sell another one, I still can't believe I accomplished this dream that has been on my list for ages.  Thank you to Heather of the EO for the idea, and to for making it uncomplicated to do for a technically challenged person like myself.

If you are interested in ordering the book or eBook, you can go here to do so.

Thank you to everyone who has supported these causes by buying the softcover or downloading the eBook or pdf so far.  I can't tell you adequately in words what it means to me.  And the thousands of people out there struggling with addiction thank you, too.

And if you think I should make it available in black and white at a more affordable price ($15.99) will you leave that feedback here?  I'm so in love with the color photos, but maybe it makes more sense to make it black & white so more people can afford it?  Unfortunately I have to pick one or the other. What do you guys think?

I am smiling from ear to ear today.  I am still working on a book of original writing that I hope to find agent representation for someday.  Someday.  Achieving this dream makes my confidence level to be able to achieve that next goal so much higher.

It's a good day.

I'm going to give away one autographed copy of my book!  If you have already purchased one (eBooks and pdf files count, too) or you purchase one in the next three days, leave a comment and I'll give you FIVE entries.  If you leave feedback on whether I should produce a black & white version instead, I'll give you TWO entries.  And if you comment and say you'd like an autographed copy, I'll give you ONE entry.

The winner will be chosen on Friday, December 7th via

Thank you!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Exciting News

I'm trying hard not to apologize for coming here and continuing to talk about my latest projects.

But I can't really write about anything else at the moment, because these heart projects are on my mind, and I'm determined to spread the word.

I already posted about The Bubble Hour (a new internet talk show that is also available on iTunes).  It's a show geared towards giving practical advice to people who are still drinking, thinking of stopping, who are new to sobriety and could use empathy, advice and community, or people who have been sober a while and are interested in hearing how other people get through the tougher times.

It's a practical advice show, with fabulous guests telling their own stories and opening up what has worked (and not worked) for them.  Through story telling and sharing our own truths (just like on Crying Out Now, but this is spoken word) we are continuing to help people understand they aren't alone and that hope is out there.

I love the talk show format, because it puts real voices to these stories, real people with lives just like yours that have come out on the other side of the pain of addiction.

If you struggle during certain times of day (for instance, on last night's show cooking in early sobriety came up a LOT) these pod casts are a great tool - pop in your ear buds and listen to get through the more difficult times.  It's another tool for getting through those early days, and another way to break down that stigma that keeps so many people stuck and alone.

And the best news is that it's growing by leaps and bounds (almost 3000 listens/downloads in three weeks) but we STILL need your help spreading the word.  Even if you aren't in recovery, you never, ever know who you may be helping but telling people about this resource through FB or Twitter.  It could be someone you know well who is suffering in silence.

The more we show the world that we ALL can come together- not just those struggling with addiction - the more that damn stigma will crack and more people will feel brave enough to come forward and ask for help.

Below is a widget that has the last four episodes on it - you can listen from there, or you can go to The Bubble Hour's website and click on the tab at the top that explains how to subscribe to our pod casts.  Once you subscribe new episodes will automatically download into your iTunes.

PLEASE help us spread the word.

I promise I won't keep coming here and begging, but the early feedback we're getting is SO encouraging, and we know this is making a big difference.  If you feel shy sharing about addiction and you're not an alcoholic or addict yourself, remember HUNDREDS of people support The Bubble Hour (and Crying Out Now) who aren't alcoholics, and have never even been touched indirectly by addiction, but you believe in a good cause and making a difference in the world.  

Thank you. SO much.  I appreciate all the support.  You guys ROCK.

Listen to internet radio with The Bubble Hour on Blog Talk Radio