Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Stitch Fix #7

It was with some sadness that I received this month's Stitch Fix package. I knew that my stylist, Lauren, had probably picked out some great pieces for me, but I also knew that I wasn't going to be able to buy anything because money is super-tight this month. I'd tried to change the shipment a week or two before, but August 22 shipment was fixed.

So, on August 22, I got the scheduled box. As expected, Lauren did pick out some good things. She is really a getting a sense for what I like: soft, flowing, with a touch (OK, more than a touch) of hippie/boho style.

Even though I wasn't planning to buy anything, I did want to try things on and take some pictures for the blog. I waited a couple of days because I was sick this weekend. I wish I could have waited longer, as I still look sick in these pictures! But I have to send the un-purchased items back within three days, so I did what I could.

Here's what I got!

SKIES ARE BLUE Egret 3/4 Sleeve Embroidery Top

OK, let's ignore the fact that I look really pale in this shirt. You'll see that I look pale in most of the items for this month, but that's because I was sick all weekend. I was also having a horrid hair day, so I pulled it back into my "Channeling Ben Franklin" look.

Anyway, I love this top! I love that it's ivory and not white, and I like the detailing. The fabric is soft and cozy, and that's a big plus for me. The sleeves are a little long, but you can button them back to 3/4 length. And I like how the top looks with the grey jeans I got in my first fix.

I know I wasn't supposed to buy anything, but since I was going to lose my $20 styling fee anyway, I decided to keep this one.

SKIES ARE BLUE Zack Raglan Top

Yay! Another cute top! In a moment of returner's regret, I'd written back to Lauren to ask if she could re-send the Le Lis Eliason Lace Back Knit Top from last month's fix. She wasn't able to do that, so she sent me this similar top instead. I love this top, particularly because it feels so good on--warm and soft, perfect for fall.

I'd decided to keep one top, and it ended up being a decision between this one and the other Skies Are Blue top. I finally sent this one back, But who knows ... I may end up with another case of returner's regret on this one.

GILLI Eden Maxi Dress

I liked this dress better before I put it on. It's hard to tell here maybe, but it was too roomy in the top, and too long in the bottom. I'm wearing three-inch heels here, and it still touches the floor. Also, while I love the tie-dye look, I don't know if the light grey/white did much for my skin tone. I think this would look better on me if it were blue or purple instead of grey. I ended up sending this one back.

Speaking of blue tie-dye, let's move on to the next piece!

FUN2FUN Inkerman Tie Dye Top

Does this top scream "Nina" or what? Can you tell that I'm just happier when I have this top on? If money hadn't been an issue this month, I would easily have kept this top. I ended up going with a long-sleeve top since fall is around the corner. Lauren, if this one (or something like it) is around next spring, keep me in mind!

MAVI Anokia Crochet Detail Top

I liked this top, but it was probably my least favorite in this month's fix. Lauren mentioned that it would go well with my skin tone, and I think it does. Again, if money hadn't been an issue this month, I may well have kept this one. Sadly, I had to send it, and three others, back.

If you want to learn more about Stitch Fix and maybe even order a fix for yourself, click this lovely link. If you order something and don't buy anything, you're only out a $20 styling fee. so why not try it out? If you use the link I just provided, I'll get a discount on my next fix. Not so put any pressure on anyone. :)

My next fix isn't until October, so I'll see y'all then!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Journal Entry

Sitting at my old hangout, The Green Sage, writing on the sort-of-notebook blog because my trusty real notebook isn't handy. I know of two, maybe three, people who actually subscribe to this blog, which is why I'm pretty comfortable posting a "journal entry" type thing that isn't really meant for anyone else's eyes.

I have signed up for a writing class that begins next week. The negative people in my life have already pointed out that this is going to be a lot of work (as if I wasn't aware), while the positive people have said it's good that I'm doing a little something for myself. It's a $450 "little something" that will take me away from my daughter one evening a week for the next fifteen weeks, so I admit to having struggled with the question of whether I should do this or not. It will be a time commitment, too; the class isn't just the 2.5 hours each week I'll be spending in the classroom, but the minimum one-hour block of time I'll need to set aside daily for it.

And then there's the effort of trying to be creative when my mind has been on a mindless treadmill of working-mommy to-do lists for the past few years. I took a class last spring in hopes of jump-starting my creative mind, but it didn't really; I ended up doing the absolute minimum I could--not because I was goofing off or being lazy, but because I simply didn't have the time to do more. And that "absolute minimum" typically got done during my lunch hour on the day of the weekly class meeting.

Still, I wrote some good things. I created a great little character named Lydia, and I revisited one of my old-people characters that developed from my experience working at a nursing home in the late 1990s. I also wrote about the psychiatrist who brainwashed me back in the early 1990s. It was probably my worst offering of the course, and not something I'll go back to.

Which brings me to the question I've been pondering--or have been wanting to ponder when I found the time: What am I going to write about in this course? Do I want to start something new? Do I want to go back to an old project I never completed (which is nearly every project I've ever started)?

I have a few candidates. I'll refer to them by the names of their main characters.

Lydia. I really like this Lydia character. I also like the 10-year-old narrator who is Lydia's sometime friend. I like the dynamic between the two, along with Lydia's cousin (their third of their little group), and I'd like to explore it more. I have no idea what kind of plot I would develop out of all this; right now, I just want to spend some time with the characters and explore their setting.

Shelley. This is a novel I started years ago. I'd written seventeen chapters when I got my tech writing job at Drake in 2008, and, as always happens when I get a job, my creative writing came rudely to a halt. I took a week-long vacation in 2009 (before my daughter was born) and wrote chapter 18, but by then I'd lost my momentum. I still think Shelley's story is compelling, and the draft contains some of the best writing I've ever done. A big part of me would like to go back to this project, but it's hard to say whether I should. I've changed a lot since I started that novel. I may be dealing with a creative "you-can't-go-home-again" situation here; I wonder if I'll be able to write the novel I started to write, or if I'll even want to. Or if I'll want to work on it but change everything, which doesn't seem like a good idea, ever.

Jared and Saundra. This is a just-for-fun romance I wrote last year. And it was fun, for the first draft. I never finished it, though, and I'd like to go back and make it something worth reading. I don't know if that's what I want to focus on in this class; I don't know if it's the right thing for this class, since it's very much a work of genre fiction.

Dylan. Dylan's story is very similar to Shelley's, in that they are in similar job roles at similar institutions. In fact, I think I was exploring Dylan's story when I came up with Shelley's, and the Shelley story was the one that blossomed. For seventeen chapters, at least.

Ryan. This is a story idea I came up with when working on my for-fun romance. It really was a pleasure to use a plot-structure recipe, to just fill in the blanks and focus on writing while not worrying so much about plot. I knew I wasn't writing great literature, but I was having fun writing--something I hadn't done in a while, And all writing is practice. Anyway, the Ryan story is another one of these recipe stories. Again, while I think the characters are compelling, the genre probably isn't right for the class. But because the characters are compelling, I wonder if I can take them out of their by-the-numbers plot and put them into something more organic. Something more me.

Vance. This is a character based on the psychiatrist who brainwashed me. I don't know if I want to go back there. I certainly don't need to. Some things are better left in the past, you know? Still, I can see a compelling story coming out of it.

There are a few more story ideas, but that's all they are--ideas. Some of the above ideas have hundreds of pages of draft and notes written, while others just have a dozen or two.

Class starts Wednesday. It will be interesting to see how it goes--whether the discussions will lead me toward one idea or another, or to something completely new.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Purging My Closet: What I Learned

Oh, Lord. Yes, it's true. Waterfall is writing another fashion post.

I've done quite a bit of wardrobe-purging over the years, but I've never done anything on a massive scale. Generally, I get rid of the obvious things--the pants that haven't fit since 1994, the falling-apart jeans I've been wearing since 1994, the holey tie-dye with the paint stains from 2003.

Ha. Just kidding. I'll never get rid of that tie-dye. (Sorry, Mom.)

But I've been wanting for months to do some serious purging of the old closet. Not only was it full of clothes I never wear, but it was just stressful to look at--piles of jeans, hanging clothes jammed so close together that finding anything was a chore, much less disentangling the demon-possessed coat-hangers once I did.

At around 11:30 yesterday, after a good two hours of work, I made a trip to my clothes-donation place with three big bags labeled Shirts, Pants and Skirts, and Dresses. It was so freeing. I feel like I can breathe now when I walk into my closet. I feel like my closet can breathe now. It's nice to look at the clothes and realize I love and will wear everything in there. The Junior Dads dress is an exception. More on that later.

Anyway, I learned a few things--about fashion, but mostly about myself--in the closet-purging process. And, dear reader, I am going to share those things with you. So here we go ...

Important Lessons I Learned From Purging My Closet

  1. The "crisp white shirt" rule is a myth. A crisp white shirt may be considered a closet staple for many women. I apparently took that oft-given advice to heart, as I owned not one but four crisp white shirts--one of which I had worn once. The other three were quite literally "like new," as I'd never taken them off the hanger. Why four white shirts? Perhaps I remembered the injunction to "have a crisp white shirt in your closet" while at the store, while never remembering that I actually already owned one (or two, or three)? I guess it's hard to remember if you have something if you've never worn it. I don't like collared, button-down shirts, and I look awful in white. So, well-meaning fashion advice aside, I got rid of all four.
  2. The "little black dress" rule is a myth, too. Well, maybe not. I admin to liking LBDs, but even someone who likes them doesn't need six of them. And when none of those six dresses even fit? The consignment shop will be able to do a special LBD display with my latest donation. And perhaps I'll go LBD shopping someday, next time I really need to wear a little black dress. Or maybe I'll get a charcoal grey one instead. So much prettier than black, to my eyes.
  3. If I buy a button-down shirt with a collar, I'm pretty much guaranteed never to wear it. I don't know why I hate collared shirts. I just do. And it's not just the white ones--it's the blue ones, the cream ones, and the pink ones. All of them--every last "like-new" item--are gone now.
  4. If you leave the job you bought special clothes for and you only wore those clothes for that job, then you can probably get rid of the special clothes. Three pairs of khaki slacks, I'm looking at you.
  5. Six pairs of blue jeans is a bit much. Particularly when one is falling apart (bought in 2005!), and the other two never fit right in the first place. So now I have three pairs: some nice, dark-washed ones; some nondescript medium-blue ones; and my favorite ones of all: the ripped hole-y, most-comfortable-jeans-in-the-world ones.
  6. Seven turtlenecks is more than a bit much. Even if you used to love them. Even if you know you look good in them (or used to). If they feel constricting and give you a headache whenever you wear them, they can go.
  7. If it's a power blazer with shoulder pads, it can go. Gently or not, into that good night.
  8. It's okay not to own a lot of black if you don't particularly like black.
  9. The same goes for red, white, pink, and big, crazy prints.
  10. It's okay to keep things.That skirt you bought the summer before your wedding 12 years ago? Still stylish? Still cute? Still in good condition? Keep it. It's why you paid $80 for it at Ann Taylor back in 2003.
  11. Get rid of the stress-inducing clothes. If the low neckline or the low-riding waistband is such that you're constantly checking for indecent exposure, then this means (1) you're old, and (2) you can toss them. No need to live with that kind of micro-stress.
  12. Get rid of the clothes that never worked. If it's too big and you know you're never going to get it altered, toss it. It's going to fit someone else perfectly.
  13. It's okay to keep one or two items of sentimental value that you know you'll never wear. The "Junior Dads" dress my aunt made me in college? Serious sentimental value. I can run my hand over the burgundy velvet and admire the artistry and think of how much I love my aunt, and how much she loves me. Years from now, if my kid wants to sell it for $3 at a garage sale (or give it to Goodwill, or just throw it away), that's fine. I'm keeping it for now.
So, those are a few things I learned, or maybe just observed, from my big closet purge. One final thing I learned, and perhaps it goes without saying, is this: Don't buy things you don't love. Even if they're on sale. The fact that you got it for 75% off makes no difference ten years later, when you're looking at an out-of-style, like-new blouse that you only wore once--in the dressing room before you bought it.

And that, folks, brings us to a close. I hope you enjoyed this latest fashion post! At the rate I'm going, my next post will probably be fashion-related as well, as my next Stitch Fix shipment is due in a couple of weeks!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Stitch Fix #6

I just received my Stitch Fix #6 this past weekend. My best-laid plan was to post each “fix” on this blog, but as you can see, that hasn’t happened. So here’s a quick recap:

  • Fix #2: Hm, don’t really remember it. I believe I kept a pretty skirt and a pair of earrings from that one.
  • Fix #3: Hated it! I sent everything back and thought about ending my Stitch Fix account altogether.
  • Fix #4: I got a new “stylist,” as Stitch Fix calls the employees who research and pick out the clothes for their clients. Her name is Lauren, and she’s done a great job so far! I liked all the pieces she picked out, but money was tight that month, so I bought just one thing.
  • Fix #5: Lauren hit the jackpot with this one. I bought all five items. Because I bought everything in the fix, I got a nice discount. Yay!

What Is She Talking About?

Stitch Fix is a great shopping service for people like me who hate to shop but want to wear something other than cutoffs and tie-dyes, at least every now and then. A stylist picks out some items for you based on preferences that you provide, and you get a box of five items on your doorstep. My "fixes" come once a month, but you can specify how often you want your items to be shipped.

Once you've tried on your items (which always fit, at least in my experience), you decide what to keep and what to send back. If you keep anything, your $20 stying fee is applied to the total. If you don't keep anything, you're out $20. Not a bad deal.

What makes it an even better deal is the discount you get when you refer a friend. So, even though this article's only likely reader is my stylist, Lauren, I encourage any other visitors who see this to click this link and sign up!

I started trying Stitch Fix several months ago (gosh! I guess it's been about 6 months now). 

Now, for Fix #6.

I’d asked Lauren to send me some silver jewelry to wear with my most recent purchases. I have never been a jewelry person and, thus, own exactly two necklaces, one of which is a string of pearls that I’ve had for 20 years and rarely wear. Now that I’m wearing something other than cutoffs and tie-dyes, though, I felt a need for something that was pretty and fun but not super-dressy.

Lauren came through on that request, plus she sent several other things I loved.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to keep everything, though I was tempted.

Item #1: Bancroft Gisella Hammered Fan Necklace, $38

This is an adjustable necklace. I love the hammered look. This photo unfortunately doesn't do it justice.

Bad photo aside, I think the style is fun, and I look forward to wearing it. KEPT. 

Item #2: Le Lis Eliason Lace Back Knit Top, $44

Isn’t this a cute top?

I love the color, and the soft fabric is heavenly to the touch. I also love the lace back. I wasn’t crazy about the see-through aspect, though.

This definitely wouldn’t work with a bra, so I’d have to wear a camisole underneath. Plus a bra under the camisole, so we’re talking three layers … and with half the shirt having a t-shirt feel, I didn’t know if I’d want two layers underneath. So, even though I loved a lot of things about this top, I ultimately decided not to keep it. SENT BACK.

Item #3: Leota Nico Printed Faux Wrap Dress, $108

I think this dress is flattering, and I like the color and style.

I didn’t love the dress, though, and I thought $108 was a lot for something I didn’t love. SENT BACK.

Item #4: Skies are Blue Setanta Embroidery Top, $48.00

If ever there were a Nina top, it’s this one. Totally my style.

I know $48 is a lot to spend for a sleeveless top, but this one was a near-no-brainer for me. I do wish it had been cheaper. I had to think about whether I wanted to spend that much, but ultimately decided to do it. KEPT.

Item #5: Loveappella Michelle Cross Back Knit Top, $48.00

This top, like the Le Lis, was delightfully soft, and I wavered quite awhile over whether to keep this one. I wasn’t crazy about the back—it looked a little too much like a face. Am I weird for thinking this? Does anyone else see Batman in there?

It’s probably Just Me, so I seriously thought about keeping this one. But, while I’ll spend $48 on a top I adore, I’m not so inclined for a top I like but don’t love. SENT BACK.

So, that's this month's "fix." I'll try really, really hard to post next month's, and the next, and the next. Meanwhile, check out Stitch Fix for yourself!

Friday, February 27, 2015

My Third Fashion Post, and My First Stitch Fix

Update: I posted this several days ago and have really enjoyed the FB comments and messages I've gotten from friends who've read this. A few have surprised me by thinking I look good in things I didn't think flattered me. As I look over the pictures, I'm realizing that nothing looked truly awful, but at the same time, I don't think I was being unnecessarily harsh on myself. So much of how you look in something is reflected by how comfortable you feel in what you're wearing. I was very comfortable with some of the clothes, as you'll read below, and not so comfortable with others!

Well, folks. I've written over a thousand posts on this blog over the past 10 years. Of those 1,000+ posts, I've published exactly two that focus on fashion.

We have Vestis Virum Reddit, and Two Chopin Trips, and a Jealous Sister, both published in 2004. Although I just now posted vanity links to both of them, I won't ask you to read them. They're both pretty much about the same thing: How poor my sense of fashion is, and how and why I hate to shop.

So I was kind of excited when I learned about Stitch Fix. Here's how it works:
  1. You fill out a questionnaire about your likes, dislikes, sizes, etc.
  2. For $20, Stitch Fix assigns a "stylist" to pick stuff out for you.
  3. You get a present package with five new items of clothing on your doorstep. Included is a note from your stylist, plus some cards giving suggestions about what to wear with the different items.
  4. You try everything on and decide what you want to keep.
  5. Within three days, you send back what you don't want.
  6. You're charged for whatever you keep. That $20 styling fee? It goes toward payment for the clothes.
Nice, huh? They say the first few "fixes" aren't always great, since your stylist is just getting to know you and your tastes, but that things get better over time.

I decided to try it. Couldn't hurt, could it? Worst case, I hate all the clothes and I'm out $20. Not a big deal because I have a job.

So here it is, folks (drum roll) ...

My First Stitch Fix Experience

Lots of Stitch Fixers videotape the whole thing -- getting the box, opening the box, looking at the clothes, etc. I didn't do that. Maybe next time. Maybe not. Here's what I got:

Item #1: Pixley Edmond Chevron Print Henley Shirt

When I saw the picture, I wrinkled my nose. I'm not a fan of chevrons. They remind me too much of Charlie  Brown. And I'm not crazy about "busy" patterns.

I liked the shirt a little better when I took it out of the box, mainly because the colors are prettier than they look in this little picture, and the soft fabric is heavenly to the touch. Here's what it looks like on me:

Not bad. Not great, but not bad. Since it isn't petite, it's a little big in the neck and shoulders, but I think it would look great if I added a necklace.

Here's what I like about the shirt:
  • Soft fabric - This is a really big plus. The shirt is super-comfortable.
  • Sleeves - I love the length, and I can make them longer if I want
  • Henley - I've always liked this style
  • I think the shirt goes well with my curly hair
Here's what I don't like:
  • Chevrons - Good grief.
  • Cost - At $54, it's pricey. More than I would typically pay for a shirt.
  • Pattern - While I like that it kind of complements my curls, I think the "busy-ness" of it kind of washes me out.
The verdict? Do I keep it or send it back? I finally decided to sent this one back. If it had been $20 less, I probably would have kept it, but I just couldn't justify spending $54 on a casual top I wasn't crazy about.

Item #2: Fun2Fun Lamont Tile Print Blouse

This was another one I wasn't sure I'd like, mainly because of the busy pattern. But like how it's paired with a bright jacket in the picture, and I have some junky-looking jeans just like the ones shown here!

The fabric felt kind of silky, which I liked. So I tried it on.

Not crazy about this one. I think part of the problem is that it isn't a petite shirt. Even though it's a size small, it looks boxy on me. My small waist is one of my better features, and this shirt just made me look like a block.

Here's what I like about the shirt:
  • Neckline is kind of fun.
  • It would be fun to pair with a brightly colored sweater or jacket.
  • Would be a great shirt for dressing up a pair of jeans.
Here's what I don't like:
  • The busy pattern totally washes me out.
  • The cut/style turns me into a box.
The verdict? Do I keep it or send it back? Send back.

Item #3: Just Black Faye Skinny Jean

Despite the name of the designer, these jeans are not black. They are gray. And they are beautiful

You can't really see them in the picture, so here's what they look like on me:

(Sorry for the weird angle.) As you can see, I'm wearing the chevron shirt from above. I'm also wearing these jeans in the picture of me in the Fun2Fun top above.

Here's what I like about the jeans:
  • Fabric - Soft and stretchy. Very comfortable.
  • Appearance - They look good on me.
  • Color - They are different, and a little dressier, than my run-of-the-mill blue jeans.
Here's what I don't like:
  • Length - They're a little long. Not a problem if I wear them with heeled boots, but I have to roll them up if I'm going to wear flats.
  • Nothing else. I pretty much love these jeans.
The verdict? Do I keep them or send them back? Keep!

Item #4: Kristah Ruffle Knit Blazer

I'm not a blazer type, so I wasn't sure about this at first.

As with the other items, the soft fabric won me over! I don't remember telling my stylist I like soft fabrics, but she definitely made some good choices with the fabrics. Here's a picture of the jacket on me. I'm showing it from the side so you can see the cute ruffled back.

I'm still wearing the skinny jeans, BTW. I didn't want to take them off.

Here's what I like about the blazer:
  • Soft fabric - So comfortable. It doesn't have that stuffy "blazer" feel about it at all. It's more of a t-shirt/sweatshirt material.
  • Sleeves - I love that they're 3/4 length.
  • Ruffle - I don't think of myself as a "ruffle" type, but I love how it dresses up the blazer, yet makes it feel less blazer-y.
  • Fit - It fits me really well. I don't know if it's a petite, but it has a petite feel to it.
Here's what I don't like:
  • I'm not crazy about blazers. I think I would rather wear a sweater. Then again, buying this doesn't mean I have to quit wearing sweaters.
The verdict? Do I keep it or send it back? Keep!

Item #5: Cleokai Marta Wrap Dress

I was hoping this would be another "I-don't-like-the-picture-but-maybe-it'll-look-nice-on-me-after-I-try-it-on" things. Because I really didn't like this dress when I saw the picture.

I hesitate to even add the photo below. Not only does the dress look awful on me, but my daughter, who is dressed in clashing stripes, insisted on posing with me. I now fear this picture will show up in some Buzzfeed "Clashing Mother-Daughter Pics" listing someday.

Let's all say "ugh" together. Ready? UGH!

Here's what I like about the dress:

Here's what I don't like:
  • The weird color combo with the stripes. The stripes in general.
  • The fit. Folks, this is what happens when you put a non-petite dress on a petite person. Technically, it's the right size, but the proportions are all wrong--the torso is too wide, the shoulders are too wide, and the neckline is ... yes, too wide. And then the horizontal stripes just make everything look wider.
  • The thin belt. You can't really see it here, but I'm not a big fan of thin belts. And I prefer dresses that don't "cut me in half" the way this one does.
  • The pattern. In addition to the stripes, I mean. As with the sleeveless blouse, I just feel like the busy pattern washes me out. 
The verdict? Do I keep it or send it back? Send it back.

So, overall, I'm pretty happy with my first "fix." Kudos to my stylist, Emily, on this first go-'round. The wrap dress and the sleeveless shirt didn't work out, but she picked three things that I like, and I've decided to purchase at least two of them.

Interested in Trying Stitch Fix?

Click here to check it out. If you click that link (or this one here), I'll get a $25 referral credit that I can then apply to my next fix! So please, try it for yourself! And let me know your experience!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Looking Back on 2014

The year 2014 had its struggles. It had its ups and downs. Here are some reflections on how the past year has been for me. Questions are from last year (which I got from Simple Mom, a blog that I, admittedly, haven't read in a long time).

1. What was the single best thing that happened this past year?
I got a job--one where I'm doing meaningful work and working with a great group of people. I love my work, and the income has allowed us to make huge strides toward getting out of debt. And that has been unbelievably good for morale. Oh, and we also moved out of a house that Hubster hated into a house that we both love. It's the first house we've lived in that we both like. That's really helped make life easier--just liking where we live.

(Hubster's answer: "I think the single best thing that happened to you this year was getting your meds straightened out.")

2. What was the single most challenging thing that happened?
Not long after I started my job last June, I started having issues with my medications. This caused a bumpy first few months at work--I was sure I was going to get fired. I tried a new medication in an effort to "get my brain back," and that was a disaster. I was certain that I was going to have to be hospitalized again for depression. I ended up quitting all the meds except one, so things are better now. But it was a huge struggle of a year, mental-health-wise.

3. What was an unexpected joy this past year?
I ended up really liking a lot of things I wasn't sure I'd like: our new house, Scout's new school, my job. (Actually, I was pretty sure I'd like the job. The unexpected non-joy was the struggle I had when I first started it.)

Also, Scout is growing more amazing than I ever dreamed she would be. I shouldn't be surprised, but it's hard to expect things you were never able to imagine in the first place.

4. What was an unexpected obstacle? 
The novel I was writing, which was so easy to write for the 40 days it took to compose the first draft, ended up being something I fought against for the better part of the year. This was very disheartening, and I'm still trying to get past it.

5. Pick three words to describe this past year (or to describe yourself this past year).
Insecure. Afraid. Frustrated.

6. Pick three words your spouse would use to describe your year—don’t ask them; guess based on how you think your spouse sees you.
Dedicated. Busy. Distracted.

7. Pick three words your spouse would use to describe their past year—again, without asking. Improved over 2013! (Hubster had kind of a crappy 2013. Things got better for him on all fronts this year.)

8. What was the best book you read this year?
I read quite a few books on writing, along with a bunch of trashy novels. And then, in November, I re-read Pride and Prejudice. And that was the best book I read this year.

9. With whom were your most valuable relationships?
My daughter and my husband.

10. What was your biggest personal change from January to December of this past year?
I am no longer on medication. I also have extremely curly hair, which I didn't have last January. (See picture below!) The curls are completely natural. My hair just decided last spring that it was going to be curly. I couldn't do a thing about it.

11. In what way(s) did you grow emotionally? I am learning to stop blaming my shortcomings on conditions found in the DSM-V. It's very difficult to differentiate what is "mental illness" and what is simply laziness or lack of confidence . . . but I'm learning to do that. Or trying to.

12. In what way(s) did you grow spiritually? Oh, me. I could write a book on that ...

13. In what way(s) did you grow physically? 
I gained five pounds! Yay! (I needed to gain five pounds!) In the first two pictures, taken in late 2013, you can see that my face is thin and kind of gaunt. Not so in the bottom picture, which was taken in December 2014!

The not-so-great news is that 2014 was probably the least healthy year I've had in a long, long time. So, along with so many other folks, I've made a resolution to get back to my eating-right-and-exercising ways.

14. In what way(s) did you grow in your relationships with others?
Scout is becoming more mature, and that's being reflected in our relationship with each other. I love being able to have conversations with her, and I feel like our relationship is a totally different animal now than it was a year ago. I also improved my relationship with the Hubster. Due to a number of factors, we managed to spend more time together this year than we typically have in the past.

15. What was the most enjoyable part of your work (both professionally and at home)? Learning new things! Working with great people! Being in Asheville! Having an income!

16. What was the most challenging part of your work (both professionally and at home)? Starting my job and having it be incredibly hard to learn because my medication was making me so stupid. It was unbelievable how much easier life became after I stopped taking the Depakote.

17. What was your single biggest time waster in your life this past year?
Oversleeping. But I think I might have a sleep disorder of some kind (my new Fitbit tells me I average about 2.5 hours a night of sleep, even though I'm in bed for 8-9 hours per night), so maybe my answer next year will be different.

18. What was the best way you used your time this past year?
One-on-one time with Hubster, and one-on-one time with Scout.

19. What was biggest thing you learned this past year? 
My kid and my husband are more important than my writing dreams.

20. Create a phrase or statement that describes this past year for you.
Struggling for/against contentment? (That doesn't seem to make sense, but it does make sense. Trust me.)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Dear Carbamazepine,

Dear Carbamazepine,

If I'd wanted to feel hungover, I'd have gone out and drank drunk imbibed lots of good wine, or cheap wine, or heck . . . some of the "hard stuff" that I haven't touched since, oh, 1992 or so. But to be honest, I haven't felt a desire to lose myself in an alcoholic haze in a long, long time. And I certainly haven't craved a hangover. Sheesh.

But I got one, or something like it, dear Carbamazepine, thanks to you.

The Prescription. One pill for four nights, increased to two pills per night after that. Makes perfect sense, doesn't it? Well. I tried my one pill for four nights and that was fine. Then two pills for two nights and . . . ugh. It started out with a little dizziness, some slight nausea, nothing unexpected.

The Symptoms. Soon I couldn't feel my feet, other than some tingling below my ankles. And I started sweating buckets, particularly at night. I woke up Friday morning thinking I'd wet the bed. And again Saturday morning. But folks, you'll be happy to know that I haven't yet broken my 40-year not-peeing-in-the-bed streak after all, but that's how much sweat I'd excreted in the night--enough to soak my clothes and sheets.

My Weekend on Carbamazepine. So the Hubster had planned on a weekend backpacking trip with the guys for several weeks, and he left Friday morning. This was before my reaction to you, Carbamazepine, had gotten bad; otherwise, Hubster would have stayed home. Friday evening, I didn't feel great, so I let Scout watch TV and play computer games all evening. We got to bed early that night because we had fun plans for Saturday: Go to the Barnes and Noble at Biltmore Town Square, maybe go to a movie if an appropriate one was showing, and then hit the ol' Waffle House for some waffle-eatin' and Johnny Cash. Sounds like a fun day with a four-year-old, doesn't it!

Well, it would have been . . . if it weren't for you, dear Carbamazepine.

Saturday morning, I had that feeling of being somewhere between very drunk and very sick. Weirdly enough, it reminded me of the bathroom at the Chimes in Baton Rouge, probably because I experienced that very same feeling in that very same bathroom so many times back in the late 80s. I couldn't walk in a straight line and kept thinking I was going to throw up. The only difference between Saturday morning and the Chimes was that I wasn't being further nauseated by the familiar old aftertaste of Bacardi and Diet Coke.

Still, my sweet kid was so excited about going to B&N, so we went to B&N, which we probably shouldn't have done, considering how dizzy I was.

Oh, me. When we got there, I found I could barely walk. I thought, "You know, I haven't had much to eat today. Maybe I just need some food in my belly." So we went to a burger place (I figured I needed a large dose of protein). I sat on the floor of the burger place for several minutes, so sick I thought I was going to throw up right there. But I was merely dry-heave-y, thanks to you, Carbamazepine. Oh, how I've missed my dry-heaving hangover days from so long ago. (Insert eye-roll here.)

So right there, sitting on the floor of the burger joint for twenty or so minutes, I sent out the modern woman's version of the APB: I posted my location to Facebook, said I was sick and couldn't drive, and hoped someone was in the vicinity to pick me up. Probably not the smartest thing to do, but I wasn't thinking very straight.

My sister (who I suppose I could have just called, but she was having a fun pajama day with her young daughters) saw the FB post and was able to pick us up. We went by my house to pick up clothes, she brought us to her house, where I promptly went to bed (at around 5:30) for the most part of fifteen hours.

I did wake up a few times with another hangover (or a continuation of the one from before) and spent a couple of those hours on the floor of my sister's bathroom, kneeling before the porcelain god.

Now. Now I'm feeling a little better--good enough to do something other than lie in bed and/or hang out on the bathroom floor. I also got some food in me and drank lots of water and only a little coffee since I'm probably pretty dehydrated.

Should We Break Up Already? Should we break up already, dear Carbamazepine? My pharmacist brother-in-law said it could be more of a dosage issue than the medicine itself--which means I have too much of you in my system, or maybe too little, or maybe you and Fluoxetine just aren't playing well together. If you're able to perform as a desperately-needed "mood stabilizer" for me, then perhaps we just need to make changes in how much we see of each other.

Whatever it is, dear Carbamazepine, I'm not very happy with our relationship right now. That is all.

Your pet guinea pig,