Thursday, May 26, 2016


Do you ever feel edgy?

I'd say that's the best way to describe how I've been feeling the past several days.

I wouldn't say I'm in a bad mood. And while exhausted, I wouldn't say that "tired" is my primary symptom/emotion/state of being.

I just find myself gettin' a little, well, edgy, when things start to slip out of alignment.

Car moving too slow ahead of me?

Here comes the edge.

Cross stitch thread knotting when it shouldn't?


Waiting for Alex to prepare the salad so I can dump the chick peas out of the colander and put the strawberries in the colander (don't ask)?


I've also been finding myself fluctuating between feeling stressssssssed to "I've GOT THIS!".

One minute I'm biting my fingernails (figuratively, if I actually bit my nails) in worry, overwhelmed by all that must be done, and the next I'm walking down the hallways of the office like a BOSS.

Did I mention I'm going to be out of town the next three weekends?

So many loose ends to coordinate at work, gotta get the cat coordinated with various sitters, take the trash out so the apartment doesn't reek when I return.

I conked out on Alex's couch last night.

The night before? Hour plus nap after work.

I'm being tested to my core. I know, I know, I get to travel, and that's where most of this stress is coming from -- preparing to be away from my home, job, and pet for a bit. I know I'm privileged.

But I also know that I'm tired.

Because I can feel the edge. It surprises me each time, as if I suddenly become the Hulk, when I thought I was just Bruce Banner. I mean, Bailey Brewer.

This tiny little rage pops up, not enough to make my skin hot, but enough to take me aback and ask, "Bails, what's the deal?"

I'm hoping to get drinks with a beloved pal tonight. It might be stressful to cram one more thing in the calendar, but I also think some laughs and a couple cold ones might be the ticket to smooth my edges.

Over and out,

Monday, May 23, 2016

31 things I learned from cross stitching

Ta dah! Traditional birthday blog! Yay! (Or Not Yay, depending on your attitude about these annual posts). If you're interested in the archives, here are my 28th, 29th, and 30th year posts.

This year, I thought I'd mix it up a little and compose a list of 31 things that one of my favorite pastimes, cross stitching, has taught me about life. If you dare, read on.

[Also, none of the pictures in this post are stock photos; they are pictures of items in my own stitching collection -- get ready to cringe at how many things I have stitched (and remember there's plenty more where this came from. Yikes.).]

1. Thank your elders. 

When I was 10, the mother of a childhood friend bought me my first cross stitch kit. She spent an evening teaching me and her daughter all the skills I would need to continue on in this very happy hobby of mine. So, Jill Bell, wherever you are, let me offer a very sincere Thank You, for so patiently spending time with me on that fateful night, circa 1995.

You may lose touch with certain people in your life (I desperately want to find my 5th grade teacher who told me to "Keep writing"), but thank the ones who are still within your reach. Our words go so much farther than we can imagine.

2. Appreciate the picture slowly unfolding before you.

I've often described cross stitching as the slowest way to build an image -- hundreds of tiny stitches covering tiny, graph-paper-like canvas, slowly, slowly create a picture. So why do I bother with it?

Well, I love being able to see my progress, no matter the tempo at which it comes. Five minutes spent stitching with red thread and Voila! Ernie the Muppet has a nose. Several hours later and his pal Bert comes into existence.

Your future will never be clear, and you will find yourself asking what the EFF am i doing with myself and my life? Look around at the canvas, and enjoy what's there. Look forward to the final image, but enjoy the progress and the process of getting there.

3. Seek out joy.

Stitch Muppets! A friendly dragon! A turtle with a snail on its back!

Why? Because these cute little nuggets make people happy! Do things that make you and others happy, plain and simple. Doing so keeps us all going.

4. Know that a little tension is helpful. 

In cross stitch, we use embroidery hoops to hold our fabric taut. It is so much easier to sew for long periods of time when your canvas is pulled tight.

Too much tension in life is bad, yes. But a little stress, a little fire under you to get yourself moving and chasing after the things you love? Not so bad. If you feel yourself getting bored, take some action. It may feel like unwanted effort to get started, but you'll thank yourself later.

5. Spend some time with yourself.

Look. We need -- NEED -- each other. We are made for community, and I will wag my little finger at you as much as I have to to get the point across that you SHANT MAKE YOURSELF ISOLATED.

But if you move too fast and never stop to get to know yourself, you might get a little sad, a little confused about who you are and where you fit in this world. So take some time to figure out what makes you tick.

(And find a hobby like cross stitching that helps you to reset. Something that makes the time pass without you realizing it, during which you can think quietly about things that are important to you.)

6. Use your resources to make friends.

What do I do with my leftover lengths of embroidery thread? I make friendship bracelets, of course!

This world is teeming with people who can make you happy, who are out there waiting to meet you. Get out there and meet 'em. Connect. Love. And relish it all.

7. Don't worry how the back of your canvas looks.

The front of a cross stitch project looks like this:

The back looks like this:

The interworkings of our minds are sometimes going to be a mess. We all may look like we've got it together on the outside, but allllll of us are asking questions about who we are, whether we're good enough, are we going in the right direction, did we take a wrong turn?

You're good enough. And you're right where you're meant to be.

Love yourself, and know that we all have knots inside of us. Don't let that interfere with your ability to shine and share your own, unique beauty with the world.

8. Embrace your old soul.

For me, my old soul comes through in my voracious reading, my 8:00 bedtime, and, you guessed it, my incessant stitching.

If something makes you quirky or doesn't quite fit with your generation, who cares? Whatever it is is too precious to be lost, so latch onto it and run with it.

And go to bed at 8 if you want. You have my, the birthday girl's, official permission.

9. Give, give, give. (And spoil babies).

By and large, I give my stitching projects away as gifts. (I know, I'm practically a nun.) They make people so happy, and cliche as it is, that makes me happy.

Most of what I stitch, too, are baby bibs or things to hang in nurseries.

If you don't give things, give of yourself. Your time, your listening ear, your spare bedroom when someone comes in town to visit. You won't regret it.

10. Remember that life is not a coloring book. Fill it with color, even if there aren't clear lines drawn for you.

In cross stitch, we stitch all of our X's (hence the name, cross stitch) first. Then at the very end, we add in that black outline stitching to make the image pop and become more defined.

Almost done...

...annnd, done!

My Pops reminds me that I have to chase my dreams, "because they won't chase you."

Don't wait for someone to draw lines for you to fill in. Just do what feels best, what adds color and good vibes to your life. God willing, the clarity of whether you're doing the right thing will eventually follow.

11. Don't limit yourself to one thing.

Abby refers to my cross stitch as my "crack," because I am, well, fine, addicted to it.

But if I do "crack" for too long in one sitting, I get sad. In addition to a hobby that brings me much contentment, I need people. And words, and food, and fresh air and exercise.

Mental Health Management 101: don't let yourself sit too long doing any one thing. Change your activity, and change your scenery. Otherwise you might start to feel down or simply agitated. You can always come back to that book you're obsessively reading, but stepping away from it temporarily will increase your longevity.

Also get out tha house. Love on people and let them love on you.

12. If the cat lies on your work, don't get mad. Take a break. 

Max is famous for lying on my stitching supplies just after I set them out for use. This is not always my favorite thing.

But then I take in his cute face and my annoyance melts away. He wants to be near me, and that's sweet.

If a pet, or a child, crawls into your lap, just soak it up. Soak, soak, soak.

13. Take time to organize, but don't lose yourself in a mess.

The case that holds my embroidery floss is one of the few corners of my life that is organized. And even that gets sloppy at times.

Being a messy person has occasionally caused me to truly feel bad about myself.

But you know what? Clean room or no, I have lived. I don't look back on any one of my positive experiences and wish I had instead spent that time making my bed.

Sure, sometimes you just have to refresh the cat litter, but try not to beat yourself up if things around you aren't up to the Martha Stewart standard. (I particularly offer this advice to parents of young kiddos. Trust me, you're doing a great job, even if your living room is strewn with toys.)

14. Life is your canvas. Roam around on it however feels right to you.

There are two major varieties of cross stitch: counted, where you follow a graph to create your picture; and stamped, where the image is printed on the fabric and you use thread to match the colors of the pre-printed ink.

And then, there are people who just whip out blank graph paper and make their own patterns.

Whether you're someone who likes rules, someone who needs a guide, or someone who needs to blaze her own trail, guess what? It's all cross stitch (or, ya know, getting the job done) in the end. Just do what ya gotta do to be you, and enjoy the ride.

15. If you can, take on an affordable hobby.

My collection of cross stitch kits is out of hand, I admit.

But the pastime is relatively cheap. A kit, on average, is about 15 bucks, and one kit takes me several days or weeks (or months or years) to complete.

I mean, do what you gotta do, and if it costs a bit, then Godspeed to you. But try and find something that you can do in times of both richer and poorer.

16. Wet your whistle.

As a cross stitcher, I always moisten the end of my thread with some good old fashioned spit to better thread the eye of my needle.

So I keep myself hydrated, with an adult beverage, some fizzy water, coffee.

Drink lots of water, and make lots of coffee (or cocktail) dates with your pals. The former will keep you feeling even and, well, so will the latter.

17. Use a writing utensil to mark your path.

I use a marker to indicate on my cross stitch graphs the stitches I've completed. It keeps me from getting off course, and prevents re-counting of squares I've already counted.

And I write about my experiences. Not so much my cross stitch experiences, but my other life experiences. Now, you don't have to be a writer, but take some time to document your journey. Journal, blog, write a letter. Writing helps us process confusing times, and the research shows that it helps us remember, too.

18. Keep your hands busy. 

If you find that you can't turn your mind off, turn your hands on.

I (obviously) do this quite often by way of stitching. But there are approximately 8 billion other things you can do with your hands to combat anxiety that may be creeping into your life.

Anxiety's pretty darn common (and so is depression), so don't lose heart if they visit you. But know that they don't have to rule you. The transfer from head to hands is extremely powerful in adjusting our thoughts from negative to positive.

19. Don't doubt it: Eyes really are windows to the soul.

Let's play Spot the Zombie for a sec:

If you guessed Daisy Duck, you would be correct! Why? Because the girl's got no eyes!

Until I add pupils to the characters I stitch, they exude very little personality.

Let's have some real talk for a sec: eye contact can be a little weird. There's a reason it makes us squirmy and urges us to look away. Because it's important.

Pay attention to your friends' eyes, and facial expressions. There may be something there that they're not telling you out loud.

20. Sometimes life will be bland, and you just have to get through those parts.

I loooove to stitch. But I haaaaate to stitch white thread onto a white canvas.

Oh, my poor eyes.

Not to mention it's booooring. I always want to be stitching in color.

My dear friend Courtney and I have reflected several times on the humdrum of life. What to do with it? Well, in 31 years of life, I've come to accept that you just have to live through it. Breathe. Take a shower. Go to work. It will pass, and excitement will come along soon enough. And while you're waiting, take no shame in enjoying the little things. They will get you through.

21. Make your daydream your DREAM. 

I literally daydream about stitching. I zone out at work thinking about whatever book I'm currently reading. And I zip down the freeway composing essays in my head.

Find whatever it is that distracts you from the very real, very tangible life around you, and go after it.

But don't crash your car while you're daydreaming.

22. Know that sometimes a scrap just needs to be thrown away.

When a piece of thread gets too short to comfortably work with, I toss it. I can always go to Michaels and get more.

If a job, or relationship, or a clunky old car is bringing you down, consider the situation really really carefully, and ask yourself if you need to part with it. Bear in mind that several relationships are worth fighting for, but if one is hurting you, then be honest with yourself about it.

23. Don't stray too far from fellow stitches, or you may get lost.

As tempting as it is, I don't veer off to whatever point on my canvas I want to work on at the moment. I start in the center, and work my way outward on the fabric. In making stitches only adjacent to other stitches, I can be more certain the picture I'm creating will come out accurately.

My independence causes me to want my own space sometimes. But I know that I must always return to the people in my life, to keep myself healthy, happy, and sane. None of us can do this thing on our own.

24. Don't lose the goal for sight of the stitches.

No way around it: it takes a lot of tiny stitches to complete a cross stitched image.

It takes a lot of days at the office, a lot of hours in the library, a lot of pirouettes on a polished floor, to reach a final goal.

When I look at the outline for my book and see how much I have left to write, I feel like I'll never reach the end. But when I focus on why I'm writing it, and get lost in the actual composition, I write 100, 500, 1,000 words in one sitting. And it feels like flying.

Eyes. On. The. Prize.

25. If you must become addicted to something (and most of us will), do your best to make it a healthy obsession.

Healthy is a relative term, I know. The fact that we're on point #25 of a list of 31 things that I've learned from cross stitch should leave little doubt in your mind that I maybe have a problem when it comes to employing needle and thread.

Just make sure, however, when selecting your life hobbies, that you're not doing drugs or causing harm to yourself or others, K? Thanks.

26. Appreciate your eyesight while you've still got it.

I know that stitching is going to ruin my eyes. But I'm grateful that I can see so clearly to do something I so dearly love.

Sometimes when I catch myself complaining about things like being out of shape or a little chubby, I remind myself that at least I can walk. I don't want to sound preachy or cliche, but don't take your most basic blessings for granted. They're blessings nonetheless.

27. Only stitch a Grouch; don't be one. 

This one speaks for itself. Just be nice. If you find this genuinely hard to do, you may have some stuff to work through. And I don't say this whatsoever in jest: you can seek professional counsel to work through that stuff. Bear it seriously in mind that treating people badly is not doing this world any favors; its condition is fragile enough.

28. Where you can, find the zen in tedious tasks. 

I recently spent 5 minutes talking very quickly, explaining to Alex how there are different brands of cross stitch kits, and with them come different floss numbering systems, and there are conversion charts online, and I get great joy from looking up the conversions, tagging the spools with their correct numbers, and lining up all my bobbins of floss in order.

"I'm so glad that you felt you could tell me that and not be at all embarrassed by it," he said, sincerely.

"Why would I be embarrassed?," my response.

I don't know about y'all, but I love me some busy work. A lot of people complain about it, but I find the repetition and the unplugging of the creative portions of my brain to be healing, resetting. Try to reframe your attitude toward those tasks that don't require you to analyze. Life will never come up short in the stress it has to offer, so enjoy the mindless breaks it sometimes hands you.

29. Tuck your stitches. 

You might think that cross stitchers complete a length of thread by knotting it off. While we do occasionally make knots for other reasons, at the end of a series of stitches, we actually tuck the thread through other, already-made stitches on the back of the canvas. (This is kind of hard to explain, but moral of the story is that cross stitching requires fewer knots than one might think).

This gentle practice holds your hard stitching work in place, and gets the job done just as well as a knot would.

When gentleness will suffice, seek the less knotted route in life.

30. You will thread a needle thousands of times, and that's awesome.

I thread my needle so often I hardly notice anymore.

It's overwhelming when we consider how many times we will blink, or swallow, or inhale, in our lifetime. Think of how many times, for example, that you've peed to date.

Your bladder has worked pretty hard, eh?

Reflect sometimes on how amazing our bodies are. How we don't have to concentrate on the beating of our heart. How (some of us - not I) are built to complete marathons. Incredible, it is.

31. And finally, know that your many, tiny actions can't be easily undone.

This is a thought I've been keeping in my back pocket for a while.

When you start a thread on a canvas, it's vulnerable. If a knot doesn't hold on the backside of the fabric, the thread can pull through, which is obnoxious because it keeps you from creating an initial stitch. Until you've made several stitches, you have to pull the thread lightly, until you know the end won't budge.

Now picture this: an earthquake rattles a wall and knocks a framed cross stitch piece to the floor. The glass splinters, but the image is intact.

Why? Because a giant, terrifying earthquake can't pull out all those tiny stitches you've so devotedly made. The earthquake is powerful, yes, but not equipped to undo such particular detail.

Sure, some things are going to knock us down. God gives and takes away, and it's not up to us which dreams we get to keep, no matter our death grip on them. (Phil Vischer, creator of VeggieTales, speaks to this with incredible humility in his fantastic memoir, Me, Myself, and Bob).

But I don't want any of you to feel like your day in, day out steps toward your dreams are of no consequence. I do believe that God is in the big and the small of our lives. In the final product, and in the daily breaths we take to get there.

Keep on keepin' on. You'll reach that final, beautiful image. Stitch by stitch.

Much love,
The Birthday Girl

Monday, May 16, 2016

My mental health journey/story -- an updated version

I was asked this weekend to speak at a mental health awareness event at my church. My awesome, wonderful church. I was humbled, honored, and thrilled for this opportunity. We had about 30 people show up, and it made my heart sing to see so many people ready to be champions for mental health. [Also, whoever made the spicy meatballs and the pumpkin pie-ish dessert, THANK YOU. Yum.] If you feel so inclined to read it, the speech I gave at the event is below. Be well, and much love to you all.

My mind has always been an overly active one.

In many ways, I have found the time spent in my headspace to be some of the most joyful, life-giving moments of my life. The hours I’ve spent thinking, pondering, reading, writing, engaging in conversation – many of these have been greatly enjoyable, and in many instances I count them as gifts from God.

But it has also been my mind that I have struggled with more than any one thing in my 31 years on this earth.

When I was in my early twenties, I would react to this natural dichotomy as “what is your blessing is your curse.” Being an over thinker could be both good and bad – it made me creative and able to achieve, but at times I couldn’t turn my brain off, when I desperately wanted to.

As I got older, the extremes of feeling blessed and feeling cursed became stronger, the opposite poles spread further apart from each other.

My creative mind helped me to write things that helped me and others, but too much time spent introspecting would send me to the darkest corners I’ve ever known. On a good day, I was an artist. On a bad one, I was crippled.


I was a happy, hyper, anxious kid. I did very well in school and loved my teachers. I made friends easily. But I would regularly – and sometimes daily – get overwhelmed by my schoolwork. It didn’t matter that I continually got good grades and had all the affection of my elders; one homework assignment too many and my skin would turn hot, my heart would race. Oftentimes, my attentive and loving parents would see this reaction and talk me down, but many times I suffered silently, until my breathing returned to normal and I would power through with the rest of my schoolwork, always bringing home an A or B in the end.

This pattern followed me through college – panic, achieve, repeat.

Meanwhile I spent much of my adolescent years in private, dramatic wallowing. My family moved three times before I graduated from high school, and while on the one hand my extroversion made it “easy” for me to make friends, I often found myself feeling on the outside looking in. Alone in my room, I would listen to sad music, sometimes cry, and dream about being Homecoming Queen instead of feeling self-conscious every time I walked down the hallway at school.

Just to give you one tiny example of how different my life was from that of my peers: having few friends because I was perpetually “the new kid,” I once literally took my brother to a dance with me. I was able to carry this off with some authentic pluck, but I ached for a friend group that would include me during special events like Prom.

The payoff of all this was that, after all my awkward socializing in high school, I was a professional social butterfly at my small, Lutheran college. I will never forget the time one of my classmates called me “popular.” She just rattled it off her tongue casually, as if it were a fact so basic as saying Kermit the Frog is green.

But just as becoming a celebrity doesn’t heal one’s woes, my popularity only carried me so far. I continued to stress about the never-ending list of research papers I had to write, and as I edged toward senior year, my anxiety began to grow beyond the reach of my classwork.

As my worldview expanded, I contemplated more and more this complex life, this earth filled with so many people who think differently from one another. I started to worry about salvation, about heaven and hell. All these people God put here, and what did it all mean? Were we all OK, were we going to be OK down the line, and were we going to be OK eternally?

Sure, these things were discussed in the theology classrooms of my campus, but I secretly kept my questions to myself, feeling myself an out-of-place Debbie Downer, a buzzkill at the party that was College.


After graduation, it didn’t take long for my anxiety to blister and explode, and depression was on its heels, like a mangled dog.

In my slow-paced job as a receptionist, my mind was able to wander, leading me to think more and more disturbing, confusing thoughts. Thoughts I didn’t dare share with anyone. Later I would come to find that speaking my thoughts to another person would give me incredible relief, but at the time I feared that verbalizing them would make my feelings more palpable and frightening. Not to mention I thought people would think I was crazy.

I began a graduate program in social work, and promptly began to realize that instead of providing mental health services, I should be the one receiving them. I could hardly eat, nor sleep. I would drive home from class hyperventilating. Thank God I lived at home at the time, because eventually my anxieties and regular crying episodes gained an audience, and my parents and brother encouraged me to go to therapy.

While therapy was a life-changing step, I still had to get over the hurdle in my mind of thinking that I was above it. For years, while I supported others seeking professional counsel, I never thought I would feel so low and helpless that I would need it.

The night before my first session, I crept out of bed and found my dad in the living room, watching TV. I was 22 years old, and I crawled into his lap like a child and wept.

While to this day I don’t love attending therapy sessions, Ann, my first therapist, put me at the best ease she could. She had three sons and a daughter, so she understood my feelings of grappling with gender roles, as I am the only girl in my family. Ann was a Christian, so we would sometimes pray before beginning our hour of talking. She occasionally referenced our shared faith and the Bible, but by and large she just talked to me about regular, non-churchy stuff. I found comfort in someone who could relate to my faith, but who didn’t cover my serious problems with packaged platitudes. While she encouraged my faith practices as a way of coping, she also suggested things like journaling, measured breathing, and taking medication.

After just a couple of weeks on an anti-depressant, I could eat again. I could sleep. While still myself, with all my individual, creative, Bailey thoughts intact, I didn’t find my brain spiraling into scary, dark places, places that made it hard to do simple, fun things like go shopping, bowling or dancing.

It gave me my life back.

Eventually I got to a much better place, and I stopped seeing Ann. It wouldn’t be the last time I would see her, though, or other therapists. Throughout Graduate School Take Two (this time to study journalism) and to present day I still talk to counselors off and on, during seasons when I need them.

Over the years, I felt comfortable enough that my doctor would wean me off of my medication; however I would always find myself needing to go back on it in order to cope with my anxieties and emotions. After being taken off and put back on several times, a new psychiatrist finally decided I should probably up my dose of Celexa, to help abate the depression that seemed to be creeping into my life. “You can even be on it while you’re pregnant,” she said, indicating that medication might be a lifelong tool I would need to use.

The bump up from 5 mg to 20 made all the difference.

Still, I found myself fluctuating between happy and sad a lot. I talked to my psychiatrist about this as candidly as I could. I told her I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of going on more medication, but I also said that enough was enough. I was tired of feeling one way in a moment, and then feeling the opposite two hours later. I was game to try a mood stabilizer.

While I have never contemplated suicide to the point of making a plan for how I would carry out my own death, I have had moments wondering if my life might eventually end in such a way. The back and forth of my emotions was exhausting, terrifying, and 100 percent discouraging. It was proven over and over that I was incredibly strong, and that God would continue to provide people who could help drag me out of my sadness, but I sometimes wondered if I would always be able to endure the struggle.

After some trial and error with a mood stabilizing drug that did not work for me, my doctor started me on Abilify, and 2 tiny milligrams of that stuff has proven to be a lifesaver.

In a very short time on my new drug cocktail, I could see the difference. For the first time in almost a decade, I felt as I had in my younger years. Life was no longer a dark monster. I could feel happiness and look forward to more. Moreover, I didn’t feel like I was out of control with hyperness. After several months, I was confident that I could feel happy, even, and calm, and it wouldn’t all be erased the next day.


My faith – and my faith community – have helped hold me together throughout my entire life. Worship songs can feel like coming home. Prayer reduces the bubbling water inside me to a calm simmer, and eventually, to stillness. Sermons make me think, remind me that this ancient, mysterious book we read applies to my life now. Sitting in a quiet sanctuary centers me.

But it is the people in my life who have been the greatest witness, the greatest proof to me, that God is love and He wants love in my life.

God has always provided for me. In my lowest moments, I always had someone at the receiving end of my phone call. While they weren’t able to erase my pain, or promise me that everything would be OK, they were there. They gave me advice, encouraged me to go back to therapy when I didn’t want to, got me out of the house, and fed me. In a word, they loved me. Just in being themselves, they made me happy again, helped me laugh and inspired me with the many ways they make the world a better place.

This might sound crass, what I am about to say, but stick with me. It is because of the people in my life who embody God’s love by living out their love, that I am not an advocate for simply praying your troubles away. I wholeheartedly encourage church attendance, prayer, Bible reading, and fellowship with other believers.

But I also believe that God made some of us great listeners, full of wisdom, so that they could get degrees in counseling and people like me could talk to them and get some relief.

I believe that God made some of us super smart scientists, who have the patience to study brain chemistry and create medication that can literally save lives, mine to name just one.

I believe that God wants to heal each and every one of us, that His heart breaks for our broken world, and He wants all of us to reach out to Him for the peace that surpasses understanding. I will never understand why, when at my wit’s end, I can speak into the air, “Help. I’m stuck,” and somehow I am then able to keep going.

God’s love is the most mysterious, beautiful thing I will ever encounter.

And as a result of His love, we love.

It is because of God that we are naturally designed to want to hug, to fall in love, to care, to cry when someone is hurting, to smile when a child laughs. We are bent for good, but sadly, life can be really damn hard.

I wish I could make sense of it, but then again, I find peace in just letting go, just quietly reading a psalm and wondering why it makes me cry tears of renewal.

From Psalm 139, You know when I sit and when I rise…You discern my going out and my lying down…You hem me in behind and before.  

God, if that isn’t comforting to know that He cares about our every move, when it seems like we’re all just lost in the shuffle, bumping into each other wondering what the heck we’re doing here and why does it have to hurt sometimes?


I wish I could tell you that mental health gets tied up in a nice bow. Heck, I wish I could tell myself that.

Two weeks ago, I found myself at my boyfriend’s apartment, feeling more down than I had in years, and as a result, terrified of what might happen next. Based on my history, all I could think was that the sadness would be here to stay.

Alex was taking a nap, and I crawled into bed with him, resting my head on his chest. He was warm and smelled sleepy. As he roused, he greeted me quietly.

“I feel sad today,” I whispered into the dusky light.

He draped a heavy leg over mine and wrapped his arms around me. I laid there like a burrito, warm tears drizzling down my face onto the comforter.

For years, I longed for a lover to wrap me up just like this, but even as Alex said, “I’ll always be here for you,” I felt flashbacks of what it was like to face my sadness and how alone I felt, like it was my battle and mine alone. The heaviness of my past was too scary to imagine facing again, Alex or no Alex.


So. How am I facing my current situation?

One, I have talked to my therapist. I am monitoring my moods to report back to him, so we can explore together whether a medication adjustment might be necessary.

I am talking to friends, family, and Alex, checking in about my moods and my fears.

I am writing, dissecting my thoughts and deciding what might be affecting my feelings – Am I stressed? Am I asking lots of big life questions? Etc.  

And through it all – and if I can leave you with one piece of advice may it be this: I will never remain silent.

Please, I beg of you, speak up.

If you are sad, anxious, panicked, mad, confused, lonely, fearful, tired. Or, for that matter, if you are feeling too happy and out of control.

Say something.

Find someone, somewhere, to tell your troubles to. You can talk to me, if you want. If you are really not shy, like me, start a blog and write out your feelings for an Internet audience. If you are too uncomfortable talking to anyone you know, go see a therapist in a town where no one will ever see you.

Just start somewhere.

This life God gave us is incredibly beautiful. It can be so fun and light we feel we never want to leave it, like those parties we wish didn’t have to end. But because our world is broken, life can bring us to our knees, making it hard to even utter to the heavens above: Why is everything the way that it is?

But I am living (living!) proof that if you reach out to God and to the people He made to love, you will start to understand why He came to earth in human form – to give us peace, assurance that we are loved by Him, and to provide an example of how we can love those around us. How to lift each other up, wipe away tears, listen, make psychotropic drugs in a lab, dance, write, sing, share a meal, pet animals, plant flowers, to laugh. To bow our heads together and again turn to Him.

May you all be well, and God bless you.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Hungry hippo

It's a two donut kind of day, y'all.

I'm. Ex. Hausted!

It was almost too much effort to put an exclamation point on the end of that sentence.

Do y'all call them exclamation marks?

Or points?

I call them points.

It just seems right.

They're making a POINT!

They're not simply marking something down, like a tally on a clipboard.

This bothers me that they are to be called marks.

A mark you get in school.

A point is how you end a statement with gusto.

I'm hungry. I want popcorn and Thai food and my bed oh wait that's not a food.

But I want it.

Cat in place beside me, fuzzy and sprawled (or tucked). Soft, positive music playing. Cross stitch in hand, to work on until I fall asleep, making the book beside me just a wish.

I'm reading another Marisa de los Santos book. Woman is incredible, I don't know why you, too, aren't reading yet another MDLS book. Get to gettin', y'all.

That makes three "y'alls" in this blog post so far. I'm keeping a tally.

I'm tired.

I believe that's three times I've alluded to that.

I'm repetitive today. Which is why I decided to repeat the eating of my first sprinkle donut with a second.

Over and out...y'all.


Tuesday, May 10, 2016

10 things that are making today great!

It's your mental health captain speaking!
First, we'll start with today's full disclosure, honesty-about-Bailey's-well-being recap (because honesty, in my (honest) opinion, is the first step toward giving you peace of mind):
Bails is exhausted and with a spinning head. She was up in the middle of the night with big life questions and possibilities both exciting and frightening her.
But! Here in the daylight*, she is counting her positives!!! I urge you to do the same! It's powerful! Research shows it!
*Fluorescent office light
1. Max's cat sitter is on board and willing to watch him while I'm on my upcoming vacation.
2. Somehow I am able to swim through alllll the details at work and knock out projects and meetings.
3. I called to cancel my massage and they didn't charge me.
4. I ate salad last night and loved it.
5. Carbonated water curbs my cravings for beer, which will hopefully curb the size of my belly. (I just bought three 12-packs).
6. I got to talk to my brother Patrick, my fellow middle child, while I was grocery shopping last night.
7. My book is 26,149 words long (!!!)
8. For once, I am in the green, according to, with this month's budget.
9. I have been asked to speak at a mental health event this weekend, and I am honored and thrilled that my church is putting this on and acknowledging the role of faith and wellness together.
10. I made a special playlist just for today, which includes all the people I will see in concert this year: Rachael, Bonnie**, Brandi, Tegan, Sara, Sam. I heart music soooo much.
**She doesn't need a website link to refer you to who she is, because everyone should know who Bonnie is.
All right, your turn! What are your positives today?
Be well. #MentalHealthAwarenessMonth

Sunday, May 8, 2016

When a holiday hurts

My mom is the first contact in my phone.

Some years back, I found myself calling her so much, that I grew impatient in scrolling through the M's in my contact list to find her. By accident, I typed in a period before her "name," and thus she became ".Mom".

I thought this funny, and I continue to privately refer to her as "dot mom."

In becoming dot mom, she also got bumped to the top of my contacts list. Given the convenience of dialing placement and the new nickname, I kept the typo as is.

God, my mom is amazing. She hasn't always had the easiest life, but she hasn't let that turn her into a mean person. She loves me and my brothers to pieces. She calls me Peach. She prays with me when I cry, sends me care packages multiple times a year, filled with tissues for my drippy nose, earrings, newspaper clippings and mail that is still being sent to her address.

I saw her twice this week, even though she lives 1,500 miles away.

Alex snapped a picture of me with the Tegan and Sara marquee at the concert we attended, and when he showed me the image I said instantly, "I look like my mom."

Two days later, getting ready for a Cinco de Mayo date with Alex, I looked in the mirror and there she was again.

I love this.


I am having a pretty good day so far. There is a little bit of swirling in my brain, and I won't lie, I was up in the middle of the night worrying about my sadness levels and those of others in my life.

But this morning I got up, passed on the opportunity to snuggle with Max, and I went to church. I was uplifted by my community there, and given peace.

Now I find myself at Panera, my second home, with soup and a keyboard and a hike scheduled later with my honey bee.

My day is going OK, and even though I can't be with my mom on this or most Mother's Days, I am so lucky to have such a great mamacita.

Others find themselves in sadness on this holiday, though. Some, in grief.

My best friend lost her mother years ago, and has no one to call today.

Another friend lost her mother this past year.

The family of a friend of mine lost an infant this week. Of all weeks.

The sadness is unspeakable, for those who have lost a mother, or a child.

But I was given hope this morning, when people around me held up in prayer this family who is experiencing such terrible loss.

Alone at 3 in the morning, the weight of the world is too much. Life becomes stagnant in those moments, either stuck in the past or frozen in fear. In a sanctuary with 200 other bowed heads, I can feel a future.

A mother of one, expecting her second, sat in front of me this morning. During our time to share the peace, our eyes met, each pair wet with tears. We hurt for the family we had just prayed for, and talked about how we can just pray, pray, pray for them. Her belly protruded between us. I told her I hope someone spoils her today, and discovered her due date is two days after my birthday. "Maybe I'll have a birthday twin," I said.

We ached for another of our sisters in Christ, and we did our best to look forward in hope.


My church honored all women today, not just mothers, and I thought that was beautiful and great.

I was handed a rose before service, given several hugs from the womanhood around me.

I asked each woman if she was a mother, and they said kind things to me like: You are a mother figure to someone. If you have cared for any child, you are a mother.

The Bethel congregation also handed out mugs today, that said:

"You are loved." -- God

"Bailey!" my pastor exclaimed. "You're a woman, you get a mug!"

He informed me the mugs were clean, so I filled it up with coffee, as I attend a Lutheran church and Lutherans leave no coffee behind.

I told Rustin I didn't think him the type to hand out dirty mugs to his congregants.

During the service, I looked down and noticed the lettering on my mug was smudging.

In some moments, this may have sent me into despair. Not because mugs are so important to me. I think of them like bunnies; they seem to breed in my cabinet and I always have more than enough. I struggle to unload the dishwasher, packing ceramic cups on the shelf without breaking them. My mugs runneth over.

But in a vulnerable moment, I could have read those smudged words in and on my hands as a bad sign, an illustration that life is so hard and sad, nothing is perfect and pretty and easy like perfectly etched letters on a mug would be.

Today, though, I thought that life is so hard and sad, but that there is also hope and peace. There is healing, even for those most bereft among us. This weekend I have been praying, praying for that healing.


I sometimes wonder if the world is in a perfect balance, amidst its brokenness.

Abby and I are big fans of the movie Frozen, and she joked once that the two of us are like Anna and Elsa. We seem to switch off in our moods -- while one of us is the grumpy ice queen, the other is singing buoyantly, "Do you want to build a snowman?"

I'm sure we each find this to be privately annoying at times. Abby is a ball of energy after she works out, and I find myself jealous of her endorphins. But I sometimes count our phenomenon to be awesome. I rarely find myself in a sad place in my apartment without someone who is there to push me toward hope and happiness. Toward light.

I find it amazing that 12 hours ago, I was lying in bed full of worry, and that today in church I was able to grieve for someone but also have hope and strength within me, for her, for me, for all of us. I really think sometimes that God keeps a certain number of us strong in moments when others need proof that strength still exists within themselves. And when those strong people become weak again, there are others to care for them, to grab their hand from the hole in the ground and lift them back to light.


I think most of us have at least one holiday during which we struggle to be joyful. For example, I enjoy it now, but Christmas was difficult for me for many years.

Mother's Day isn't a struggle for me, but on days like today, I have the urge to walk into the world, wave my hands and say, "Holiday's cancelled!"

I can't stand to know that people are grieving on this day meant to celebrate. A day that celebrates that which they no longer have. I want to ask that all the happy people keep their happy to themselves, so as not to disturb those in pain.

Cut the cake in silence, please.

Today, I am grateful that I am, to a degree, feeling strong. Today is one of the days that I am able to give. I may only be able to give prayer, but I am well enough to do so.

I am glad that when I saw the ink smudge on my mug, I didn't lose all hope, because I know of people who desperately need it.

Instead, I thought, Hmm. The love is rubbing off, seeping into my skin.

God's love isn't meant to reside in a mug. (Though sometimes I believe it can take this form, not in the coffee inside the mug, but in the loving hands of a person who pours the beverage and then sits with another person for as long as she needs to be sat with.)

God's love is meant to be spread. To keep us buoyant, to make each other strong again. His love gives us power to grieve alongside each other, so we don't have to grieve alone.

To all the mothers out there, happy day to you. We children appreciate all that you've done for us, and I hope that you get super spoiled with dinner, a bubble bath, oodles of gifts.

And for those struggling today, I hope that you are wrapped in the widest range of God's peace and love available. Which is immeasurable. I hope that one of God's children wraps you in a hug, and holds you. I hope that, today, you are mothered.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

The rule for Saturday

I have one rule for Saturdays.

I am currently running behind on adhering to this rule, and as a result I am feeling agitated and uneasy. 

Here's the rule, are you ready? 

At lunchtime on Saturday, I must exit the premises of my apartment. 

That's it. 

This rule does not apply on Sunday. Just Saturday. 

It has taken me a while to learn my inner clock. Actually, I plan to always continually be learning about my inner clock. 

But it was not until just a month or so ago that I discovered at lunchtime on Saturdays, I best be gettin' myself out the house. 

And since my clock wants -- needs -- to get some fresh air around 12 p.m. on Saturday, I do it.

I interrupt all programming -- ferocious cleaning, cat snuggling, cross stitching -- to get out the door. It doesn't matter whether what I am doing is productive, whether the actions I am taking will have a pay off if I just power through them.

The tasks and the hobbies will be there when I get back.

But, my body, and my brain -- my high maintenance, little nag of a brain -- say, "Please, Ma'am, let us change our surroundings. For just a bit. Please?"

So I obey.


Those who know me well know that I view eating as a chore. It drives me bonkers that we have to stop and eat so much, not only to stay alive but to keep our moods steady.

I think a lot of the problem is that our culture has changed so much from when eating used to always be a community activity -- all hands were on deck, preparing, cleaning dishes, milking the cows, cracking the eggs. And even when men were working the fields, hunting and what not, they still came round the table for lunch.

I mean, I presume. I don't picture a lot of biblical wives sending their shepherd husbands off with a brown paper sack stocked with PB&J and a juice box.

Point being, people didn't used to dine alone. Now, we dine alone a lot. That is certainly part of the reason that I don't enjoy stopping to eat so much.

But I'm also just impatient. Restless. I have so much else I want and need to do, that the last thing I want to do is stop everything for an hour and prepare and consume a meal.

So it's been frustrating for me, probably more so than for the average person, to learn that my body needs to eat, what it needs to eat (protein? carb?...a dreaded green?), how much it needs to eat.

I don't like letting my inner clock rule me. I feel like I'm a grown up, I should call the shots. But lo and behold, my stomach actually calls the occasional shot.

And so does my brain.


So it took me a bit, but I finally realized that at lunchtime on Saturday, I need to get out of the house.

That's it. There are no parameters to what I do when I leave. I can be productive, or I can go to Target and max out my credit card.

The point is I just need to get out. My inner clock says change it up, so if I want to feel not agitated, not depressed, not frustrated with a still-looking-messy-bedroom-after-a-morning-of-cleaning, then I best listen to that clock.

It is frustrating to learn your inner clock.

It takes patience, the humble acceptance that we all have idiosyncrasies and are maybe more high maintenance than we want to be.

But I've found that there is great pay off in the humble acceptance and the subsequent humble bow to your inner clock.

I love weekends, and certainly need the break from work, but I also find that the lack of structure and the reduced social interaction (versus spending 8 hours a day with your coworkers, being purposeful, completing tasks) really challenges me.

I never quite know what I'm going to get each weekend. It could be great, start to finish. It can have too much people time. It can have not enough people time. It can be fun, it can be lonely. It can be productive, it can make me wish I was at work.

In the last couple of months, the longevity of my positive moods on the weekends have improved greatly.


Since it is Mental Health Awareness Month, I want to make some of my posts this May practically geared around mental health.

A lot of times you will read me here on this blog getting serious about very serious topics, like debilitating depression and other ways that emotional suffering can look and feel.

But sometimes -- yay! -- mental health can be kept in good shape with simple tools.

Like I said, it is indeed frustrating to listen to your inner clock. It takes practice, trial and error, to get it just right.

But honestly, it's not hard for me to get out of the house for a couple hours on Saturday. It can be difficult to slow my roll on whatever project I'm working on before I leave the house, but there's a lot I like to do out in the world. I can shop, hole up at Panera and write, go hang out with Alex.

And then, says inner clock, I'm allowed to return home. To pick up again on that cleaning project, that cross stitch project, to resume snuggling with the cat.

So let me leave you with this, for my first mental health post for this month that is so wonderfully focused on something so important to each and every one of us.

Find one thing your inner clock is telling you. And listen to it.

You don't have to look at the big picture, just start where you are, in this moment. What is your clock telling you?

Is it telling you to eat?

Is it suggesting you take a nap?

Do you need to phone a friend, go grab a coffee with him?

Do you need a hug?

Pause. Listen. Bow to the leaning.

Be well. Thanks for reading. Much love.

(Now it's time for me to go grab my laundry and then head to Alex's place, because it is 2:14 p.m.! I'm late!)

Friday, May 6, 2016

Book update (halfway there!)

I kind of want to keep quiet about this, because I don't want to brag about something that isn't finished, or jinx it, or, especially, slow myself from working on it. I know how dangerous resting places can be, soft cushiony nests lined with laurel leaves. Nests that invite you to stay awhile, have a snack, forget the life-giving project you're working on.

Nevertheless, I'm not sure how I got here.

I mean, I do. I sat my "butt in chair," as Anne Lamott advises all writers to do, I opened up the Word document, and I typed.

Over and over, I typed.

And now I find myself at 25,000 (plus!) words.



Anne Lamott prays three major prayers:

Help me help me help me.

Thank you thank you thank you.

And Wow.

She prayed the first two for a long time, then added the third as she got older.

I suppose I have followed a similar suit. A lot of grappling fear and wondrous moments of peace and relief and bliss, with quick words in edgewise to the Guy who watches it all.

And now, as I find myself looking at the bottom of my draft and seeing a 5-digit number, I just whisper into the air:


My book -- MY book! -- is 25,000 words. About halfway to where I expect it will end up.

And to think the idea -- a young adult novel about a girl struggling with anxiety -- just came about in my head while I was simply driving to lunch.

It bears repeating:



[Also THANK YOU! for all your support. Xo]

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Wrestling with passion

I'm not in a good place today.

I dislike this, because a) no one ever prefers to be in a bad place, and b) because I've thought my recent off days would be chalked up to a phase. Boredom, stress, something other than maybe I'm just depressed. 

I don't say this to indicate that I've failed in some way. I just haven't felt this way in a long time, and since I've seen dark places before, it disturbs me to think that I might be headed back to a season that once really messed me up. 


I hate even typing this because that means it's true. I'm dealing with something. Whether it will disappear -- poof! -- tomorrow, or stay for several months, I have to admit that today I feel depressed. 


The slow music I'm listening to is not exactly helping, but I'm not sure some poppy tunes would help the situation either. They might just make me angry; why are the Beach Boys so happy?? I might ask. 

Alex is asleep in the next room, and I wish he were awake to keep me company. But he needs his rest, and I want him to rest. 

Tears are welling in my eyes. 

I take comfort that Alex is near, yet. 

Tears are now running down my cheeks. 

I know that I'm strong. I know that I can endure a lot. I have resources, the most loving friends, a job to keep me busy and coworkers that make me laugh. 


I feel burdened. 

I told A that tomorrow I have to order lunch for a meeting and it just feels like a TASK. 

And it is a task. 

But it shouldn't have me feeling so overwhelmed. 

I have two upcoming vacations, and I am struggling to focus on the joy that I know they will bring me, because my vision keeps getting blocked by things like possible turbulence and exhaustion from jet lag, and the people we love who we leave behind when we go on another adventure. 

I just want assurance that this feeling will be gone -- poof! -- tomorrow, but of course we can never know. 

I want to ask Why? but I don't dare, because that means I'm facing the pain. 

It's just that -- and anyone who's been depressed more than once can attest to this -- the thought of going back to the dark place is so damn scary. 

I've been asked to speak at a mental health awareness event in two weeks, and I don't know what to say. 

A few weeks ago, I would have just told the story I've told over and over. Anxiety and depression in my twenties, lots of therapy, lots of learning useful coping skills, lots of leaning on friends, family, and the church, then a life-changing alteration of meds, and Bam! Happy happy happy ever since. Even Steven -- no crazy ups, no crazy downs. Just calm and at peace. 

Now, I find myself re-evaluating what I might say. 

I want to be honest, of course. And I want to give hope. I don't want to walk in and say, "Well, apparently, after two years on a great cocktail of medication, you might have to go visit your psychiatrist and do some tweaking."

Although honestly when I say it like that it seems rather simple. Unless you're depressed, in which case the scheduling of the appointment, the going to the appointment, the trying out the new meds and gauging your daily feelings, the reporting back to your doc, just look like 




I've started the conversation with my therapist. He can't prescribe meds, but he's asked me to continue to monitor my feelings for a few weeks before he refers me back to a doc. 


I have to say I feel a little better than I did 20 minutes ago. 

I'm texting Abby, and she's asking good questions. 

I went pee. 

I got myself a fresh can of carbonated water, or "fizzy water," as my Sweet so fondly calls it. 

The music doesn't sound as gloomy as it did. 

Grace. God's good grace. That glorious moment when things suddenly don't feel hard, or sad. And it happens when we aren't looking, the way I just noticed yesterday that my headache had gone away. It was so very present, I got occupied with something else, and then noticed it was gone. But I didn't feel it the moment it left; it disappeared while I was tending to something else, and God did the erasing of the pain in my head. 

Grace and fear. If I had to name two things that are in continuous (though sometimes dormant) battle in my life, I might be wont to say those two things are happiness vs. sadness. 

But I think in fact they might be grace vs. fear. 

I either find myself in complete and utter awe of what God has given me, unable to give my gratitude words, try as I might. 

Or I find myself huddled in anxiety, thinking myself unable to order lunch for a work meeting, fearing that I am about to spiral into X more years of depression. Obnoxious, uninvited, squished-in-a-box depression!


Abby and I are texting about farts and I just laughed out loud. 

Laughter = carbonated holiness, says Anne Lamott. The wise, honest, ever-embracing-of-grace Anne.

Anne wrote a book called Grace (Eventually)

I didn't actually catch the significance of the title until I went to hear her speak (I've only seen her four times, no big deal. And I've met her famous son, Sam, also no big deal). 

Anne said that there is always grace, but it's not always right this second. It might be...eventually.


Just as I don't know what to say at the mental health event in two weeks, nor do I know what to say now. 

We sang a song at church this morning, and it always kind of gets me. I'm going to botch it, so this is not a direct quote, but it goes something like this: 

You're full of life now
You're full of passion
It's how He made you
Just let it happen

And then the closing part of the song is something like this: 

So take me back
Back to the beginning
When we were running together
Through the fields

Again. Not a direct quote, but the sentiment's there. 

The song gets me for two reasons. 

One, I love that it gives me permission to be me. It reminds me that God gave me all this LIFE inside me, the crazy passion, the extreme love for words, and my friends, and for singing and stuffing my face in the cat's belly. 

Just let it happen. 

Sadly, the flip side of that is occasional melancholy moods that seem to be unfairly intense. But again, the permission to let it happen -- when I take away the fighting against it I'm erasing some of the pain in my head, like the headache that was erased from my life yesterday. 

And then the second part of the song. I don't wish to be a kid again, but MAN! to be a kid again!

It just makes me remember how I never used to view my passion as a bad thing, as something that was wrong with me. 

(Commercial break: I don't think that there's something wrong with me, per se, but I do find in my experience, that it is perfectly fine to address a challenge in my life by going to therapy and take meds. If that makes sense. I hope it does.)

I recently told Alex that I used to cut out pictures of cows from magazines, and use rubber cement to paste them to construction paper, which I would then assemble in books called "cow scrapbooks."

My adorable, precious love slowly raised his hand in the air. 

"Yes, Alex Sanborn," I called on him. 


I lost myself in giggles, wondering how I could explain to him that this was just something I felt compelled to do in my youth. 

When I was gluing pictures of cows, I never asked why. 

When I was the only one dancing at our middle school dances, I only wondered why others weren't joining in. Didn't they know how good it felt?

Passion. Life. Unbridled.

Sure, if I had it my way, I'd say, "I'll take the good-feeling passion, please, but none of that bad-feeling stuff, thanks."

But I'm not in charge. And we live in a broken world. Which is why I cling to the cross -- or, remind myself to try to do that. 

I'm not going to tie this post up with a tidy bow, because that would seem dishonest. I will do my best, though, to keep y'all posted on my life and my feelings. 

And I will leave you with this. 

While it has been hard at times to be so passionate -- when, for example, I get wrapped up in TV characters and my brother pauses to tell me I care too much, or when I feel elated but secretly wonder if I will feel deflated in a few hours -- I can sincerely count many times and ways in my life that the passion given to me has been amazing. 

For one, I pour my passion into this here writing, and it feels pretty damn good to write, to be a writer, to feel confidently that's what I should do. 

I have begun work again on my novel, and it feels so good to give that middle school heroine life, to give her coping skills, to give her hope, to prepare her for a great future beyond the walls of Grade 6. 

And for what it's worth, when I knelt at the communion rail this morning and Debbie handed me the blood, shed for me, that sip from the tiny glass tasted like the first taste of wine at a really great party. Not the kind where people get too drunk to really enjoy. But the kind that just flows, where you are wrapped up in your friends, old and new, in the conversation, not worried about tomorrow, not worried about today. Just loving the moment, soaking it up and slowly sipping. 

Take me back. Back to the beginning. When we were running together, through the fields.