Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The search.

Its been since July that my crazy doctor moved to Florida. To most, switching doctors might not be that big of a deal. But there is something about going through a Bipoar diagnoses (or I would assume any mental illness for that matter) that creates a bond with the professional who guides you through it. At least for me it did. When she told me the news, I responded, what I considered to be, quite rationally. There was really no reason for me not to. I had been stable on the same medication for six years and had not experienced any major episodes for nearly three. She gave me ample notice and I knew that I would be fine.

Even though I knew these things, I had a really hard time starting the search for a new doctor. I guess part of me knew that once I made those calls there was a finality to her departure that perhaps I was not ready to wrap my mind around. Then on top of that, once I finally forced my self to get it together, several of my initial calls to prospective doctors were not returned.  [Note to said doctors: you treat mentally unstable people, perhaps you might want to return their calls. Just a thought.] I finally received a recommendation from someone and made an appointment. I arrived that day with my mood history dating back to 1991 in hand. For an hour and a half I shared my journey over the last 20 years (since when can I describe something as happening for 20 years…yikes!). I signed all the paperwork so that she could get my records from my previous doctor. And while she was nice and seemingly competent, I had a weird feeling that I could not shake when I left. I felt disappointed in way – I guess I had this unsaid expectation that I would leave feeling as comfortable as I had been with the doctor that I had seen for all those years. Which is silly because that obviously takes time. It made me realize that I needed to create a space in my brain to grieve the loss of that relationship.

I would later learn that after knowing me for 90 minutes, her recommendation for me would be to add 3 new medications to the one that I was already on; clearly we were not going to be a fit. [Note to self: that feeling you could not shake is your intuition. Trust it, it is usually right.] This whole experience really made me dread the next steps in my search. It took me two months to make an appointment with another doctor. I went to that appointment last week and it went well. I decided to keep two things in mind: #1) I was not going to leave with a BFF necklace – relationships take time, especially ones with crazy doctors and #2) This did not have to be a forever choice.

I am learning that #2 is big for me. Do you ever do that to yourself, hype something up so much in your brain that it becomes unnecessarily stressful? I was living in the “what if” of years from now. What if I choose someone and it does not work out? What if she sees me as just another crazy person on her long list of crazies? What if when I decide to have kids she is not willing to work with me as a partner in my treatment? What if she does not get my sense of humor?  I was not considering where I am right now. While all of these things are important (especially the sense of humor part, obvs), I do not need all the answers now. It is ok if it does not work out. I have the power to make a change. I can trust myself to know if and when that is the case. It is about embracing the process – there is so much to learn from where I am now. Today. At this moment. It would be unfortunate to miss those things because I am fretting about what will happen when I'm crazy preggers (which is not any time soon, BTW).

So this is where I am now: I have another appointment in two months at which time I may or may not clue her in on the superpower part. We’ll see.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A [crazy] first date story.

Three years ago, I met my sweet, loving, completely adorable boyfriend online. When people ask me how we met and divulge my digital secret they give the head tilted, “No way, really?!?” As if to say, 'but you guys seem so normal and put together, you had to resort to on line dating?" and then I’m like, "um yeah we are totally like one of those vommy".  Really, we are.

It was pretty text book: emails were sent, profile pictures carefully studied for evidence of photoshop, text messages exchanged, obligatory ‘lets meet for coffee just to make sure you’re not a serial killer' was had and then it was time for our real first date.

You can imagine the commercial: A folky mostly guitar based singer-songwriter trying to be hipster tune plays as emails are exchanged….I walk into the coffee shop in my cutest ‘I hope I don’t look like I’m trying too hard’ outfit, he’s sitting there pretending to read something then he sees me, his face lights up when he realizes that my pictures were real…conversation is easy and light…laughter, coy looks, a hug good bye…then it cuts to the epic first date…we have dinner in Malibu, over looking the ocean, there’s candlelight, more laughing, clearly sparks are flying, the song reaches the verse about maybe, possibly, most certainly falling in love…but at this point in my commercial, rather than the voiceover guy trying to convince you, the viewer, that you really can meet a totally normal, hotter than you would think person on and fall in love just like us, I lean over and mention to my handsome, intelligent and perfectly normal date that I’m crazy on paper…Bipolar to be exact.

Before I go confirming the rumor that ALL girls online are crazy, let me just say that, in my defense, I did not blurt my crazy business all over the place out of nowhere. We were deep in conversation, not light fluffy convo, but lets be real and talk about life convo. It was a process…a long, effortless, inquisitive process whos end can only be blamed, oddly enough, on the LACK of alcohol. How is this possible you may ask?? Well as you may or may not know, I do not drink (it just does not mix well with the crazy). But when you meet someone the answer to “why don’t you drink?” is not that simple. I was comfortable with my crazy, I had it on lock down, I had no problem talking about it, but I also understood that there was a time and a place for those conversations to happen and no one likes the girl who vomits her entire life story at you with in the first 5 minutes of introduction. So in anticipation of this I tried to go with 'easy and light' answers to questions about my lack of adult beverage consumption. That being said, when you are on a date with someone that you met online and you are 29 and three-quarters and you don’t drink, it’s usually for one of two reasons: A) you never have because you grew up in a crazy religious cult or B) you have WAY to much because you’re a raging alcoholic.  In my case neither was true, but the process of explaining that without going the 'vomit my life all over' route is really difficult. 'Easy and light' can go down-hill quite quickly. For example...

Well I just came to a point in my life where I needed to make better decisions and revaluate what is important to me and so I decided to quit drinking” which could be interpreted as “This one time I showed up to thanksgiving dinner and it turned out to be an intervention…for ME

OR “Yeah I take a medication that does not mix well with alcohol” which makes you just sound like a disease ridden carrier monkey who has god knows what AND a pill problem.

Either way I end up having some splainin to do. This is the moment where I just go ahead and say it and hope for the best.

If you think about it, those moments exist in the beginnings of any relationship. The ones where you realize that you have to reveal something that is incredibly real and personal and then that revelation will inevitably lead to questions that have answers that are less than ideal. There is a lot of baggage that comes long with the statement “I’m Bipolar”, but you know what, there is just as much baggage that comes with the statement “I’m Jenn and I’m 29 and three-quarters and I have a cat”. Sometimes you just have to say it like it is and see where it lands. I did just that.

Right as we were finishing dinner, he looked at me and said “I think we are going to be friends for a really long time”. I smiled and said that I hoped so, but inside my brain, I was like Aww man, the friend card?!?! Really Jennifer Ann? Really?!?! You had to bust out the crazy, on the first date? Well played. Enjoy your life with your thousand cats.

And just as my internal convo was getting to the part where I am certain that I am a cat lady who will die alone, he smiles and suggests that we stop and get some dessert on the way home.  Over fancy pants gelato and coffee across the street from my place, we talked and laughed for another 2 hours…besties in the making. We walked back to my place and I offered for him to come in and see this piece of art that I had told him about earlier in the evening. Not weird at all right? After all, we are going to be PALS. So you can imagine my complete and utter surprise when he leaned in to kiss me as I was going on and on about my art. A sweet simple first kiss – I still get all fluttery in my stomach when I think about it. To this day he gives me a hard time because apparently no guy just wants to come in and “see the art you have been talking about”.

So there you have it, I wasn’t joking, we are totally a vommy, complete with sappy tune and happy ending. To me, that is the craziest part of the story.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Sweet Tooth.

My super sweet Blog Sugar ladies, all of which I have known since high school
[Photo booth by the spectacular Melissa Munding]

One week ago I attended Blog Sugar. An ultra fabulous event conceived by one of my oldest and dearest friends, Rachel. Blog Sugar is responsible for my little piece of crazy on the interwebs. The first one was in Rachel’s living room. I showed up, blogless and left excited and encouraged. That night I went home and decided on Crazy is my Superpower. It would be months before I was brave enough to click the publish button for the first time. It really was the stories, smiles and sweet authenticity of the ladies I met that night that inspired me to take the leap.

I had only written a few posts before the 2nd Blog Sugar rolled around. This time it had graduated to Rachel’s back yard. The crowd grew from 25 to over 60. It was luau-riffic and quite impressive!! I stuffed my face with brownies, met new friends and caught up with old ones. Our nametags included our blog names – I was mid conversation with someone when she read my nametag and said, “OMG, I read your blog and I love it – you are so brave”. It was a pretty amazing feeling. It also caught me off guard – I never thought of myself as brave. I still don’t. Honest? Yes. Brave? Debatable. The night was really magical – it made me realize that authentic storytelling can be quite powerful.

I signed up for this year’s Blog Sugar back in March and September seemed like it was a million years away. Not surprisingly it snuck up on me…the week before the event I was not sure what to make of the whole thing – I have not written in months and am smack in the middle dealing with very stressful circumstances right now – I am tired and I feel detached from the real world, let alone the blog world. The morning of, I woke up and decided that I was just going to go and have fun. No pressure, just be open to what the day would bring. I walked in to a beautifully decorated venue (we have out grown the back yard). The energy was bursting through every pink stripe and orange polka dot! AND there was cotton candy (oh how I love thee)! Rachel’s vision has grown to something bigger than she could have ever imagined (I can say this, because we have discussed it at length). She molded it and shaped it to be a faith centered experience that would impact people on a whole new level. And it did just that. I had the pleasure of hearing 4 speakers in the break-out sessions that I choose: Nish of The Outdoor Wife, Sarah of The Best Days of My Life and Julie of Joy’s Hope with Jeannett of Life Rearranged.

I learned so much from these incredible ladies. Nish engaged us in a conversation about how to write about difficult subject matter with grace and compassion. Sarah shared her incredible story and how she learned the importance of staying true to your voice and creating a community. Julie and Jeannette encouraged us to think bigger than ourselves and use our tiny spot in the digital world to make a difference in the lives of others. And the keynote speaker was Meg of whatever. She humbly shared her experience of discovering that her blog was not about her, but rather a tool that would be used to make a real difference in the lives of others.

I also have to give a shout out to Andrea of Four Flights of Fancy and JJ of Blah Blah Blahger who added some extra sass as they helped Rachel make the magic happen!! As hoped, I walked away excited and encouraged. The stories, smiles and sweet authenticity of the ladies I met once again left me inspired. Who knows what that looks like for my crazy corner of the interwebs…we’ll just have to wait and see.

How about you? What has inspired you lately?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


So today is the day, my last appointment with Dr. John. It seems like yesterday that I found out that she was leaving (as told here). As I sit here getting ready to travel to Tustin one last time, I can not help but feel a little sad and a whole lot grateful! Six years ago I walked into her office a hot manic mess and today I am beyond blessed to have had her knowledge, wisdom, and gracefulness to guide me on my journey. She did not commit me when I told her that I was throwing a 'quit drinking party', she understood when I told her that I wanted my crazy to be more like an 'adorable little chihuahua', rather than the 'great dane' it had become, she quietly listened as tears fell while I wrestled with whether or not I should leave my job and she encouraged me when I proclaimed that I would embrace crazy as my super power. 

So today I say good-bye. How do I even start? It's a bit of a daunting the risk of sounding dramatic, I feel like she saved my life...or more accurately, she set me on a life-saving path and has walked with me (at times carried me) until now. Tears well as I type, this is a lot more emotional than I expected, but that is ok. I look to a future that I know is bright. I know that my progress comes from within and that tomorrow nothing will have changed, I will still be me. I know that I will find another doctor who will walk the next part of my journey with me, but today I celebrate a woman who was placed in my life at a time when I needed her most. No matter what, she will always be a part of my crazy story.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Bipolar is the new black.

Yes, I actually just wrote that. One would think that the sentiment is absurd because, well…it is, but that seems to be the case these days…according to our ever responsible and trusted media (if you haven’t already, please insert heavy sarcasm here). As I am sure you have heard, in the last 2 weeks Catherine Zeta Jones and Demi Lovato have revealed that they are bipolar. OMG, que the herds of frenzied entertainment talk show hosts (ahem, Seacrest) and “news reporters” (ahem, CNN) clamoring to interview Catherine’s manicurist or Demis’s dog walker in search of the exclusive behind the scenes deets. OMG.OMG. OMG. Tune in at 7pm or be the least cool person at the next dinner party.

I am the first to applaud the fact that they have come out publicly, for whatever reason. It is no secret that there is a stigma in this country about mental illness and sadly no one seems to pay attention to anything unless it involves a celeb, so I appreciate the use of their influence in this circumstance. It makes people listen and hopefully will start a productive dialogue that can begin to lead to change. I am quite dedicated to do my part in helping that change, which is why I am here. (Side note: shout out to this week’s way too long episode of Glee for starting to address this issue!!) The last thing that this much needed public conversation needs is an overly spray tanned talking head on Access Hollywood asking the cast of Dancing with the Stars what they think of these starlets and their bipolar (actually happened). And just when you think it has hit a new low, it gets worse…

In an ABC online news article entitled “Bipolar Bandwagon” (Barf), the author opens with the brilliant line “Addiction is for amateurs. The truly trendy are Bipolar.” (DOUBLE Barf). This wordsmith of a 'reporter' goes on to say, “one could be forgiven for thinking that the disease wandered onto spring's list of must-haves along with maxi skirts, bell-bottoms and the iPad 2.” Well then, my spring shopping list just got a whole lot easier – all I need to pick up is some hippie clothes and an iPad 2. Easy breezy! Clearly I have not lost my knack for being ahead of the trends. You might recall that in the mid 90s, I totally went into treatment for an eating disorder even before Candice Cameron and Tracy Gold did and I even embraced the come back of the ankle bootie before most. I know, its hard being so ‘right here right now’, but some one has to do it. I will rest easier tonight knowing that I have once again joined the elite, for I am truly trendy.

Cheers and snaps for my new truly trendy friends. Welcome to the road of manic highs that almost always end it horribly self-destructive behavior that will likely severely damage if not ruin many of your relationships. Welcome to depressions that are so bad that you would prefer to not be alive but you are so deep in it that you cannot even muster up the energy that it would take to act on that feeling (silver lining). Welcome to a lifetime of medication and it’s ‘possible side affects’. Welcome to a lifetime of walking the line between the ups and downs of real life and the possibility that you could be teetering on the edge of loosing it.

Suddenly that maxi skirt is looking a lot less unflattering…

The good news is that once you have gone through all of the above (including the purchasing of a maxi skirt) you can choose to embrace your limitations. You can create a treatment plan that allows you to be stable. You can surround yourself with people who are loving and supportive and who will help you though the hard times. You can take this thing and help it make you a better person. You can help others. You can claim your crazy as a superpower and use it for good, rather than evil. It is a very, very hard road, but you can choose all of these things…I promise.

Let me just say that while I refer to myself as crazy and use humor to discuss my experiences, I am certainly not trying to glamorize my situation. I am not encouraging anyone to ‘hope’ they could one day you can become ‘truly trendy’ like me. I am honest and open, so that the whole thing might seem a little less scary to someone who struggles with a similar circumstances…you are not alone. I choose humor so that it is a little less uncomfortable for someone who might have preconceived notions about what it means to have mental disorder. 

I claim crazy as my superpower because I know that being bipolar and all the experiences that have come along with it make me who I am today. This process has made me stronger, more compassionate, open and aware. I am thankful for that. Rather than reducing having a mental disorder to a passing trend, lets have a real conversation. Lets educate ourselves so we can know what others face. Lets be compassionate. Lets not be ashamed. Lets speak out for others and ourselves. How about putting these things on our ‘must have’ lists. Because that, my friends, will never go out of style.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Seasons of change.

Yesterday I went for my quarterly appointment with my ‘crazy doctor’. I used to see her weekly, but once my meds were stable, I ‘graduated’ to every 3 months. At these meetings we discuss how the previous 3 months have been – it is important to help me keep my ups and downs in check. In fact the last 2 time changes are the first in 6 years that I have not had a significant swing up or down because we were able to be proactive based on my past cycles. So these check-ins are important.

As I walked into her office she had a concerned look on her face. I sat down.

Crazy Docter: “Did you get the letter?”
JLa: “What letter? I did not get any letter, what address was it sent it to?”
CD: “Londonderry View Drive.”
JLa: “Nope, those were my WEHO days with the gay boys. I’ve moved on to being ‘urban’ with the homeless people in downtown. What did the letter say?”
CD: “I have to relocate.”
JLa: “No problem, I already drive to Tustin from downtown to see you…where are you relocating to?”
CD: “Florida.”
JLa: “Oh…well that is just a touch further than Tustin. So that means…you’re leaving?”

At this point many things cross my mind. It is natural to be a bit taken back. After all I have seen her for 6 years now – she walked me through some of the most challenging times in my life. She has been a constant – just a phone call (or a hour and a half commute) away. If I had questions or was becoming a little Penelope-ish or sliding down the slope of depression, she was there with a plan in place. Not to mention she is very forward thinking and laughs at my jokes and tells me that I am doing extraordinarily well and that I should be proud of that.

Then I started thinking about the process of finding someone new. The good news is that I can find someone that is a bit closer. But then there is the unknown that is a bit daunting: Getting the recommendations, the interview process (because lets be honest, it is a process), bringing someone new up to speed as to how I have gotten to where I am (insert ‘Turns out I have a blog…these 3 key posts really summarize it well. You’re welcome.’) and then after all of that deciding of this person is a fit. It is so very important to me to have a doctor that is not super conservative in their approach. Someone who is willing to hear about the new thing I have been researching and incorporating holistic options where they make sense. I am not into “Here are some more pills, take them because I say so. See you in 3 months.” Not to mention finding someone who will laugh at my madness and embrace the fact that crazy is indeed my superpower.

After our conversation I left feeling uncertain, but also fine. I get to see her again in 2 months before she leaves, which gives me enough time to find someone new that can talk to her as part of my transition and come up with a meaningful parting gift for her (Ideas are welcome). As I got on the 5 freeway at 8:30 am to go back to LA, I had [lots] of time to reflect on this news. I found myself saying out loud over and over: “Change is good.” (Side note: yes, sometimes I talk to myself, out loud in my car. At least since the invention of Bluetooth in cars other people do not look at me and wonder if the weird girl in the car next to them has lost her mind and reverted to talking to herself. Thank you inventors of blue tooth.) “Change is good” “Change is good.”

And then I thought of something that I saw this past weekend at the MOCA ‘Art in the Streets’ exhibit. Tucked away in an installation by Os Gemeos (amazing BTW) was the quote “In order to open a new door, you have to close the old one.” DUH. This is my new door. There is something waiting for me ahead and this is the opportunity to go find it. This is not a scary awful thing. I can embrace this change.

I am a firm believer in timing and being ready to hear/accept/take things in. This morning I woke up with this new change on my mind again and as I sat with my breakfast reading a few blogs, I read a post on ‘turning corners’ written by one of my very dearest friends. Just what I needed to hear. I am ready for this change. I am ready to turn this corner. And I look forward to what awaits me.

Friday, April 15, 2011

A fancy phone call & some photos!

Yesterday I got a personal phone call from Lucille Roybal-Allard, who represents the 34th Congressional District -- she is the congressperson who puts on the student art competition that I was the chair of this year (as described here). She was unable to attend the event this year because she was in DC dealing with the budget hullabaloo (technical term) and yesterday she took time out of her very busy and important day to call and thank me for my work as the chair. It made me feel quite fancy. She is truly a remarkable woman and it goes to show that no matter how busy you are, there is always time for a quick phone call or note. It made my day!!!

I also received some of the photos from the event (taken by the lovely and talented Ashely Andrea Beliveau):

I became aware of this competition because my amazing mother (pictured with me here) has been a part of it for 8 years, she and her incredible employee have been co-chairs of the event before and asked me to do it this year.

These are the student finalists. Before the program starts we all get to take pictures together and they have to wait and be all nervous because they do not know who has won. Each student has to write a few paragraphs describing their work and the meaning behind it. I was quite struck by how insightful their perspectives were -- gives this crazy girl some hope for the future (seriously, I sound like I am 100 when I say that, but it's true).

This is the winner of the competition next to the poster that was made with her artwork. Her piece is called Autism Speaks (done with spray paint on puzzle board, which is significant because the logo for the organization Autism Speaks is a puzzle piece). She made the piece because 2 of her cousins are Autistic and she felt it was important to raise awareness especially in the younger generation. When her name was called as the winner she was beside herself...her art teacher was on stage with her and her family in the front row was BEAMING. It was a really special day and I am thrilled to be the chair again next year (assuming that they will have me)!!

One final photo of me and adorable Ashley (who was the photographer at the event, she also happens to be an intern where I work).

Happy Friday friends!!! Hope you have spectacular weekend!!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

We are not jam jars.

One of my most fabulous facebook friends posted this and I think it is quite extraordinary! It makes me think about the labels that I give myself and others and challenges me to question whether or not they are limiting or destructive. No one should be invisible, including yourself. This is exactly what I needed to hear today. Truly inspiring.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Channeling my teen angst.

For the last several years I have been involved with the 34th District Congressional Student Art Competition. This year I was the Chair of the event that took place this last Saturday. What is such a thing, you wonder? Well it is a little known fact that each congressperson can select a piece of art created by a high school student in their district to be displayed for a year in DC. The selection process can be as simple or elaborate as each congressperson decides. Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, who represents the 34th district, chooses to really engage the students and holds a fantastic competition that results in a month long gallery show, celebration event, scholarships for the finalists and a trip to DC for the winner and their art teacher. It is really an incredible thing that she does for the community. The kids are so excited when they walk into the gallery and get to see their artwork framed and up on the wall. It is a very cool thing to witness.

This year there were 250 entries (which is more than they have ever had) and it was really amazing to see how bold some of these kids were with the messages in their art. There was some global warming, war, angst ridden self portraits (one was entitled ‘Despair’), the obesity epidemic, portraits of family members, autism, violence, the desire to break free from oppression, there was even an ode to Biggie (a personal favorite). No matter what the story was, each one had a tinge of teen angst that only a high school art student can convey. As the chair of the competition, my job was to help plan the event, judge the entries and write a letter for the printed program (upon reading the end product I realized that I got a tad excited with the exclamation points!!!!! Clearly, I was excited and I wanted everyone to know about it). The day of the event it was my job to smile a lot, be in a million photos and address the kids, their families and teachers at the awards presentation. There were about 400 people there and it had been a long time since I have dusted off the handy dandy speech skills…so I was a bit nervous.

How do I talk to high schoolers and not sound like I am an old lady who is trying to “relate”? As I sat down to write my remarks I started to think about me when I was 17 and how I was all angst ridden and feeling like the only people who understood my pain were Alanis Morissette, Jewel and the chick from the Cranberries. I immediately thought of my very own self-portrait that I did in 1997, entitled ‘All Alone on a Saturday Night’ (oh yes, I was deep). I actually remember that night quite clearly. I remember sitting alone (obvs), painting and listening to my Alanis/Jewel/Cranberries mixed tape. That night of tears and heart ache resulted in the creation of a self-portrait that hangs on my wall to this day:

I know, brilliant, right?? (Someone got a contemporary art book for Christmas.) Clearly, it is no secret why I did not become a painter, but I keep this on my wall because it reminds me of so many things. Things that I hold dear to my heart, lessons learned, the abundant emotion that 17 year-old me felt and the artistic spirit that has followed me for all these years. It occurred to me at that moment that I knew exactly what to share in my remarks: That art played a big role in my life when I was in high school and that it helped me get through some hard times. That it is so important to hold on to that creative spirit and passion, no matter where life takes you because it will always be useful.

Thankfully, the message was well received and I managed to bust a speech out just like the old days. It was a really inspiring morning. Many of the kids asked to take a picture with them next to their art...I was totally the cool kid in school! I giggled as I watched all these awkward kids with their piercings and their black nail polish and their crazy pants hair (seriously I saw more than one rat-tail. Dear hipster high school kids: please do not bring the rat-tail back. It is not ok. Trust me, it’s a bad idea. You will regret it. Thank you in advance for your cooperation.) and watching them with their families who were so very proud really warmed my heart. I left feeling really grateful for the angst ridden moments of my teen years, because they shaped me into who I am today and set the stage for me to make some pretty rockin art. You…You…You oughta know…

Friday, April 8, 2011

Taken back.

Hello friends!! Happy Friday! Over the last week I have gotten SO many emails and messages about this post and this post! In a perfect world, I would be able to hand write each of you a thank you card, but instead this super-duper-incredibly-fabulous pink typewriter will have to do.

Thank you for your kind words.
Thank you for sharing yourselves.
Thank you for taking it the way I mean it.
Thank you for laughing at my jokes.
Thank you for coming on my crazy journey.

Because of you, my heart is full of thanks today.
Have the happiest weekend.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


Lately I have been struggling with some issues that have been long standing in my world. It is frustrating. I feel stuck and I find myself falling back on excuses/mantras/thoughts that apply to the JLa (roll with me here, it was a name invented in college and it stuck) of 10, even 15 years ago (Yes I am that old, I know it is shocking to me too). The two biggest areas that I struggle with over and over again are diet/exercise and finances… how can this be, you say? Well, lets break it down shall we?

Diet and Exercise: To put it kindly, I have gained some weight over the last several months. Now before you think, "don't even start, you look fine", let me remind you that it is all relative and for me it is enough to notice. Enough for my clothes to not fit - which is the WORST, seriously my co-workers must think that I own 7 outfits all of which include leggings and long sleeve tent dresses. Needless to say, I have found it IMPOSSIBLE to get motivated to do something about it. There are always excuses: I just started a new job and that is stressful or I no longer can afford my trainer so I won’t go to the gym or I have no time or I’ll start Monday (I don’t know what ‘Monday’ I am ever referring to because it never comes) or I can’t go on a ‘diet’ because I will get crazy like in my eating disorder days. While all of these are true at one time or another, it is last one is curious to me because thankfully I have not struggled with ‘eating disorder tenancies’ in years, like more than 10 years. Yet every time I consider cutting things out of my diet or limiting my daily intake of baked goods it’s as if I left camp (read: treatment) yesterday. Like I am teetering on the edge of working out all night and living off of apples and diet coke (not a good idea, BTW). Well turns out this is totally not the case, I am just fine. So I need to suck it up like every other person on the planet who needs to work it out for bikini season. I am not going to become the tortured JLa of the past. Honestly I could not even if I tried.

Finances: This is a big one. One that that makes me cling to a lot of shame and embarrassment. Mostly because I am clearly old enough to have it together in the finances department, yet I do not. For serious, it should be together. But time and time again I find myself in the same place and I just can’t get out of it, at least that is what I tell myself. A big part of my manic days was shopping, drinking, no sleep, shopping, drinking some more and then more shopping! I had no concept of what my monthly expenses were – it was more like ‘if I have money in my bank account, then it is ready for me to spend…on Gucci shoes’. And then there was the fact that I did not open my mail, like ever (rather it sat in ‘organized’ piles in the aforementioned Gucci shoe boxes) and therefore did not pay my bills on time. And therefore now have embarrassingly bad credit. It goes on and on. This loop plays over and over for me. It keeps me in that bad place. I stress over it as if I am still 25 year-old crazy JLa who was totally out of control. News Flash: I am not that person any more. In fact I have fought really hard not to be that person and I have won that battle. So why do I keep talking to myself as if I am still on that downward spiral?

How often do we limit ourselves by behaving as if we have not grown up and learned from the past, even just a little? Those kinds of thoughts are paralyzing, they keep you in that ugly place, not matter what the issue is – at least for me they do. When I think about it objectively, the truth is that I have become someone that I can trust. The JLa of the past was not trustworthy. But the NOW JLa has earned that trust and its time to start acting accordingly.

So over the last week I have started a detox (not a crazy pants all I drink is lemon water, there is food involved) and am back on a workout plan. So far so good, no all night candle light step aerobics (yes that really did happen in 1996). And I have also made some proactive decisions about my finances (none of which involve the shoe department). I have started a cash envelope budget in style (clearly plain envelopes were no fun, so I got these). And while it has only been a short time, I can already see a difference in my thoughts and my anxiety level about all of it. I am far from perfect and I am sure I will stumble, but I can say that I have come a long way since the JLa of yesteryear and for that I am very grateful.

How about you? What are the things that you keep holding on to that do not apply to who you are today? How can you make a change your thoughts and empower yourself to move forward? The NOW JLa is here to cheer you on!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Friday Frivolity

Well friends, it has been a long week and I am REALLY excited for the weekend! Mine is going to be filled with a whole lot of nothing, a little bit of spring cleaning and then book club...perfect if you ask me! I have been so busy the past few months that I am starting to really cherish the weekends that I have just to be at the house and hang out with my love and our silly pets!

But before I shimmy into zone-out land, I wanted to pop in and share some fun! It will not be a surprise that I have quite the obsession with Etsy (who doesn't) and I often find myself scrolling through pages and pages of fantastical treats! Lately I have been drawn to prints and thought I would share some that are not only the cutest ever, but also pack a feel good punch!

How great is this?! Certainly something to often do we limit ourselves by the things we are not? I know I do it more than I would like. You can find it here at Original Art by Valentina. I just adore her stuff! I could order one of each! Another one of my favorites is this:

Not only are the sayings wonderful things to remind yourself of, the detail in her drawings is so delicate and lovely. You can find this gem here. J'adore Valentina!! One of my favorite blogs is sfgirlbybay, aka Victoria Smith. Not only is her blog filled with the chicest things and the most inspired design, she is sassy and she has an Etsy shop! I am drooling over this print, you can find it here:

Isn't this so very true??? Every day I come home and my doggies (and kitty, but more so the doggies) are so very happy to see me, as if it has been ages and I am the greatest thing ever. They snuggle and adore and I love every minute of it!! I can only hope that I am that great in real life!!

Happy Friday friends! What are your favorite Etsy stores? I need some new spots to scour as I zone out on the couch this weekend. I hope to see you (LOTS) next week!


Friday, March 25, 2011

Because rehab can be so lengthy and tiresome.

{Opening note: I am not saying that rehab is bad. I went to rehab once for a whole other issue. I think rehab is really important and that if someone needs it, then they should go. Cheers and snaps for rehab. I am not pulling a Charlie Sheen here. I did not cure myself with my mind. This is just a tale of my journey and how it went down in my life. Not a judgment on rehab. Had to be said. End opening note.}

This past weekend was the six-year anniversary of my farewell to drinking, more affectionately known as “The Bender Bash”. Upon finding out that I do not drink (or that I “quit”) most people immediately ask if I am an alcoholic and if I go to AA, which is a oddly personal question to ask someone that you are just meeting (not to mention that the second A in AA stands for anonymous), but you know me I am an open book, so it does not phase me. The truth is that I am not an alcoholic, I had the potential to be, and that became painfully clear to me as time went on, but I had a really hard time embracing that fact. Which is funny to me now, because it seems SO OBVIOUS in hindsight.

For numerous reasons, I did not drink until my 21st birthday (outside of an unfortunate incident involving premixed vodka and grapefruit juice in an unmarked container found in the fridge when I was 14…lets just say that the aftereffects of that ensured my purity until I was of legal age). Upon becoming 21, I learned that there were perks to my Irish heritage, namely that I could drink more than most men double my size. And believe me, having attended Arizona State University for the latter portion of my education, I had many occasions to gather empirical evidence to back this statement up. I was the girl who brought a round for the bar – the party girl that everyone loved. Lets just say that there were numerous instances that pointed to the “this could be a problem” theory [lets refer to those as RED FLAGS #1-99], but I was “in college” and “having fun” and “embracing my youth” – so that theory was put on the back burner.

Fast forward to when I was informed of my craziness on paper in mid 2004 (explained in detail here), one of the things that the sassy graph made of stars told me was that I had strong addictive tendencies and that I had an equally strong tendency not to realize that could be a problem [RED FLAGS #100 & #101], but I decided that since I was given this information that I could control the issue therefore it would not be a problem (oh justification, you are a snarly beast).

Then, in October of 2004, I got a DUI [HUGEST RED FLAG IN THE HISTORY OF RED FLAGS]. I am SO lucky that the situation was not worse. That being said, I can say with out reservation that it was the most humiliating and awful 15 hours of my life (and I have had some pretty low lows). To this day when I think of that phone call that I had to make to my mom, my stomach turns – it was not my finest moment, to say the least. Side note: You may wonder why on earth I would share this dirty little detail with all of blogdom. Well, as I have said before, I am just trying to keep it real here and it is a very REAL part of this story and an important detail of my journey to superpower-hood.

So one might think that this horrifying incident would be the straw that broke the camel’s back, but ooooooh no…instead I told myself that I just needed to “understand” what it meant to be over the legal limit cuz clearly I was confused before and that I would just stick to 2 drinks at a time (as opposed to 10) and then I would be fine. But before long 2 drinks became 3 and 3 became 4 and so on. [At this point the RED FLAGS are so large that they might as well be RED BANNERS, so I stopped counting] During this time I was seeing my new doctor and we were discussing meds and such and there was this constant little voice of reason in the back of my head that said, “helloooooo, if you need to be on mood stabilizing drugs, you probably don’t need to be drinking…CAN’T YOU SEE THE RED FLAGS?!?!?! THEY ARE EVERYWHERE!” But justification reared its ugly head once again and I carried on because “I had it together” and “I could handle it”.

And then one morning after a night of more than 2 drinks, I woke up and that voice was YELLING at me, I could not ignore it any more. That day I told my dear friend Tanya with tears streaming down my face that I had to quit. I told her that I would change my mind in like an hour, but that she had to promise to make me do it, this had to be the end. She did just that. She is a really really good friend.

Suddenly I was faced with all sorts of questions: How would I convince my friends that I was serious? Would I still be the fun girl that everyone loved? What on earth would I drink when I went to bars? Could I even go to a bar? Is there life beyond a perfectly made dirty martini? The list went on and on and out of these questions the ‘Bender Bash’ was born. Tanya and I devised a fool proof plan: I would go out in “Jenn Lafferty” style and throw the bestest most fabulous party ever, then everyone would know that I was for serious and have to support me (besides it gave people the opportunity to have “one last drink with the fun party girl that everyone loved”). And to top it off we had commemorative shot glasses made that read: “Bender Bash 2005, because rehab can be so lengthy and tiresome”. Because a party is not a party unless you get to take a shot glass home (pictured below) always, keeping it classy.

It was epic. A million people came. I curled my hair and wore a backless shirt (hey, I could only exhibit good judgment on one thing at a time in those days, don't judge). Hilarity ensued. I did a shot with my mom. More madness. More shots. My first and last Irish Car Bomb. And then it was done. I went home, got in bed, woke up the next morning and it was over. No hangover. No drama. We went and had pancakes. Chocolate chip pancakes in fact. And that was that.

It was the best decision that I could have ever made for myself – it honestly changed my life. Standing here six years later I feel so incredibly blessed. Had I not listened to that voice in my head it could have turned out really bad and that decision would have been made for me by circumstances with consequences that scare me to even imagine. So I don’t, instead I try to live every day with a thankful heart.

And in case you were wondering, there is life beyond the perfectly made dirty martini – its called dessert. Deliciously wonderful heavenly dessert. OH and I still have a box of those shot glasses if there are any takers out there. Perhaps it could be my first ever blog give-away ;).

Thursday, March 3, 2011

On balance.

Side note before we even begin: Yes, this is supposed to be an obnoxiously skinny cartoon representation of me “balancing” life (the baby carriage is clearly symbolic, lets not get carried away) it was the lesser of 2 evils from my google image search results – while the elephant on a beach ball may have been more accurate, I went for skinny red head striking yoga pose for obvious, on to the topic at hand...

A few weeks ago I attended a conference where I was asked to sit on a panel and then lead a small group discussion on finding balance in life. The attendees were all 20-something ladies who are searching to find that all too illusive state called balance. As I prepared for the weekend I was a bit intimidated. The panel was comprised of some incredible women, all who have had long established and successful careers and family lives and the woman who was facilitating the program is an accomplished author, life coach and all around impressive lady who at a young age has dedicated her work to helping people navigate through the treacherous-ness that is one’s 20s. Who was I to talk to 20-somethings about balance? I am just slightly out of my 20s (which lets be honest, I barely survived) and still find myself on the daily quest for the B word. At the same time I was quite flattered to be asked to participate and knew that it would likely be a great learning experience AND I would get a weekend in San Diego with my mom, cousin and niece – sign me up!

We were set to have the panel discussion on Saturday morning and on Friday night I was reading through the questions that the moderator of the panel sent us to prepare. I was making my notes and things were flowing freely until I got to the second to last question: What is a something that you were told in your 20s that you have discovered is a myth? Immediately two things popped into my head 1) ‘You can be anything you want to be’ and 2) ‘You can live a balanced life’….wait, what?? BALANCE?!? I certainly cannot get up in front of all these ladies and claim that a balanced life is a myth, that is the whole reason we are all here, besides who am I to say? So I decided to prep the “you can be anything you want to be” answer and be done with it (which BTW is a really good answer, because it is a totally myth, but that discussion is for another post entirely).

Saturday morning came and I put on my cutest ‘its raining and I am going to be on a panel, but need to look chic and cozy” outfit and headed out for breakfast. We all got settled in the front of the room, did our intros and the discussion began. It was interesting and witty and organic – people were very engaged and then it came to the second to last question. Each of the ladies answered with beautiful, poignant and eloquent statements. I was anticipating my turn and getting ready to deliver my amusing antidote about your mom telling you that you could be anything, but then you went on American Idol and learned the hard way that “anything” did not include singer…blah blah blah…funny funny funny…brilliant nugget of truth, the end…when suddenly I was called on and without skipping a beat said ‘I believe that true balance in life is a myth’….wait for it…and…crickets. I quickly busted out some trusty ‘look at me I can laugh at myself’ humor and attempted to explain myself…

Life is not balanced, it never will be. There are times when you work like an insane person because you have to, or you have kids and it is all about them or your partner needs to be overwhelmingly supported so its all about them or YOU need to be overwhelmingly supported so its all about you or everything is falling apart due to circumstances beyond your control and you are doing everything just to get out of bed in the morning…the list goes on and on. THEN in the middle of this ALL we are beating ourselves up because we can not seem to find the time to meditate and work out and cook healthy meals and do laundry and have an immaculate house and go to a yoga class and be an attentive partner/friend/caretaker/family member (this is my list, I am sure you can insert your own) – we are unbalanced in our quest for balance, so how about them apples…

As I was talking, I realized that I was talking at myself -- this is what I needed to learn and I was hoping that I made some sense to someone else (if anything I made them laugh, which is always a win in my book) and once the discussion was over, we moved on to small groups and then back to the big group again. The aforementioned brilliant facilitator (who is Christine Hassler, btw, you can read more about her here and 'like' her here…she is really fabulous) brought it all home by explaining (and I am paraphrasing here) that balance is really about the big picture and about your self-care. It’s about understanding that things will be up and down at any given time and in the middle of all that we have to find ways to be good to ourselves because that will be the only way we can tackle what life throws us. Balance is not stressing yourself out over the list of things you can not fit in to your life, rather it is about picking one or two of those things at a time and committing to a few things that make a BIG difference.

The weekend was amazing. I met some incredible ladies, each of which is on a path of greatness. I learned a lot about myself and committed to a few small things that have, in just a few short weeks, made a big difference. So thank you 20-somethings ladies searching for balance, you taught this 30-something a whole lot!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Fancy meeting you here.

Turns out that getting back to writing after an unintended hiatus is even harder than getting back in the gym after having 10 babies. Or math class. Or cooking without butter after watching a Paula Dean marathon. Or walking in Alexander McQueen heels. Or not laughing at the ‘Charlie bit my finger’ video (watch it, I dare you not to laugh).

For serious, I have started this post at least 50 times and this is how far I’ve gotten: a mildly amusing list of things that do not trump my hyperbolic struggle to ‘pick up the pen’ again. So this morning I draw a line in the sand. I am posting what I have at this very moment. My theory is that once I hit publish post, then I will have gotten past the monumental wall in my mind that is my extended absence from writing.

So I will finish my tea and go put on a flowery dress, paint my nails black and embrace the sassiness that is the girly girl wordsmith extraordinaire pictured above. Tomorrow is the day after I started writing again. Now, if I could only master those McQueen heels.