We Won’t Quit Our Day Jobs: Personal Cake Wrecks/Genius (Marginally Wordless Wednesday)

With K-Pants as sous chef, the world is your oyster when it comes to throwing frosting onto baked sugary batter. Place your orders now for…

The Stegosaurus Farm Cake

We know she'll get out. MomsicleBlog

The German Chocolate Triangle Cake

Because triangles have three sides. MomsicleBlog

The Farm Cake

Because Portland and chickens. MomsicleBlog

The Apocalypse Cake

The farm went to hell. MomsicleBlog

The Transportation in a Snow Scene Cake

She's not really 86. MomsicleBlog

The transportation cake is especially good for teenage girls, who, as a general rule, LOVE trains and planes way more than nail polish or boyfriends.

Blue planes are a girl's best friend. MomsicleBlog

Don’t let us find out you’re having a birthday, or one of these masterpieces WILL show up.

 

I Get By With a Little Help From My…

“Unwept tears, like milk kept too long, turn rancid and need to be flung out before they curdle too thickly.” –my friend Chris

I went to a small woman’s college in the South that no one in Oregon had heard of. Through the magic of the Internet, I stay connected to the sisterhood from my West Coast outpost. Lately there have been some beautiful prose posts on Facebook that I got permission to share with you. You, who have been so loyal and loving, and deserve a little intermission.

From our dear, strong Raine whose heart is a music box, on standing up and moving on:

Ten years ago, I accepted that I’d hit rock bottom. I lay down with my (then) fiancé-to-be, and while he was napping, I was shaking in my skin, preparing to tell him that, instead of moving with him to California, I was leaving him and moving back to Virginia.

I still don’t remember much of the two weeks that followed, including packing, wrapping, addressing, and shipping about nine medium- to large-sized boxes that somehow arrived at my parents’ house before me.

I spent the next six months doing intense introspective work, to figure out how I’d come to let myself end up in a bad situation, and what needed to change (inside and out). And I set about changing it. (Which I still work on today!)

So if you’ll allow me this heresy… it’s my own sort of “Good Friday”—a feast to celebrate terrible experiences giving way to growth and positive change. A day to acknowledge that sometimes we mess up really big time, and/or things get out of control… and it’s okay.

Forgive and recover.

Secondly, but not unimportantly… If I post this every year, it is because I understand how hard and even terrifying it can be to get away from a bad situation, and that often “what’s really going on” is hidden from view.

There is help; there is support. And you can talk to me about it. I’ll be your friend.

And now an amuse-bouche. From Chris, again, who, in the face of often-devastating circumstances, hugs us. And you should know, her hugs are as life-affirming as you are imagining.

You would think that, if you were in a relationship that consisted of two women, you wouldn’t have to worry about things like your partner drawing on your cat’s face with green ink. You, my friend, would be so, so wrong.

And last, from Clare, who is probably crafting a beautiful garment right now as her heart pumps stories through her veins:

If I tell you stories you probably know some version of this one. I was 23, had moved back to Chicago a few months earlier, after college and a bad breakup and a summer job and a month in London sleeping on Stacia’s floor.

I’d just started dating a girl named Nadine. She was German, a few years older than me with infinitely more style. I’m still not sure what she was drawn to in me.

We had a posse, a girl posse, which would eventually, just before its dissolution, be dubbed G4, after the G8 summit taking place in Georgia at the time.

Me and Ami and Nadine and Sasha.

Ami I’d known first, back in high school, boarding school, when I was a student and she was a live-in counselor. Now we were both grown-ups, reconnected, city life. All three of them had real jobs and I have to admit I was a little bit of a brat: younger, the only one with a car, living off dog-walking wages and the money I’d saved from the summer before, because when you live in park housing twenty-five minutes from the nearest town and an hour from anything like a city you don’t spend much.

Plus even in Chicago my rent was three-fifty a month. So if I fell in love with a little grey bunny at the pet store after Sunday brunch with my posse, and I wanted to buy it, I would.

I could tell Ami thought I was crazy, couldn’t tolerate my irrational spending when she had student loans to think about. Nadine found it charming. Sasha wasn’t much concerned. We went to Target for errands and I pushed the bunny in a cardboard box in the child’s seat of our shopping cart. Nadine held the box in her lap when I drove them all home.

At my apartment I took a minute to set up the cage but really I just wanted to play with her, this bunny, new friend. If I gave her a name I don’t remember what it was. When my roommate came home she said no, we can’t keep her, I’m allergic.

I called Nadine.

Nadine said she would take her. Nadine had rabbits in Germany when she was a child. They were large and lived in a hut in the backyard.

Nadine bought the rabbit a better cage and named her Greta. Nadine loved her, bought her presents, gave her the run of the house until she started chewing up the cables. Greta wasn’t mine anymore. It’s not clear when Nadine and I broke up. Gradually, then suddenly.

We stayed friends, then she stopped talking to me. I think it had to do with she was dating her ex-girlfriend. They were the ones who really loved each other, even though the ex-girlfriend kicked a hole in her closet once. We were only ever just a fling.

I tried to friend Nadine on Facebook once or twice over the years. She lives in New York now. I don’t think she uses Facebook much, but I also think she is choosing not to be my friend. My “friend.” Maybe I did something worse than I realize. Maybe she’s just not like me, and doesn’t want to hang on.

Her profile picture, from the time I first looked her up, probably eight years ago, until now, is of Greta. I have stolen it. I think I deserve this much.

Bunny. MomsicleBlog

Note: Due to permission requirements, Greta has been substituted for the only bunny we had. It’s my sister Chloë’s vampire bunny, who is apparently trying to convince her to move to Oregon.

Every Odyssey Must End Sometime

Remember when you walked hunched over like a reed in the dunes, deeply rooted but relentlessly blown by the winds?

Remember?

I think there will be a time when I don’t remember. When the pain isn’t piercing. When I don’t have a hard time keeping my neck up straight and my gaze off the ground.

I recently heard on the Ted Radio Hour that it only takes humans three months to return to baseline after all but the most extreme traumatic events.

These are the kinds of things I take comfort in. We are built to be resilient.

A dear friend of mine was talking to me about her five-year-old daughter. “Five is hard,” she said. “It doesn’t get easier.”

I was glad to hear it. I’m tired of pinning my hopes on things getting easier. Five will be hard. I can spend my time sharpening my tools rather than filling my hope chest.

When 2013 slunk off into the dark night, my husband and I knew that 2014 was waiting in the corner with gloves on.

We’ve been trying to solve the problem of the apartment in the Bronx that we own. It was a good idea to buy it, newly married, planning a family, thinking of two bedrooms and a stable place to live.

Wasn’t it?

Every other young family I know seems to have a tale of real estate heartbreak and destruction. And they can all pretty much tell you to the penny the price they paid for their humility.

We’re still paying the bill.

New York was not content to let us go with scraped knees. New York needed to break our kneecaps with a crowbar.

When we moved to Oregon three years ago, we were underwater and couldn’t afford to sell. So we rented the apartment and took a hefty hit every month. And we watched as other people refinanced or got loan modifications or filed for Harp 2.0. But we didn’t qualify for anything because the place was considered a “second home” or an “income property.” So then we applied to sell it as a short sale.

The great thing about banks is they can require you to turn in every piece of paperwork that’s ever had your name flashed across it, and they can pass you on to case worker after case worker for months. And then say, “Oh, you don’t qualify for this. Someone should have told you that.”

This has been our purgatory.

Applying for everything available only to hear No, over and over and over and over again. The last time, with the short sale, the bank said, “You don’t qualify because you’ve made all your payments.” What?

It just didn’t pay to be starting your family and longing for a place to call your own in 2008. At least not for a lot of us.

The exhaustion, the stress on our marriage, the financial pain that our apartment in the Bronx has put us through is torrential. Right now. Right now it’s torrential.

But it may be over soon. Tomorrow. It may be over tomorrow.

But it’s hard to believe, because everything that could have gone wrong went wrong. Our realtor had other plans for us and started to work against us, our buyer’s bank got bought, the building’s management company decided to stop responding to bank requests. We watched as the walls of bureaucracy mounted around us, and as we disassembled one wall, another got built.

In all, there have been three banks, three lawyers, a transfer agent, two realtors, a management company, and a co-op board. This is standard in New York. And with so many people involved, it’s easy for people to say, “Well, it’s not our fault.”

I think I had to write about this because it’s the reason that I keep disappearing. When so much of my emotional and relational capabilities are taken over by one giant obstacle, I fall into myself.

Some wonderful things have come from this, however.

My husband and I have had to have some really tough, ongoing conversations—and I think this meatiness is where we’ve found our soul as a couple. It’s very clear what is important and what is not.

Our buyers are really, really wonderful people and we are leaving this odyssey friends who have battled the forces of bureaucracy together with faith and humor.

I am able to—sometimes, even most times on some days—live in the moment. Because often that’s been the only thing I’ve had. And it’s amazing what an afternoon coffee or an hour in the garden can do for me.

So if you’re still here, thanks. I’m grateful for your friendship and your readership, and for your continuing willingness to share a part of your own self with me.

3/31/14 UPDATE:

It happened!!!! The piercing pain is gone!! Prayers and persistence and the unwavering support of friends and family have carried us to the other side. We are truly grateful!

My Writing on Believe Out Loud

Believe Out Loud

There’s this ball of messy yarn in my soul that makes me need to write. It gets teased out by the cat’s claws, and thrown onto the page. My hope is to be a voice in the darkness. A voice that’s authentic and compassionate. 

And today! Today! Today marks the widest audience my writing has reached. It’s exhilarating and nauseating. I’m thrilled, because there’s been this voice of Love that keeps wanting to come out. And Believe Out Loud, the compassionate, forward-reaching, radically loving Christian site, helped me rework my Coming Out piece into this blog post:

Staying Silent No More: I Am A Christian Ally

What I love about Believe Out Loud is that they don’t like to engage in take-downs of other Christians or movements. They simply witness to what they know of themselves, the LGBTQ community, and Christianity.  So cool. I could learn a thing or two.

My next piece for them is going to be about teaching preschoolers tolerance. Stay tuned! And God bless!

Peace,

Evelyn

P.S. Want to read more from me on radical tolerance? Check out this piece on the Cascadia Scouts, part of the BPSA, an alternative to the Boy Scouts.

***

Believe Out Loud logo from BelieveOutLoud.org

In Honor of Lyndsey’s Brother, John Alex Pelham, Special Forces, U.S. Army (Wordless Wednesday)

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John Alex Pelham with Lyndsey. Photo courtesy Lyndsey Pelham Lederer

Uncle Alex with Halle, photo courtesy of Lyndsey Pelham Lederer

Flying with Uncle Al. Photo courtesy of Lyndsey Pelham Lederer

John Alex Pelham Casket. Thx to Lyndsey Pelham Lederer

John Alex Pelham casket arrives. Photo courtesy Lyndsey Pelham Lederer

Flags at John Alex Pelham funeral, Portland, Oregon

Beaverton, Oregon, service day in honor of John Alex Pelham

Let’s Talk About the Darkness

Let's Talk About the Darkness. MomsicleBlog

What if joy and pain were different shades of the same, beautiful color—not sworn foes growling and frothing from opposite corners?

What if they completed each other? What if they were in love?

I just read Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World, by Henri J.M. Nouwen, and he got me thinking about joy and pain.

When you come in from the snow and run your hands under cold water, your hands, they bite and burn just the same way as when you plunge them into a scalding bath.

Hold that thought. Let’s focus on the darkness for a moment.

***

K-Pants spent the night at my sister Hillary’s a while back. Hill woke up to see him standing right next to her bed, staring at her. “I’m afraid of the darkness,” he said.

Tell me about it.

I haven’t had a diagnosis of depression. But I don’t think that matters.

I know the darkness.

After kids, the darkness started to have bar fights with the light.

Specifically, after Baby Woww was born, K-Pants didn’t ease out of his my-brother-won’t-go-away adjustment phase. The emotional disregulation blows my mind and breaks me down. Sometimes I feel like my back is against the wall, but in ways that make my body shake and give me vertigo.

I just want to let you know that the darkness isn’t bad. It’s human. It doesn’t need a stigma.

And I’ve found that the darkness gives this gift that just keeps growing and growing: Empathy. The word that sparkles.

Empathy connects me to these friends I have who glow in the dark.

They are armed only with faith or a pocket light, and are often caught in the darkness with their eyes open, pressing the breath from their chests and watching it steam out of their mouths.

They’ve faced death and instability, infertility and isolation, chronic illness and chronic caretaking.

They know, after they’ve scratched the surface of the darkness, or taken a long, exhausting swim, they know how far down it can go.

When my own breath dissipates, I look around: there they are, glowing. Gentle and unguarded. When I reach out my hand, someone takes it. My gratitude for these friends is deeper than the darkness.

***

So joy and pain.

When the light comes now it’s lighter and brighter and more beautiful than before.

I know enough to see that the joy often comes in the middle of the pain. It makes the small beauties big. It pushes me back to the moment, this moment, even as I want to jump ahead screaming. The joy romances the pain, and together they let me know that others’ hearts beat with mine.

And because of the pain, I feel the joy with a touch of innocence, like the first time plunging in to a steaming bath.

***

If this post seeped into your soul, even a little bit, you might drink this or this.

And I would love to chat with you in 140 characters (@EvelynShoop)

Breaking Our Ski Virginity (Wordless Wednesday)

Ski Lesson Mt Hood. MomsicleBlog

Ski Lesson Mt Hood. MomsicleBlog

Ski Lesson Mt Hood. MomsicleBlogLast photo credit CarmenRose Fiallo :)