Tuesday, November 27, 2018

When You've Got Zero Thanks To Give


Did you like how I posted about getting ready to do ALL the Christmas things, right before I dropped off the map, unexpected-trap-door style?

(John made this gif. Bless you for correcting that glaring omission in the gif world, sweetie.)

Fortunately I'm guessing most of you have been too distracted by the Thanksgiving long weekend to notice. See, I'm a master of scheduling sickness that way. (Or a... sick scheduler? Eh? EH?)

This past week has been a hazy blur, quite literally as I've been locked in my bedroom with the humidifier cranked 12 hours a day. (The framed art on our walls has actually wrinkled. ACK.) I can't remember the last time I was this sick - if ever - so I'd forgotten what it was like to have life screech to a halt.

Well, of course LIFE didn't stop, but I sure did. It wasn't so much like hitting a brick wall as it was like skidding over a soggy sponge and floomphing down into a mud puddle full of piranha and those freaky ear bugs from Star Trek: Wrath of Khan.

(Sometimes, when I freestyle, my analogies lose confidence.)

Anyhoo, I won't bore you with details, but going from viral bronchitis to a sinus/ear infection and then I think some flu mixed in? was negative five stars, would not recommend. I'm still on the mend; stabby ice picks in both ears and super weak, but I'm able to stay conscious for a few more hours each day. I'm even wearing a bra again (you're welcome, universe), which is really the crappiest way to celebrate feeling better, right? It's like, "Oh you can breathe without coughing again? Quick, go put on restrictive clothing and answer a month's backlog of e-mail! YAY ADULTHOOD!"

(Kidding. I never answer e-mail.)

John, meanwhile, is still coughing after nearly a month, though he says he feels fine. He also claims he doesn't need tea or steam or honey or medicine or hot liquids, so let's all have a collective Liz Lemon eye roll in his general direction:


Now a little serious talk.

I decided a bunch of years ago that I would never post anything hopeless online. That no matter how sad or panicky or angry, I would always at least end by sharing a little light, or a little faith that things will be better. It's been a beautifully helpful guideline, if only as a reminder to myself to look up when things get dark.

All that to say, I've been offline not just because I was sick, but because I haven't been able to find that light. I've been so excited, eagerly planning these few weeks all year, and I was already behind, than BAM. Suddenly not being able to move - much less work or shop or decorate or craft - left me darn near inconsolable. Being sick was one thing, but missing out on my favorite holiday crafts and sales and time with friends while simultaneously watching both blogs grind to a halt? Oof. Not good. I've been angry and petulant and so sad I've literally sobbed into my soup - twice. I'm not proud of this, but I'm putting it out here for a reason.

Actually, a couple of reasons:

First and foremost, I think it's poetic I was feeling so entitled and angry on Thanksgiving. I needed that kick in the teeth, that reminder how much I take for granted. The day hit me especially hard - so weak! - but with John's help I emerged, wraith-like, from my fog cocoon to have dinner with friends. Almost everything went wrong: John's bread rolls imploded, inedible, and his turkey was - well, it was turkey, how good can that be? - the gravy was watery, then our friend accidentally used salt instead of sugar in the sweet potatoes, and honestly by the end we were all laughing so hard that it was the best Thanksgiving meal I've had in years. Afterward I crawled right back into bed, but for those few hours I remembered what was important. For those few hours, I really was thankful.

Which is the other thing I've been contemplating: that this, too, is temporary. (Well, let's hope with the sickness thing.) Some people - some reading this post right now, even - are in pain ALL the time. Some people are always this weak. Some people never have the option to make pretty things or decorate their houses. Even at my worst, I have the hope and promise that I won't always feel this way.

And finally, the main thing I'm taking away from 7-days-and-counting of Life on Pause: it's not just about the little things, you guys. It's about the tiny things.  John holding my hand on the couch. A fresh cup of tea. Seeing what necklace Kim Joy is wearing today on Great British Bake-Off. When we're miserable we get tunnel vision, usually laser focused on everything bad. But this past week when I could shift that focus onto a good thing, even a little, that's when I remembered there is light.

The trouble is, I didn't remember those tiny things matter in what I'm doing, too. I let myself wallow. I forgot my rule. I dumped all my sadness on John, and made him suffer, too. Maybe if I'd made myself write for you guys, I'd have remembered to look up.

So hey, if you're out there wallowing right now, look for the tiny good things. If you have someone to hold your hand, grab on. If you find yourself spiraling, turn on British Bake-Off, or start a meme war with a friend on Facebook. Don't be like me and isolate yourself to focus on what you're missing or what's wrong; find some good right here, right now.

I'm still a million miles behind with a splitting earache, but I'll do what I can and try to take it easy on myself for all the rest if you will. Deal?

Now let's watch this rap battle so all the non Flight of the Conchords fans out there will get my hee-LAR-ious reference from about 10 paragraphs ago: 

[Warning: mild language]

"Did Steve tell you that?!" :D


  1. Kim-Joy's earrings!! They made me so, so happy because that girl is so perfectly themed.

  2. Ahhh, Kim-Joy! She reminds me so much of the girls in Japan. They find a "theme" of dress they like and they wear it with pride.
    Glad you are feeling better. Please keep the crud over your way. We don't need that kind 'round here!

  3. Oh Jen! The timing of this post could not have been better for me. Going through a difficult patch right now and at times it feels hopelessly overwhelming. But you are so right, focus on tiny things!!! That’s the way out! (Ditto on the Great British Bake Off).

    I hope you feel much much better very soon. Thank you for pulling me up from the deep end of the emotional pool.

  4. It is the little things. On Black Friday, my husband was chatting with my 30+ year BFF at our kitchen island. She's a single gal, who runs a little farm and is always living barely pay check to pay check. She was saying she needs a new battery operated drill and somethingsomething (I don't "do" tools) and it was a complete toss-off conversation. My husband headed out to do some BF shopping and an hour later (we were still in our jammies) came home and dropped a large package in her lap and said.."Merry Christmas." He'd gone out and bought her a drill and "somethingsomething" because she needed it. She burst into tears. I burst into tears.

    Later in the day, my Grinchy "I hate to decorate, who needs this stuff" husband asked if I wanted to put some REAL trees up out front WITH LIGHTS on them. When I asked him what was wrong with him (gifts out of the blue for a friend, DECORATING) he just said "life's too short" and summed it up with, there's way too much dark in the world right now. We need some light. Long story short-it is the little things.

    Hope you're feeling better.

  5. "Great British Bake" is just what one needs when life gets dark and dank. As for you - some times it is okay if all you did was breathe. And then snuggle a warm furry cat.

  6. I'm working on the GBBO Beginnings series on Netflix and despite it being years old, somehow I have remained spoiler free. Sweet Scottish Cinnamon Roll James is going to take it all, isn't he. He made a derelict barn and the judges FAWNED over it. Derelict!

    Thank you for the real talk. Thank you for the encouragement to find the small, bright moments. Hope you and yours (and also me and my small people with ear infections) have a full return to health and wellness!

  7. I’m glad you found some small bright moments! You bring so much happiness to others, both of you, that it just kills me when you’re sad or hurting. Jen, I hope you feel better both soon, both physically and emotionally. Than you for sharing honestly when you’re struggling, because even though that may seem negative, it always helps to know that we’re not alone in the dark.

    You are not alone.

    No one is alone.

    (Cue Into the Woods ear worm. ��)

  8. Jen, I am back at work today after a week of what sounds like the same kind of plague. I was SO EXCITED for Thanksgiving because both of my kids were going to be home. I was going to bake with my son and go shopping with my daughter. But no. I spent most of the time they were there (and a few days after they left) sick in bed. But I do have a lot to be thankful for. My kids had a good visit with the relatives who came anyway (I assured them I was quarantined upstairs). My son, with minimal rambled instructions from my sickbed, cooked Thanksgiving dinner. My husband and I were both off from work, so he was home to drag me to the doctor on Friday and bring me crackers and Sprite. And my not-very-bright cat decided his mission in life was to take care of me, and he hardly left my side (which is unusual for him, especially since my husband is his favorite person). Here's hoping you and John continue to recover. We're thankful for you!

  9. I just want to throw out a little story for y'all, in case you need a chuckle - Years ago, my mother was preparing for to have a group over for coffee (committee meeting of some sort?) and my grandmother decided to help by refilling the sugar bowl. While cleaning up, Mom (who drinks her coffee black) was perplexed that most of the coffee cups around the room were mostly full. She eventually figured out that Grandma had filled the sugar bowl with salt. All the sugar-in-thier-coffee ladies must have thought my mother made horrible coffee!

    The sweet potatoes reminded me of that.

  10. Hi Jen,
    I am someone who suffers from not one, but three serious chronic illnesses. The little things do matter to me as I've had to make a lot of accommodations over the years. No matter how bad things get (and they do get bad) I try to always focus on what I still have versus what I've lost. Thank you for your honesty.

  11. James is my fave GBBO contestant ever. I bought his bread cookbook!

    Kim Joy is now tied for fave contestant ever. Nobody else comes close!

    1. This was a reply to Lucy, above. Sorry for the mixup.

  12. Thanks. As I am currently reading this while hermitting hiding in the bathroom feeling like everything I touch turns to shit I really needed to hear this. My depression is skyrocketing and a little out of control and I needed that reminder to look for those tiny little lights shining through the cracks.

  13. As Churchill said, “If you're going through hell, keep going.”

    And also, “Never, never, never give up.”

  14. I caught your FOTC reference and chortled so loudly it startled my family. :D I'm glad you're on the mend. :)

  15. I'm glad you can see the tiny little things. They are marvelous and incredible and are what makes life livable.

    I wanted to add a funny note: my mother isn't the best cook and stressed over it so much while married to my dad because she just knew his parents were judging her*. Well her stress got her to a point where every meal she cooked that included bread, the bread would get burned. No matter what we did to try and ensure that her bread wouldn't burn, it would. Until it became a tiny little thing. She could hang on to that and use it for a laugh. We still joke that dinner isn't good unless the bread is burned.

    *After the exploding pot roast incident which was completely my fault, I can understand her fear of being judged. But to be completely clear, my grandmother, her MIL, was the sweetest woman who would have eaten burned bread with a smile and drank salted coffee with compliments. It was mom's own feelings she was stressing over and that taught me how to not let my reactions make my life miserable. Well, it taught me to recognize it, I am human after all, right? Get well soon, the both of you!

  16. If John is still coughing, it *could* be pertussis. Once we switched to TDaP from TDP immunity became less effective and doesn't last as long. There's not a lot that can help but time, but it's good to know just in case as it is so infectious and dangerous to babies, if you know any!

    Pertussis sucks, I had it at 16 despite being fully immunized and coughed for about 3 months and at the end weighed 85lb at 5'3".

  17. Thank you. I've been struggling with anxiety lately and not doing so well at finding those tiny things. It's been a long several months (started in July) of moving and related stress. I think my emotions have just had enough and have given you being strong. And now we're plqplanna last minute vacation to Chicago for my sister in law's wedding that I didn't think we would get to go to. And yes, getting to go is a good thing, but it adds a lot of stress. Partly because my father in law will be there and that's a huge can of worms. But I need to remember to be thankful, thankful that my husband will be able to be at his sister's wedding. She's the first sibling to get married other than him. Thankful that we can afford to go. Thankful for the freaking awesome potatoes we had for dinner! And so many other tiny and not so tiny things. Thank you for your honesty and helping me to refocus on what really matters. Now I'm going to go soak in the bathtub because hubby has the kids occupied.

  18. Great, I finally have something in common with Jen. I wish it was amzing crafting skills instead of this sinus infection. Do no want. -15/10 don't recommend.

  19. Thank you so much for having the amazing abllity to seem to know what I need to hear when I need to hear it. More than once your words of wisdom and life truisms have helped to give me the perspective I’ve needed to get out of whatever funk I’ve found myself in. The last six months have been rough for me in terms of chronic illness and my husband leaving me suddenly. This thanksgiving was the first real family type holiday I’ve spent alone in nearly ten years. I could practically feel my depression swallowing me and snuffing our every glimmer of light in view. Although my holiday was different than usual, some last minute plans with friends made it wonderful. Fun I would have missed had my situation been different. So although the big things in my life are changing in big ways, I too will strive to find joy in the little and tiny things in my life. Even though I will probably never get to meet you in person, I hope you know how much I appreciate feeling like there is someone out there who gets me.

  20. Sending you lots of love, Jen, and to John as well. And thanks SO MuCH for that video, I watched it on the tram home and laughed and laughed!

  21. Jen (& John), This post was very timely for me today. A family friend stopped over with his girlfriend today, then came back when they thought she left her phone here. Her now 20 yr old daughter has been in 2 serious auto accidents, and in the last one she was driving her mom's car and her mother (this friend) was very badly injured and now is out of vacation/sick leave and FMLA. This week is 6 months since the accident and she is using a walker and is still very unsteady on her feet. As I listened to her release some of her frustration of trying to help her now disabled daughter as she herself is battling through his disability and rehab, I realized I have so much I should be thankful for. We have our own issues and worries, but I don't have their burdens. And we do have more than so many, and so much to be thankful or appreciative for/of. I was happy I had food in the fridge and could make dinner for the four of us to enjoy together. My husband got to sit outside tending a fire (he was burning some yard debris) talking and visiting as the two ladies sat inside and chatted. I sent them home with a new soup recipe (they liked my curried sweet potato with rum cream) and a mostly full 30 pound bag of dog food (our new puppy prefers the big dog food our old girl eats over what he was feed at the breeders). This post and that visit re-opened my eyes... I need to climb out of my hole and start appreciating what I have. The friend was looking forward to being able to mow her own yard again next spring. So looking on the positive side after reading your post, I re-viewed my birthday goals list from October. I named it "352 days from 59 to 60 – DO 60 THINGS LIST". And the very first one of my goals for this next year of my life was to "Cultivate an attitude of gratitude, inspiration, and positive energy". Your post reminded me WHY I put that first. Another of my goals with that list was "Make 4 new friends or re-discover old friends." I've done that in less than 2 months. I've re-connected with 3 friends and made another new friend. (Maybe I could expand it even more.) Thank you for reminding me to be grateful for all the things large and small in my life I have been taking for granted.

  22. I'm one of the in pain every day, weak every day, wishing I could decorate, shop and craft and BAKE like i used to. But i can't. I'm not healthy. But i have a good husband, two awesome kids that I was able to have after I got hurt because I have amazing docs. So while my holiday don't look likei want them to, and I sometimes forget,and I've been known to getpretty grouchy myself, I have lots to be thankful for.

  23. Sending a bushel of healing thoughts your way! And also this video 😁 https://www.facebook.com/GuineaPigZone/videos/1959523730780383/

  24. OOHH! KimJoy! What a fresh spirit to watch!If you haven't checked out Motown Magic, the new show on Netflix, it's also a joy. 15 minutes of a great family based around a Motown song!I'm stuck at home recovering from knee replacement surgery, and as frustrating as it is, I have the best sister to take care of me and better times to look forward to.Keep calm and keep going all!

  25. This post really speaks to me where I am right now. I've battled some severe mental health stuff for most of my life and my level of coping always varies day to day. Things have just been inundating me and my anxiety has been through the roof and I've genuinely just not wanted to deal with pretty much everything. Its so hard to focus on the little things and to find joy in them, but its so important when you are down and out and I really, really needed this little bit of encouragement. So thank you so much for reminding me and just helping me feel like I'm not a freak for being me

  26. Jen! I don't know whether to tell you I noticed you were gone (just here, Cake Wrecks seemed to be normal to me!), or not. In any case, feel better soon, and we're pulling for you!

    Also, one of the pluses of a pj party this year is that everything is supposed to be laid back, right? Right? You got this!

  27. “When I freestyle my analogies lose confidence.” That line made me laugh and made my night. I’m sorry you’ve been under the weather. Warm virtual hugs and prayers lifted for happier days ahead.

  28. I have 2 blogs I follow all the time... yours and The Bloggess. You both give me so much help with my attitude, my self talk (which isn't all that wonderful.) and make me smile through thick and thick. Just wanted you to know that. You are important; sick, sad, happy, crafty, all the ways of life. Thank you.
    PS Hope you're on the mend.

  29. Your post makes me want to reach through cyberspace and give you a big old hug! So glad you are on the mend. I am thankful for all the joy and delight you and John put out into the universe on Epbot and Cake Wrecks. Sending happy, healthy thoughts to you now and always-

  30. I read your blog once in a while (found it through Cake Wrecks, of course, which was recommended by a friend), and it's one of my tiny good things. You write with so much enthusiasm and honesty that your posts are always a treat to read. Thank you for all the light you send out, and I hope the comments you're getting work like mirrors reflecting it back to you. (Okay, that metaphor may have made more sense in my head.)

    Oh, and your Thanksgiving reminds me of a chapter in Little Women where the girls try to cook dinner without anyone else's help, and it's all a disaster (including, yes, salt instead of sugar). But in the end they all laugh about it and see the whole thing as a funny story to look back on.

  31. I had a bit of a "down" moment too this week. I wrote about it on one of the FoE related facebook pages and thought maybe someone here might need to hear it too:
    "Pro-tip: do NOT forget to take your anxiety meds 3 days in a row, get your Secret Santa recipient and then immediately panic shop for the 'perfect gift'! 37 shopping website tabs, many tears, and a mini-panic attack later, I found something that I'm "sure" my recipient is going to "hate."

    Those with anxiety/mental health issues, remember to be kind to yourselves this holiday season. Take a break if you need to. Go find a quiet corner to just 'be' away from everything and everyone that is stress and panic inducing. Remind yourself that you are your own worst critic and that that "thing" (gift in my case) that is causing you stress, anxiety, tears is just that. A thing. And I'm sure that people are going to love it! And if they don't, it was the thought that counts! And we love it! And we love you! ALL of you who make our little internet community great!"

    Sending you love and prayers for a quick(er) recovery!

  32. Your Blogs? 5 Stars, HIGHLY RECOMMEND!

  33. I must say the fact that your friends actually mixed up sugar and salt is HILARIOUS and made me laugh out loud. Some times when bad things are piling up I just think about what a good story it will be when I look back on it.


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