The law of unintended consequences

Our landing has had a lot of lives.

The latest incarnation was designed to be a place for me--to write, practice, and make things. But as soon as we put the new table, chairs and rug in, it turned into a gathering place for the family (and, of course, the cats' new favorite post.)

You never know what will happen when you make one small change. It's called the Law of Unintended Consequences, which is usually a bad thing. Like when my father forbid me to date non-Jewish boys, it made them much more attractive. 

Sometimes, though, unintended consequences are an unexpected delight. I'm thinking of the bridge built in Austin Texas, which turned out to be an ideal place for bats threatened with extinction. The city now requires bridges to be built in the same manner, and crowds watch clouds of bats fly away in the late afternoon.

We actually have a family of bats living in our chimney, but that's not the point. The point is, some of us like to shake things up and see what happens. You could call it perverseness--or maybe creativity.

Thanks, kid. I needed that.

It's astonishing, shocking, thrilling. Samantha was the bright light in our family yesterday, when everyone else was wallowing around in the dark.

Why is that amazing? My daughter has fought severe depression, anxiety and addiction for the last decade. And when I say "severe," I mean the kind where getting out of bed is a major achievement and social interaction is impossible.

But suddenly, she's getting better, and it seems to be related to her new medication, Brintellix. (I say that guardedly, since there have been so many meds and so much hope--and so little change--over the years.)

My brother, the chemist, tells me that there's a huge placebo effect for all psycho-pharmaceuticals and little evidence, other than anecdotal, that they work. My experience, backed by no science whatsoever, is that they do. 

I remember when I first took Prozak. For the first time, I experienced what is apparently common for other people: a moment to think before responding to a stimulus. It changed my life. 

I hope that something similar is happening to Samantha. Since she started taking the new medicine, she's gained energy and clarity, and is losing the weight gained from previous medications.

Hope is everything, and I can see that she has it, for the first time in a long while. Me, too.





This wall needed something


It's taken years to actually do something about the big, blank wall that frames our fireplace.

We've had plenty of ideas and suggestions, but none really took until now. And now that it's mostly done, the solution seems so obvious: writing a few quotes to remind us of what's important:

  • It is never too late to be who you might have been. - George Eliot
  • Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. - Plato
  • Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.  - Goethe
  • Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real.  - Thomas Merton
  • Comparison is the thief of joy.  - Theodore Roosevelt
  • Remember that not getting what you want is often a wonderful stroke of luck. - Dalai Lama
  • I came to live out loud.  - Emile Zola
  • With our thoughts, we create our world.  - Buddha

But the wall says more than the words. It's a statement about me: that I'm more confident about my skills, more willing to put myself out there, and more able to accept the results. 

By the way, I've already had one request: Sam's favorite quote from Dune. "Fear is the mind-killer…I will face my fear, and when it moves through me and around me, there will be nothing left. Only I will remain." - George Herbert

Do you have a favorite I've missed? There's still room for more...


Making books: show and tell

This has been my week for making books--and I've made so many, I don't know where to start. (Actually, it's the fact that I like them all so much that makes it hard to choose.)

I didn't finish this book in class, so when I came home I embellished the "flags" with images.

I didn't finish this book in class, so when I came home I embellished the "flags" with images.

So I'll take them in order, starting with the color wheel "flag" book above.

Penny Arrowood taught us how to make all the colors in the flags from just three paints, as well as how to put this structure together.

Is that cool or what?

Next, I took a class from Kathy Steinsberger where we made four "long stitch" books--in a weekend! That's a lot, even with all the preparation Kathy did for us (like pre-cutting the paper and fabric). 


I learned something about myself in this class, too: it's hard for me to follow oral instructions without something visual to reinforce them. For the third book, that meant I ripped out two stitches for every one I sewed in the right place, holding up the rest of the class. (Next time I'll pay more attention to the very detailed instructions in Kathy's handouts.)

Anyway, I love the results--maybe even more because of my struggles.

A pity party for one

Tuesday. I'm sitting in my beautiful house, feeling sorry for myself--which makes me feel like an ass. I have so much, I know, but sometimes it just doesn't matter. I want more! 

It makes me think of an article I read in the New York Times magazine a few weeks ago. It was about high school students in the "haves" (private school) and "have-nots" (public school). What amazed me was that so many of the privileged kids were aware of having less than their peers, while the disadvantaged were grateful for having more than others.

Surely that's mixed up, just like me.

Since I'd rather be like the public school kids, I want to focus on gratitude. Rivka From, coach and friend, says that gratitude is the most powerful force in the universe--and maybe she's right. (Oprah certainly thinks so.)

So I decided, just now, to create a gratitude book. Not a journal with entries every day, but a book to record this moment in time...  

Wednesday. It's funny how things work. I had just finished making a book out of a single sheet of paper (an "instant book," from How To Make Books, by Esther K. Smith). I filled four pages with little things that delight me, including:

  • Pillowcase my grandmother embroidered
  • Picture of a fat baby
  • Cherry Garcia frozen yogurt with dark chocolate sauce
  • Hot bath with bubbles
  • Shorts that fit better now than 20 years ago
  • Day lilies blooming in the garden
  • Order, at least in a few places
  • Purple toe nail polish

Doing this didn't cure me, of course, but it definitely gave me a fresh perspective. I highly recommend it for getting through "one of those days."