Archives for September 2017

The homeless man living in our backyard

I’m pretty confident there was a homeless man living in our backyard this summer. I found a man’s winter coat tossed haphazardly in the weed forest a few weeks ago, and that was my initial suspicion. The thought hasn’t let up. What else could it possibly be? No one wears a winter coat in the middle of summer except homeless people — or someone with a serious case of the flu. Maybe.
homeless man's coat in my backyard
Brian, who’s been home most of the summer while I galavanted across the country, suggested that it was one of the neighbor’s coats, so I marched next door, knocked on the door, and when he answered asked if the coat belonged to him. It didn’t. He also looked at me like I was insane (probably because of the crazy eyes). Well, there goes the most plausible explanation. It was time for my imagination to run wild.
I walked back to the house where Brian was busy painting the deck and didn’t have an opinion…or even care that this giant coat was found in our backyard. It couldn’t possibly have been blown through the neighborhood because it was one of those super heavy work jackets, and there hasn’t been any gale-force wind up in the Chicago suburbs lately. 
Which left a couple of options.
1. It belonged to a homeless man sleeping in my backyard.
2. It’s discarded evidence from a crime.
I graciously placed the coat on my fence because a. I was not bringing that thing inside — it could have bugs. Or germs. Or be evidence for a murder or something and b. I thought if the homeless man came back, he would realize that I had left his coat in a place he could access without coming into my backyard, and perhaps he’d realize that I was on to him. And would possibly sick Louis the squirrel on him. Or maybe the cops. 
Brian apparently spoke with the other neighbor on the other side of our house, and they both think that it was left by a ComEd dude. But I just want to point out that IT IS SUMMER. No one wears a heavy coat in the summer.
Nearly a month later and the coat and I are at a standstill. I refuse to move it from the fence and it refuses to disappear. I realize that I could also throw it away, but it’s a pretty decent coat.
But I’m also left wondering, what happened to the homeless man who was living in my backyard? Maybe he moved to someone else’s backyard across town. Though heaven only knows why. I still have tomatoes and peppers galore in my garden if he were to get hungry. And my backyard is welcoming and cozy as fuck. It’s all Illinois Prairie gardeny and shit.
Illinois prairie backyard with milkweed
What would you do? How do you think it got in my backyard?
Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Don’t mistake my highlight reel for real life

On occasion, I’ve been overwhelmingly praised for my confidence. For inspiring other women. For sparking a change in their lives. For helping them feel more comfortable in their own bodies. For being a rebel. For being fat when fat isn’t considered beautiful by the media. By men. By other women. For wearing less clothing than a chubby girl should. For showing off my curves (and my rolls). For not doing what is expected of me. For wearing a bathing suit. In public. And taking a picture.

 

For that praise, I am immeasurably grateful. To be referred to as an inspiration is incredibly humbling. And certainly not something I ever expected to be. But it makes me want to be better. It makes me want to try harder. I want to be an advocate for people to feel comfortable in their skin when they need to most. To put on a bathing suit and go to the pool with your children, to relax on a beach with the love of your life, to wear shorts when the weather is sweltering, to be in the pictures instead of just taking them.

If posting a picture of my yoga body, neither long nor lean, lithely moving in one of my beloved pairs of bright and colorful yoga pants can encourage someone to step on their mat every morning, I’m all in. I’m proud of the things my body can do, despite my back injuries, and the fact that I am now limited in my yoga practice. My body is strong.

plus size yogi practicing a head stand in a sports bra

If sharing a carefully posed image of myself in a two-piece bathing suit or a sports bra pushes someone to strut their stuff on the beach, then by all means yes! I’m your girl. I bought a two-piece bathing suit because I was inspired by others, and it made me feel fucking amazing.

But don’t — not for one second — believe that my highlight reel is anything more than anyone else’s daily existence.

I fight with myself every day. To be the confident girl you see in pictures. To be the highlight reel. And some days, even if it’s only for a minute, I’m that girl. Other days, I’m insecure girl. I’m jealous girl. I’m change-my-clothes-five-times girl. I’m stare-in-the-mirror-and-project-hate girl. I’m paranoid girl. Are they looking at the way my boobs pop out of my shirt? Is he staring at the cellulite on my thighs in these shorts? Is she watching me eat this cheeseburger and thinking what a fatty I am? Do they think I’m disgusting? They’re staring at me, right?

90%* of the time, the answer is NO. It’s all in your head. The other 10%* of the time? Assholes. Go ahead and judge them right back. Or don’t. And be the bigger person.

Do I love myself? Fuck yes. I think I’m fantastic. Some of the time. Do I look at myself in the mirror and think I’m beautiful? Sometimes. It’s all a part of who I am. I like to think if I loved only myself all the time, I would be a complete asshole who didn’t care about others. One who couldn’t empathize or sympathize. I’d be a robot.

Instead, I choose to spread love. And kindness. And passion. To support my friends and join them on their beautiful journeys. To live and love unabashedly with my boobs and cellulite and cheeseburgers.

Does that mean I’ll always be happy with my body the way it is? Probably not. If given the opportunity to have liposuction or a tummy tuck, would I take it? Absofuckinglutely. But…that doesn’t mean I’m going to sit on my ass waiting for it under several layers of clothing while I hide behind my computer.

Instead, I’m going to create a highlight reel.

My highlight reel on social media helps me boost my own confidence

*I mathed in a fictitious land called, “Chrissy’s World” and make no promises as to the accuracy of any numbers used in the making of this post.

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

The only time my thumb is green is when I spill something on it

I do not have a green thumb. I seriously kill everything. With the rare exception of Bridget II, the schefflera I’ve been growing since college. Bridget I was also a schefflera, but she died during a winter or summer break in our college apartment when I was not there to tend to her.

Okay. Fine. Bridget II lives because my mother has a green thumb and she grew her into a tree. A tree that I now almost kill every 6 months or so. Speaking of which, I should probably go water her today.

So when I say I don’t have a green thumb, I mean it. But when I was offered the opportunity to test my creative skills in the world of terrariums, I jumped at the chance. Especially because Plant Nite hosts these shindiggities at over 700 local bars and restaurants in more than 75 different cities.

What’s Plant Nite? It’s a creative workshop that makes beautiful things easy and accessible for everyone. Basically, it’s like a painting party, but with plants. A host leads you through the instructions to create whatever is on the image, but you, as the artist, are free to make your own creative decisions.

I chose my event based on three things: 1. Proximity to my house, 2. The design of the creation, and most importantly, 3. The food at the venue.

The bar was a local restaurant/tavern a few towns over from me, and I opted for a terrarium set, titled “Fire and Ice,” because at the time, Game of Thrones was hot and heavy, and it just felt right. Look at this bad boy:

fire and ice terrarium

Photo Cred: Plant Nite

The food, though…that’s where my decision really came into play. This place is known for making a killer Bloody Mary, and I was not disappointed.

Epic Bloody Mary

Why yes, that is a deviled egg, cheese slice, salami roll, celery stick, and olive on my already-tasty Bloody Mary.

My future sister-in-law and I were starved, so we ordered a charcuterie display, meatballs, and a hummus-like spread that was really amazing. We took up half the table, but we didn’t mind.

Epic Cheese Plate

Their cheese and charcuterie plate hit the spot, but I’ll be honest, guys, it didn’t hold a flame to one of my own creations.

Once we had our snacks and bevvies, we were ready to take on this plant thing. We each had two glass terrariums before us, and an oath.

Plant Nite CommandmentsWe read through the oath quietly, but when our host was ready to get started, she had everyone read them aloud together with many giggles and smirks, but we promised to have fun above all else. And we did. I took the liberty of borrowing an infographic that shows off the Creative Oath:

paint nite creative oath infographic

Infographic Cred: Plant Nite/Paint Nite Blog

While the wonderful hosts had a wonderful step-by-step instructional, I’ve provided the abridged version for you to see how it works below.

Step 1: Fill terrarium with small rocks for drainage.

Step 2: Fill terrarium with a light layer of dirt.

Step 3: Add succulents.

Step 4: Add more dirt, effectively planting the succulent.

Step 5: Get creative! This is where everyone gets to shine.

Planted succulents

Without the creative step, this would be your end result.

Of course, the help of the hosts (and the amazing supply of colored rocks, moss, and other cool add-ins) made my terrariums as magical as they turned out to be.

Decorated succulent terrarium

I was pretty proud of my two little dudes. I loved the colors (and of course, mixed in some pinks in the “fire” terrarium).

Now, the real trick — can Chrissy keep these dudes alive? We’ll it’s officially been one month since I planted them, and they’re not only still kickin’, they’re thriving!

thriving succulent terrariums

Look at my babies! They’re growing!

Well, guys. I think my work here is done. Want to get a group together and check out Plant Nite on your own? I’ve got a fancy pants code for you to use (QUIRKYCHRISSY) at check out so you can save 35%.

Making Gorgeous Terrariums

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I was given two free tickets to attend the class, but no one paid me to say nice things. All opinions are, as always, my own. 

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Sometimes, you have to add a battery pack and twinkle lights

In June, I attended my fourth BlogHer conference. But this one felt strange. The last six writing conferences I attended all had a similar feel — one in which I knew dozens of people and was comfortable just…being me. That’s when I thrive.

This time, I started the conference off with a bang. After 3 flights in less than a week, and a truly amazing Disney adventure, my back was acting up for the first time in months. I was in pain, which only exasperated my desire to hide.

I know what you’re thinking. Chrissy? Hiding?

So, I’m an introverted extrovert. If you know me, you couldn’t possibly see me as shy. But if you don’t, you might think I’m the quiet one. Adding to that, I spent much of this year suffering from mild depression and anxiety, and now, I’ve got a recipe for disaster.

And so at BlogHer, only knowing a few of the several thousand people and trying to fight through pain, anxiety, and depression, I found myself hiding. Skipping sessions to nap in my room. Barely taking any photos throughout the events. Wandering the exhibitor hall by myself instead of sitting through full keynotes from really interesting speakers. Opting out of late night partying with new friends, and instead, I found myself floating down the lazy river with my roomie, Renee.

It was still fun, but it was a different kind of fun than one should have at a writing conference full of like-minded people. I found myself asking why I was even there.

On Friday night, I took a Valium for my back pain and crashed early.

On Saturday morning, Renee left, and my dear friend, Samara, was doing her own thing…so I wandered the expo for a while. I was interviewed for a Forbes podcast, and the guy looked at me — sporting a normal-ish blonde hairstyle and simple blue dress — with douche eyes and actually said, “Quirky Chrissy? You don’t look very quirky. Now, I saw this other girl who had rainbow hair and a unicorn horn. Now, THAT’S quirky.” Maybe it was the place my brain was hiding, but I wanted to simultaneously punch him and cry. But how do you defend your personality when someone mocks your chosen moniker?

I left the expo feeling down in the dumps.

The thing about being an extrovert who suffers from depression and anxiety is that you need people to help lift you out of the cycle, but you don’t want to be around people when you’re depressed or anxious.

By the time the closing party rolled around, I was ready to go home. But I told Samara I’d meet her down there. And I knew there would be snacks — I was starving, and I’ve yet to find a reason to say no to free food. So I decided I had one last chance to bust out my magic twinkle skirt.

And then I found some more of my people, and people recharge me the way the battery pack sewn into this skirt makes it light up. They bring me back to life (that’s the extroverted part of my brain). I met the unicorn girl, Elliotte, — who, by the way, is AMAZING — and she was kind and wonderful and inspiring…and she gave me a pink unicorn horn.

writers posing at the blogher17 closing party

Photo credit: BlogHer17/SheKnows Media

If I could have gone back in time and worn this fucking skirt the whole time I was in Orlando, I think I would have. Because there’s no better way to make 50 new friends than to wear a light up twinkle skirt. It was my superhero transformation and for a few hours, I wasn’t depressed or anxious or homesick. It wasn’t a REAL fix, but it helped me.

It was my superhero transformation and for a few hours, I wasn’t depressed or anxious or homesick. It wasn’t a REAL fix, but it helped me end the weekend on a high note.Twinkling Stars Skirt - Blue. 3X by ThinkGeek

I started seeing writing friends at the conference, some of whom I knew were there and that I’d said hi to, but hadn’t made a point to actually hang out with, despite my desperate need for more human interaction. I was shy and nervous. I convinced myself they didn’t want to hang out with me. I was afraid. But once I put on my magic skirt, and it was like I could hide my insecurities behind the sparkles and just illuminate the bright spots. It was a Band Aid, but at the time, I really needed a Band Aid.

selfie with writing friends at BlogHer

Eventually, I met up with Samara and she was ready to DANCE. And so I danced. And twirled. And shined brighter than I had throughout the whole conference. I felt glimmers of the me that I love to be, and I knew I had to get back there.

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Marriage advice from a newlywed

So I’ve been thinking. How long do you get to consider yourself a newlywed? Since Brian and I have been married for exactly 365 days (tomorrow is our anniversary), I’m wondering if I can still consider myself a newlywed?

Well, regardless, I thought it was important to impart some very necessary wisdom about marriage that I’ve discovered in the last 12 months of wedded bliss.

Marriage is not work. I don’t care what anyone says. Maybe I’m lucky. Maybe I found the one person in this world who doesn’t drive me quite as crazy as everyone else. Maybe I’m still in the honeymoon phase. Maybe we don’t have children or money problems, which tend to be the heaviest weights on marriages according to a bunch of studies I don’t feel like looking up. But I definitely work harder to keep my laundry clean than I do to stay happy in my relationship with Brian. Thankfully, Brian’s been especially helpful with the laundry.

black and white wedding photo Eskimo kiss

Play is not just for children. It’s so important to have fun in a marriage. Whether we’re going on one of the crazy dates from our date jar, cooking together in the kitchen, putting together furniture, testing out a new game from our massive board game collection, or playing around at the park, our relationship is playful, and laughter is a cornerstone.

bride and groom sitting on a playground dinosaur eating the bridal bouquet

Absence makes the heart grow fonder. If you were following me on social media this summer, you know that I was jetsetting all over the country. From Vegas to Orlando and Boston to Birmingham, I trekked far and wide for work and play. Brian only joined me on the road trips (our kitschy cheese tour of Wisconsin and our annual pilgrimage to stalk Wil Wheaton at Gen Con). But everytime I came home, Brian was at the airport to retrieve me, regardless of what ungodly hour my flights arrived.

Supporting and encouraging each other is one of the greatest gifts you can give. I know I’m lucky to have such a strong group of friends and an amazing family that loves and supports me in everything I do. But Brian pushes me to do the scary things. To take the big leaps. He helps me remember what’s important. And what’s not. And every day, he encourages me to follow my dreams.

bride and groom cutting the top of the cheese wheel wedding cake

Communication requires patience, listening, and the occasional knock knock joke.  Not that Brian or I have ever had a problem communicating with each other. If I told you we don’t fight, you’d laugh and call, “Bullshit.” Or, worse, you’d think there was something immeasurably wrong with our relationship. They must sweep shit under the rug. Bet there’s a ton of unresolved resentment hiding underneath their smiles. And yet, I’m living proof that talking things through when you’re both calmly listening to each other…that’s how compromise happens. And that’s how you can both be satisfied with the results. And really, a good joke is almost always appropriate.

bride laughing during wedding ceremony

Making a cheese platter can relieve stress. I’m not sure this is marriage advice per-say, but it’s sage wisdom nonetheless. Whenever I had a crappy day, Brian would send me flowers…and then I’d come home and make a cheese board. And everything would suddenly seem brighter. Not sure whether it was the flowers or the cheese. But you know. Joy.

Cheese wheel wedding cake

There’s no such thing as the perfect man. But if there was, his name would be Brian…and he would be married to me.

groom with his back to the bride during first look

Happy anniversary to the kindest, smartest, and best partner a girl could ask for. This life that we’ve built together is my favorite place to be.

bride and groom kissing behind huge bridal bouquet

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!