Sunday, October 31, 2010

Stuff I've Been Reading

Here's some of the stuff I've been reading this week. Please click on through and show 'em some love!
  • Michael Gungor (finally) blogs about mystery and how we don't really know much of anything. Fantastic post -- so much to chew on in it!
  • Bryan Allain made me laugh out loud with his Failed Starbucks Flavors post. 
  • Jen Lancaster (the only chick lit author I let myself absolutely adore) writes a kick-awesome response to the controversial Marie Claire article by Maura Kelly.
  • Shawn Smucker wrote a lovely piece about persistence and eyeballs in your elbow. It's more encouraging than it sounds.
  • Rebecca Ramsey shares three beautiful pictures of grace
  • Gina Parker wrote about how an anti-texting and driving law totally cramped her style.
  • Matt Appling wins best Halloween post of the year simply because it has a pic of a kid in a Homestar Runner costume. That it's very, very funny is totally beside the point.
  • Unbelievably cool yarn art
  • And I've included Jon Stewart's closing speech from yesterday's event. It's a little bit long, but definitely worth watching. I'll post more about our day later this week.



What have you read/written/watched/listened to this week that moved you? Please link up to your blog here so I can check it out!

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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Out of the Office

No Sappy Saturday post today, as I am out of town for the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear. I'm pretty excited about a chance to go see Stewart and Colbert live, spending a whole day with my hubby (I love long drives!), and meeting some internet friends.

Anyway, if you want to see what's going on, you can watch the event live on Comedy Central or see it streaming on the interwebs. It's running from noon to 3PM EDT. It will no doubt be funny.

If you're on the Twitters, you can follow my updates here. I'll be posting bad pics and silly thoughts all day. And you can follow the hashtag #rally4sanity for tons of updates from other participants.

And if you're there, shoot me a DM on Twitter and we'll totally hook up.

Stay Sane!


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Friday, October 29, 2010

What I Missed Not Growing Up Fundie

A lot of the people that I've met here on the internets have a pretty sad or frustrating past. Many grew up with crazy fundamentalist churches and it absolutely amazes me to see how they have come out of that with so much humor and grace.

Photo by o palsson
Just the other day I was tweeting with my friend in the Virtual Village, Elizabeth Esther and we were giggling about the distinction someone had made between "regular people" and "Christians." (Well, I was giggling. She might not be so much a giggler. I'm not sure.) We both obviously have young kids, because "regular" quickly turned into a discussion about our bathroom habits. I tweeted, "I never knew I could just a person's salvation by the regularity of their bowel movements" to which Elizabeth responded, "regular bowel movements are SO TOTALLY indicators of your spiritual health. how did you not know this?!" At which point I realized that this was clearly a deficit of my non-fundie upbringing.


So here are some of the things I missed by not growing up fundie:
  1. The joy of sneaking Christian rock music. My parents were early adopters of Christian rock. We went to every Mylon LeFever concert that came anywhere near Pittsburgh. 
  2. My first swear. My first swear was in first or second grade when I accidentally left the "r" out of shirt when I was reading it. I'm sure I'd heard that word once or twice at that point, so I didn't realize it was something I shouldn't say.
  3. Knowing how to sew. Okay, I actually do regret this. I would love to know how to sew and if I grew up in a fundie house, I would definitely know how to do this. I'm just glad I had a grandmother who taught me to crochet. 
  4. The agony of deciding if it was okay to let my kids read Harry Potter. A good internal agony can really liven up your day. None of that here. I liked the books. They were well written and entertaining. So letting my kids read the books just seemed natural.
  5. The heady first sip of wine. The Oktoberfest sold an all-you-can-drink mug of beer for like $5. I don't remember drunken people stumbling around, but there was definitely no taboo surrounding alcohol. 
  6. A highly fine-tuned ability to apologize. Because I didn't think that everything was wrong to do, I didn't grow up feeling the need to apologize for everything. 
I also don't have a problem ending a list in an unholy number like six instead of a Godly number like seven. But maybe you did grow up in a fundamentalist household. What other things did I miss out on?




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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Review: ebeanstalk.com


I'm not always the most efficient with my time (I think I've mentioned that before), so when I see the "X days til Christmas" posts going up on the Twitter, it gets me a little bit stressed (understand, I still have to go get costumes for my kids for Halloween tomorrow. TOMORROW!). So I totally love online shopping. When I can click through a website and find what I need, I'm all over that.

EBeanstalk.com is a really great toy site. One of my favorite features of the site is that it's very easy to find the information that you need. You can go to the site and search for baby toys or kids toys. You can even go really specific like toys for 1 year olds. They also have categories for boy and girl toys.

The toys there are tested by child experts and they have a 30 day return period, so if you get something that doesn't work out, you're still able to send it back. Most of the toys are educational. I particularly like the arts and crafts that they offer for kids. When you order a product, they include an expert instruction card. It gives information about the toy itself, why the toy was chosen, what skills the toy develops, and how the toy can grow with your child.

Overall, I find this site really easy to use and the prices were definitely reasonable. I would say that it's geared more toward younger children (not as much on it for my older two), but it is definitely well laid out and incredibly easy to navigate. If you've got gift buying on the horizon, I would recommend it!

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Depression Defined

Misty is Rich's wife, so I met her through him. However, we have become friends on our own, and I'm so thankful to know her. She is an awesome mom to her boys, an avid MOPS advocate, a great wife to her husband and a good friend. I'm honored that she would share her story with you here today. If you would like to share your story, send me an email.


Depression:

  1. a mental state characterized by a pessimistic sense of inadequacy and a despondent lack of activity
  2. sad feelings of gloom and inadequacy
  3. depressive disorder: a state of depression and anhedonia (an inability to experience pleasure) so severe as to require clinical intervention
  4. pushing down; "depression of the space bar on the typewriter"
Okay, so #4 isn’t a “classic” definition of this kind of depression, but I seriously think it works here.  There are times that I feel like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders…that’s enough to depress anyone! Some days, everything feels like it weighs 20 pounds heavier.  My arms, eyes, the milk, my feet, the air…everything is so much harder to do.  It would be easier to just stay in bed.  Overwhelming exhaustion occurs, but sometimes with the inability to sleep.  Outrageous thoughts swirl in my head. Everything feels like it’s my fault.  We are out of toothpaste, my fault.  It rained, that’s my fault too.  My outlook is undeniably pessimistic.  Nothing will go right again.  Ever.  Typing this stuff out…I can see the absurdity of it, but it’s what is seriously in my head.  How do I get someone who has never had thoughts like this to understand me? 
Photo by ericmcgregor

Depression makes me seem like 2 different people.  I started this post with my depression under control.  Unfortunately, I opened the door a little.  It is sneaky stuff; it slips out when you aren’t looking.  So, going back to edit what I had written is really hard.  What I wrote before seems a little too upbeat at this point.  Crazy, huh?

My name is Misty and I am clinically and chronically depressed to the point that I am not sure that I will ever be off my SSRIs.  But, I am ok with that…most of the time. :)

This will not be an easy post for me.  There is so much to my story that contributes to my depression; I probably have 5 different post topics here!  I don’t talk about most of this with just anyone, but at my husband’s urging, I am going to share.  He says that this may help someone else, I am all for that! 

Depression seems to run in my family.  My mom had 9 siblings, while 2 died before I was born, 3 of her brothers committed suicide.  Three of my grandparents were alcoholics as well. 

Wow, this is not starting out well, huh?

Let me give you a little more background.  I was not raised in a Christian home, but I had a good home life.  I had a great mom and really never wanted for anything.  My father wasn’t really sure how to be a hands-on dad though and I can remember the first time he said “I love you.”  I was 16 years old at the time and I cried like a baby, which wasn’t unusual then.  My depression started when I was a teenager.  I think most teenagers go through a rough time, but mine seemed to be especially rough.  My 9th grade year in high school was fraught with feelings of inadequacy (remember #2?) and I really questioned what my life was all about. 

Ok, deep breath.

When I was around 4 or 5 (I can’t remember exactly), I was sexually molested by my grandfather.  I didn’t tell anyone until I was 15 years old.  I had blocked the memories until they were triggered during a school camp.  That was rather traumatic, (understatement, anyone?).  I started having a lot of anxiety and panic attacks.  It got so bad that it was affecting my daily life.  I dropped out of college and went through several jobs.  It was during all this that I sought treatment.  We started with Prozac. I was 18 at the time and there was a huge stigma surrounding it, so we tried several different kinds of medication before I found one I was ok with.  I met my fabulous husband, Rich, during all this and I still can’t imagine why he stuck by me, but he did.  Thank you, God.

I found that I was really struggling with the memories, so I decided to try some counseling.  Now, at this point I also started going to church and I credit this for my sanity.  The counseling helped me face my memories so I could put them behind me, but Christ gave me peace.  I was able to come off the medication for a while too.  For once, I felt that I had things figured out and was doing ok.  I was even able to forgive my grandfather and had a chance to tell him so before he died.

After a while, I noticed a pattern.  I was able to come off my medication during the summer, but starting it again around October till about March or April.  Rich says that I am solar powered!  :)

Then a whirlwind came along.  My husband and I got married…we moved 7 hours away…I had our first child and he died 5 days later.  I was put on medication pretty quickly this time.  Only by God’s grace did we survive this time in our lives.  I went on to have another baby, Nicholas, about 18 months later and thought that my life was complete.  But he was born in the winter months and I was struck with postpartum depression.

Since then, we struggled with secondary infertility before being blessed with our son, Wesley.  Then Wesley was diagnosed with autism at the age of two.

I have been on and off medication since 1994, but more on than off…and it’s usually not a good idea when I go off it.  I am still trying to accept the fact that, just like a diabetic, I have a chronic condition that needs to be treated with medication.  It’s a daily struggle to push myself… I am learning to seek things that make me step out and pretend sometimes…this pretending will usually lead to learning the behavior and eventually enjoying what I am doing.  With my husband’s support and God’s love, I am able to push back and hold that weight off my shoulders for a little longer. 


Misty Chaffins is a married, stay-at-home mom to two boys.  Living life in small town WV, she shares some of it with readers on her blog, The Family Chaffins.  You can usually find her being a chauffeur for the children. Her hobbies include reading, making soap and generally pretending to be creative. You can connect with her on Twitter or on Facebook.






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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

My Trizzle to Washingtizzle

My apologies for what follows. I know a white girl from West-by-God-Virginia shouldn't write this post. Or maybe I'm the single most qualified person EVER to write it. Feel free to judge me.

++++++++++

Snoop Dogg and a Sizzle
Yesterdizzle Richizzle and I went to visit T-nizzle in Washingtizzle, Pennsylvizzle. We haven't made the trizzle since my b-dizzle. The main reason it's been a whizzle is because my frizzles are bizzle peepizzles.

Anywizzle, we drove up in the mornizzle. It was absolizzle gorgizzle. The leaves were a vast array of rizzle, yizzle and orange. The carizzle had a full tizzle of gas and my spirizzles were hizzle.

We arrived in Washingtizzle at the Cafe B-nizzle. We ordered our cappucizzles and sat down at the tabizzle for some good old-fashioned discushizzle. We drizzled our cappucizzles, talked and, of course, lizzled.

Hanging out with my bizzle frizzles is always a good tizzle. I think it's because they know me so wizzle. I can be totally myself with these peepizzles that makes me happizzle. Being known and loved anyway is pretty specizzle.

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Review & Giveaway: Country Bob's All Purpose Sauce

I love to eat. Obviously. I mean, I AM Big Mama.

And I love food that tastes good on its own. But I also love a good sauce. And Country Bob's All Purpose Sauce is a good sauce.

When I first got it, I expected it to be a straight up barbecue sauce. Which I like. But this was much better. It's kind of a cross between a barbecue sauce and a steak sauce. It has a great blend of spicy and sweet that is absolutely delicious. I used it as a dipping sauce for chicken, but I think it would be really fantastic on a steak or burger. In fact, I'm planning to make some mini-meatloaves for Jason soon, and I intend to use this instead of my regular tomato sauce. I expect that it will be really good.

There are lots of different flavors of Country Bob's. In addition to the All-Purpose sauce, there is Spicy, Barbecue, and seasoning salt. Both the All Purpose and Barbecue sauces are gluten-free. They also have gift baskets you can order. And with the holidays just around the corner, I would totally recommend this without question. The website also has a ton of different recipes so you'll have lots of ideas of ways to use this fantastic product!

Country Bob's has generously offered two bottles of their All Purpose Sauce to two lucky readers. This contest is open to residents of the US only.

Mandatory Entry:
  • Stop by Country Bob's website and let me know what recipe you want to try.
Extra Entries:
  • Like Country Bob's on Facebook.
  • Follow Country Bob's on Twitter.
  • Follow my blog publicly on Google Friend Connect.
  • Follow my blog on Networked blogs.
  • Follow me on Twitter.
  • Like Big Mama's Blog on Facebook.
  • Tweet this contest using the following: Win 2 bottles of @CountryBobs All Purpose Sauce from @BigMama247: http://bit.ly/dp0NlH  (2x per day at least an hour apart)
  • Blog about this contest. Leave a link in your comment.
Please make sure that I have a way to contact you (if you leave an email in your Disqus comment, I'll have it even though it's not visible to everyone). If I can't contact you, I'll make a different selection. This contest will be open until noon EDT, November 5. I will choose a winner using the Random.org random number generator. I will send an email to the winner who will have 48 hours to respond. If I don't hear from you by then, I'll select another comment. 

Thanks and good luck!


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Review: Warmly Yours

I just wrote about my awesome electric blanket. But that only helps me with sleep. I spend an awful lot of my day at the computer. I've got blog posts to write, work to do, Bejeweled Blitz scores to improve on. You know, important stuff. And because we have an old house with less than fantastic heating, my feet are often cold.

But thanks to Warmly Yours, this is less of a problem now!

I was offered the opportunity to review one of Warmly Yours's Under Desk Heaters.

In addition to warming my feet, the desk heater also does a great job of warming the area around my desk with radiant heat.

What I love about it is that it takes up considerably less space than a typical space heater and it uses considerably less electricity than a space heater. A conventional space heater can use up to 1500 watts per hour and this Under Desk Heater uses just 120 watts. It plugs in to any outlet and also has an on/off switch, so you don't have to worry about unplugging it when you're done using it. Just flip the switch and you're all set!

I also love this because I can directly put my feet on this super soft rug and not worry about burning myself with it, whereas with a conventional heater, my feet have to just hope that the warm air it's putting out actually warms up my feet without burning them. Given that I don't like burned feet any more than cold feet, this is definitely a plus to me.

The only drawback I can find is that one of my cats likes this new device as much as I do, and I have to nudge him away from it so I can use it when it's turned on. But I guess "pet safe" is probably a good thing (this is the same cat that burned his tail on our gas stove, so this is definitely better for him). So really, it's only a drawback as far as I'm concerned, not as far as the product is concerned!

You can buy this amazing product and many others at WarmlyYours.com.

Disclosure: I was sent this product for review from Warmly Yours for free. The opinions expressed in this review are my honest thoughts about the product.


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Monday, October 25, 2010

UPrinting Winner!

The winner of the 250 cards from UPrinting was wichitaanimalluvr. Congratulations! I've sent an email to her.


Thanks to all for entering and be sure to check out my other giveaways:


$15 gift code to EcoMom


CD from The Paper Raincoat

Stay tuned for some more reviews & giveaways coming this week!

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Musical Monday: Interview with The Paper Raincoat and Giveaway!

Even though I laugh at him, I have definitely learned to listen to Rich if he recommends music to me. A couple of weeks ago he sent me a text from the Mountain Stage concert he was at telling me to check out The Paper Raincoat. Wow. Total swooning here. They have a sound that is pretty much everything I love.

They have an incredible blend of acoustic and electronic music. Their lyrics are beautiful. The melodies and harmonies are spectacular. There's not a song on the cd that I want to forward over and a number of songs that I'll hit the repeat button on.

I was so happy to have the opportunity to talk to Alex Wong and Amber Rubarth a couple of weeks ago about their music, their creative process and their favorite movies. Thanks so much to the two of them for taking time out to chat with me a bit!

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Big Mama: Who are some of your musical influences?

Alex Wong: Kind of all over the map. For me, in pop music, the first band that really grabbed me and made me want to start writing and making music for a living was Radiohead. And then I went in reverse and discovered all of their music after that. So then I went back and I got really into Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys and the Beatles and Paul Simon. I was really into musicians that did a lot of expressive arrangements because that really hit me emotionally. Arrangements that really conveyed the meaning of the song. I got into them, but I actually grew up with classical music, so I was really into late romantic composers like Sibelius and Prokofiev and I like Chopin a lot.

Amber Rubarth: Tom Waits. I think he was the first one I really got obsessed over. After that, I’d say Stevie Wonder was a big one for me – I liked the rawness. I really gravitate toward that. Then I’d say that Chopin is another one for me.

Big Mama: How did the two of you meet and start working together?

Amber: We met because I had a friend in New York who was playing with Alex’s old band The Animators. I became a little bit obsessively stalkerish with their music and their album and I fell in love with what they were doing. They ended up producing my first record. That’s how we met and how we started writing initially. When The Animators broke up, then Alex and I started writing together a little bit more.

Big Mama: I love the Grace story. What was the inspiration for that story?

Alex: She sort of popped in there. We were writing and we started doing some sort of creativity exercises that were suggested to us by our friend Vienna Teng who was taking a theater improve class. There was a book on how to remove the pressure of creativity from creative people. So just for fun, we were doing some of these exercises. And we noticed we kept centering around a few similar themes and similar characters with the stuff we were writing. And we sort of “channeled” this woman. So we just started exploring it more and she just was born and it seemed like a very natural proxy for the things we were feeling. It just seemed right so we kept on chasing it.

Big Mama: Do you plan to continue that story through future albums?

Alex: That has been kind of an open-ended discussion right now in between finishing that record and the next one. I wasn’t really sure if the next one would be a continuation of those stories or if we would find another way in to the next batch of songs. But lately I’ve been gravitating back to that story. I think we always wanted to keep that as an inspiration and not an obligation. So I would say my vote now is yes.

Amber: Yeah, I feel like Grace and the story kind of feels like the framework of a house and then you can decorate it however you want inside. A lot of times we’ll use this general story of hers and then develop it, but then something that’s happening in our lives will want to be in a song, so we sort of mix the two together and apply it to something she’s going through or something that she’s feeling. It definitely feels like it doesn’t limit us, but it expands us. I feel like when we have any ideas for songs, it gives it a different spin than if we were just talking about it personally.

Big Mama: New York City plays a starring role in many of your songs. Have you always lived there? Is there any particular thing about the city that inspires you?

Amber: One of the first songs we wrote was the song Sympathetic Vibrations. And really what it is about is that people have a resonance just like a guitar will or a note will in a room. People kind of have a resonance within a city. I feel like New York draws together all of these people who don’t necessarily fit in to everywhere else and they come into New York and all of a sudden they feel alive. I think Alex and I both experienced that. We both moved from California and immediately felt like home and it immediately felt like it was serving this fulfillment that we’d never had before. That plays a big part in Grace’s life also because she was a lot older when she discovers this and realizes that she wants to pursue something that really means something to her. She finally does and she hits this wavelength that just resonates with her.

Alex: We didn’t grow up here, we weren’t born here. I think that’s a particular experience that is probably different than people who were born and raised here. I think our impressions of the city are shaped by coming a little later in life and that forms a lot of the way we write about it.

Big Mama: Don’t Be Afraid is my favorite song off of the album. Could you share the song story behind that?

Alex: The song in the story is about Grace re-writing, in a way, her life. The Paper Raincoat is a book she starts writing when she finally decides to follow what she originally wanted to do with her life, which was to be a writer. She’s writing about a fictional character, but really she’s writing about herself and she’s kind of getting this chance to re-write her past in a way that she always wanted to live it. She never had a great relationship with her dad and she always wished that her dad had let her pursue her dreams and go to the city when she was younger, but because of what happened to him, he was never able to do that. They just didn’t have a relationship. What I was thinking about and what we were talking about was her having a chance to make up that speech. Her dad talking to her and giving her this pep talk saying, “I’ll be here in Jersey, but I’ll be watching over you and I want you to do what you want to do.”

And in real life, the first line of it was yelled at me in an argument and it became an idea that at the time really affected me. There are things we put in our way because we’re really afraid to go after or admit what we really want. So we make up excuses or we create obstacles.

Just for Fun

Big Mama: What are you reading?

Alex: The Omnivore’s Dilemma

Amber: I’m reading a book called Becoming Attached. It’s about child psychology and how little kids deal with things so they can survive on an emotional level and how it comes into play when they’re adults.

Big Mama: What is your favorite guilty pleasure movie?

Alex: Mine is Revenge of the Nerds.

Amber: This isn’t really a guilty pleasure, but the last one that I remember that I really liked was a documentary about the Brooklyn Bridge. Kind of an actual nerdy one instead of one about nerds.

Big Mama: What is your favorite time of day?

Amber: Magic time! At six o’clock or whenever it happens where all of the colors turn to the crazy color where you can’t really define what’s happening.

Alex: Yeah, I would agree. Sunset, dusk is my favorite time of day.

Big Mama: If you were taking a friend out to lunch where would you take them?

Alex: My house.

Amber: Sushi!

Here's my favorite song:




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The Paper Raincoat has very generously offered a copy of their cd to one of my readers. Truly, this has played pretty much non-stop in my car for the past three weeks. I'm super stoked about one of you getting a copy of it. If you can't wait, you can buy the cd here (seriously, it's totally worth it). Open to USA only.

Mandatory Entry:
  • Like The Paper Raincoat on Facebook and leave a comment letting them know that you've stopped by from Big Mama's Blog.
Extra Entries (leave a separate comment for each):
  • Follow The Paper Raincoat on Twitter.
  • Follow my blog publicly on Google Friend Connect.
  • Follow my blog on Networked blogs.
  • Follow me on Twitter.
  • Like Big Mama's Blog on Facebook.
  • Tweet this contest using the following: Win a copy of @paper_raincoat's cd from @bigmama247! http://bit.ly/bNT3TW #giveaway #win #music (2x per day at least an hour apart)
  • Blog about this contest. Leave a link in your comment.
Please make sure that I have a way to contact you (if you leave an email in your Disqus comment, I'll have it even though it's not visible to everyone). If I can't contact you, I'll make a different selection. This contest will be open until noon EDT, November 1. I will choose a winner using the Random.org random number generator. I will send an email to the winner who will have 48 hours to respond. If I don't hear from you by then, I'll select another comment. 


Thanks and good luck!

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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Stuff I've Been Reading

Some of the things I've been reading in the past week. Click on through and let them know what you think!
  • Nate Jones writes about his disillusionment with politics. Really great post about loving even in disagreement.
  • Shaun Groves wrote a fantastic piece about the law and how we sometimes love it (and our own rules about it) more than people. Thanks to Karen Haring for pointing that one out to me!
  • David Crowder tells the story of making their kick awesome new video. The vid is embedded in the post and you seriously need to take a few minutes to watch it. Pure genius. 
  • Carols Whittaker wrote a post about sex offenders that will mess. you. up. Grace is really terrifying.
  • Elizabeth Esther shares some of her story with her struggle with postpartum depression. Some amazing stuff in the comments.
  • Rebecca Ramsey writes about the differences between cartoons and caricatures and how we sometimes confuse the two.
What have you read/written/watched/listened to this week that moved you? Please, share your blog -- I genuinely like to find new stuff to read!

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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Sappy Saturday

I'm incredibly proud of my husband. He is completely crushing his schoolwork while working full time. And in the midst of all of that, he still makes time for family. I am amazed at all he's able to do, and do so well. I'm reminded all the time how incredible this guy is and how lucky I am to be married to him.

Of course, with him being busy, and working nights, we don't get many opportunities to sleep in the same bed. Which is definitely a major bummer, particularly as things are getting colder.

See, I think my deep love for everyone draws extra blood to my heart, thus leaving my extremities super chilly like, all the time. So when I crawl into bed, my hands and feet are freezing. Normally, this is where my awesome hubby comes in. Generally, I curl up with him and warm up. Sadly, that is not an option right now.

Photo by Randy Son of Robert
That is where today's subject comes in. Even though I'm currently unable to snuggle with my husband, I'm still able to stay warm, thanks to my awesome electric blanket.

There is nothing quite like climbing into an already-warm bed when I've finished watching my Netflix streaming episode of last season's 30 Rock. Curling up with a good read is much more enjoyable when I can feel my fingers and toes. I much prefer falling asleep because I'm just tired rather than because I've exhausted myself from shivering.

It certainly doesn't make up for my husband. I still completely look forward to evenings when we get to spend the night together and I'm very excited for when he moves back to a more regular work schedule. But in the meantime, I am thankful for my awesome electric blanket.

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Friday, October 22, 2010

We're all the same! (But not really...)

I had to make a trip to Lowes the other night. Nothing major, just had to grab a part for our furnace. Rich was at the church when I dropped Deborah off for DV8, so he made the trip with me to the store so he could tell me the story of his super secret project. This instrument has been quite the build (Misty has a great name for it, but again, it's all secret, so I'm not gonna' share that!), and I was, like the total meanie that I am, laughing at his continued misfortune with this instrument.

Anyway, we went in, eventually found the part I needed, checked out, and were heading back to my minivan. Get to the car, I stick the key in and nothing. It won't turn. I tried again, looking to make sure I didn't accidentally have the key to my husband's car. Nope, it's my key. Tried again, and it wouldn't turn. I walked around to the passenger side and tried. Nothing. I was starting to get freaked out. Why wouldn't my car open???

At which point my dear friend commented, "Are you sure this is your car?"

Yeah.

I turned again, and there, right beside me, was ANOTHER silver Honda Odyssey, only this one belonged to me.

Two lessons.

One: Stop mocking my bff. Because every time (!) it comes back to bite me in the rear. Generally in mere minutes.

Two: Just because something looks the same doesn't mean it IS the same. If I had paid attention at all, I'd have noticed that the van I was trying to break into didn't have a giant dent in the side, the seat wasn't covered by cds and there weren't any liberal bumper stickers on the back.

I've said more than once here that we're more the same than we are different. And I still totally stand by that. It's very easy to focus on our differences and forget about all of our commonalities.

However. It's also easy to look at someone and make a judgment about them without getting to know them. To find out a couple of key features and decide everything they believe based on those things. It can be appearance, a label they use, income level, family size, educational background, whatever. We get a quick overview and immediately pigeon-hole. And when we do that, we can be locked out.

But seriously. I have GOT to stop with the laughing at people thing. Not for them, but for my own self-preservation. Sheesh.

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Review: KT Tunstall's Tiger Suit

One of my favorite songs that we play in Under Shelter is KT Tunstall's Black Horse and the Cherry Tree. So when I was offered the opportunity by One2OneNetwork to review her third and newest album Tiger Suit, I was all over it. 


I think KT has a really fantastic sound. I love how gritty and raw her vocals are. She describes her sound as "nature-techno" and I think that's a pretty accurate depiction of much of this recording.


This is a solid rock album from front to back. It starts off with Uummannaq Song, opening with a fantastic, minimalist sound that carries through until the first verse, continuing to build through the rest of the song. It draws you in right from the beginning.


It moves on to the much more processed sounding Glamour Puss. Lots of distortion and a far more electronic sound. You then think that she's going to slow things down with Push That Knot Away, only to get a thumping kick drum. Again, a very minimalist sound. It has a "B" section at about 2 minutes, that is later integrated into the A section, making for some great tension in the end.


Lost starts as a beautiful ballad, continuing to build in intensity. Great lyrics on this one, and a real musical journey. This is probably my favorite track on the cd. The last track, The Entertainer, again has this intense ballad feel to it. There seems to be a lot of tension in KT's songs. Granted, not all of them. Some, like Come On, Get In and the first single from the album, Fade Like A Shadow, are just fun. But don't be surprised if there's an unsettled feeling in you listening to much of her music. 


This is a very solid album by KT. If you have liked her previous offerings, you won't be disappointed in this one. And if you're looking for a great female rocker, I would encourage you to check this out. 


Complete Track List:

  1. Uummannaq Song
  2. Glamour Puss
  3. Push That Knot Away
  4. Difficulty
  5. Fade Like a Shadow
  6. Lost
  7. Golden Frames
  8. Come On, Get In
  9. (Still A) Weirdo
  10. Madame Trudeax
  11. The Entertainer
KT is beginning her US tour on October 31. Check to see if she'll be coming to your town here. You can purchase the cd here.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of the album as part of the One2One Network's review team. I am entered to win a gift card through One2One Network by participating. The opinions expressed in my review are my honest opinions of the product.


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Little Miss Sunshine

Today's post was written by Katie McNemar. She is a huge encouragement to me and I can't tell you how blessed I am to be able to share her writing with you. If you would like to share your story, send me an email.

I never know when it’s going to happen.  Sometimes it will hit me when I am in the middle of laughing at a joke.  All-of-a-sudden, I’ll feel a million miles away even though I am, physically, still in the same location.  I feel totally alone even though I am surrounded by people.   I look at the people I know and I feel like I don’t know them anymore.   The feeling of panic starts like a wave.  It grows in momentum until it finally comes crashing down on me.  I break out into a cold sweat.  My fight or flight response has been activated for no real reason.  I want to run, but I don’t want to freak everyone out or look like a crazy person.  It takes every drop of energy I have to not run.  The world seems to close in on me; wrap itself around me and squeeze so hard I can barely breathe.  I wish I could just unzip my skin and run out of the body that has me trapped inside.  The inability to calm myself down or talk myself out of this makes me feel like I am on a runaway train.  My stomach starts cramping and I get hot.  More sweating. 

Sometimes I don’t know why I start feeling this way and other times I can almost predict that a certain situation will bring it on.   Whether or not it is a self-fulfilling prophecy; I’m not sure.  No matter the cause, I don’t seem to be able to control it.   I have managed to learn how to sit or stand there and try to look “normal”. As if the panic attacks aren’t bad enough, there is also the accompanying depression. Anxiety’s BFF.  The only way I can describe it is to say that it feels like I am living in a slow moving dark cloud or haze.  When people talk about hating to get out of bed to go to work, or talk about feeling too tired to clean their house, I wonder if it is the same intense feeling of exhaustion that I feel when I say those things.  I don’t hate going to work or cleaning my house, but doing both of those things, sometimes, is so difficult for me to do that I simply can’t force myself.  I am not one of those people that cry a lot when they are depressed, in fact, I am quite the opposite.  I tend to feel numb and apathetic.  I can’t cry or even feel anything.  I just float.  This...is my secret.

I’ve been struggling with anxiety and depression since I was around 9 or 10 years old.  In a small town in the early 90’s there wasn’t much talk of kids with anxiety and depression.  There wasn’t much talk of anxiety and depression in general.  I know now that I wasn’t the only one that struggled with these issues as a kid.  I was sent to all kinds of doctors and specialists, but no one could make sense of my strange symptoms.   I hated going to school because I was so embarrassed by the fact that I felt out of control.  I did everything I could to cover up my issue.  I didn’t go to sleepovers, I didn’t have friends over.  I even begged my brother not to have friends over.  During Christmas or birthdays I would only want my family around and even then I would sometimes stay in my room in my PJs.  I couldn’t help it that my family knew, but I did all that I could to hide my problem from everyone else. 

My physical symptoms were so painful and real that it was hard for my parents to accept that it could all be psychosomatic and a direct result of an anxiety disorder.  My parents took me to doctors until someone gave me a diagnosis that made sense to them.  How do you look your screaming, crying, miserable child in the eyes and tell her that her pain is all in her head?  Finally, I was diagnosed with possible irritable bowel syndrome and food and environmental allergies, but that didn’t make it go away.  In fact, it made it worse.

When I left home and went to college I finally went to see a therapist.  I was officially diagnosed with major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder when I was 19. I remember my therapist saying that she couldn’t believe I had struggled that long without treatment.  It was nice to finally have a name for the monster that controlled me, but at the same time it was another secret I had to keep.  Therapy never really worked; mainly because I refused to be honest with my therapist.  The drugs didn’t help either. Even if they helped with the anxiety they made me feel out of it; and I certainly didn’t need to feel any more like I was in a cloud.  For years I was off and on different medications until I finally gave up on them altogether about 4 years ago.  I haven’t been to therapy or taken meds for over 4 years.

Not many people know any of this about me.  My goal over the last twenty years has been to cover it all up as much as possible.  I don’t talk about it.  I don’t blog about it; at least not explicitly.  I have become an expert at hiding my secret, even from my own family and friends.   I allow very few people to get close enough to me to find this out.   It’s easier to keep people away than it is to figure out how to hide this fact from people over and over again.  Over these last twenty years I have developed my own ways of finding a comfortable way to deal with my anxiety and depression.  Being out of control of your feelings and your body is embarrassing, depressing, and exhausting.   For years after becoming a Christian I felt guilty or broken because I still struggled with these feelings.  I felt that if I could just “pray right” or be “right with God” then all of my issues would go away.  The deep deep emptiness and hopelessness that plagued my youth and young adulthood was mostly gone, but the anxiety and depression still remained…and remains to this day.  Literally…today.  I am anxious about writing this, because now you know my secret.

The light you see when you meet me or see me isn’t fake.   That’s real.  My positivity, joy, and peace isn’t fake.  It’s all real.  Most of the time the smile isn’t fake.  But the joy and peace that come with knowing Jesus doesn’t always mean that you will be “happy” or “calm” or not have struggles.  Maybe the anxiety and depression remain with me like a thorn in my side so that not only will I remain humble, but that I will be able to always empathize with people that suffer or struggle.  I pray to be completely released from it and believe that one day I will.  Maybe today.  Maybe the secret of it all allowed the depression and anxiety to keep its claws in me.  Maybe telling you my secret will take all of its power away and all that remains is the memories and experiences of a battle fought and won.  I pray that to be the case.  If it’s not, then all I have to say is….In my weakness, He is strong.  And He is the purpose for my life. 

If you are struggling with anxiety and depression, please know that you are not alone.  Feeling like no one can understand or help is one of the most damaging parts of these disorders; and it simply isn’t true.  You are not alone in your fight.  And neither am I.  Let today be the day that you stop trying to fight this battle alone.  There is hope.  There is relief.  





Katie McNemar is a twenty-something, Jesus-loving girl that grew up in small town in WV and now lives, works, and plays in Washington, DC.  She writes a blog called The Dailies, which chronicle her random ramblings as well as her journey to draw closer to God.  




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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My Story

Tomorrow I'm posting the first in the series of stories about depression. I'm hoping to make this a regular feature on Thursdays. If you have contacted me about sharing your story, I encourage you to follow through and write it up. What has been shared with me so far has been absolutely amazing and I so believe that adding your voice to the discussion is going to be a huge benefit not only to those who feel like they are struggling alone, but to you as well.

All that said, I wanted to share my story with you folks.

For me, depression wasn't something that I ever struggled with until my first pregnancy. I was newly married, living in a new city, starting a new job and I found out I was pregnant. I spent most of my pregnancy happy that I was having a baby, but battling darkness behind the scenes. I was a terrible teacher to my students because it was really difficult for me to muster up the motivation to really do my job. I cried a lot. It wasn't pretty.

Photo by jonasj
Honestly, I thought most of it related to my job that I didn't like, so I didn't think much about it.

Two years later, I was pregnant again. Same thing. Even though we had been a part of a church community for a few years, I still felt very lonely. No close friends to speak of. The depression was far worse this time. I did almost nothing that wasn't absolutely essential. I overreacted to everything. When my son was born, I sunk even lower, with almost everything setting me off. I would spend most of my time in Bible study crying or wanting to cry. Even when we switched churches, there was little relief.

What helped at that time was a group of women. We were all from different churches in the area, but spent one day a week visiting, letting our kids play together, encouraging one another and just generally having a good time. These were the first really close friends that I'd had since college and it was just incredibly powerful to me. That group of women absolutely saved my life.

I struggled with depression through all of my pregnancies, but my close friendship with these women and particularly with my friend Julia really helped temper it a good bit. When I felt myself slipping into depression, I would turn to friends for comfort. Just talking about it was a huge help to me.

My next real battle came in early 2007, when we went through a truly horrible season at our then church (I wrote about some of that back then, you can check the archives for the back story as that would take WAY too long to write out). The depression that came this time was hard and crippling again. This was the first time that I opted to seek medical help in addition to counseling. The meds helped me get to a place of equilibrium so that the counseling was better able to make sense to my addled brain.

What I've noticed every time that I've dealt with depression is an incredible sense of loneliness. I could be surrounded by people who loved me, and it just didn't matter. I could still feel completely isolated.

What helped was people showing me that I wasn't alone. That I'm not alone. Yes, I know that with God I'm never alone. And when I'm in my right mind, that's easier to believe. But when the fog of depression clouds my mind? Not so much. Having someone there saying, "I love you. I care about you. I'm not going anywhere." Those things (coupled with meds & counseling) have been what have helped me get through. What helps me get through right now. I cannot thank enough the people who have offered their support to me during depression. Who have kept me from crawling into my little hidey-hole. Who have hugged me and let me slobber all over them. And who have done all of that without judging me.

If you're dealing with depression, please know that you're not alone. If there's not someone in your life you want to talk to, shoot me an email and I'll call you. Seriously. You're not alone.

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Meet Up?

So right now it looks like Jason and I will be attending the Rally to Restore Sanity in Washington, DC on October 30. I've been hesitant to post about this since I know Jason's schedule is way crazy busy and I don't want to make big plans just to have them get jacked up later. But at this point, things are starting to lock in and it looks like this is going to happen.

So if you're going to be there and you'd like to meet up, let me know! You can leave a comment here, leave a message on the Facebook page, DM me on Twitter or shoot me an email. I'm very accessible. Be warned though. If we do meet, put off a very strong "don't hug me" vibe if that's not your thing. I'm a hugger and even though we may never have met, some of you feel like old friends.

Also, if you have any sign ideas, I'm all ears. I'm planning to attend the Rally to Restore Sanity, but having a sign ready for the March to Keep Fear Alive isn't all bad. Jason and I are thinking about reversible signs, so whatever you want to send my way, I'm all over it.

Hope to see you there!

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Review & Giveaway: Smartypants Gummy Vitamins


EcoMom is a really great new company that is working to connect moms with eco-friendly baby products. They have products for children of all ages. They feature food, bath and body, toys -- all kinds of things to promote a healthy earth and healthy kids. 

A new feature that they are offering on their site is the EcoPass.


With this program, you can pay an annual membership charge and receive 15% off of all orders. It also qualifies you for free shipping on every order, regardless of size or amount (normally you have to spend $50 to receive free shipping). This can pay for itself in as little as four orders! You'll also get an advance look at new products and exclusive offers and promotions. 

One thing that I really, really love about this company is that when you purchase their vitamins, they make a one-to-one nutrient donation to Vitamin Angels, to make sure that kids in need can receive vitamins that they need. I think that is absolutely fantastic!

We were able to try out the Smartypants Gummy Vitamins here in the Wright household. These are an all-in-one vitamin that combine a multi-vitamin, omega 3 eco-friendly fish oils, vitamin D, choline and 12 other nutrients. They are gluten and casein free and have no high-fructose corn syrup.

And the children love them! All four of the kids have nothing but positive comments about them. They taste good and they aren't hard to chew were the two main comments I got from the kids. They haven't forgotten to take them a single morning since I got them, and that's saying something positive, because our mornings are frequently pretty rushed. That they remember to grab a couple of vitamins every day really speaks well of the product in my mind!

They do have fish-oil in them which isn't a problem for our family, but may be for anyone who is vegetarian or vegan. Aside from that, I think this is a top-notch product!

Would you like to try a bottle of vitamins, or something else from the site? Now is a great time to check it out because EcoMom is offering a 15% discount to first-time customers who are readers here at Big Mama's Blog! Just stop on over to their site and enter the code SBBL643 when you check out before November 30.

And one lucky reader has the opportunity to win a $15 gift certificate to spend at EcoMom however you choose! Check it out! (Open to folks in the USA & Canada.)

Mandatory entry:
  • Go to EcoMom's website and let me know what you would use your gift certificate to buy.
Extra Entries (leave a separate reply for each):
  • Follow EcoMom on Twitter.
  • Like EcoMom on Facebook.
  • Sign-up for the EcoMom Newsletter.
  • Follow me on GFC.
  • Follow me on Networked Blogs.
  • Follow me on Twitter.
  • Like Big Mama's Blog on Facebook.
  • Tweet the following: Win a $15 gift certificate to EcoMom.com from @BigMama247! Enter at: http://bit.ly/bPqU9w #giveaway
  • Blog about this contest. Leave a link in your comment. 
Please make sure that I have a way to contact you (if you leave an email in your Disqus comment, I'll have it even though it's not visible to everyone). If I can't contact you, I'll make a different selection. This contest will be open until noon EDT, October 29. I will choose a winner using the Random.org random number generator. I will send an email to the winner who will have 48 hours to respond. If I don't hear from you by then, I'll select another comment. Good luck!

In adherence to FTC ruling on Blogger Reviews and Sponsored Postings, I am disclosing that while I did receive the Smartpants Gummy Vitamins from EcoMom, I was not compensated for reviewing the product and the opinions here are my own. Thanks again to EcoMom for sponsoring this giveaway!

Monday, October 18, 2010

JJ Heller cd winner!

Thanks to those of you who entered the drawing for the JJ Heller cd!

The lucky winner was #18, which was sarahaskins. Congratulations Sarah! You got an autographed copy of JJ's last cd Painted Red. I've sent her an email letting her know of her win.

Don't forget to get your copy of JJ's new cd "When I'm With You" tomorrow! It's going to be fantastic!

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Musical Monday

I've posted a lot of really great songs here on Musical Mondays. I've been able to talk to some amazing artists (and that continues next week -- woohoo!). But my favorite has been when I've been able to feature songs by friends and people that I know personally. I love the opportunity to share my friends' music. Makes me super happy. But today's post is like an extra dose of happy for me.

Chuck is a friend of mine from college. He also played the sax (though significantly better than me). I got to know him through various band activities (we were both in the marching band and in the jazz band together), and I got to accompany him a few times for performance hours in school. If my memory serves me correctly, he was the one who designed our sax line co-ed naked t-shirts (remember those? Our slogan was "It takes two hands to play OUR instrument!" Classy.).

A couple of years ago we reconnected through Facebook and our blogs. It's been interesting to catch up with him and see some of the similarities and differences that have cropped up in our lives. It's also good to know that despite difficulties, his sense of humor is well intact. (I'm hoping that we'll both be laughing at Scott Pilgrim vs. The World on November 9th. It would be nice to know that we're sharing a moment even far apart.)

Anyway, part of Chuck's talent as a musician is that he's also a songwriter. One of the projects that he's been doing is a Friend Cycle where he writes a song about various friends. Incredibly, I made the list!

I cannot even begin to express how totally stoked I was (and still am!). This is seriously one of the coolest things anyone has done for me.

We both are pretty huge They Might Be Giants fans, so he tried to make it a Giant-esque song. I think he absolutely nailed it (my kids, who are also fans, agreed). My favorite line: The hasty critics criticize our critical criteria. Awesome.

So here it is. Enjoy! Thanks so much Chuck! (Head over here to listen.)


Alise (Which is Damascus)
Alise, Alise, she accompanies my piece


perhaps the niece of someone who may like Canada geese.
The ivories, the black and whites, she tickles them with ease
she will not rest until the best performance does appease.
The hasty critics criticize our critical criteria.
She took a quiz and memorized the capital of Syria,



Which is Damascus! (x4)
We move the gems and are each other’s major competition.
She pets a lucky rabbit foot because of superstition.
I made that last part up because I needed a good rhyme.
We haven’t seen each other face to face for quite some time.
We may indeed meet once again inside a cafeteria
where we’ll discuss our knowledge of the capital of Syria.

Which is Damascus! (x4)

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I'm a wife to an amazing man, and mom to four incredible kids. I'm a Christian woman who sometimes struggles with doubt. I'm a musician and a writer who is sometimes afraid to play and write. I'm trying to be more authentic every day.
 
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