Saturday, September 27, 2014

Tutorial: DIY Primitive Reclaimed Wood Pumpkins

I’ve been feeling particularly crafty lately.  This interest, like most things in life, comes in waves.  But for right now I’m enjoying creating.

I will admit that this bout of craftiness was sparked by a recent visit to a semi-local gigantic craft fair.  It was a lovely day catching up with one of my dearest friends (whom I don’t see nearly enough).  There were a million things I would have loved to have bought; but my frugality kept saying, “I think I could make that.”

And so enters my new Tutorials.  Because as much as I love making beautiful things, I want you to know how to make beautiful things too!  There is nothing quite like the feeling of seeing a project begin and end in your hands.

Please note that I rarely use my measuring tape, much to my husband’s dismay, so my directions are certainly not exact or scientific.

Primitive Wooden Pumpkins

DIY Primitive Wooden Pumpkins Reclaimed Wood

Begin with a few pieces of wood the fatness of a landscaping timber – or with one actual landscaping timber that you can cut.  The older and rougher the wood, the better (as long as it isn’t rotten).  Also grab a couple of pieces of fire kindling that is similar to the circumference of a pumpkin vine.

Using a miter saw, cut the wood into three pieces.  The pieces should be approximately 12”, 7”, and 4” – approximately.  I suggest cutting both the top and bottom of your wooden pieces to ensure the pumpkins will be straight and level.  Also using your miter saw, cut the kindling wood into small pieces.  They should be approximately 2”, 1.5”, and 1” – again, approximately.

Be careful cutting the smaller pieces!  If you are trying to work with too small a piece of wood, your saw might grab the piece of wood, fling it past your head, scare the living crap out of you, and cut your finger open.

Begin by painting two of your pumpkins orange using quick upward strokes with a small craft paintbrush.  Paint the top of it as well.  Depending on the porosity of the wood, and the look you prefer, you may want to apply two coats of orange.

Don't mind my lovely "drop cloth" which is actually an old bed sheet.
A bed sheet that I thought was super awesome when
I ordered it from Delia's in 2002.

On the third pumpkin, paint only the corners orange.  While the corners are still partially wet, apply white paint with a small craft paintbrush in quick upward strokes.  The orange and white will meld together to create a lovely variegated look.  You should only need one coat of white.

Using a circularly craft sponge, create a polka dotted pattern on the two orange pumpkins.  Be watchful and don’t use too much paint on the sponge – drippy polka dots are quite unattractive.

On the white pumpkin, create stripes with that same circular sponge.  If you are particular – or just particularly messy – you can use tape for the stripes.  I am not patient enough to wait for the paint to dry thoroughly enough to withstand taping, so I just eyeball the stripes and they turn out pretty great.

Once the craft paint has dried, you can seal the pumpkins with a clear sealer (Deft brand in the satin sheen is my favorite) if you know they will be sitting out in the elements.  Otherwise they can be left as is.

Next, using an industrial glue, put the stems onto the pumpkins, pressing them into place.

DIY Primitive Wooden Pumpkins Reclaimed Wood

Once the glue on the stems has dried, tie ribbon or twine at the base of the stems.  I like black and white ribbon for a Halloween look, and twine for an Autumn appearance.

DIY Primitive Wooden Pumpkins Reclaimed Wood

DIY Primitive Wooden Pumpkins Reclaimed Wood

Display your pumpkins with pride (or gift them to your favorite friend), and know that you created them In Good Company.

DIY Primitive Wooden Pumpkins Reclaimed Wood

Post pictures of your completed pumpkins in the comments section, I can’t wait to see how you put your own personal touch on this project!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

On Depression and Hope

Somewhere along the way a deep and ugly depression settled into me.  It came on the way a spring storm arrives, teasing for a little while before becoming violent and ugly.  This depression was unlike any I’ve seen of late, possibly since adolescence.

There are obvious situational causes for my abysmal state.  Wading through life post-secondary infertility; trying to reimagine all of the dreams I had planned for our family.  Adding insult to injury in a way that is unintentionally very personal, is a new pregnancy announcement or birth announcement every single day.  It’s a strange place to sit, being sandwiched between trying to force yourself to feel joy and being filled with a green-eyed jealousy that rattles deep within your bones.  

Unplanned pregnancies are the kind that cut the deepest.  Contrasting, a miscarriage makes me mourn as if the loss was my own.  I’ve found myself distancing myself from my pregnant friends – turning down lunch invitations, hiding them on Facebook, unfollowing them on Instagram, and rolling my eyes at shower invitations.

Even I am disgusted by my self-interest.       

I have been thrashing around in self-hate.  Crying when sleep won’t come, finding myself rising in the morning out of pure obligation only, yelling at my beloved mom, refusing to communicate with my husband, avoiding the gym, restricting calories followed by binging, and weighing myself more often than advised, even buying a scale after years of vowing to never own one.  My brain has been in control.  But not my normal brain, my depressed brain.

In the wake of recent celebrity suicides, information regarding depression has been flooding news feeds.  Knowledge is powerful, but what these lists and articles fail to articulate is that when the depressed brain is in charge, it becomes impossible to ask for the help you don’t feel worthy of receiving.  Your realm of possibilities, of ways of recovery, or even the ability to imagine happiness becomes so minute, that you don’t even realize you are suffering from debilitating tunnel-vision, complete with blinders.

When my depressed brain is driving, I become more realistic and much less optimistic.  Realism is not, in itself, bad, but when paired with depression, it is difficult to differentiate between what is truly real and what is perceived to be real.  My depressed brain tells me truths like I’m an awful mom, and I’m a terrible wife, and I’m not a good friend, and I’m a horrible sister, and I’m a wretched daughter, and I’m ugly, and I’m fat, and I’m worthless, and I don’t deserve to be loved, and the people in my life would be better off without me, and I’m stupid, and I’m a dreadful writer, and my friends are only pretending to be my friends, and my back injury will never heal, and this weight I’ve gained from the infertility treatments will never be shed, and I have been punished with a dysfunctional uterus because I’m such an evil human being.

It’s quite foul, that depressed brain.

Mr. B has seen small bouts of mild depression in me, but nothing like the last few weeks.  He wasn’t even aware of what was happening, because I refused to talk to him.  It’s embarrassing – there are starving people all over the world, people whose families have been murdered, houses burned down, children kidnapped, careers lost.  It feels ridiculous and petty to be consumed with a torturous sadness, when I am surrounded by people who love me, have a roof over my head, and food in cupboard.  It wasn’t until I was sobbing in bed that Mr. B realized I wasn’t being a wretched bitch because I wanted to, but because I was drowning in self-loathing and was not in control of my brain or my thoughts.

What is worse than the suffocating sadness, I think, is when the numbness settles in.  When the need to scour every surface with bleach and peroxide turns into dishes piled everywhere, and the compulsion to get out of bed ten times to check that the empty hangers in the closet are still, in fact, organized by color becomes a need to sleep 18 hours each day, and the insatiable restlessness turns into a body exhausted with ache.  When frustration turns to indifference, joy turns emotionless, when laughter doesn't seem conceivable, when sadness is a waste of energy, when worry turns to hopelessness, when there no longer is any life behind your eyes; that’s the vilest part of it all.

Paired with being gifted depression and anxiety through genetics, I also have in me a heel-digging stubbornness.  So when I was urged by my husband, my sister, and my mother to contact my doctor and possibly a counselor, I decided the right thing to do was to wait it out.  Because logic is also a strength of mine.

It is important to understand, when you are struggling with depression, is that rabid rodents are persistently clawing away at your rational brain.

No awards for toughness are given when it comes to fighting mental illness alone.  No one claps for you when you stop taking your medication – alternatively, they likely notice the difference in your mood and attitude before you.  And no one condemns you for contacting your doctor, asking for help, increasing your anti-depressant, seeking council.  What has become clear is that when I am miserable, my family is suffering ten-fold.  When I hate myself with an unsurpassed vigor and passion, my husband and son are forced to live in an environment that is toxic.

I wish I could say that it’s easy to stop drowning and begin breathing, but finding the exact treatment (which may or may not mean therapy or medication) can take time.  When you find what makes you smile again, what helps you feel hope and joy again; when you find that one thing – whatever it may be – hold on to it.  Because there will be days that will threaten to drag you back down and you will feel the darkness of depression beginning to swallow you whole.  When you are seeking treatment and/or medication, and you have your something, those dark days will be so much easier to combat.

But it’s so worthwhile.  You are worthwhile.  It is so valuable to live your life, to participate in your life.  Whatever the cause, environmental or biological, there is help.  There is hope.

Thank you for keeping me In Good Company.

If you think you might be suffering from depression, please seek help at one of the many resources available, including, but not limited to:

24 hour National Suicide Prevention Helpline: 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)