Lemon Meringue Lapghan

The Lemon Meringue Lapghan is a small throw blanket that is perfect for just covering the lap. It is crocheted in bright, cheerful yellows and white. The three-dimensional crocodile stitch creates peaks and valleys that resemble the meringue on a pie. This lapghan is surprisingly warm, despite the size of the holes in the blanket, because of the three-dimensional depth that helps the blanket hold warmth next to you while it is on your lap.

This blanket has a pleasant, light weight, and is perfect for car rides, visits to the movie theater, or any situation in which you have to sit in an environment that is cooler than you prefer. Lapghans are small and easily portable, and this one would even fit, folded up, in a large handbag or beach bag.

If you are interested in inquiring about the Lemon Meringue Lapghan, please fill out the form below with your questions:

Images © Christyl’s Creations

Existentialism – What is a Midlife Crisis?

“If we believe in nothing, if nothing has any meaning and if we can affirm no values whatsoever, then everything is possible and nothing has any importance.” 

― Albert Camus, The Rebel

“Life has no meaning a priori… It is up to you to give it a meaning, and value is nothing but the meaning that you choose.” ― Jean-Paul Sartre

candle-2038736_1920Organic, emotional, and intelligent, we are miracles – miracles which we take for granted because we take life itself for granted. We forget that it is a gift because we go on waking up every morning and going through our days in slow progression, and the regularity and repetition of time numbs us to the beauty of it. We forget that the gift is fleeting – some die within moments of their first breaths, but even the longest human lifespan is short when you think of all of time, or even just compare our lives to that of the trees that grow all around us. The older we get, the more we realize how short our time is. We are as tender and ephemeral as a flame that can be blown out with a single breath.

When we are young, it seems that we have infinite years ahead of us, and the years seem to take their time in passing, but by around forty years old, we really come face to face with the concept of our own mortality. In looking back and realizing how short a decade is – how quickly it went by – we realize that in just that short a time again, we will be fifty, and in yet one more decade, we will be sixty, and so on. It seems a short step from forty to ninety, from the perspective of a forty-year-old.

nullSociety holds standards of what we are supposed to do at certain ages – graduate high school, go to college, get married, have children, have grandchildren, when we are supposed to be working; when we are supposed to be retiring. If you did not live your life according to these dictates for when we are supposed to have done these things, you may find yourself at forty completely unprepared for retirement, never having even considered it yet, and without anything saved for it.

Suddenly, it feels as though it might be upon you as soon as tomorrow – that retirement is not as far away as it should be, and that because you are not prepared for it, you may not get to retire, but will have to work until you are ninety-five years old. The way things are in our society, it’s true that people are working longer/later in life – some because they want to; some because they have to. What strife it must be to have stress about money when you are in your sunset years. I don’t think anyone wants that.

I am one of those who did things backward. I was a free spirit and flighty in my youth. I did not graduate high school until I was thirty-seven years old. I didn’t go to college until three weeks later. I got married at nineteen and had all my children before I was twenty-three. I have had grandchildren since I was thirty-four. I worked in bars, enjoying a party atmosphere, for fifteen years. I did not save up for social security. So, here I am, on the other side of college, trying to start at the beginning like a newly-graduated twenty-two-year-old at the ripe old age of forty-three, looking ahead to a late-life retirement, and knowing the odds are against me.

desperate-2100307_1920How hard is it to get a foot in the door in your forties with no experience in your field, when people half your age have the same degree plus the experience of internships and jobs under their belts? It’s funny: I went to college to improve my chances for opportunity, because I was sick of working in bars and working in retail sales. I wanted something better. During college, I decided on a path – my dream to write and edit for a living.

So, now, I am out, and I realize that during college, my standards might have risen too high. It’s hard to remember that I just wanted a better job/chance for opportunity when I began college and that I did not yet have this dream to be a writer and editor, when I started higher education. Perhaps I need to remember the lower goals of just getting in somewhere that is not retail or bar work, and stop aiming so high, or expecting to get there immediately after graduation. I did do things backward in comparison to society’s dictates, and anyone who sees me trying to begin like a youngster knows it. I wonder how much that counts against me… Perhaps I am fooling myself in having such high dreams in light of this, too – maybe society won’t allow me to rise like that because I didn’t follow its rules… I don’t know – I’m still learning the way things work.

Your forties bring something else to you, as well – new frailties – imperfections in the body’s functioning. In my fortieth year, after a lifetime of perfect health, I suddenly injured my spine, rupturing one disc, herniating another, and giving myself sciatica. I found out I had degenerative disc disease and pelvic prolapse, the latter of which required my first major surgery – a hysterectomy and prolapse repair, which included a bladder sling. Talk about making a person feel old… a bladder sling is something you don’t expect young people to ever have a need for (of course, that turns out to be malarkey, since my daughter, who is only twenty-six, just had to have one put in, too. It must be a genetic defect in my family line). I also started having digestion problems and a lot of fatigue.

For two years, my doctors told me I had IBS. Only after seeing a GI specialist and starting on probiotics this year did I find out that it’s not IBS, it’s Dysbiosis – surely from antibiotics and Ibuprofen: pharmaceuticals that disrupt the gut’s bacterial balance. In the process of trying to get better from what I thought was IBS, I had to alter my diet entirely to a low-FODMAP diet. I had to give up fried and processed foods, dairy, and many of the foods I love, such as garlic, onions, and pistachios. I quit drinking and quit nicotine – all because these things were identified as triggers for an IBS attack. So, now I am on the mend – my tummy has not been this calm in two years, and I am utterly grateful. I find myself nicotine and alcohol-free and eating healthy foods, and I am rather glad of it. Even if it turned out it was not IBS, the journey that led me to the Dysbiosis diagnosis also cleaned up my dietary habits and possibly prolonged my life, and that matters a lot to someone my age.

sculpture-1801600_1920In your forties, when faced with the body’s frailties, and realizing you are almost halfway to ninety, you realize just how short life really is, and you begin to become afraid. This is especially true if you have ever had a panic attack during which, for just the tiniest moment, you thought you were dying or were going to die from the panic. Just the thought that you might be dying is enough to create a fear of death where none existed before, and if you were already thinking about your mortality because you are halfway to ninety, this contemplation becomes compounded with fear.

So, here you are, having a struggle with everything – with life, with the concept of death, with your imperfect health, and with looking your own mortality in the face; with fear, with disappointment in yourself for not having done as much as you think you should have by now, and with questions of faith and self-identity: What do you believe, how much do you believe in it, and where are you really going in this life? I think that this is what is meant by the term, “midlife crisis.”

It really is a crisis, because you feel anxiety and even maybe some panic, as you think about where you are, where you are going, and what is lying ahead at the end of the road for everyone who takes their first breath in this world – the big D. Death. You look back and the road from birth to today seems so short! Repeat that road once more, and you are at death’s doorstep; elderly and faded. And as you contemplate this, you find yourself wondering how the elderly deal with that fear, when you are already freaking out and you are not even as close to that end-of-life threshold as they are… How do they even cope with the concept that they are inexorably approaching the doorway to death and no amount of digging in their heels can slow the progression?

Old age itself seems like no kind of picnic. Dismiss from your mind for a second that you could die stepping out your front door tomorrow morning, that people die every day by getting hit by vehicles and other random accidents, and even that babies die in the NICU – just for a moment, set that aside, because gruesome as that truth is, yet giving us some kind of comfort because we avoided catastrophe long enough to have made it this far, it does not figure in the forward, long-view toward ancient existence that we are contemplating in this moment. If we make it to old age, what do we have to look forward to?

Our bodies have already given us a taste of what lies ahead, with their first frailties. What suffering lurks ahead of us in our elderly years? Are there broken hips and pneumonia awaiting us down the road? Death by flu? How frightening is that? Now I see why our culture is so obsessed with medical care – because a lot of people think the same way as this and don’t want a future full of suffering, if they can avoid it. Thank goodness for modern medicine – and yes, I do say that even after having suffered Dysbiosis for two years from pharmaceuticals. Modern medicine has its own miracles, and they are not to be underestimated.

However, there are other things to fear about the future, aside from simply the body’s failure to support us in a comfortable way. What if we reach old age and have no money to sustain us or to give us any comfort in those later years? ISthe person who does not make it to old age the lucky one? Or is the person who outlives all risks and makes it to absolute frailty the lucky one? I think it takes guts to make it to old age – it’s not an easy or a pretty road; it’s full of pain and discomfort.

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How awful would it be to have all those physical sufferings and simultaneously be financially destitute? What happens if I fail to get my feet under myself, now? Where do I end up? I’ll share a little secret: my greatest fear is of being an elderly homeless person with nothing to my name but a shopping cart full of meager possessions I managed to hang onto. And this does happen to people. Keep them in your thoughts and do what we can for them, for they have nothing aside from what they are given through our compassion and our charity.

And yet, at least we are alive! Even the destitute are alive! Someone who did not make it to old age was unfortunate to have lost life early, right? Society says we should count ourselves to be fortuitous if we missed the random accidental death… And we do enjoy many things in life when we forget to be afraid of death for the moment. But what if those who went by accident while still young had an easier transition through that gateway we call death? Quicker, with less suffering? And might it not be better to go without knowing it was coming, or dreading it – without being fully aware?

Sometimes, I envy animals – surely, they do not contemplate the moment they will end… Surely, they do not go through this kind of mental torture. I hear that the way to come to terms with fears of death is to “live in the moment” and refuse to look ahead toward that end. I just don’t know, now that I have the view of that doorway at the other end of my life’s timeline in my mind’s eye, whether I am strong enough to look away – to look at the moment and forget the larger picture. That view has me horrified yet enthralled, like the gruesome scene of a car accident you can’t stop staring at, even while it breaks your heart.

angel-1502351_1920I came to this larger view of the timeline, now – and I think perhaps I came to it late, at forty-three, because my daughter, who is twenty-six, as I said before, has been dealing with fears of death a lot longer than I have. She has known a lot of people who have died. Somehow, I was spared, aside from my grandparents, from knowing anyone who has died – that I know of. So, I was able, perhaps, to shield myself (intentionally? unintentionally?) from the view of the specter of death for longer than most. Because my daughter is also struggling with this, I know there are a lot of other people out there who are – even young people like my girl. It hurts my heart that my baby girl is already feeling this kind of fear, as I am, and that she lives with it causing her distress almost daily. I look around for things to give us both hope. One thing I see, now, is why so many people turn to religion for comfort in this: Religion offers the promise that the end is not the actual END, and that life continues on after crossing death’s threshold.

Funny thing – I used to have faith. All my life, I have believed in God. It is this view of death’s doorway that is shaking my faith and making me question – the big question being that even if God does exist, who is to say I will be granted an afterlife? This whole situation tempts me to find a church and start attending regularly – to give a portion of my life to church, to a Christian community, and to God. I would not go simply to be good, or because that promise the church offers is something I think I might need (it is true that I cannot find the answer to my fear of death problem within myself, try as I might to explore my thinking and to reassure myself, so far. I have no answers. Maybe a church doesn’t really have answers either, but better to live with faith than without it), but because it is better to nurture hope, even if it be false, so that you can go on, than to deny yourself any glimmer of light. I am seeing that rather clearly right now.

I need something to believe in, and I need the reassurance of it, so I can bring my focus back to “now” and go on doing the things I need to do, without fear and without part of my brain thinking about my ultimate end; without that long-view perspective making my current endeavors seem so meaningless and pointless in the larger scheme of things. I need to find my inner light and my freedom of spirit again.

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Organic, emotional, and intelligent, we are miracles, and life is a gift, as I said at the beginning of this narrative. But life is a gift with a burden – a struggle with existentialism; a wrestle with the self that causes fear and doubt while we contemplate. We are given life, and at a certain point, we start to grapple with seeking meaning within it – the reason for a gift which, at the end, is to be taken away. From our first breath, death is waiting. And the thought that there might not be a reason for the gift is more than I can bear. We need life to be meaningful. Because of this, I think it is so important that we try to fill our lives with meaningful things – things that bring us joy. Walks in nature, beautiful music, art, elevated thoughts, wishful thinking, hopes, and dreams. And God. I think I see a strong need for God – at least for me. Even if it turns out to be a false concept, it serves a purpose: to keep us hopeful and dreaming of a life continuing on the other side of death, so that we can keep moving forward and can put some of the fear of our ending behind us while we place one foot in front of the other.

The time is short, but if we can at least perceive it as being full of meaning, perhaps it ends up being worth the price, in the end. If life has no inherent meaning of its own, we must imbue it with a meaning we’ve created so that we can keep moving forward. Hope equals liberation – a freedom of spirit that might make it easier to cope with the knowledge that death awaits. We need to find whatever ways exist in which we can feed that hope.

grandma-612016_1920Afternote: Ironically, in fearing what the elderly suffer, we find ourselves looking more closely at the elderly people we know and encounter in our lives to see how they are managing to cope with the closeness of death. Contrary to expectations, they seem to be contented, peaceful, and dignified; they seem as though they are looking forward with a positive attitude, overall – like they have come to terms with this obstacle of impending death and do not fear it any longer. They have achieved the freedom, and they have a beauty because of it that is all their own. May we do likewise. Looking at them brings me hope that I will overcome it, too. Until then, the struggle to accept the concept of death is probably far worse than the reality of death will be when the time arrives.

~ Chrissy Lorraine

© Chrissy’s Creative Corner 2019

All images public domain

Writing Stories – My Own Experiences

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I have focused a lot on art for therapy on this blog, but have mentioned less on writing for therapy. I have mentioned that keeping a journal or writing stories are good for stress and for healing, and they are. Keeping a journal can be easier than writing stories in many ways, but in others, it can be much harder. When you write in a journal, you are writing facts and your emotions directly onto the page. You are summarizing your day and exploring your experiences, and that can be simultaneously painful and cathartic. When you write a story, however, you are generally putting a character in place and forcing the character through experiences that they adapt to and learn from. This gives a larger, overall view, and also allows for distance between the person writing and the experiences being written about.

Writing stories can be even more challenging in other ways, too. If the author has an intention for their stories to be read by others, then grammar, narrative voice, and all of the other aspects of story writing come into play, which requires knowledge, education, and a situation of constant learning. Even after writing for years, the author will be learning new things to make their stories better for a reader.

For instance, today, I discovered that my stories have issues with passive voice, and I found out that bringing my stories from past tense into present tense helps me eliminate passive voice – as well as helping me to pare down details to only what is necessary for each moment in the story. Now I have to do this to the whole book, and after I am done, I have to decide whether I want to bring the story back into past tense afterward, or leave it in present tense and possibly even make present tense my default writing choice – which might help me to avoid the passive voice and heavy detail pitfalls in the first place.

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Learning and editing does not end once the grammar of a story is perfect. I once thought that was all that was really needed to make a story good enough, and I have long since found that assumption to be almost laughably wrong. There are so many aspects that make a story work, and each aspect must be adhered to. I have found that writing groups on social media are very helpful – for me, they are even more helpful than creative writing college courses, in that sometimes you are dealing with successful authors, and that you can access them for much longer periods of time than a college semester.

In these groups, the feedback is from other writers who are all trying to do the same things as you are, and have as much – and in some cases, more – experience in crafting stories as you do. There are writers there who are at all different levels of learning and crafting, from those who still haven’t written anything and are still just contemplating the idea of writing to those who have written dozens of books – and they all help each other.

You can have your writing read and critiqued, you can get feedback on how to work on syntax or change the dynamics of a paragraph, or you can get ideas for character-building, plot creation, how to create a story outline before you begin writing, and so on. You can find advice as to when to begin editing, how to get an editor, how to write a query letter to an agent or a publisher, or how to self publish. People in these groups will even help you pick character names and attributes, give you ideas for special powers, give you ideas for how to have your character overcome an obstacle, and show you examples of fiction in the genre in which you have chosen to write.

The assistance of fellow writers is possibly the writer’s most valuable asset. Progress in this craft can be slow and even frustrating at times, but some aspects can also be quick and very rewarding. Many authors are also writing for stress, or to share their story with the world. Some are just writing for the love of writing. Some are writing with an intention to help others who may be experiencing things they’ve lived through before, and still others are writing self-help books for people who want to be successful authors. There is variety, from fiction writers, to nonfiction writers, to poetry writers, children’s book writers, bloggers, article writers, and everything in between. This means there is a niche for everyone.

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Most people understand what they are getting into when beginning a diary, but few people understand what they are getting into when beginning to write stories. I remember when I began. I thought the writing of the story was the hardest part. Tapping into creativity and making a full story was difficult. Writing without stopping to go back and edit after every chapter was hard. I butchered my stories before they were much more than begun. And then I joined a writers group on Facebook. There, I met someone who recommended an audio-book by the famous author, Stephen King, called On Writing, which was his direct advice to aspiring authors.

I learned two things that changed everything for me from that book. Number one was not to stop to edit while writing – just keep going and don’t look back until it’s done. Number two was to wait after finishing a story for about six weeks before going back to edit, so that there would be distance between myself and my story and I could look at it more objectively when editing instead of being immersed in it while editing. This allows the writer to see more of the flaws in the writing and correct them.

This advice is what finally allowed me to finish writing my first entire book – and what a book! I wrote a novel that was 89,000 words long in rough draft. I skipped a lot of details and scenes when writing it, so my first revisions to the story (after my six week wait) were to flesh out those scenes, add dialogue, and so on. This brought the book’s word count up to 169,000 words. My editor and I are now working on breaking that enormous Lord-of-the-Rings-for-teenage-girls style book down into four or five smaller books.

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Teenage Fantasy Genre

Little did I know when I started how much time would be spent in revising this story. It has now been over two years since I wrote it, and I am still working on it. Of course, my book was enormous, so that is different from a short story writer, and possibly the length of time working on it is a result as much of length as of learning new things to make it better. Still, I had no idea how much I would learn, or what kind of journey I was embarking on, just in writing a story. Most people who write don’t know when they begin, either.

This project, even though it is written in the teenage fantasy genre, has been very healing for me. I kept a journal all growing up and well into my twenties, but there came a point where I was no longer gaining relief from it. The story projects I have undertaken, however, provide a different kind of release – different yet still satisfying. They allow me to live out daydreams while hoping one day to inspire young people do to the same, through the books I hope to one day publish.

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A young king, in make believe – a childish innocence of a kind I attempt to capture in my work.

One of the most important things to remember as a person who has high stress levels is not to overwhelm myself. I do not give myself deadlines – I believe that giving yourself unnecessary deadlines leads to anxiety and stress and is counterproductive to the exercise. I do not allow myself to be spread too thin – I believe that if I am trying to do too many things at once, I will add stress instead of relieving it. For this reason, I do not work on multiple stories at a time, or do heavy research while writing – research either comes before writing or during revisions after writing, but I do not interrupt the writing to go on an internet goose chase. Most of all, I certainly do not start looking for a publisher or allowing myself to stress out over what comes next while I am still writing and revising the story.

While I am writing and revising, the story is my focus, and only the story. Not what comes after, or anything else. This means that the writing and the process of writing brings me a feeling of peace and well-being rather than adding stresses to my life. I can fully fall into my story while working on it, and each time is a bit of an escape into a fantasy land where I know how the story plays out and everything is both expected and understood – very unlike real life.

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Art and writing for therapy can be used in two ways. This is true for each. The first way, and often the place we all start, is to directly address something we have experienced. For instance, we can paint a scary person in the dark after we were assaulted, or we can write about what happened to us. This method offers a direct, yet often painful process to healing that really works. The second way, and often a place we gradually move into, is to provide ourselves a means of escape from stress. For instance, we can paint a peaceful meadow or flowers and forget about the darkness in our lives for a while, or we can write a fantasy or daydream story and lose ourselves in it like we would with reading a good book. This method is less effective for tackling trauma, but more effective for finding peace and tranquility in life.

Some people do both approaches. One painting will be darkness and another will be peaceful, and the painter alternates between them, or the painter includes in individual paintings the contrast between the two in some kind of metaphysical representation. In a previous post on this blog about starting tips, I recommended doing both – I recommend tackling the hard stuff first and then following up with something lighter so that you are not left in a dark mood.

I fully transitioned over from writing and painting my darkness to writing and painting what I enjoy. It has taken me half a lifetime to do that, but that is where I am at, now. I discovered at an early age that reading for pleasure is an escape from the trials and tribulations of life. In writing my own stories, that escape is even more heightened, because I am creating the story as I experience it in my imagination. I have also found in my life that everyone needs ways to escape the stresses of the world – not merely people who have emotional baggage or damage. Many people do this by watching movies or tv series, these days. My preferred method is still in art and writing, though, because I am now fully attuned to the creative aspect of this kind of escape.

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Finding ways to be more carefree and allowing yourself to dream can lead to a happier existence.

I hope that this blog post has been useful – I truly love the idea of helping others get into art or writing for therapy – knowledge is helpful for growth, and I would like to share mine in the hopes that it might encourage others. With all of the darkness that comes with life, and all of the stresses of politics, violence, and war that exist in our world, we need light to balance that out, and there are ways to seek light out and bring it into ourselves. For me, art and writing have done this, and I continually use them to maintain the light in my life.

Allowing ourselves to dream gives us the ability to grow, and for me, writing children’s stories and teen fantasy fiction allows me to re-embrace the childhood innocence once left behind, all over again. This makes me a happier person than I once was, and I have grown so much over the years as a direct result of it.

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Find your ways to smile whenever you can. For me, writing is one of those ways.