in the ruins…my love story




In December I was…

diagnosed with ADHD inattentive presentation.  I’ve suspected this for years, but at this stage in my life it was becoming unmanageable.  As an artist and mother of young kids I naturally had to shift gears constantly just to keep things running in our household.  There were endless ways I could stave off boredom and feed my brain’s insatiable hunger for disruption, distraction and change.

brain its the way it is lillibridge unfocused-focused

I could hide my challenges quite easily because the whole universe was operating in a constantly distracted way. The endless buzz in the world rewarded my brain with “quick fixes” and made me believe I was managing just fine.

Then four things collided at roughly the same time

1. My children became more independent and my day to day responsibilities shifted. 

2. My husband, children and friends were telling me that I was leaving out crucial information in my communication AND I was getting defensive about it.

3. I studied positive psychology and the necessity on both a personal and societal level to quit spinning, slow down, reflect and get more focused on how I want to spend my energy and talents.

4. I turned fifty.

I know people joke about the endless diagnoses out there.  I’m a little OCD or that’s my ADHD talking or I can’t get that done because of poor executive function etc.  I was resistant for years because I didn’t want to be off the hook for the behaviors that were affecting my life and those around me.  I did however, need some answers and solutions for help to narrow my focus and allow me to better utilize my skills in both my private and public life.

Now being able to look back at the ways ADHD manifested in my life has provided a certain amount of ease and less shame about my deficits than before.  As a child I was highly adaptive, creative and curious about so many different things.  However, I also was a day dreamer, a poor tester, I rarely followed directions and was often told that I wasn’t working to my potential.  I was always armed with loads of ideas and didn’t follow through on them. I created a narrative around my deficits that I was less than.

I fell asleep during the science portion of my ACT test in high school. I got the minimum score required to go to private schools in South Dakota.  I also dozed off during the ADHD test I recently took with a psychologist.  I think my brain was bored and the competition of it all wasn’t enough motivation for me.  I wasn’t getting any juice so my brain just shut it down.

I recently remembered as a high school kid reading one page of the dictionary before I went to sleep to boost my vocabulary.  When I think of this now I believe I was trying to find ways to boost how my intelligence presented to others because it was less quantifiable than my siblings and my peers.  The really smart kids wanted to be friends with me, but my grades were very average unless I loved the subject. Then I could focus.  Thank you English and creative writing.

My husband remembered that my Dad told him when we got married that he would have to help me with certain things—paying bills, insurance and so on.  My Dad knew on some level that I had some challenges with organization.  I recently found insurance paperwork he had requested in the 1980s for me to sign and send back.  I never did.  I guess he asked me again.

I did all of the stuff I was told to do to quiet my brain and help my focus—manage stress, exercise, meditate, rest and eat well…and yet it just wasn’t quite enough.  I’m taking a low dose of a psychostimulant on the days more focus is required of me.  Now, with greater knowledge about my brain’s chemistry, I have renewed hope and focus about my life.

So, I’m unsure why I need to share this now on such a public forum.  I guess I feel that storytelling is what we need now more than ever in this uncertain world.  I believe that a willingness to be vulnerable and share our stories and fears is very important in 2017.

I don’t want to hide behind this diagnoses.  I really am the only one that needs to understand my brain.  However, if my story helps you share your story than this was well worth my time.  We are all in this together.

Go forth and be bold and share something personal or painful from your story.  That small act of courage could change someone’s life.

my creative life July-December 2016

July:  I worked on my coursework for my positive psychology class.  I created a handbag out of a friend’s damaged Audi seat.  I was generously given a huge amount of fabric that was just beautiful to work with for the SEABA fashion show coming up.  I read a lot about the psychology of geography—the study of how we behave in relation to our environment. I traveled to South Dakota to visit my family and was lucky enough to get to shoot some photographs at the Burke Stampede Rodeo. Oh, cowboys…

August:  I sketched, sewed, painted and made handbags…a big blitz of work.  Using the company SPOONFLOWER I got photographs printed onto fabric. My daughter, Lucy wore a skirt I made with an abandoned farmhouse photo I shot in South Dakota on it.  I used rust prints Elizabeth Bunsen created with Nebraska license plates to create fabric as well.  Burlington master goldsmith— Jane Frank designed jewelry worn in the show—the pieces were such a beautiful compliment to the clothes. 

September was a blur: The fashion show was entirely consuming the first 10 days of the the month.  I love to be in flow and entirely focused on one thing.  Deadlines are my jam.  However, this year I also needed to create my final project for my Positive Psychology course at the same time . I graduated and got to spend a week at Kripalu in Lenox, Mass with a remarkable bunch of people from all around the world.  Later in the month my husband and I went to the Champlain Valley Classic Car show, taking photos and talking to classic car enthusiasts was just great after being so busy.

October: I turned 50 on the 12th.  I was taken to Martha’s Vineyard by friends.  My husband surprised me by getting my folks, my sister and my brother-in-law to Vermont for a long weekend to celebrate with me.  That was remarkable AND he threw a party complete with my friends putting on a musical review, poetry, singing songs and making me feel so unbelievably grateful for my life.  I took a few of my favorite images ever and layered more photos. Jeff and I dressed as Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo for Halloween.

November:  I traveled to Burke, South Dakota.  I took photos of Herrick that made current and former Herrick residents very happy and remarkably nostalgic.  I got to hang out with my great nephew, Liam (oh, and the rest of my clan).  I created digital images of my own planet based on a conversation with my son.  The planet New Vagus is based on the vagus nerve—the power center of our nervous system.  I wrote.  I cried when Leonard Cohen died.

December:  I made leather pendants for gifts.  I kept playing with the image of a South Dakota two-lane road, layering the photo and playing with the visuals of memory.  I created a line of scarves with my images on them.  I will post the link soon if you are interested in ordering one.

January 2017 is off to an interesting start.  I’m cleaning out the basement—sorting through letters, photos, the kids clothes I’ve saved, toys, books and all of the things I can’t believe I now have to deal with.  I’m learning a lot about myself and why things seemed so very important to me.

Turning 50 is an interesting age to take a look back, look ahead, try to stay in the moment and not get too stuck in any one place.

the power of 5%.

I was reminded this morning of how I can be an ALL or NOTHING sort of person in my proclamations.  I LOVE CHANGE.  I love change so much more than the rest of my family and it drives them totally bonkers.  EXAMPLE:  If I could flip the rooms where the kitchen and the living room are I would do that.  I have to satisfy that part of my nature somehow and it’s abundantly clear that I must largely do it on my own. No public proclamations…or at least a helluva lot fewer of them.

I can be a little unrealistic: I WILL NO LONGER eat potato chips, drink beer, read news, use FACEBOOK, watch TV, eat meat or sugar, drive when I can walk, be critical of my kids or my husband, spend money on X…blah, blah, blah.

Thankfully, over the course of the positive psychology program I took through the Wholebeing Institute. I was taught something quite valuable and rather easy to incorporate into my daily life.  The simple trick of five percent.

I can improve 5% of damn near anything in my life…

then I can build on that incremental change.

I will try to exercise 5% more.  I will try to spend 5% less. I will try to eat 5% less sugar.  I will try to watch 5% less TV.  I will try to eat 5% fewer potato chips.  I will try to drink 5% less.  (NOTE:  I’ve discovered a great trick.  My beers are now 1/2 club soda and 1/2 beer.  Bartenders aren’t crazy about this order.  Who cares? It’s half the calories, half the alcohol and it’s much better for staying hydrated.)

SO, the next time you notice something you would like to improve in your life— think about a relatively painless 5% shift and just do it.

This might be all you need to get started on a desired new path.

Good luck!  Let me know what works for you.

Sometimes a day can just shift…

even when they start out pretty funky.  That’s what happened to me today.  I’m glad I was paying attention.  I drove to Putney, Vermont to see my son at Landmark College.  As the parent of 20 and 16-year-olds, I have to stay on my toes and I was this morning…tippy tippy toes, actually.  I headed south from Burlington and made some remarkable stops along the way.  Good golly, Vermont is staggeringly beautiful in October.  WOW!

I stopped at the Red Hen Baking Company in Middlesex, VT for coffee and a cheddar bacon scone. They didn’t have them today—bummer…coffee and reading my book for a while is nice even without a cheddar & bacon scone. I’m reading “A Short Course In Happiness and Loss” by one of my psychology instructors, Maria Sirois.  I graduated with a certificate in Positive Psychology last Friday after finishing a year long certification program through the Wholebeing Institute .  I have that post big project and deadline sense of loss.  I like deadlines.  I guess I’ll have to set some new goals now.

Since, I’ve been home and working mostly alone in my studio for two decades, a certificate in anything actually feels pretty damn good.



I’m not exactly sure how I took this picture, but it captures a moment for me anyway. I had the windows down and the music blasting because, even after coffee, I was still sleepy. The air was heavy and dark.  After I saw my son I was heading North on I91 and I missed my exit.  The sun was now shining and I was hungry, so I decided to explore White River Junction, Vermont.  I’ve driven by this town for 26 years and never stopped.  It’s so awesome.  I think we all must explore a lot often.  Our hearts and brains depend upon exploration  My whole day shifted by stopping in this funky Vermont town.

I parked downtown and ate lunch at Tuckerbox, a Turkish restaurant.  I had a meze platter—haydari, hummus, babaganoush, Turkish salsa, stuffed grape leaves. YUM!

Then I just decided to take a walk around town before I headed back to Burlington. I bought a vintage denim shirt at REVOLUTIONlevis-vintage-repro-shorthorn-denim-shirts-made-in-usa-lvc-western-big-e-jac-s-24ffc2d9d39176ea14f6d1acbe048905  One can’t have too many of those…right?

Then I walked around the block back to my truck and this is what I came upon…let’s review.  1. I miss my exit. 2. Great Lunch. 3. Cool denim shirt.

4. Then these pedals were all over the steps and sidewalk.  Who doesn’t need a little MAGIC in their day?



I was floored…it was so amazing to come around the corner of the street and witness this. I was so wiped out.  I  was gone all of last week at school and I really needed to be home, but I would’ve missed those pedals.  Thank you VALLEY FLOWER COMPANYYou have no idea how much you made my day.  Yes, there’s still more…

So I paused for a minute to just take in the pedals on the sidewalk.  I took about 11 steps and there was this interesting little jewelry gallery called SCAVENGER.  I popped in and the work is right up my alley.  One of the artists makes casts out of bugs, twigs, flowers, sea urchins…gorgeous, organic shapes.  I bought myself an early birthday present.  I even had it wrapped, so I don’t have a picture and I can’t open it until next week.  It’s a persimmon flower, very cool shape, greenish, bronzy, patina…her work made me feel like I had uncovered the bracelet on an archeological dig.  I’m now a big fan of Stacy Hopkins.  Nice people helped me make my choose the piece of jewelry I purchased as well.  Yes, really.  I felt like I was on a movie set.

Then I headed north—smiling from my adventures…listening to Aretha Franklin really loud and singing along.  It poured for a while.  I LOVE RAIN.  Then it cleared off and the color was just staggering…Aretha and I kept singing and heading north to HOME.

img_9637 img_9643

White River Junction, you have a new fan!

I just spend a day and a half alone…

and a little quiet, introspection and organization did wonders for my mind, body and spirit.  Last night I ran out to Barnes and Noble for a book and grabbed a magazine next to the checkout called FLOW.  It spoke to me.  I woke early this morning and decided a habit I want to create is reading something inspiring in the morning instead of news—aaarrgggh NEWS.  I fed my cat, Karen, blended lemon, parsley and ice (after a summer of beer, potato chips and ice cream a correction is necessary), made coffee and sat down to dive into FLOW.

“Celebrating creativity, imperfection and life’s little pleasures.”  REALLY?

Lillibridge flow

WOW. I was right.  FLOW was utterly inspiring and if I was disciplined and organized enough to publish a magazine this is what it would be. Astrid and Irene are clearly my long lost sisters (and new heros) from the Netherlands. I’m reading the English edition, unfortunately I don’t speak Dutch.  I bet I missed out on some amazing Dutch words that were lost in the translation.   This is the quote below the title.  I need every back issue now.

“No need to hurry.  No need to sparkle.

No need to be anybody but oneself.” —Virginia Woolfe (1882-1941)

contents FLOW magazine LillibridgeThe first article was about positive psychology (which I’m studying) and how small changes in our lives (kaizen, I’ve written about this before) can net big shifts in our lives. The article talked about thinking in terms of solutions, not problems and looking for small ways to bring forth more joy in our lives. LITTLE STEPS, BIG CHANGES.

“It is easier to see things in black and white than to pay attention to all the grey tint in between.” —Dutch philosopher and psychologist, Gijs Deckers

Big, bigger and biggest often doesn’t lead to happiness. It’s the small things that make people happy.”  page 17.

Next was this picture of my hero, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera in Kahlo’s studio at Casa Azul.  Now, I can’t stop smiling by this point and I’m only on page 18…

flow frida kahlo lillibridge

then this quote.  Oh, my sister.  I will write about my sister.  We have a story to tell.


Then there were interviews with a jewelry artist from Poland, a family living off the grid in British Columbia and an illustrator living in London.  That’s as far as time allowed this morning.  If I had the whole day, I would throw a blanket in my yard and devour every word. I can’t wait until I get back into FLOW.

On page 33 is an article by journalist Catelijne Elzes in celebration of rainy days…my favorite and most inspiring kind of days, throw in fog and I’ll swoon all day.  I can’t wait to read that article.  Really, Irene and Astrid, lets do lunch…

I have to get to get to work on my designs for STRUT…I have only 11 days.  Picking something up that spoke to me randomly got me thinking about connections.  I believe when we’re looking for meaning and connections (threads) in our lives they keep revealing themselves.  We just have to be on our toes or we can miss them.  I often miss them. IMG_6612_3

I know a lot of people don’t believe in coincidences, magic or spirits…however, I choose to.  I will be searching for little signs of magic all day and I have hunch that I just might be able to find some more.

I hope you have a great day and experience a little magic today too.  We all are deserving of some.

Thank you Irene and Astrid. Are you hiring?

Being my own best friend…

and modeling that for my children is really important to me.  I find this concept to be really crucial in my adult development.  I didn’t really understand this until I was entering middle-age. As an introvert, I’ve always loved my time alone.  However, the concept of really being my own best friend took years to fully integrate.  Thankfully, Lisa and I finally have this all pretty well figured out now…even though she can be a total pain in the ass sometimes.  I love her in spite of her flaws.

self love definedmy own best friend lillibridge

My Positive Psychology teacher Tal Ben-Shahar frequently reiterates that we have to give ourselves “permission to be human”.  This doesn’t mean that we have to accept every one of our behaviors as—”oh well, that’s me” and not even try to self correct.  It does mean however, that when we screw up, we can take notice, mend the damage, alter our behavior, move on and try to do it a little bit differently next time.

As our own BFF we have to encourage ourselves just as we would encourage a friend who is going through some of life’s trials.

own best friend lillibridge dakota


I would love to cut short some of these challenging years for my three children.  The hard years when we often aren’t so kind to ourselves…teens and early twenties.  I guess some lessons are like learning to walk before we crawl though. We simply can’t shortchange the steps.

Some of our growth requires more years of life’s joys and sorrows coupled with the experience and wisdom that follows. Regardless, I believe we can start talking to our children at a very young age about being their own best friend, enjoying their own company and knocking back negative self talk.