About Robin Williams, words by Anne Lamott

I am saddened by Robin William’s death, and struggling with the world’s relationship to mental illness. Because I am not sure how to write about my own struggles with depression and OCD yet, and/or where to find the appropriate forum, I am posting Anne Lamott’s post from this morning. She inspires me always.

This will not be well written or contain any answers or be very charming. I won’t be able to proof read it It is about times like today when the abyss is visible and we cannot buy cute area rugs at IKEA to truck out the abyss. Our brother Robin fell into it yesterday. We are all staring at the abyss today.

I called my Jesuit friend the day after the shootings in Newtown, stunned, flat, fixated, scared to death: “Is there any meaning in the deaths of twenty 5 and 6 year old children?”

Tom said, “Not yet.”

And there is no meaning in Robin’s death, except as it sheds light on our common humanity, as his life did. But I’ve learned that there can be meaning without things making sense.

Here is what is true: a third of the people you adore and admire in the world and in your families have severe mental illness and/or addiction. I sure do. I have both. And you still love me. You help hold me up. I try to help hold you up. Half of the people I love most have both; and so do most of the artists who have changed and redeemed me, given me life. Most of us are still here, healing slowly and imperfectly. Some days are way too long.

And I hate that, I want to say. I would much prefer that God have a magic wand, and not just a raggedy love army of helpers. Mr. Roger’s mother told him when he was a boy, and a tragedy was unfolding that seemed to defy meaning, “Look to the helpers.” That is the secret of life, for Robin’s family, for you and me.

I knew that those children at Sandy Hook were caught in God’s loving maternal arms at the second each crossed over, and the teachers were, too. I believe the shooter was too, another child of God with severe mental illness, because God loves, period. But this is controversial.

I know Robin was caught too, in both the arms of God, and of his mother, Laurie.

I knew them both when I was coming up, in Tiburon. He lived three blocks away on Paradise drive. His family had money; ours didn’t. But we were in the same boat–scared, shy, with terrible self esteem and grandiosity. If you have a genetic predisposition towards mental problems and addiction, as Robin and I did, life here feels like you were just left off here one day, with no instruction manual, and no idea of what you were supposed to do; how to fit in; how to find a day’s relief from the anxiety, how to keep your beloved alive; how to stay one step ahead of abyss.

We all thought after Newtown that gun control legislation would be passed, but no–not one new law. We think in the aftermath of Robin’s death that there will be consciousness raising about mental health, but I doubt it. The shock and awe will pass, like it did after Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s death. Unless…unless we take action. But what? I don’t have a clue. Well, here’s Glenn Close’s astonishing organization to raise awareness and diminish the stigma of mental illness, where you can give OR receive help: Go there, OK?

In Newtown, as in all barbarity and suffering, in Robin’s death, on Mount Sinjar, in the Ebola towns, the streets of India’s ghettos, and our own, we see Christ crucified. I don’t mean that in a nice, Christian-y way. I mean that in the most ultimate human and existential way. The temptation is to say, as cute little believers sometimes do, Oh it will all make sense someday. The thing is, it may not. We still sit with scared, dying people; we get the thirsty drinks of water.

This was at theologian Fred Buechner blog today: “It is absolutely crucial, therefore, to keep in constant touch with what is going on in your own life’s story and to pay close attention to what is going on in the stories of others’ lives. If God is present anywhere, it is in those stories that God is present. If God is not present in those stories, then they are scarcely worth telling.”

Live stories worth telling! Stop hitting the snooze button. Try not to squander your life on meaningless, multi-tasking bullshit. I would shake you and me but Robin is shaking us now.

Get help. I did. Be a resurrection story, in the wild non-denominational sense. I am.

If you need to stop drinking or drugging, I can tell you this: you will be surrounded by arms of love like you have never, not once, imagined. This help will be available twenty/seven. Can you imagine that in this dark scary screwed up world, that I can promise you this? That we will never be closed, if you need us?

Gravity yanks us down, even a man as stunning in every way as Robin. We need a lot of help getting back up. And even with our battered banged up tool boxes and aching backs, we can help others get up, even when for them to do so seems impossible or at least beyond imagining. Or if it can’t be done, we can sit with them on the ground, in the abyss, in solidarity. You know how I always say that laughter is carbonated holiness? Well, Robin was the
ultimate proof of that, and bubbles are spirit made visible.


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Maya Angelou, 1928-2014

Eve     Magpie House
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Get Busy Get Better: Ice Cream Cake


Lily turns 11 this week. Her slumber-birthday-party was last night. My sentences are short because I’m still in shock from all the ruckus. The shenanigans. The giggles, and the screams, and the make-up makeovers, the hula-hooping indoors, the purple silly-string, the TRUTH OR DARE (lets just say that at 11:45PM six girls stumbled into our bedroom doing the chicken dance). All the lip gloss.

Despite the state of our house this morning, it was a beautiful thing to watch my little girl on the brink of young-womanhood and all her friends adventuring there with her. I have never before witnessed such illustrious living examples of humans on the cusp between childhood and adolescence. They teased each other about crushes. They checked themselves in the mirror. They played hide n’seek. They hula-hooped (INDOORS). They played “store” in the morning and took on roles as shop-keeper, receptionist, FBI agent…It was fabulous and entertaining and fascinating and frightening.

And, most importantly, the cake was delicious! It all started because Lily decided, on her own, that she wanted an ice-cream cake from Baskin Robbins. This one:

It looks good, right? It probably is really tasty, but it’s $22 for the smallest little taster of a cake, which seemed silly. Also, as much as I love the nostalgic taste of BR, the cakes sometimes taste like plastic. Some people are into that. I was just thinking maybe, for less than $22, I could make something that tasted like not plastic. I posted a reveal on instagram:

Since then, I’ve received a number of requests: how did I do it?!  And I was all, “I’ll post about it tonight!” So here it is, the ice cream cake, a la magpie (also maybe my first ‘how to’ and cooking/baking post…just bear with me.)

1. Things to know and things you need

  • 2 8×8 baking pans
  • 1 cake mix from a box (It gets frozen, guys, so no need to go all show-offy and make one from scratch.)
  • all the ingredients necessary to make said cake (eggs, oil, water, oven at 350 etc etc. )
  • 1/2 gallon of ice cream for your main flavor; Lily chose mint chocolate chip
  • 1/2 gallon vanilla ice cream (or any other flavor you choose because I am not the boss of you) for frosting, kept soft so you can spread it like frosting
  • frosting for decorating, if you so choose.
  • plastic wrap
  • candles, if its for a birthday, but that’s your call.

1. Step One: Bake the cake as directed on the box, using 1 of the 8×8 pans.

Mine baked perfectly and also domed up (is that what its called when it rises in the middle? I just made that up.) So I used a bread knife to level it off.

2. While the cake is baking, take plastic wrap and line the inside of the other 8×8 pan. With a huge spoon or scooper or spatula, totally fill it with the ice cream you’re going to use as the middle of the cake. Then stick that pan of ice cream into a level surface in your freezer.

I do not have a picture of this step! Total food blog fail.

3.  when the cake has cooled, use a bread knife to slice the cake in half horizontally. Now you have TWO 8×8 cakes.

4. remove the frozen ice cream brick-cake from the freezer and slowly get that ice cream to pop out (that’s where the plastic wrap comes in as a helpful modern invention.)

5. use the softened vanilla ice cream as a “glue” to stack all the 8x8s into a cake

Also, please note: make sure the pan/plate/platter on which you are making this ice cream cake fits into your freezer! We had a few mishaps in this department.

6. Now comes a rather tedious part, and the only part that might make this project feel like it’s taking DAYS.

Every 15-20 minutes, pull the cake from the freezer and “frost/ice” it with the soft vanilla ice cream that you’re using like frosting.

And then put it back in the freezer! And then do it again! And again!

7. For my final frosting layer, I mixed about a cup of vanilla ice cream with a cup of frosting from a tub:


8. After one more 15-minute super freeze, I added the final touches


And then it was back into the freezer until it was time for candles and wishes and singing. Overall, I feel pretty proud that I can put it on my list of abilities. (That’s not actually a list I have anywhere. Maybe it’s time for one.)

I hope this didn’t bore anyone to tears, and I hope those who wanted to know how I did it now feel like they can do it too! Send me a photo of your own ice cream cake and I’ll put it on the magpie instagram to share!



(Note: Baskin Robbins, Betty Crocker, and Fresh & Easy did not sponsor this post, nor do I suggest you use their products just because I did for this one recipe this one time.)

eve     Magpie House
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What about the bad days?

Lately, it feels like I  have had my fair share (if there is such a thing) of crummy days and uncomfortable hours. I am sitting here at the end of one such day; my morning was ruined by a shame spiral before 8:30.

The rest of my day was spent battling the collateral damage: anxiety, exhaustion, hunger-anger-brain-dead (because when I’m crying I don’t think about eating so then I’m hungry at the store and would someone just TELL ME WHERE THEY KEEP THE STAPLES ?) I designed this project to be about re-education and day-to-day inspiration, and I–if I do say so myself–appreciate my optimism. But what about days that feel the opposite? What about UNinspiring days? It’d be really great if I could mosey around all rose-spectacled with magpie lists lighting my way, but that’s not my real life. Truly, I have more good days than bad, but I am not immune from the blues, the PMS, the DMV, the wrong side of the bed, the stubbed toes, the traffic in LA heat with a broken air-conditioner. It happens to everyone, trust me.

When I am in my most meditative mood, I consider that I am going through a transition during these difficult days, that the universe wants me to learn something, and what doesn’t kill me will make me stronger. But it takes a while to get there, and in the meantime everything hurts and motivational maxims make me throw up a little  in my mouth. Somewhere there is a comforting meme that will remind me that rejection is God’s projection. At some point I will realize that the reason I am facing disappointments is because I am putting myself out in the world and taking risks and it’s all a numbers game. If you can’t find the god’s protection meme, please forward me the letter to Walt Disney.

Until inspiration finds its way into my consciousness again, I find myself turning to pragmatic and tangible things for comfort. Now that I am at the far end of a Bad Day, I can say that the following things helped:

Food. This seems like a major duh, but I am pretty sure it took me 30 years to learn that I was hungry most of the time. Also, I am a big proponent of shame-free, judge-free eating. If McDonalds is the closest food and you love a McChicken sandwich because it tastes like the 4th grade, do it! If its a raw vegan kale seaweed smoothie that will lift your spirits, do it! I, as a proud Angeleno in 2014, prefer the gluten-free persuasion, but if pizza is the only thing between me and hysterics, give me a slice or 8. Another good idea: keeping snacks in your car or purse or messenger bag or pockets. (I am really bad at remembering to do this, so don’t be like me in this regard.)


Water. I have been trying to increase my H2O intake like a maniac lately; I definitely notice a difference in my mood in general when I’m properly hydrated. Also, the act of drinking water forces you to take at least one big breath, which should stimulate your Vagus Nerve which is going to slow your heart rate a bit and calm you down.*) Also, if you’re crying, you should drink water because of all the tears.

hydrate or die

Do Stuff. In other words, distract yourself with things you like to do if you can, especially if they are the least bit physical. Today I replanted a succulent,even though it really was fine where it was before my early morning broken heart. I also spread some wild flower seeds on a bare patch of dirt behind our house,  I unloaded the dishwasher,  I finished our Lending Library #2 (!) and wired that puppy to our front railing. On work days, I’m grateful to have the office distraction, too. I spent last weekend at school, and while it was exhausting, it was nice to have my brain focused on something other than all my failings in life.

Where the Love is. It is really important to recognize the difference between feelings: nobody likes me, I am a terrible person, I’ll never amount to anything…and facts: I have friends and family that not only like me, they love me. If I were a terrible person, this wouldn’t be true. I already have amounted to something, and who’s keeping score, anyway? Sometimes I have to write these down in columns on paper and, often, I have to GO to where the love is to remind myself of the truths of my life. Turning away from negative people and things in my life was helpful, but it was turning towards the loving people and beautiful things that sealed the deal to my survival when I was really struggling a few years ago. It took 2 text-messages from friends today to get my head back on straight about where I really am in life, and they weren’t lovey-dovey texts, either. Asking for help is important here; if you need to hear from a friend, contact them first. Real friends don’t mind bad days.

by Shadowness2388


    …Even if I were perfect at these four ideas, it wouldn’t keep bad days from happening, and none of them are a quick-fix. If  broken hearts could be fixed with drinking water…well, advertising would be different. These are just things that get me through ONE DAY, but sometimes that’s what I need, to get to tomorrow. Tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it. (yet.) I have lots of other ideas about how to cheer one’s self up, but it seems counterproductive to throw my late-night optimism down anyone’s throat (and I’m tired.); I would love to know what others find helpful in the moment, I’d rather have a discussion than keep hammering works for me.  find me on Facebook or

    Instagram to share. It seems like getting through the day is more important sometimes than finding the perfect book, you know? (And sometimes finding the perfect book is the solution, but not always!)



    (*I am not a scientist or a doctor or an expert on Polyvagal Theory, and explaining the science of this doesn’t seem fitting right now,  but I learned about drinking water to calm myself, and others, down during especially dramatic moments in high school. Ask Bailey if you don’t believe me.)


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    because LOVE

    March 29, 2014: The Day I Officiated a Wedding.


    rehearsal: i look nervous

    It was lovely and romantic andy rainy and fun, just like a wedding should be.


    I am ever so grateful that I was asked to participate; there is nothing quite like pouring over romantic poetry to nurture the romantic’s soul.


    i mean seriously.




    *You can see Mark’s list, and Valerie’s List, and Emily of Emily Takes Photos’ list over at the…lists.



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    the magpie list: solving all your problems ever.

    “If only I had a tote bag”


    The Magpie List store is officially open.

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    lily clare, age 10    
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    It’s Official: Little Lending Library

    I don’t really know when I got the idea that we should have a lending library at our house. It has something to do with loving these little boxes when I find them around town, it has a little to do with missing my grandparents who both have passed away, it has a little to do with procrastination. Because I can’t do homework if I’m building a library, sorry.

    Also, doesn’t it  make sense that The Magpie List should have a library?!  Hello, we are in the business of inspiration.

    The lending library works like this: books are available for the taking, and the hope is that books will be returned or replaced by the community. A bit of a movement has built its way up and a lot of the LLLs look like this:

    So cute, right?  Some get super elaborate. Some have shingles. Well, ours does not look like this. There are plans of how to do this on a website, but that involves more sawing and measuring than I am able/willing to do (and money I’m willing to spend), and besides, I we had a perfectly good Ikea shelf that was just sitting, unused, in the garage.  It’s like it was just waiting to be upcycled. I’m finding myself very much in need of creative outletting lately, so the library was a perfect project.

    It didn’t go perfectly, of course, but it was a good lesson in patience for me. I couldn’t finish it all at once without abandoning an entire day or two of my regular life, so I had to be satisfied with running down into the garage for 15 minutes at a time in between loads of laundry or paragraphs of homework or even an entire weekend of Irish dance performances.  Sometimes I milked an hour out of it, but the goal was 15 minutes. Either way, something else wasn’t getting done while I was stenciling L-I-B-R-A-R-Y , and for the first time in a long time, I was choosing what I wanted to do over what I thought I needed to do.  We all seemed to have survive, pile of dishes and grade point average notwithstanding. It took much longer than 1 day or even 1 week.  And: I spray painted the lettering on up side down. I guess perfectionism has no place in my garage either.

    So what my boyfriend insists you wouldn’t know is that I turned the whole shelf upside down so the lettering would be right. Because the lettering was tedious and I couldn’t bear the idea of starting over. And, anyway, I realized it doesn’t really matter if my library is pinterest-worthy. It holds books!

    Eventually it would be incredible to have a library stocked with people’s magpie selections, but in the meantime I happen to know there’s a book about Gypsies and a paperback copy of Heidi, just sitting there, begging to be read.

    So come on down: take a book leave a book!

    (Note: I am not naive and am prepared for the realities of urban living to visit my library like trash, graffiti, and maybe theft. The shelf itself is staked into the ground, and the watchful walrus is screwed in tight. Who cares! I refuse to be afraid!)

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    Music Monday, by popular demand



    12 seconds of this made it onto the magpie instagram, and magpies went nuts! so here it is: 3 minutes of some pretty great stuff.

    follow TML on instagram:

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    #tbt Throw Back BIRTHDAY

    this has very little to do with The Magpie List except that I LOVE MY LIFE and wasn’t always able to say that. Thank you to everyone for being there in bad times and good times and especially the magpie times. Happy Birthday to me!

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    “Today’s obsessions: awesome AND distracting.”

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    #tbt Throw Back Thursday

    Disney Jungle Cruise, 1986

    Disneyland, inspiring folks since…

    for more #tbt and inspirational shenanigans, find TML on instagram @magpielife !


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    Magpies, Manifest!

    I still love making vision boards at the new year, and this is my masterpiece for 2014. Pretty simple, compared to years past. I want to feel confident in who I am, relax a little more about all things, eat some healthy food, and balance on a tight rope with an umbrella. OR feel that I’m living a balanced life, whichever comes first.


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    I am trying desperately to catch TML up to 2014 without stressing myself out (yeah right), and i’m told an instagram is MUST. So:


    (I’m told if you click on that badge you’ll be routed to my “insta” account.)

    p.s. there is little else that makes me feel as old as technology.


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    Inspiration as Procrastination

    (if you are thinking this is the same post that’s on the homepage, you would be right.)
    i acquired a new computer since my last post and there is a camera on it. my 1st computer self picture ever.


    These are the things I am supposed to be doing right now:

    1. finishing the dishes
    2. calling health insurance (i hate you i need you i’m sorry i’m not sorry) for the hundredth time so i can be on hold for the rest of the evening.
    3. opening mail
    4. doing homework, which means at least looking at it.
    5. working on a writing deadline (t-minus 6 days, eeep.)

    INSTEAD: here i am.

    I am scrolling through the magpie list, loving it, remembering it, longing for it again! so i am sitting here at my computer, thinking that IF i must procrastinate (and i must.) than this is how: by stirring and embracing that which started all of this in the first place. INSPIRATION.

    So much has happened this past year, so much that I am thinking maybe I don’t need to go over it piece by moment for anyone. The point is, it was all mostly good things, and even when it wasn’t a good thing happening, it’s lead me here. You know? And these days I’m feeling pretty happy. And pretty happy is the most happy I have ever felt in my whole life. starting the Magpie list was the beginning of that. So I’m trying to find the more of that, the more of the things that keep me pretty happy.

    Today, though, like today today, despite the “pretty happy” part, I am feeling heavy. I feel FULL of learning (philosophy and psychology, ooof.) and sadnessanger (Dylan Farrow) and sadnessanger (Philip Seymour Hoffman). I feel worried, lately, about the internet and our growing dependence on technology, and confused about the NSA, and worried about health insurance (see above reference to phone calls and hold times) and the future of the earth which is the future of my children.

    Before I was pretty happy, these kind of whirlpools would suck me right down. Overwhelm put me right into my bed under the covers, out in the world acting angry at the wrong people, crying over spilled milk, maybe chewing my fingernails, maybe drinking too much, definitely thinking too much.

    Right now I’m not in bed or snapping at the wrong people; I’m just eating some chocolate frosting,* drinking some mint tea and wiping the dust off The Magpie List.

    I feel like this note could get terribly dreadfully long if I were to explain right here and now all the new ideas/questions/stories  I have for The Magpie List and there are other things I’m supposed to be doing (see list, above.) So I’m going to stop here.

    …But I will say this: perfectionism has no place here. So if you stay a part of the magpie community (please do!) be ready for lower case i’s. Be ready for blog posts that have little theme or “through-line.” And be ready to be inspired.




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    Color Me Inspired: Born Free 2012

    Inspirational Event: Born Free Motorcycle Rally

    Location: Orange, California

    Why I Was There: Long Story

    What was inspiring: CHOPPERS. Fashion. FAMILY. Tattoos. ENTHUSIASM Babies. COMMUNITY

    I’ll never forget the Born Free rally, and I am so glad my life brought me there!

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    Married Single Divorced. (Magpies.)

    Ellie Knaus, Crystal Angel, and Deanna Russo are "Married Single Divorced."

    Ask a lot of people about Los Angeles, and they will have plenty to tell you about what they don’t like. You have heard it before.  It’s crowded, there is all that smog, the people are superficial and, of course, there is the famous traffic. Growing up in Northern California, I always heard about the city of angels as a some sort of  stain across the rest of our golden state.

    Pollution notwithstanding, over 100 thousand people move to LA every year. In 2006, I was one of them. I was willing to risk the negatives for a tiny glimmer of hope that LA might also be a place of creativity.  Thankfully, I was right.  In between the 5, the 101, and the 405 freeways are a whole lot of dreams, and a whole lot of people willing to do anything to make sure they keep on working towards them.

    The women of the new web series, “Married Single Divorced,” are the kind of people I am talking about. I recently had the fortunate opportunity to spend a day with Ellie Knaus (married), Crystal Angel (single), and Deanna Russo (you get it…divorced) and felt the welcome feeling of creative inspiration every time the cameras started rolling.

    This threesome is everything you want in a slumber party, without the frozen bra prank. (Although, I wouldn’t put it past jokester Angels.) With quirky humor and a comfortable bed, these ladies are inviting everyone they know, including funnyman Harris Wittels (#humblebrag) and actress Kat Foster (Weeds), to talk about all things in the relationship department.

    Hilarity ensues.

    Featuring web friendly episodes of 3-5 minutes each, MSD is set to launch in late summer.

    I grabbed Deanna Russo during a break in the shooting, she was kind enough to throw together a list for me. see it here!



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    Words to Live By

    I have had this quote, torn from a magazine, with me for over 7 years now. It started taped to a closet door, has moved with me to 4 different houses and now enjoys a prominent position on my bulletin board above my desk. Needless to say, I love it.

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    Hunger Games

    I don’t usually do this, but I felt compelled to write about other things that I find inspirational, veering away from books-music-films for a minute. One of the more unexpected ways that The Magpie List has changed my life is  what it did to my relationship to food. Namely, cooking it.

    Clementina Russo and I went to college together, years and years and years ago. Then we parted ways. I headed down the path of unexpected motherhood, and Clementina? She headed towards academia. More and more academia until, after 7 years, she was a doctor. OF PHYSICS.

    When Doctor Clem came to visit us, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I imagined formulas about torque, and postulations about the expanding universe, and nostalgic memories about our coed days.  Well, there was a little bit of that. But also, there was cooking. So much cooking.

    Clementina wears red lipstick, publishes articles about the physics of invisible particles in the ocean water, and cooks like a…like a….chef.  This lady is straight-up wild.

    And while I have never been afraid of the stove or a new recipe, Clementina has been absolutely instrumental in changing our entire household’s relationship to food. For extra fun, whenever I am unsure of what to do with seasonal vegetables, I email Dr. Russo! Her concoctions, sometimes traditional, sometimes innovative, always keep us well fed.

    I find that cooking is not only good for our home, it is good for my brain. It is a meditative process that soothes my anxious mind, and keeps me away from the computer for a little bit every day.  It is a productive way to process all the things that The Magpie List has brought into my life, like the books and music and movies that you all recommend.  If The Magpie List is my primary nourishment, then all the ways it’s changed my life is like a surprise dessert!

    Read Clementina’s list!

    All food photography by Eve Sturges (that’s me.)



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    Meet A Magpie: Broke-Ass Stuart

    Here is what Stuart Schuffman and I have in common: we went to the same college (go slugs), we both love Northern California, and we’re both…poor. The difference? Stuart Schuffman is the only person I know who makes being totally broke seem totally cool.

    Focusing on San Francisco and New York, Stuart started with a self-made ‘zine and has grown himself an empire, all dedicated to survival in these expensive cities. His “Broke-Ass ” books, website, and IFC television show have collected a hearty following of under-earners.  When Stuart and I went to college, the dot-com bubble was still growing, the housing market was rising and rising, and tuition was still realistic.  Needless to say, the “Broke-Ass” demographic is currently growing.

    Stuart has found an innovative way to capitalize on the reality of his own life and the lives of those around him.  His creativity has served him well;  whether you’re earning or not, there is something to be learned from his productivity.  I look forward to the day when I am no longer scraping by, collecting coupons, and budgeting pennies. In the meantime, I am grateful for inspiration from people around me like this guy.

    see Broke-Ass Stuart’s list here. Read the article he wrote about his favorite childhood movies on his own site, “Broke-Ass Stuart’s Goddamn Website,” here.

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