Kind Words That Really Helped – Part Five

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If you missed them:  Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four

June 1, 2016

In case anyone ever opens up to you about a mental illness (and please believe me when I say that it takes an ENORMOUS amount of trust in you to do so), here are some of the perfect, and encouraging, and loving responses that my friends gave me when I told them.  Some knew that I’d been struggling, and for others it was completely out of the blue.

“That sounds really, really hard.  Please let me know how I can best support you.”

“I am holding you in my heart.”

“I am happy you were able to get help.  Take it one day at a time.  I’m here if you ever need to talk.”

“I am so glad that you have something to work with.  Onward and upward toward sunshinier days.  This is the start of a brand new chapter for you.”

“Thank you for trusting me to tell me.”

“I’ll be thinking of you.  Please keep me posted.”

“I’m so sorry that you’ve been having such a hard time, and I’m really glad that you were able to seek out help.  I’m so proud of you for taking care of yourself.”

“Oh my goodness, that is a lot.  A blessing to know what you’re dealing with, and to be able to start treating it.  I’m here for you if you ever want to talk.”

“I love you.”

*I could add to this list greatly from all the kind and wonderful messages I’ve gotten since I published my first post about this, but I won’t.  These were the earliest ones, so I want them to stand.  The only thing I’ll add came from just one single person, and I thought it was the greatest thing ever.  She’d written me a very sweet message of encouragement, let me know she was thinking of me, and closed it with “No response needed.”  I responded anyway, but it was so appreciated, and was a very, very cool way to take the pressure off at a time when responding to emails, even kind and wonderful ones, took a lot.*

My personal favorite came from my 8 year old daughter (who is mature beyond her years, and has one of the biggest hearts of anyone I know)  Being the youngest, her level of understanding isn’t quite that of the boys, both because of her age, and because I’m of course a little more selective about what is shared in her presence.  But there’s only so much you can shield.  She walked in on me crying one day, and set about making me this:

notefromtegan

“Everything is going to be okay. Even if things don’t feel okay right now, I promise that everything is going to be okay.”

My heart.

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It’s tempting to close with a list of well-meaning things that absolutely did NOT help (that list is longer) but to just touch on the biggest and most frequent categories of offenders:  Please don’t try to diagnose, treat, or fix.  Don’t minimize what is a serious issue with things like, “Cheer up,” or “You just need a glass of wine, a long walk, a good cry.”  Etc.  And DO NOT say you understand if you haven’t been through it yourself.  If all else fails, trust that your friend is doing what he/she needs to get well  – whatever that path may be –  leave the questioning/counseling/advising/treating to their professionals, and just see them, hear them …. and be there.

(to be continued)


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Music As Therapy, And My New Friends Chad & Ian – Part Four

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(If you’re coming in late, you might want to read parts one, two, and three first.  Unless you like to start in the middle.  I won’t judge.)

May 31, 2016

Music has played an integral part of my life since I was a little girl.  Whether I was down, or up, or somewhere in between, music moved me.  It inspired me.  It encouraged me.  No matter what I felt, music was there to bring it to the next level.   It brought me joy when I was happy.  It gave me bravery when I was scared.  It comforted me when I was sad.

And if I didn’t want to be comforted, and instead just needed to wallow?  Music was good for that too.

And now, at 42, it still does all of the above.  Whenever I connect with a band or a song or an album I devour it … listening over and over and over until I’ve had my fill.  I crave music.  My soul needs music, the way a man in the desert needs water.  Music is like breathing.  It keeps me alive.  So it should come as no surprise that music has been hugely instrumental  (ha, see what I did there?) in seeing me through the last few difficult months.

I would hear a song that spoke to me, and it would become my anthem.

First, it was “Rise Up”, by Andra Day.

After that, and for the longest time, it was “Bird Set Free” by Sia (who, it should be noted, also has bipolar) The first time I actually heard it was when Dalton Rappattoni (who also has bipolar) sang it on American Idol, and the lyrics just took my breath away.  I listened to her version, and his, on repeat for weeks on end.

On a related note, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Dalton and Sia’s bravery in talking publicly about their disorders were more helpful and inspiring and important to me than I can even say.

Most recently, the band A Great Big World – Ian Axel and Chad King – released a new single called “Won’t Stop Running”.  As soon as I heard it, I knew that that was going to be my new song.

I have adored A Great Big World since they first came out with Say Something in 2013.  Their songs are beautiful and catchy – the kind that just reach deep down into your soul, their voices compliment each other perfectly, and they just seem like positive and lovely and genuine guys.  Their songs have been a part of my daily soundtrack for the past three years, and when I taught yoga, I included a GBW song on my playlist every time I could.  Getting to hear them live this year, at a tiny little venue downtown, was one of the highlights of what had been a pretty horrible year.  They are one of my all-time favorite bands, and their concert became one of my all-time favorite concerts.

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I’m a little bit sad that you can’t see Chad’s sparkly pants in any of these photos. They were fabulous.

The song, “Won’t Stop Running” was written about Chad’s journey with MS, but the theme of not giving up was one that is relatable to all of us… no matter what stories or struggles or obstacles we face.  When they realized the overwhelming response they were getting to the song, they started a #wontstoprunning campaign, and invited people to share their own stories on social media.  I was a little bit sad because I wanted to share my story…. but wasn’t sure I wanted to be “out” with it yet.  So I watched while others shared their stories, and Chad and Ian responded here and there, and there were beautiful words of support and encouragement.  I even briefly thought about starting an anonymous Instagram account, just so I could join in the collective group hug.  But then, a couple of days later, they announced that they’d opened an email just for people who wanted to share their stories with them anonymously, and that they’d pick a couple to share.

And so I did.

The next day, I received a lovely and short and sweet and encouraging reply from Chad and Ian (that just happened to come on a really bad day when it was so sorely needed) And then, scrolling through Facebook, I saw that they’d reposted my story.  They posted it on Facebook and Instagram both, where hundreds of people “liked”  it and offered encouragement and kind words and support.  MY STORY!

wontstoprunning1

I was in awe 1) that they did such an awesome campaign for their fans in the first place, 2) that they chose to share my story, and 3) that it felt SO, SO GOOD to be honest about it, even – or especially? – if it was to a bunch of strangers.  I received nothing but support, at a time when I was greatly struggling with the idea of telling even those closest to me, precisely because I didn’t know that I’d receive that same support.

It was huge for me, and it was healing, and it will forever earn Chad King and Ian Axel a special place in my heart.

If you’re struggling with something – anything – I’d definitely encourage you to find the song that speaks to you, too.  If you’re at a loss, feel free to borrow one of “mine” till you’ve found one of your own.  :)

#wontstoprunning

xo

(Continue to Part Five)


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Bipolar Isn’t Strep Throat. One Step Forward, Two Steps Back – Part Three

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(You can read parts one and two here)

May 30, 2016

Here’s the positive thing about hitting rock bottom:  You’ve got nowhere to go but up.  That thought actually comforted me a lot in the beginning.  I can get better now!  It’ll get easier and easier!  And it’s a nice sentiment for sure, and in some ways it is of course true.  But….. it doesn’t really work like that, despite the people who upon hearing that I had bipolar responded with a chipper – and what felt at the time incredibly dismissive and condescending – “Oh, that can be treated.”  (I realize intellectually that they intended neither of those things.)

And yes it can be treated – although I think “managed” is a better word – but it’s not exactly what you’d call straight-forward.

If you have a minor medical illness, say strep throat, you have a fairly predictable course of symptoms, followed by a fairly predictable recovery.  Barring any complications or special circumstances, you start taking an antibiotic.  Two days later you’ve started to feel quite a bit better.  By five days, you feel almost like your normal self.  By eight days you feel so much better that you start to forget you were even sick, and you have to keep reminding yourself to finish out your course of antibiotics.  At day 10, you’ve finished your medication, you feel fine, and your strep throat is a thing of the past.

Mental illness is more complicated than that.

The main medication I’m on will be slowly titrated up to a maintenance dose over the course of about 6 weeks (assuming it’s the right one for me.  So much is trial and error).  What I’m on now in comparison is barely above a placebo.  Other medications may need to be added or substituted or removed as we go.  And what I’m currently learning from  my therapist are strategies.  Things that I have no doubt are going to help me in the long run, but that are things that I need to practice.   Routines I need to build.  Habits I need to form.  Tools I need to use. There is much I need to learn, and many things I need to understand.  There is work – continual, ongoing work – that I’ll need to do if I want to be well.  This is a chronic illness that can’t be cured.  Learning to manage it is a process, and progress won’t always be linear.  It will zig-zag, and it will spiral.

I won’t get better overnight.  One recent article I read said that it took the author a solid four years until he felt that he was really stable…. the thought of which is… daunting.  But even if it doesn’t take four years, it will take time.  Patience is going to be my friend, and I have to learn not to freak out when I have a bad day.  I have to learn to focus on the big picture.

It’s sort of like the worried parents of a selective-eating toddler.  You never want to judge the situation on what they did/did not eat at one meal, because you’ll get a much clearer picture of what’s going on if you look at what they ate during a whole week.  In one meal, there might be five noodles.  Over the course of the week though, you can see, “Hey, he ate an apple!  And an entire yogurt!  And some broccoli dipped in ranch!”

I cannot –  cannot –  compare myself to where I was yesterday, because it’s only a lesson in frustration.  But I can compare myself to a month ago.  I can compare myself to the broken girl who was gutturally sobbing all over the place, begging for…. something, anything, that would take the pain away.

There will be good days and bad days, and that needs to be okay.  I have to say it again:

There will be good days and bad days, and that’s okay! 

I had two pretty lousy days this week, mood-wise, that stood out more than the others.

The first was because I was just really pissed off about how hard it all felt.  I don’t want to go to bed at the same time every night.  I don’t want to exercise.  I don’t want to meditate.  I don’t want to chart my feelings.  I don’t want to take any pills.  I don’t want to go outside if I don’t feel like it.  I don’t want to take another supplement.  It shouldn’t be so hard.  It’s just not fair that it’s so hard.  I want to live like a normal person and not have to think about any of those things if I don’t want to.  I want to stay up till 11:00 and drink a glass or three of wine.  I want to spend my Tuesday afternoons curled up with a good book, not in a therapist’s office, 30 minutes from home, talking about my feelings.

In short, I needed a day to feel sorry for myself.

The second one was set off because frankly, I did something really stupid.  There’s a meme that’s been going around Facebook.   It’s a comparison of two photos.  The top photo is a serene, forest scene with the caption, “This is an antidepressant”, and the bottom photo is a Prozac pill, with the caption, “This is shit.”  Now what I’m personally taking is not even an antidepressant  – it’s not appropriate for my specific situation – but damn if it didn’t piss me off to see anyone else getting shamed for whatever it is they need to take.  I shared the photo on my blog’s Facebook page, NOT for the photo itself, but for a really lovely commentary refuting it…. from a woman who believes in both nature AND pharmaceuticals when necessary.  (I will share it down below, because I really do love what she had to say) Anyway,  I shared this post and in the course of conversation I used the word, “disgusting.”  I said that I thought it was disgusting to call something “shit” that could (and has!) literally played a life-saving role in someone’s recovery.  I concede that it could have been a poor word choice.  A woman commented who’d had a very bad experience with psychotropic drugs – and absolutely, those experiences are out there.  I’m not refuting this.  And there are risks.  And there are unethical doctors.  And there are things to consider.  And my heart goes out to anyone who has had such a bad experience … whether it’s with drugs, alternative treatments, or something else altogether.  She was really offended/hurt/ticked off by my words and told me so.  Not wanting to make things worse, I very, very carefully chose my next words and told her simply that I was glad that she ultimately found what she needed to do to get well.  But that pissed her off even more, because she’d wanted a different response.  She bit back harder, wanting to hurt me (OR, feeling hurt herself, just used me as a convenient outlet in the right place at the right time).  It worked.  I bawled.  And a couple of hours later I pulled down both my Facebook page and my blog itself.   I realized that while I had actually started to enjoy interacting with friends on Facebook again, I was not yet ready for the masses.  My blog/its Facebook page were not going to currently play a part in my getting well.

Fact:  Posting controversial things about mental health treatment when you’re TEN DAYS into your own mental health treatment (and, obviously, still raw and fragile) is not a good idea.

Really though, that woman did me a favor.  The more distractions I could shed to focus on what I really needed to focus on, the better.  One step forward at a time.

Here’s the meme:

antidepressant

And here is Jenny Chiu’s beautiful commentary:

Hello,
I’m Jenni Chiu and this image pisses me off.

May is Mental health Awareness month and I can’t think of a worse way to raise awareness than with this irresponsible image (recently posted by the page Earth. We are one.)

I find the top part of this image to be absolutely true. Meditating outside, breathing fresh air, taking a break from the blue light of my electronics – that all helps my brain and body tremendously.

I find the bottom part of this image to be stigmatizing, and extremely harmful to those who struggle with mental illness. It is irresponsible and IT IS FALSE.

Disclosure: I’m a damn tree hugger. I’ve hugged the hell out of trees. I’ve felt their energy. I’ve sat beneath a redwood and exhaled up into it’s branches, asking it to lift some of the weight off my shoulders. I believe that our modern lifestyles have disconnected some of us from Mother Earth and that by spending time outdoors we are reminded of the balance between us and nature.

Disclosure: There were several years of my life where I was on a cocktail of meds (prozac was one of them) and they literally kept. me. alive.

Depression and anxiety are mental ILLNESSES. Not all illness can be cured with fresh air and sunshine. Sometimes chemical imbalances in the brain need to be supplemented. It may not be the answer for everybody, but it is definitely a life saver for some.

Are meds overprescribed? Possibly.
Can simple lifestyle changes improve our mental and physical health? Certainly.
Should a drug that could keep someone from wanting to die be described as “shit”? Never.

If you manage your mental illness by taking medication, I AM PROUD OF YOU. If you are considering talking to your doctor about medication, I AM PROUD OF YOU.

If you are able to manage a mood disorder naturally, I AM PROUD OF YOU. If you are considering talking to your doctor about weaning off of or changing medications, I AM PROUD OF YOU.

If you have an entire arsenal of mental health tools that include a combination of prescriptions, meditation, art therapy, exercise, sunshine, multiple yoga poses, and several flavors of gelato, I AM PROUD OF YOU.

If you wake up to live another day… If you open your eyes and face those same demons that left you so exhausted the day before… If you continue to grace us all with your existence, I AM PROUD OF YOU…
and I thank you.

When you are drowning and someone throws you a life preserver, you take it. Pay no mind to the people off to the side judging and telling you it’s not the right size or color… or that it couldn’t possibly work. You take it. You grab it and hold on like nobody’s business.

When you get to shore and dry off… then you can take a breath and figure out a plan. Change things up if you need to. Ask for help if you need to…

Anyone telling you not to grab that life preserver is a dick…
and if you accidentally kick them in the face while you’re paddling your way out of the stormy waters, no big deal…

Tell them to go stop the bleeding with the warm breeze outside.

I love you.
Do whatever you need to stay with us.
xoxo

(Continue to Part Four)


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“Have You Ever Tried to Hurt Yourself?”: A Diagnosis and a Plan – Part Two

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(Did you miss part one?  You can read it here.)

May 29, 2016

Here’s a question.  Why would someone with admitted mental health issues spend her entire adult life actively avoiding seeking out a mental health professional?  It seems foolish and well, frankly, really stupid doesn’t it?  But there were reasons that, at the time, seemed to be very sensible.

Here are just a few of them, in no particular order:

  •  The stigma.  People have tried to tell me that there’s no longer a stigma, but they’re wrong.  There IS a stigma.  It is everywhere.  And while people do tend to be more open about their mental health than they used to be, there is still the overarching belief by many that it is a weakness.  That it is a choice.  That they could feel better if they just WANTED TO BADLY ENOUGH, Dammit!  It’s not very conducive to seeking help when a large segment of society wants to treat you like a failure just for walking in the door.
  • The woo woo stuff.  The few people that I know who’ve talked about therapy or counselors have been very into sort of new age, touchy-feely, get in touch with the Goddess within sort of thing, and I had no interest in that.  I wanted straightforward, practical advice, not to be told I needed to hug my inner child. (Disclaimer:  I have no issues with other people wanting/needing/connecting to that approach.  It’s just not for me.)
  • I had a bad experience with therapy as a teen.  In hindsight, I guess it wasn’t a bad experience per se, but it was unpleasant.  To begin with, I was there against my will… a mandatory family thing when my parents took in a foster child.  I HATED IT.  Hated the questions, hated the pressure, hating being expected to talk about my feelings when I just Wanted. To. Be. Home.  In my room.  Reading a book.  Not in a weird uncomfortable room with this total stranger who kept asking me questions…. questions that I learned to begrudgingly answer, because if I didn’t my mom answered for me (with how she thought I’d respond) which ticked me off and made the whole thing worse.
  • I didn’t know what to expect.  With the exception of the people in #2, hardly anyone ever talks about this aspect of their lives.  I mean, it’s private, and I get that, but more openness would be so very helpful to those who are new to the idea.  I had absolutely no idea what to expect, and the unknown – particularly when it comes to something as sensitive and personal as  your mental health – is scary and daunting, which brings me to:
  • It was overwhelming and scary.  Even – or especially – when you know you’re at a point where you need professional help (and by all means, I was in that place for a long time), taking the step of actually researching different places/providers (when just getting out of bed is a lot of freaking work), calling someone (when you’d rather suffer a slow agonizing death in the talons of a velociraptor), actually driving to a place and having to see someone (when you’re not even up to seeing your best friends), AND having to face and talk about the messiest, scariest, most personal parts of your psyche with a total stranger is really, really, breathtakingly HARD.

Alas, despite all of the above…. I knew it was time.   So I sucked it up, I made some phone calls, and I found a place that could get me in right away.  I knew that 1) I needed to start with a proper diagnosis, so I went straight to a psychiatrist, and 2) a multi-faceted approach was important, so I chose a facility that offered psychiatric care, therapy, lifestyle support, and an overall holistic view on treatment.

And to make a long story short(er), May 10th ended up being one of the most important days of my life.  It was weird and uncomfortable and scary… but important.   Both people I saw (a psychiatrist and a licensed counselor)  were professional and kind and reassuring and thorough – without veering into the overly caring/condescending behavior that drives me so absolutely batshit crazy.  The bipolar diagnosis was a fairly straightforward one, and I do not mean in any way that it was rushed, or one that they came to quickly.  They asked a lot (a LOT) of questions, they sought clarity, they asked me to word things in different ways when they needed more information.  But what it ultimately comes down to is symptoms, and I read like a text book.

As for my own personal views on the experience?  It was HUGELY powerful.   The simple act of being able to answer questions like “Have you ever tried to hurt yourself?” with honesty… in a non-judgemental environment where no one is shocked, or horrified or phased in any way…. a place where they’ve heard it all before, and are trained to simply listen, and ultimately to help you… It was freeing, and it was healing, all by itself.  And to have a diagnosis?  There were other emotions, that I’m sure will continue to come and go, but in the moment it was pure relief.

And I mean, I knew.  I’ve known it was bipolar for a long time.  But to HEAR it;  to be able to begin treating it;  to be able to create a specific plan to get well;  to finally move FORWARD…  It gave me more hope than I’ve had in a long, long time.  I cried the whole way home that day, which is far from an unusual practice for me, but this time they were largely tears of relief.

The immediate plan was – and is – just to get me stable.  I was prescribed some appropriate medications for my specific situation (a brief word about medications, if I may:  They were, for me, absolutely the right answer for this phase of my treatment.  Will they always be a part of my treatment?  Possibly.  Maybe even likely.  Bipolar is tricky.  I feel no shame in taking them, and no shame in evaluating – and continuing to evaluate –  the role they may or may not play in keeping me well.)  I was also given a lengthy – but somehow not overwhelming – list of homework:  practical things I can do to supplement my medication, and help me work towards getting better.  Which is exactly what I was wanting, and needing.  I’ll see my psychiatrist monthly for now, and my therapist (who is wonderful) weekly.

Eventually I’ll be living my life, learning to control it instead of letting it control ME.  But for right now, this IS my life.  Getting well, getting stronger, learning to live NOT as a “bipolar person”, but as the same complicated, multifaceted, creative, perfectly imperfect person I’ve always been, who also happens to have bipolar.

(Continue to Part Three)


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The Senseless Tragedy In Orlando: Our Role As Parents

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Early this morning, a man named Omar Mateen, 29, entered Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, and started shooting.  He ultimately murdered 50 people and wounded at least 50 more, in what was the deadliest mass shooting in the United States, and the worst terror attack on American soil since 9/11.

I, like the rest of my fellow Americans, am horrified and heartbroken at this devastating loss.  I am sending love to the victims, their families, and all their loved ones, as well as to all the people who experienced the terror of the attack first-hand, and those who now live in even more fear (people who live in far more fear than anyone should ever have to live in to begin with.)

It is senseless and devastating and scary, and it is a time to mourn.  It is NOT a time to add to the culture of violence by perpetuating more hate.  I’ve already seen it, spreading through Facebook like a cancer.  Hate towards religions.  Hate towards certain political leanings.  Hate towards people who disagree with our policies… policies about guns, and immigrants, and things that have nothing to do with the fact that one person chose to do a horrible, horrible thing for horrible, horrible reasons.  So much hate, and at time when love and kindness and compassion are more important than they’ve ever been.

I think about it as a parent, about the helpless feeling of living in a world that’s gone sort of mad.  And I don’t know what the answer is.  I don’t.  What I do know is that if change is ever going to happen, it needs to start with us.  It needs to start in our own homes.

We need to show our kids what love and inclusion and tolerance actually look like.

We need to teach our kids to stand up to hatred and bigotry.

We need to explain to our kids the damage that phrases like, “Love the sinner, hate the sin”, and “I disagree with the ‘lifestyle’ but…” really do to this already maligned segment of society.

We need to teach our kids about respect.  Respect for self, respect for people around them, respect for personal choices… even choices that may seem strange or weird or different.

We need to talk openly with our kids about differences in gender, in gender identity, in sexual orientation, in sexual expression… even if it makes us uncomfortable.

We need to talk to our kids about appropriate and inappropriate terms, respecting individuals’ chosen terminology, and making a conscious effort to honor preferred pronouns.

We need to teach our children to love deeply, love without conditions, and love without agenda.

We need to teach our children that redirected hatred is still hatred, and that hatred is never the answer.

————————————————————————————————————————–

Sending so much love to all the victims, and to everyone affected by the tragedy in Orlando.

If you would like to donate money to help the victims and families of this shooting, you can contribute financially on their GoFundMe page here.


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Essential Oils Don’t Cure Bipolar: A Coming-Out Story – Part One

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I don’t know how much longer I can fake it
That it’s all alright, that I can do this alone
And I know that life is what you make it
But it’s hard to see stars when you’re always caught in the folds

Every night in my mind it’s a fight
But I won’t stop dreaming
‘Cause this isn’t over
It’s never over

Facing forward
Lights out
I won’t stop running
Falling backwards
Hands tied
I won’t stop running
I’ll take another sunrise
Another hand to hold tight
This isn’t over
I am way too young and I won’t stop running

~ “Won’t Stop Running”, Great Big World

It is a Saturday as I write this;  May 28th, 2016.  It seems important that I note that, because when or if this story is ever shared, I know it’s one that will need to come in bits and pieces over time, not as a one-off post.  In a way, what I’m about to write about is the culmination of what’s actually been going on for years (decades, if I’m being honest) but in many many others it is just the very beginning baby steps of what will become a lifelong journey.

I have bipolar disorder.

I’ve been practicing saying that, even if mostly inside my own head.  I say it very well, don’t I?  Hello, my name is Jennifer and I have bipolar disorder.  Did anyone else just hear Richard Gere in Pretty Woman when I said that?  “Hello, my name is Mr. Lewis and I am very angry with my father.  It cost me ten thousand dollars in therapy to be able to say that sentence.” 

I haven’t (yet) spent ten thousand dollars in therapy, but I am actively going to therapy, which in and of itself is… unexpected.

But I’m getting way ahead of myself, and should really start at the beginning.

It was a cold and snowy day in 1974 when I was born …  KIDDING!  Well, only partly kidding, because it was a cold and snowy day when I was born.  I was born during a snow storm in fact.  That’s completely irrelevant to the story though.  Except that now that I’m thinking about it, it’s actually pretty poetically perfect that I was born during a storm.  I wouldn’t be ME if I’d been born on a calm, quiet, balmy day in June.

I’m just not the calm, quiet, balmy type.

I’ve always been open about my issues with depression and anxiety … and when I say “open”, I mean I’ve written about it a grand total of a whopping 4 or 5 times (out of 1,000 posts) over the course of the 10+ years that I’ve maintained this blog.  But while I was always as raw and honest as I could manage at the time, those posts only told a part of the story.  They were tentative.  Testing.  Dipping my toes in the water as it were.  I feel like I shared a great deal, but I subconsciously held back at least as much as I revealed.

I’m tired of holding things back.  My only personal goal right now is to get myself well, and I believe that part of that process is going to be total, uncensored honesty.

This spring I had a breakdown.  “Breakdown” is a weird word (one that’s a way too often and flippant word of hyperbole) that doesn’t convey the severity of what happened to me, but it’s the only word I’ve got.   As was my usual pattern, I’d just come down from feeling AMAZING. Life was so painfully beautiful it made me cry.  I’d been full of energy.  Full of grand ideas.  Full of huge plans.  I was going to write another book.  I was going to expand my blog.  I was going to start more blogs.  I spent hundreds of dollars on online courses to teach me how to do exactly that.  I was going to CHANGE THE FREAKING WORLD.    I felt like I could do absolutely anything.  And then….. I didn’t.  And then I got depressed.  And then I got really depressed.  And then I wanted to die.  And then, in the middle of taking the 8 year old to play rehearsals, and the 12 year old to football practice, and taking care of the kids and the house and the pets and everything else that comes with adulting, I had a breakdown.  To put it into perspective, the only reason I didn’t end up in the ER was that I found a psychiatric facility that could get me in for an evaluation right away.

Only a couple – less than five – trusted people knew how much I was truly struggling.  Even then, I spared them the gory details.  The little bits I did share here and there though were more than enough encouragement for well-meaning advice.  I just needed to exercise.  I needed more sleep.  I needed to change the way I ate.  I needed to use essential oils.  I needed more supplements.  I tried really hard not to be offended – and deeply, deeply frustrated – because I was exercising.  I was eating well.  I was getting sleep.  I was taking appropriate supplements.  And essential oils?  I tried pretty much all of them that were supposed to be helpful.  Daily.  But the thing is, motivation is great.  Exercise, sleep, and vitamins are great.  But there are some things they Just.  Don’t.  Cure.  I couldn’t fix it.  Sheer willpower was not doing it.  And it was insulting and minimizing every single time someone suggested otherwise.

It was reminiscent to the end of my journey with my gall bladder.  It was full of stones and sludge, it was starting to get inflamed, and there were stones lodged in the common bile duct.  I was due to have it removed, but then it started to get infected.  I ultimately had an attack that lasted about 72 hours, and in desperation called the surgeon’s office for advice.  The overly cheerful woman on the phone told me, “Oh you’ll see a big difference if you avoid things like fried foods.”  Fried foods?  Was she kidding me?  I hadn’t been able to eat ANY fat for several months, and hadn’t been able to keep down anything – at all – for days.  And she was talking to me about fried foods?  I ended up in the ER, where I checked in for a five day stay, one emergency operation, one endoscopic procedure, and a truckload of necessary medications.

She was being helpful to the best of her ability, but I didn’t need to be told to avoid fried foods.  It was so beyond that point.  What I  needed was intervention.  And in this case, I didn’t need to use essential oils.  It was so beyond that point.  What I needed was intervention.  It wasn’t that I was hanging on by a thread.  My thread WAS GONE.  I had no more thread, and I was hanging over a precipice.  The only recourse I had left was to seek the help of a professional.

So I did.

And it was the hardest, and scariest, thing I’ve ever done in my life.

(Continue to Part Two)


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In A World Where Rapists Only Get Six Months

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This is the face of a rapist

I have been sitting here, staring at this blank page, for half an hour now.

So many words, and yet….. no words at all.

The one thought, the one thing that keeps coming back to mind is:  “How in the hell did we get here?  How is this the world we live in?”

I think of that boy.  I think of Brock Turner.  I think of the depravity of a kind of person who could not only do what he did, but show no remorse.  I think of the people who defend him, and of the journalists who want to keep bringing up his swimming records.  Because, apparently, being really good at something is somehow worth more than the woman he assaulted, and the life he forever altered?  Ted Bundy was good at things too.  I think of that girl, and what she went through, and what she continues to go through.  I think of what he took from her.  I think of her family, and her friends, and the people who love her.  I think of ALL the victims of sexual assault, past and present, and how verdicts like this are an assault to them all over again.  I think of the students who stopped the assault, one of whom was crying so hard at what he saw that he could barely answer the officers’ questions.  I think of the judge, the judge who felt a person who systematically removed an unconscious girl’s clothes, then physically and sexually violated her behind a dumpster is not a danger to others, and who couldn’t possibly be punished for more than six months because of the severe impact such a punishment would have on his life.  I think of the boy’s father, who – among other equally disgusting things – said that his son shouldn’t have to pay a steep price for his “20 minutes of action.”

He’s depressed, his father tells us.  He’s barely eating.  He’s a shell of the boy he once was.  It’s horrible what this has done to his life.

And in six months, his punishment will be over.  While the girl he raped is punished and haunted by his “actions” every day for the rest of her life.

But it was the alcohol!  He made a bad decision, and he drank too much.  She made a bad decision and she drank too much.  He’s seen the error of his ways.  He never should have…. drank.  Oh and according to his father he’s “totally committed to educating other college age students about the dangers of alcohol consumption and sexual promiscuity.”   Wow!!  How noble and selfless!!

How about this, Brock Allen Turner?

How about you educate other college age students not to rape?

How about you tell other college age students that if someone has had too much to drink, you should help them, not strip them of their clothes, push them behind a dumpster, and violate them?

How about you explain to other college age students what consent means, and how consent is something that an unconscious person is not able to give.

How about you admit to the vile and heinous crime you committed, and that you deserve the maximum punishment available?

How about you quit trying to garner sympathy, and whining about how this is ruining your life, and think about the ACTUAL victim here?

How about you apologize not just for your crimes, but for the disgusting and misogynistic and patriarchal society that supports you?  The one that not only allows a rapist to walk free after six months, but wants us to actually feel sorry for him.

I do not feel sorry for Brock Turner.

I feel disgusted with Brock Turner.  I feel anger towards Brock Turner.  I feel rage at a system, and a world, and a society that lets this be okay.

And to his victim?  To you I offer my whole hearted support, and love, and validation.   There are not words for how sorry I am for what you endured, and what you continue to endure.  You are strong.  You are brave.  I stand with you.  Lots of people stand with you.  I hope that you know that.  I hope that you feel our support.

I hope that somehow, someday, I can tell my own kids about the backwards system that supported people like Brock Turner, and about the people like his victim who bravely stood up, again and again, to say “no more”…..

and how that system eventually changed.


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My Summer To Do List For My Kids (And Myself)

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There’s 104 days of summer vacation
And school comes along just to end it
So the annual problem for our generation
Is finding a good way to spend it ~ Phineas and Ferb theme song

Ah, summer.

When you unschool, or even homeschool, summer means a slightly different thing than it does when your kids go to school.  If you’ve done it right, summer break doesn’t really a mean a “break”, because there’s nothing to take a break from.  And when you live in Phoenix, summer means a slightly different thing than it does in other places as well.  When everyone else is gearing up for lots of outdoor activities, we’re making plans that involve A/C… unless said outdoor activities include being covered in water of some sort.

Still, there’s something romantic and lovely about the idea of the lazy, hazy, carefree days of summer.  A time to be free, a time to play, a time to practice feeling good in your own skin.

For a lot of parents, there seems to be a temptation to see summer as a time to micromanage.  A time to prize structure over spontaneity;  control over freedom. There’s a post that seems to go around Facebook every year as summer approaches that highlights this fact, encouraging parents to print out cute little checklists to keep their kids on task all summer long.  There are many variations, but the general gist is usually something like this:

NO ELECTRONICS UNTIL YOU:

 

Brush your teeth, get dressed, and clean your room

Read for 30 minutes

Play outside for 30 minutes

Draw, build, craft for 30 minutes

Practice your karate/musical instrument/dance steps for 30 minutes

Finish your chores

Help your mother with her chores

etc

Obligatory disclaimer:  I have seen things like this posted by a LOT of moms, including several whom I really like and respect.  What follows is not about any individual people, but about concepts and ideas.  Having said that:

Lists like this really, really bother me, for a multitude of reasons.  First, I don’t think they accomplish what these well-meaning parents want them to accomplish. They’ve decided that video games/electronics/screen time are a less valuable pursuit than everything else. But by setting it up as a hierarchy in which kids have to perform certain tasks in order to earn it, they’re actually flipping the script and making the electronics MORE valuable, and grossly DE-valuing things like reading, being creative, and playing outside.  Those are all fun and wonderful things in their own right, and their system reduces them to nothing more than pesky little chores that they have to check off a list before they get to the real fun. Second, lists like these emphasize compliance over relationship.  And sure, they might “work” in the short term.  If your child is one who is motivated by electronics, he might very well do whatever it takes to earn them. But what’s the cost?  Mom has set herself up as more of a dictator or a boss than a partner, and all those things she wanted her child to do and like? The appreciation she wanted to foster for reading, for playing outside, for building things with their hands? Those things have become nothing more than tasks to endure in order to get to the elusive screentime.

Now I don’t make a summer-time – or any-time – list for my kids, because I don’t like lists (I’m totally lying.  I ADORE lists.  But my love affair with lists is just that – mine – and not something that I have the right nor the desire to impose on my kids)  But if I did make a summer list for my kids, it would be the same as mine, and it would look something like this:

Rest – No, we don’t pay any attention to the school year in our lives, but for some reason the first few months after the new year are always super busy ones in our household.  Tegan (age 8 at the time of this writing) just finished a play that’s been in rehearsals since January.  Everett (age 12) just had his final football game of the spring season.  And the last six weeks or so before the conference – starting around mid-August – are going to be insane with preparations.  So I’m all in favor of any and all of my family members using this time to take a much-needed breather.  To kick up their feet, to rest in both body and spirit, and to just BE for awhile before the next busy season is upon us.

Do what makes your heart happy – YouTube, Minecraft, video games? Jumping on the trampoline, reading, writing, playing with legos?  Visiting with friends? Playing catch in the backyard?  Researching, working, resting, figuring things out?….. It’s all there for the taking.

Travel – Our travel plans are different every summer, depending on any number of factors (finances, logistics, husband’s work schedule, etc)  but we all love a good travel adventure!   This year, Paxton (15) is flying out to Michigan for a month to visit, write with, and practice with his band, The Cringes.  A few weeks later, the rest of us are headed that way for a two week road-trip, visiting friends along the way, and ultimately bringing him home with us.

Try new things – I LIVE for trying new things.  Mine are usually of the creative sort, but I try not to shy away from learning anything that strikes my fancy. Spencer (19) has been applying for jobs lately, and has recently been talking about learning Spanish.  Everett has expressed an interested in trying soccer (I think the only sport he has yet to try).  Tegan wants to get back into gymnastics, and try some sort of martial art.  Summer is a great time to start thinking about that kind of thing.  I mean, why not??

Keep doing “old” things – As wonderful as new things are, there is something to be said for familiarity as well.  I hope we keep working on, and playing with, and learning from the things we already know and love.

Step out of your comfort zone – I just realized I’m talking in a little bit of a circle now.  “Do something new”.  “No, do something comfortable”.  “No, do something uncomfortable”.  But a life well lived is a mixture of all the above, isn’t it?  A few weeks ago, I took a giant step outside my own personal comfort zone (someday I will share a little here on my blog) and it was at once horrifying and difficult and one of the most important things I’ve ever done.  I’m a big believer in the fact that if we want to grow, if we want to learn in deep and meaningful ways, if we want to be the best selves we can be…. sooner or later we’re going to have take risks, do the scary thing, and trust in the outcome that we can’t yet see.

Live and love deeply –  When you boil it all down, is there anything else more important?

This list is by no means a comprehensive one, but it’s a start.   This is the only kind of list I need to get me through this summer.  And if my kids’  lists looks totally different than mine?  That’s okay too. It’s their list to make.

Will we still do chores around the house?  Yup.  Will we still pursue our hobbies and/or creative pursuits?  Yup.  Will we still read books and play outside and build things with our hands?  Yup, yup, yup.   But because we’re doing those things of our own volition, when it feels right, when it makes sense to US, (rather than just as a means to an end) they will mean something.  They will be appreciated on their own merits.  They will be something we learn from, rather than something we endure.

Oh, and as for those coveted electronics?  We’ll use and enjoy those too…. without jumping through any hoops to get to them.


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My God Won’t Leave You Stranded On The Side Of The Road

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Christianity has a bit of a PR problem.

As I type that, I want to laugh (except of course that I’m so sad I want to cry), because it’s just about the biggest understatement I could possibly make.

Christianity has a really really huge, colossal PR problem.   The word – and concept – of Christianity has become such a marred and dirty word that I don’t know that it’s likely to ever recover.  In fact, many God-loving people are abandoning the word altogether, because they’re sick and tired of having to follow the statement of “I’m a Christian,” with a hastily uttered addendum of “But not one of those Christians.”  I actually started calling myself a follower of Christ a few years ago, because I felt like it more accurately described my position.

And really, who wants to be associated with… well, those Christians?

People hear the word Christian these days and they think of people like Phil Robertson.  They think of people freaking out about coffee cups.  They think of people freaking out about bathrooms in Target.  They think of people freaking out about the phrase, “Happy Holidays.”  (Are you sensing a pattern here?)  They think of people petitioning and boycotting and generally spending their collective time and energy on being negative.  They think about people withdrawing their funds for starving babies – literally taking food away from hungry children – because of an administrative policy that wouldn’t discriminate against gay people.  They think about bakers refusing to make wedding cakes.  They think about hatred.  They think about prejudice and bigotry and judgement.

And as of this week…. they think about tow truck drivers proudly taking a stand and refusing to tow the car of a disabled young lady who’d just been in accident… all because she had a Bernie Sanders bumper sticker on her car.

People hate Christians.

And not because, as some would have you believe, they’re doing God’s work à la Matthew 10:22 (“You will be hated by everyone because of Me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.”)  No.  They’re hated because too many of them have been behaving  like horrible, horrible people – and it could stand to be said: not at all Christ-like – and then proudly claiming God as their justification.

And I get it.  I struggle with my love for my fellow Christians too.  I want to cry.  I want to scream.  I want to desperately yell, “We’re not all like this!!”  Yes, 98% of my writings on Christianity have been born of straight-up frustration.  No question.

But I realized something.

In the time it took me to decide to write about this, to find the perfect picture, and to brew the perfect cup of coffee, it dawned on me:

This is not about Christianity at all.  It’s really not.  It’s about select individuals making bad decisions, and using “God” as their cover. I’d like to believe (really, I need to believe) that people are smart enough to see the difference.  That anyone with a working, thinking, rational brain can recognize that a Christian, as in a follower of Christ, is NOT synonymous with a “Christian”, as in “I’m going to leave an innocent girl stranded on the side of the road BECAUSE GOD TOLD ME TO.”

Am I horrified by this behavior?  Yes.  Do I find it absolutely disgusting that anyone would bring God into something so ugly?  Yes.  But my ranting and raving and general defensive word-spewing only serves to bring me down to their level. I’m not the spokeswoman for Christianity at large.  Beyond that though, I can’t control what anyone else does.  I can’t control what anyone else thinks.  If someone wants to behave like a complete and utter jackass and  delude themselves into thinking it’s what God wants them to do, it’s their choice to make. If someone wants to lump all Christians together and label them all as horrible, bigoted, self-seeking sycophants, so be it.

None of that changes my faith.  None of that changes my God.

Have you met my God?

(Ack, I just heard the way that sounds.  Please don’t stop reading.  I do NOT mean that in a door-to-door, “Brother, have you accepted the LORD JESUS as your personal savior??” kind of way.  What I mean is… do you know who it is that I – and others like me – personally follow?  Because let me perfectly clear: It is not a deity who would ever… ever ever ever… ask me to turn my back on someone who needed my help.  In fact, my God is very much the opposite)

My God has more love, and grace, and patience than humans can even comprehend.  Love and grace and patience for ALL people …. Black people and white people. Gay people and straight people.  Christians and atheists and Jewish people.  Sanders supporters and Trump supporters.   Able-bodied and disabled.  People who spend Sunday morning at church.  People who spend Sunday morning at Target.

My God wants me to feed the hungry, to clothe the poor, and to stand up for the oppressed.  It’s kind of the whole reason I’m on earth.  I really believe that.  All this other stuff… it’s just noise and distractions.  And make no mistake;  I miss the mark, a LOT.  (More on that later)  But what I strive for? This is it.

My God wants me to use my powers for good, not evil.  I realize I’m a person and not a superhero, but it’s far more interesting to think of our skills, talents, and gifts as super powers, don’t you think?  I like to think that my super power is writing, but, you know, I’m not God, so….  A few years ago, I thought I heard God to tell me to get trained to teach yoga, so I did.  And I’ve spent many moments since then wondering if that was the right decision.  I had two shoulder surgeries in two years.  I have had chronic physical illness, chronic pain, and the worst anxiety and depression I’ve ever experienced. I’m clearly supposed to be learning something from the experience, and I’m still not sure what it is.   Maybe one day I’ll go back to teaching.  Maybe I’ll shift my focus elsewhere.  But I digress.  We’ve all got powers, and we all get to decide how we use them.  My God wants me to use them for good, whatever they ultimately end up being.

My God wouldn’t ask me not to bake a wedding cake.  If wedding cakes were the way I brought to the world my skills and my heart and my love of Christ, He would ask me to bake two.  He would ask me to make the best damn gay wedding cakes that ever existed, and to do it with love.  He would ask me to throw in some free cookies too.  Not the day-old ones that were sitting out in the case and starting to get dry around the edges, but fresh cookies.  Beautiful cookies, made with the finest ingredients I could get my hands on.

My God wouldn’t ask me to spend my time and my energy and my blood, sweat, and tears on picketing, petitioning, and boycotting. My God tells me that my time is so much better spent doing the work I need to do on myself so I can live out my faith to the best of my ability.  So I can show people what Jesus actually looked like; so I can show people how Jesus actually behaved.

My God wouldn’t ask me to leave anyone stranded on the side of the road.  The entirety of what I feel, and believe, and know to be true about my God and my faith tells me that the moment someone is in need is in fact the very moment that we’re here for. As a follower of Christ, as a person with a heart and a soul, as a human sharing this earth with other people, I am here to help my fellow man.  This is it.  This is what it’s about.  Forget the fact that it was his job as a tow truck driver to tow his car.  Forget that.  He was there to do a job, and he chose not to do it.  And I don’t know… maybe he hates his job.  Maybe he’d had a bad day.  Maybe he had a traumatic Bernie Sanders bumper sticker incident in a past life.  Setting all that aside….  no matter who or what he may believe in, or why he was there, or why the woman needed help in the first place:  as a human being, with values and morals and a sense of right and wrong, there was only one thing to do.  And he didn’t do it.  And then, he blamed God.

Which brings me full-circle to the beginning of the post, and the agony of people behaving badly, and the sadness and frustration of people lambasting Christians as a whole for believing in a God (except they usually words like “imaginary sky ghost”) that would ask them to do something so awful.

Let me say again that my God wouldn’t want me to leave anyone stranded on the side of the road.  Whoever or whatever those people are talking about is not my God.

And I’ll be perfectly clear (and honest).  God knows, I don’t always do the right thing.  I want to;  I do.  But I’m a fallible human. Sometimes I let fear, or pride, or ego, or laziness, or just plain selfishness keep me from doing what I know in my heart is the right thing to do.  I’m a work in progress, like everyone else.  But when I drop the ball, when I do something unkind… IT’S ALL ON ME.  And when you drop the ball and do something unkind, it’s all on you too.  Not God.

My God wants me to love my neighbor.  He doesn’t want me to be an asshole.  Full stop.

I’m tired of having this discussion over and over.  I’m tired of people behaving badly.  I’m tired of the emotional gymnastics I always go through when people rail about how horrible Christians are… when half of me wants to agree with them, and the other half is cut to my core at the hatred, wanting to curl up and cry, “But…  but… we’re not all like that!!!”

Mostly I’m tired of all this ridiculous noise, distracting us from doing what we need to be doing, and what we need to be focused on: Doing the right thing, loving our neighbor, and standing together to say we won’t tolerate bad behavior.  I don’t care who you are or what you believe in.  If you stand for love and kindness, I’ll stand beside you.

I’ll stand beside you, with my God, and work on me.  Work on my patience, work on my compassion, work on my love…. both for the person on the side of the road, and for the person who left her there.  Both for my fellow Christians, and for the people that aim to hurt us. It’s hard sometimes.  But I’m working on it.  I want to work on it.  God wants me to work on it.  Because my God?  He only wants goodness, not bad.  Lightness, not dark.  Love, not hatred.  Anything else is not God.  It’s user error.  It’s humanness.  It’s the dark side of humanity.

But I’ll work on me.  And you (if you choose) can work on you.  In the meantime…..

If you’re going to be a bigot;  If you’re going to do something disgusting and inhumane:  At least own up to the fact that you’re doing so out of your own moral shortcomings, and leave God out of it.


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Twelve Awesome Things About Everett

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Today my sweet, sensitive, warm-hearted Everett turns 12.  The growth I’ve seen in him in the past year (not just in stature, but holy cow he is getting tall!) blows me away.  He’s not a little boy anymore.  I officially have no more little boys.  It was as if he went from boy to young man overnight.  At twelve, Everett is kind and smart and fun-loving and just a general joy to be around.  In honor of his twelfth birthday, here are twelve of my most favorite things about him.

1.  He is loving.  Everett just has a big, giant heart.  He always has, but it is more evident now than ever.  If you want to see it in action, you need look no further than the sweet and adorable way he loves on the cat (the cat that was originally wanted by just Tegan and myself, and has since claimed Everett as her person.) He is a nurturing, sweet, and patient “dad” to his fur-kid, and I know he’ll be just as doting with his human babies someday, too.

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2.  He is gentle.  Here’s the thing.  You know how people worry that violent video games will teach/encourage/incite violence from the people who play them?  It’s something I never worry about.  And the reason I don’t worry about it is that I have living evidence that refutes that claim, right in my own house. Everett, just like his older brothers and little sister, is one of the most tender hearted, gentle souls that I’ve ever known.

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3.  He is brave.  I spent a regrettably large portion of my life being afraid, of nearly everything.  Afraid to go new places, afraid to try new things.  Not Everett. He lives for new experiences, and has always jumped at the opportunity to try new sports, new friends, new activities, new adventures.  He’s awesome.

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4.  He’s an eternal optimist.  I never see Everett doubting a situation, or doubting a friend, or doubting himself.  He knows, and truly believes, that everything is going to work out for the best.  From tiny Everett, back in his basketball-playing days, when he went almost an entire season without making a basket:  “As long as I keep throwing it up there, eventually it’s going to go in the net.”  And eventually it did.  (Full disclosure – typing that just brought tears to my eyes.  That happens to me a lot on birthdays)

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5.  He’s not afraid to challenge himself.  I know this is really similar to #3, so I’m cheating a little bit, but when Everett decides he wants to do something new,  he’s not at all deterred by the possibility of it being difficult to learn. Whether it’s playing the bass guitar, taking on another sport, or teaching himself to solve a Rubiks cube, he will sit and work and practice and practice and practice until he gets it right.

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6.  He’s sensitive.  Big heart = big feelings.  He loves hard, feels deeply, and has his mother’s soft spot for animals and underdogs.

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7.  He’s not afraid to be himself.  The youngest of the three boys, but no longer the baby of the family once Tegan arrived, Everett never let himself be lost in shuffle.  He knows who he is, and he knows who he’s not, and he knows who he wants to be.  He’s adventurous in the way he expresses himself, he has definite opinions about how he chooses to dress, and his hair has been every color of the rainbow.

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8.   He’s wise beyond his years.  Sometimes I forget he’s as young as he is, because he fits right in with the big boys.  In fact, some of his best friends are teenagers, and you would never know there was an age difference.  He is confident, and well-spoken, and carries himself with the grace and maturity of an old soul.  BUT:

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9.  He’s goofy.   One thing I love about teens and tweens is their ability to seamlessly move between child-like wonderment, and thoughtful maturity.  At the end of the day, he’s still a kid, and he still loves to play.  We took him out for birthday burgers tonight, and one minute we were discussing big topics like football stats and politics…. and the next he was balancing his fork on the two straws in his soda.

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10.  He’s smart.  One of the truly cool things about unschooling is that you get to watch and appreciate the unique intelligence and learning styles of each of your kids.  Everett is a sampler.  He likes to try lots of different things, one at a time, devoting all his energy and attention to his current passion, until he’s had his fill.  He is a true autodidact, and I am so proud of him.
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11.  He’s affectionate.  When I wrote my About Us page several years ago, I wrote this about Everett:  “He gives the most phenomenal hugs.”  I updated that page recently, but that one sentence still had to stand.   He’s not a little boy anymore, but when it comes to hugs, he’s still the same squish that he was at five. He doesn’t shrink away if I try to put an arm around him, or rub his back, and I love that about him.

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12.  He is a good friend.  To me, to his dad, to his siblings, to his peers.  He makes people laugh.  He cares about others.  He’s the kind of guy you want standing beside you… in the good times, and the bad.  He’s strong and loyal and trustworthy and true.

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And I’m so very glad that I get to be his mom.

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Happy, happy birthday Everett.  Thank you for the twelve years of love, light and laughter.


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