Aug 25

Out and About On The Interwebs

And another Monday… after a busy weekend tying up loose conference ends, running errands, and taking an evening out to join some other Rattlers fans at a local sports pub to watch the Arena Bowl  (Yay Rattlers for a blowout game leading to a Championship three-peat!).

This morning is a lazy morning:  drinking coffee, watching a movie with the girl, and getting caught up on all my reading.

Here are a few things that have caught my attention:

~  Several of you have tagged me and/or sent me this video of a dad running over his teenage son’s video games with his lawn tractor.  I feel like it’d be really redundant of me to even voice my opinion.  You all know what it is.  Connect with your kids;  COMMUNICATE with your kids.   Don’t destroy any hope you ever had of a meaningful relationship with your kids.

~ This is just…. I don’t know what to do with this.  I grew up in a very very different time (which sounds weird, because I’m 40, not 80)  Should it really be this different now?  You can’t even write a story?  About a DINOSAUR?  Things are crazy out there.

~ This photographer took a bunch of nude (and innocent) pictures of his toddler daughter, and the internet exploded.  I don’t know that I would have shared them, but there is NOTHING wrong with the pictures themselves.  My kids are generally naked for at least the first five years of their lives.  At six, Tegan is still in various stages of undress for a vast majority of the day.

~ I didn’t do the ALS ice bucket challenge.  Yes, awareness is important.  Yes, giving to causes that you believe in is important (and I do, frequently).  I wasn’t a super fan of this one though, for a few different reasons, but mainly because I was disappointed in how very very many people who posted videos of themselves doing the challenge didn’t give a link, or even mention why they were doing it.  It turns into something else at that point.  I eventually stopped watching the videos, but I did like this.

~ And finally, I just really liked this blog post.  It’s a conversation that needs to continue:  ”However, the words most commonly associated with Christians – even by other Christians! – were ‘judgmental’ and ‘hypocrites.’  If we’re to be the body of Christ in the world, and in so much as Jesus is the embodiment of the God of our understanding, then we have some work to do.”

Happy Monday, friends!

 


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Aug 22

Unschooling and Working: Can You Have Both?

I got this question a couple of days ago, and woke up this morning thinking about it:

I would LOVE to be able to unschool, I think this would also be the best option for my son. But I have to work, even though I’m only in a low paid job. Do some unschoolers work from home to earn money? And if so, just wondering what types of jobs they do?

For the first part of the question… yes, absolutely. I know unschoolers who have a stay-at-home parent while one parent works, others that have two working parents, others that run a family business together, still others that are single working parents. Unschoolers are nothing if not creative, out-of-the-box thinkers when it comes to making their chosen lifestyle work!

From personal experience, I want to say first that it’s been hugely beneficial, both on a personal and practical level, to pursue my own goals when it comes to yoga and nutrition. Yes, there’s obviously a monetary cost to getting training and certifications, but it’s allowed me to be able to do something that I LOVE while contributing to my family in a financial way. I am fortunate; I don’t currently have to work to help support my family. However, I take great solace in the fact that should the need arise, I have both both marketable training and skills to put to use… and that I’m continuing my education in that area.

So that’s one thought: Find something you’re passionate about, and go for it! Good for you, AND good for your children, in so many ways.

Some other specific ideas, all of which are real examples from real unschooling families:

~ Using a creative skill, and selling on websites such as Etsy. Sewing, needle-work, handmade signs, artwork, writing, etc.

~ Being a distributor for a multi-level-marketing company. Back in the day it was Avon and Mary Kay (actually, I still know people who sell those too!), and today it’s companies like Beachbody, Scentsy, Doterra, and Norwex.

~ Online work. Blogging, websites, social media, YouTube accounts. I’ve never made a significant amount of money online (mainly because I haven’t had the time/inclination to put in the necessary hours) but people do make it work.

Do you have any other suggestions that you’ve seen work for you, or work for others? Share in the comments!


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Aug 21

Honesty

I have been sitting here at my computer, with my coffee, for a good 20 minutes.  Type…. delete.  Type… delete. I read something recently about someone being frustrated with unshoolers’ blogs, because they seem to make it seem all sunshine and rainbows ALL the time.  Like there’s never a bad day.  Like there’s never a struggle.  Like the kids never bicker. That seems silly to me, really.  Because no matter who we are, where we are, how our kids are educated….. this is real life.  There are bad days.  There are struggles.

Someone did an interview with me once for a college project.  She came and spent the whole day at my house with me and the kids.  She took notes, she asked questions, she watched what we were doing.   I was able to read her paper after she’d completed it, and it almost made me feel embarrassed.  It was lovely and well-written and thorough…. but she’d made it sound almost too good.  And I mean, she did happen to come on a really good day.  It was one of those whirly swirly flowing unschooling days where the kids were all doing cool things, they were all happy, and everyone was getting along.  And I guess it’s fair to say that most days are good days, or we would have re-evaluated a long time ago.

Oh but there are tricky days too.

Tricky, tricky days indeed.

And if I can just be totally honest, the past month or so has kicked the wind right out of me.  It’s not unschooling, or the kids, or really any ONE thing at all.  It’s just…. LIFE.  A series of stresses that have just piled up and up til the point that even the smallest of additions to the pile are making the whole thing topple.

I’ve been letting the stress win.

And I’m sitting here, and I’m writing this, and I’m thinking about someone who used to read my blog.  She is a fellow Christian unschooler, and for some reason, she took great offense to some of the things I wrote.  One of the things she complained about was that she claimed I was always complaining, and always negative, and had no JOY in Christ.  Her final words to me on Facebook were that she “felt sorry for my kids and my husband for having to live and put up with someone like me.”

So why am I thinking about this now?  Because this is what my brain does to me.  When I’m low, it says, “Let’s see if we can get you lower!  Let’s re-hash all the negative things that ever happened to you!  It’ll be fun!”  And off and away I spiral.

I don’t think she was right.  I don’t think I’m always negative, or always complaining.  I don’t think she needs to feel sorry for my kids and my husband (and I don’t think it was a very kind thing to say to a fellow sister in Christ, to put in mildly)

But I don’t think I’ve ever put on a false air of sunshine and rainbows either.

Life IS good.  It also sometimes sucks.  And it’s crazy and confusing and beautiful and wonderful and tiring.   Things have been stressful, but it will be okay.  It will always be okay.


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Aug 20

The Jar of Pickles

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Everett (10 years old at the time of this writing) has a thing for dill pickles.  Every time we go grocery shopping, everyone is welcome to make whatever requests they’d like…. and his requests contain pickles 100% of the time.  It’s not at all out-of-character for him to ask to stop for pickles at random times either, like when we’re coming home from swimming.  Or gymnastics.  Or the mail box.  Once we walked to the dollar store – around a mile away – and came home with a few things, including pickles.  The bag broke on the way home, when we were literally across the street from our house.  Glass shattered, pickles everywhere.  We carefully picked up the mess, and I told him we’d get a replacement for him the next time we went out.  It was very sad, but was redeemed a little bit by the fact that I got to amuse myself by imagining the neighbors (whose house it broke in front of) coming home, sniffing, and saying to one another, “Do you smell…. pickles??”

When Everett gets pickles, the jar is opened, and the pickles are finished before it is ever closed again.  He does share… but for the most part, he polishes off the whole jar largely by himself.  I will joke with him that there IS such a thing as having a few pickles and then putting the rest of the jar in the fridge…. and he will respond with something along the lines of, “That’s MADNESS!”

Yesterday, he was eating the last pickle in his jar, and he suddenly said, “Do you know WHY I eat the whole jar of pickles?”

Why?

“Because.  If I died, or the world ended, before I got to go back for more, my last meal would have been a single pickle.  Think about it.  Would you rather your last meal be one little pickle, or a whole JAR of pickles?”

……..

So there you go.  Important, irrefutable (if a tad morbid) life advice from Everett.

Eat the whole damn jar of pickles.


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Aug 19

Q & A – Unschooling Basics

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Every Tuesday, I’ll choose a handful of questions to answer here on my blog, as long as the questions last. Want to ask me about unschooling or parenting or anything else I write about (which is, uh, pretty much everything)? Send them here, or post on my Facebook page.  

This week, it’s all about unschooling!  Next week, I’ll focus on some parenting questions.

What does an average day at your house look like?

This is always a hard question to answer, because so much of it depends on the time of year, the season, what everyone’s interested in at the time, if people are wanting to be out and about or are more inclined to stay home, etc.  One of the really great things about unschooling – and homeschooling in general – is that it largely allows you to follow your family’s natural rhythms, rather than being confined to someone else’s schedule.

Lately, things have been… crazy.  So for the most part, the kids and I are appreciating the downtime when we get it. Spencer, who’s 17, and setting the groundwork for a lawn care and small engine repair business, will spend a lot of the day in the garage working on his engines, outside testing out weed-whackers, studying for his next test, or playing games on the computer with his friends (he runs his own Minecraft server.) Paxton, who’s 14 and by far the biggest introvert of the bunch, is the one I have to make sure I connect with or I’d never see him.  :) He spends his time on his computer fairly exclusively. Everett is 10 and busy busy busy.  He loves the computer like his brothers, and he also loves animals, science, karate, experimenting, moving around, and accompanying his mom on errands.  He’s always got some sort of project going on.  Currently, it’s a triops he hatched about a week ago.  Tegan, at 6, seems to have one foot still in “little girlhood”, and another foot confidently exploring her independence.  She loves to play games with me, of all kinds.  Loves to bake.  Loves to play with her friends. Loves music and dance.  Loves her TV shows.  She’s recently begun playing Minecraft, and has a brand-new little Skype buddy.  :)  My role in all of it?  To be here, in whatever ways they need.  I pursue my own interests too (and at the present time, am busy working on conference planning), but my first priority is them:  Getting them what they need, bringing them where they need to go, answering questions, playing, talking, listening, helping, showing.  And Googling.  Always lots and lots of Googling.

What activities do your children do that are run by others e.g ballet etc?  And do you find that these activities are enough for your kids to make friends?

What’s interesting to me about this question is that it’s one I would have asked myself 15 years ago.  I too thought that my kids would make their friends through “extracurriculars.”  And they’ve done a LOT of them too. Between the four of them over the years we’ve had basketball, baseball, karate, gymnastics, fencing, Cub Scouts, ballet, and likely many more that I’m forgetting.  The older two don’t really have any outside activities at the moment, and the younger two are down to two activities each (gymnastics and ballet for Tegan;  gymnastics and karate for Everett).  They’ve enjoyed all the activities they’ve done, and they have made friends – or at least been friendly with – other kids in their classes….. but that’s not really where they’ve made their good friends.  Most of their best friends (and they certainly have no shortage of friends) are either fellow unschoolers/homeschoolers that they’ve met and connected with through homeschool groups, field trips, etc, or met on their own through mutual friends, OR met on the internet through shared interests.   The friendships that they’ve formed inspire me.  They are true and long-lasting.  In just a couple of weeks, Paxton (14) is going to get on airplane to stay with a friend in Michigan for a couple of weeks.  They’re going to fly back together in time for the conference, then his friend is going to stay with us a couple of weeks as well.  I realize that people can and do still visit with friends when they’re in school…  but generally not when school’s actually in session, and generally not for a month at a time.  I’m excited for him that he gets this opportunity.

What kind of things do you do to provide a learning environment for your children and how does it work if you have more than one?

LIFE is the ultimate learning environment.  I know, I know.  It sounds corny.  But it’s true.  I think the best thing parents can do to provide a learning environment for their kids is to just be involved in their lives, and let them be involved in yours.   We’re a family, so we do life together. Beyond that though, just practically speaking, it’s important to have interesting things to play/read/explore/discover, both in and outside the house.  Books, games, toys, puzzles, movies, an internet connection, Netflix, computers, art supplies, science kits, a zoo membership, a Science Center membership, interesting people, interesting places… the list goes on.   When they have a specific interest, I do everything I can to help them explore it (a recent example is here), and as long as money or practicality is not a factor, I support spur-of-the-moment wishes too (that’s how Everett ended up with his Triops)

As for having more than one child…. I think the most honest thing I can say is that you find a way to work it out. My kids are all about 3.5 years apart, so I’m going to have had a very different experience in that regard than my friend who has 5 children 10 and under, including a set of twins.  There are seasons that are more difficult than others (for example, when one child is going through a period when they need all of mom’s attention, all of the time, and doesn’t want to share), but overall, you find your groove.  :)  You do things together, you do things separately, you take some one on one with each child… it works.

Do you have a routine/structure at all? 

Other than that opposed by outside activities (ie:  we have gymnastics on Tuesday afternoons, karate and ballet on Saturday mornings, church on Saturday night), probably not in the way you’d ordinarily think of “structure”, no. We do however have a rhythm to our days, and again it depends on what’s going on at the time. I always hesitate a bit with this question, because I think that the misconception will be that if there’s no routine, the house is chaos, and it’s not the case.  It is…. free-flowing…. but not chaotic.   If we have nowhere to be, we sleep until we’re rested.  The kids all get up at different times, so they eat when they get up. Our day may then take us to any number of different activities, either at home or away…. and we all come together to eat dinner when my husband gets home from work.  We wind down in the evenings, and go to bed when we’re tired (with a resulting “bedtime” that looks very different than the mainstream, particularly for the 14 and 10 year old who are currently on vampire schedules and stay up most of the night.)

But it works.  And when it doesn’t… when there are kinks, or someone’s not happy, or someone’s not getting needs met… we fix it.


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Aug 18

Trying something new….

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My cat.

So, you know how everyone has their “thing” that they do to remain sane when things are chaotic around them? For some it’s running, for other’s it’s meditation, still others it may be a bath and a glass of wine.

Well, I actually was starting to like running, but I can’t currently run because of my shoulder.  I do like meditation, but it’s generally coupled with yoga, and I’m currently limited there as well. Wine is nice…. but baths aren’t my thing, and they get cold too fast anyway.

But WRITING.  Writing is, and always has been, my never-fail go-to.  A half hour of writing – anything – is better than therapy as far as I’m concerned.  So I decided, at least until I get bored with it, that I’m going to take some time every morning before the girl gets up (time I ordinarily would have spent wasting time by getting annoyed with people on Facebook mentally preparing for the day) and post a new blog post.

Now, this is a 99% selfish act on my part, because beside the fact that it just makes me feel better, I miss writing when I don’t do it.   And I’m mainly announcing it here for accountability sake.  But here’s what it means for you:

(In a list form, because you know I love lists)

1.  More stream-of-consciousness writing.  My brain is a strange and crowded place.  The more I can get some of those random thoughts actually out, the better for everyone.  For example, I just learned that you’re not supposed to leave two spaces after a period anymore. What kind of craziness is this?  Apparently it was an old rule, and only applied when people were typing on manual typewriters.  The writing world has since evolved, but I didn’t evolve with it.  I’ve been doing it for over 30 years now, and it’s highly unlikely that I will stop.  Deal with it.

2.  More stuff about my kids and my family and our adventures.  When I first started this blog, it was about my life.  My kids.  Our unschooling adventures.  I had about 12 faithful readers, and I wrote about our day-to-day happenings, from the funny to the unexpected to the mundane.  I miss that sometimes.  No one ever made any nasty comments.  I never made any conscious decisions to stop writing in that fashion and start writing about “issues”, but somewhere along the way, it just organically happened.   And don’t get me wrong…. I’ll still write about issues.  I just feel like I freed up a whole lot of writing time to return to some of that older stuff too.  But, it also means:

3.  More stuff about parenting and unschooling and responses to the current mainstream thought that’s out there.    I’ve written about my love affair with sticky notes before.  Well one of the things that my sticky notes are often covered with is notes about things I want to write about.  Or articles I read that I wanted to respond to.  Or questions I want to ask.  Because of life, I barely got to half of them.  But if I’m giving myself the gift of five to seven whole posts a WEEK (seriously, I’m like giddy about this) I’ll have that many more opportunities to get to them.

And,

4.  More stuff FOR, and BY YOU.  You know what my favorite day on my FB page is? Thursday.  Because for the past 3 or 4 Thursdays, I’ve been asking you all to share a picture from your phone.  I can’t explain how much I love this!  I love seeing what you all share.  I love answering your questions.  I love getting your feedback. Posting more often will allow me to bring some more of that to my blog, instead of just keeping it on Facebook.  I would love to do a weekly FAQ, and I would love to do a regular post about your take on some of the parenting issues that come up again and again.  I get a lot of messages, and I respond to as many as I can, but I like the idea of posting and answering them publicly even more… because lots of other people share the same questions.

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At the same time I’m writing more, I’m going to be doing almost the opposite on my Facebook page.  It’s not that I’m not going to keep posting, because I am.  But I am going to guard the conversations much more closely.  I feel like things have been on a steady downward spiral lately, and I don’t like it.  I don’t like it that there is name calling.  I don’t like it that people can’t be kind when they disagree.  I don’t like it that some of my loyal, faithful readers who contribute SO MUCH to these conversations are getting attacked by others.  I don’t like it that new people who are asking genuine questions are getting attacked by others.

I may be naive, but I like to think that people can still behave like grown-ups, even on the internet.

So the rule (the ONLY rule) is:  You have to play nice.  Agree, disagree, think I’m crazy, think what I post is crazy…. but BE NICE.  If you think someone’s being an idiot, great!  If you actually CALL them an idiot… you’ll be removed; not the idiot.    Deal?

Love you all, and as always, thanks for coming along for the ride.

 


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Aug 15

I Don’t Care Where Your Kids Go To School

Tegan is excited for another year of "Not Back To School"

Tegan is excited for another year of “Not Back To School”

 

It’s mid-August.

For lots of people, mid-August means back-to-school-shopping.  It means new clothes and new backpacks and new haircuts.  It means family traditions or special breakfasts, and fresh-faced smiling pictures in front of the fireplace, or the house, or out on the sidewalk.  It means kids excited to continue seeing their friends, and excited to see what the new year will bring.

For lots of other people, mid-August means the official start to another year of opting out.  It means another year of sleeping in.  It means another year of charting their own course, choosing a different path, and learning on their own terms.  It means kids excited to continue seeing their friends, and excited to see what the new year will bring.

For still others, it might mean something else.  Maybe they homeschool, but still utilize the public school part-time.  Maybe they’re a homeschooling family who chooses to adhere to a school’s schedule.  Maybe they’re a full-time traveling family.

All of the above are valid, acceptable, well-founded options, depending on the family.

We chose homeschooling (specifically, unschooling) for our family a long time ago.  Spencer was really just an infant at the time, so the decision was made over 17 years ago.  It’s a decision we continue to make, year after year, because it’s the right decision for us.  We’re happy with homeschooling. We’re like… completely, blissfully, disgustingly happy.  And in the grand tradition of “promoting what you love instead of bashing what you hate,”  I love to talk about it.  Write about it.  Share other articles about it.

Isn’t that what happy people do?

I love to hear happy stories and see happy pictures of my friends’ kids, no matter where they do, or do not, go to school.

Unfortunately though, not everyone is happy.  Sometimes the parents are unhappy, sometimes the child is unhappy, sometimes the family in general is unhappy.  It’s for those people especially that I think the homeschooling discussion is important.  Not necessarily because they need to choose homeschooling, but because it’s important that they realize there are options.  It’s important that people can take a step back and say, “Okay.  This isn’t working.  What can we do/change/try to fix this?”

That’s a big part of the reason I continue to write about it, and honestly sometimes it’s the only reason, because talking about homeschooling is not always fun.  I get a lot of defensiveness when I post or write about homeschooling.  A lot of it.  I once lost a dear friend (she literally just stopped being my friend) when I posted on Facebook that it was back to school time, and we were happy that we were once again opting out.  She told me that she couldn’t believe I had such “vile contempt” for people who sent their kids to school, and ended our friendship as of that day.  It didn’t appear to matter to her that I hadn’t actually said anything about people who sent their kids to school,  let alone something that conveyed “vile contempt.”

Being happy with my choices does not equal contempt for your choices.

Here’s the thing:  If you’re happy and secure in your own choices, great!  If you’re defensively yelling at me and calling me names and making big speeches, I might question how happy you really are…. but if you truly are happy, great!   If you tried homeschooling but ultimately decided that public school worked better for your children, great!  If your kids are happy and healthy and thriving and love going to school, great!  You don’t have to defend your choices to me.   My choices shouldn’t matter one wit to you.

Because (and I mean this in the nicest way possible)  I don’t care where your kids go to school.  I really, truly don’t.  I love homeschooling, and for that I make no apologies.  But I’m not on some one-woman crusade to convince the world that everyone.  must.  homeschool.  I have my own family of 6 to think about – a family that’s currently off the rails with a totaled car, an insurance mess, an upcoming surgery, and 6 short weeks to finish putting a conference together – so I promise you, I’m not taking the time to make any judgments about yours.  I wish I had the kind of time people think I spend judging others!

I fantasize about pulling down my blog often, but until/unless I do, chances are very nearly 100% that I will continue to talk about homeschooling.  It’s my life;  it’s what I love.  If reading about homeschooling makes you angry or defensive or wish something bad will happen to me and my family…. might I suggest you simply don’t read those posts?  You can stay and yell at me if it makes you feel better, but I assure you it’s not necessary.

The internet is a big, big place.  There’s room enough for all of us.


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Aug 13

Robin Williams, Depression, and the Reason No One Really CHOOSES Suicide

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I sound my barbaric yawp  over the rooftops of the world

It is dark and heavily raining as I write this, a sound that is at once mournful and comforting.  A poignantly fitting backdrop for a day when we’re all still trying to make sense of the death of the man who brought great laughter and emotion to so many.

Like most people my age, I grew up watching Robin Williams.  My family’s TV was tuned to Mork and Mindy every week.  I remember his earlier movies, like Good Morning Vietnam.  I laughed at Mrs Doubtfire.  Adored him in Patch Adams.  Was deeply affected by What Dreams May Come.  Thought he was brilliant as Sean Maguire in Good Will Hunting.

The one that stays with me the most though, for a variety of reasons, is Dead Poets Society.  It was released when I was teenager.  My family and I were on a camping trip that weekend, the four of us happily crowded together in a little pop-up.  We woke up to a day of heavy rain, much like this one, and we decided to wait it out in a nearby movie theater.  Dead Poets is arguably just a really fantastic movie.  I left the theater that day feeling touched and inspired and newly excited about life.  What I didn’t realize at the time of course, was that I would go on to base my entire life’s philosophy – as a person, a parent, and an unschooler – largely on that movie.  Carpe Diem, boys.  Seize the day. 

And now, 25 years later, Robin Williams has died.  All sources are saying that Williams – like so many of us – was a victim of depression, and that he sadly took his own life.

As is usually the case when a beloved celebrity dies, social media has lit up, awash with expressions of shock, condolences, heartfelt words…. and a whole lot of insensitively and ignorance.

Cowardly.  Selfish.  These are the two words I’m seeing over and over in reference to the nature of Williams’ death.  There are some very good reasons why we should never use these words to describe suicide, which I’ll get to in a minute, but first I want to address something else that I read yesterday, something that angered me on a level that I can’t even describe.

A popular blogger called his suicide a “bad choice.”  A choice that he wouldn’t have made if he’d only had more faith.  If he’d only chosen joy instead.

If preventing suicide was as easy as advising people to just not choose it, it would cease to exist.

But it doesn’t work that way.  Depression is an illness.  An illness that lies to you.  An illness that is so deep and so pernicious and so consuming, that by the time it’s taken you to the depths of actually believing that suicide is the only answer, you know longer even feel like you have a choice.

I can sit here with a clear head and list all the many, many reasons I have for staying here on this earth …. God, my beautiful family, my writing, my yoga, my ability to reach others, coffee and cupcakes and sunsets and the smell of the desert after it rains…  My list would go on and on.  But a person on the brink of suicide is NOT clear-headed.  Depression has stolen their ability to think rationally.  DEPRESSION LIES.

So writing it off as something that’s simply a bad choice is insulting and insensitive.   There are lots of bad choices out there:  Talking when you should have remained silent, texting while you’re driving, eating that double bean burrito right before you go to sleep.

But succumbing to the soul-crushing despair, loneliness, and hopelessness that precedes suicide? That is a heartbreaking tragedy, not a “bad choice”.

The fact is, unless you’re IN THE SHOES of the person in the throes of depression, you simply cannot know what they are thinking, what they are feeling, and what they are and are not capable of rationally deciding.  I have dealt with depression for most of my adult life.  I have been medicated, I have tried natural therapies, I have Googled at 2:00 AM in the deepest pits of desperation, just hoping someone, somewhere, could help me.  I didn’t talk about it for the longest time, mainly because talking about it generally garnered me little more than “cheer up!” comments, and other well-meaning but misguided admonishments.   But I have been there.  I have been in that place.  I have been that broken.  Feeling like I am suffocating..  Drowning. Immobilized.  With my heart ripped open and the belief that the only thing I had left to live for was my faith.  I have been there.  And I still can’t pretend to know what Robin Williams, or any other suicide victim, was thinking or feeling before he died.

I know this, though:  Depression does not discriminate.  It crosses all racial and religious and socioeconomic backgrounds.  It can strike anyone.  It is a painful and crushing and complicated illness, one with as many different many paths to healing and wellness as there are people in the world.

By all accounts, Robin Williams was seeking treatment for his depression before he died.  He was trying.  He was reaching out.  He was doing what he was supposed to be doing, and the depression just won.  That is sad, and it is tragic.  Suicide is always sad and tragic,  which is why that same blogger’s worry that twitter comments saying things like, “You’re at peace now” would glorify suicide is so misguided.

Being glad that someone is no longer suffering and in pain is not glorifying suicide.

Showing empathy and compassion is not glorifying suicide.

Suicide sucks.  Depression sucks.  Those truths aren’t debatable.

But this was a person.  A person carrying so great a weight, so great an amount of pain that he took his own life. Would it have been better – better for him, better for his family and loved ones – if he hadn’t done it?  If he’d found a path to peace on this earth?  OF COURSE!   No one should commit suicide.  No one should live, or die, in that darkness.  But the fact remains that he did commit suicide, and the resulting worldwide discussion about it should be about bringing about awareness.  It should be about learning about tools to help others.  It should be about empathy and compassion and understanding.   It should be about reaching out to each other… frankly, honestly, unabashedly sharing our stories.  It should be about letting others know that there is help, that there is someone to talk to, that there IS a path to peace on this earth.

It should not be about shaming anyone, ever.

And finally, as to the “selfish” and “cowardly” and “they just didn’t have enough faith” comments:

You know what those kind of comments do?  They tell the poor souls out there who are currently contemplating suicide that the lies of their depression are true.   That they’re selfish. That they’re cowardly.  That they’re not good enough.  Not strong enough.  I ask you, from the bottom of my heart, is that really the message we want to send?  Is that really a message that is somehow going to help?

Because from where I’m sitting, the message we need to be sending people in the grips of depression is very much the opposite.

You ARE strong.

You ARE loved.

You ARE good enough.

You ARE worth it.

Let’s practice love.  Let’s practice grace.  Let’s practice kindness.  Let’s practice compassion. Let’s create an environment where people who are depressed can come forward for help without feeling like they’re being judged and condemned.  Let’s create an environment where people who are depressed can be supported, and encouraged, and lifted up, instead of feeling that they have to hide.  Let’s create an environment where people know they are loved.

If you are struggling with depression, talk to someone.  Talk to a friend, a therapist, your parents, a pastor, ME. Talk to someone.

Because no matter what depression tells you, no matter what twitter or Facebook or insensitive bloggers may tell you….. You are worth it.


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Aug 06

Look For the Helpers

The kids and I got into a car accident today.

I’ve had little “incidents” before, but this was the first, bonafide, real-deal car accident.  And it was terrifying.  We were on our way to my sister’s house to swim (after a three hour long doctor’s appt, one of many appointments we’ve had this week, just because that’s been the way our life’s been going lately), and about three minutes from the house, this happened:

wreckedcar

It was one of those things that somehow happened in a fraction of a millisecond, and in slow-motion all at the same time.  There was nothing I could have done to stop it from happening.

Now, the police officer at the scene very clearly deemed the other driver at fault.  But I’m not sure how this all works – and I watch too much TV – so I’m not sure if I’m supposed to give details.  Suffice it to say that there was an accident that involved another car, and my car was totaled.

As is so often the case when anything scary happens, I’m finding myself replaying it over and over in my mind. The second it happened, the fear in the kids’ voices, Tegan’s terrified tears, the relief in realizing we appeared to be okay, the long aftermath of phone calls and questions and insurance and tow trucks…..

Several minutes after it happened, I was introduced to one of the passengers in the other car when she came over to yell at me.  Is it really strange that that moment was just as traumatic as the accident itself?  I know intellectually that she’d been scared too, and I know intellectually that it’s normal to react in a less-than-positive way when you’re in that situation.  But in the moment, I thought of none of that.  I was busy thinking about my children, the fact that they could have been seriously injured, the fact that I could have been seriously injured. Getting yelled at and accused (for something that was not my fault) set me over the edge.  But she was gone as quickly as she had arrived.  She said her piece and left me standing there with the kids, and then we all convened with the cop for statements and exchanging of information.

I said nothing from that point on, except to answer the officer’s questions.  The only thing I knew to do, largely for self-preservation, was to keep quiet while it all got sorted out.  I’m pretty sure that I was operating on adrenaline for the whole exchange, because it wasn’t until much much later, when I was safely in my sister’s car after mine had gotten towed, that I started to shake.

You know how people say they are “shaken up” after accidents?  I now have first-hand knowledge.

It’s about 8 hours later, and I’ve let myself get more and more worked up about it as the hours have passed.  I’m a little bit scared to go to bed, because I’m fairly certain I’ll have nightmares (and/or not sleep at all.  Six of one, half dozen of the other)  I am so, so, thankful that it wasn’t worse.  So thankful!  Not just for us, but for the other car as well.  I’m so thankful we were wearing seat belts.  I’m so thankful that it happened when it did instead of a few seconds earlier, when it would have been much much serious.  I’m so thankful for insurance.

And right now, I’m thankful for Mister Rogers, whose words popped into my mind like a healing balm for my wounded and stressed out soul:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

Those helpers are the ones I’ll be thinking of when I go to sleep.

~ The woman who called 911

~ The young men who witnessed the accident, were so sweet to my kids, and stood and waited with us until the cops came, to make sure they could give him their statement of what they saw

~ The doctor who happened to be driving by and stopped to see if we were all okay

~ The man in the Quik Trip who brought us out cold bottles of water while we waited

~ My sister, who got right in her car and came down to pick us all up

It was an unpleasant, scary situation to be sure.  And big deal, I was yelled at by one single person….

 

Because I was helped by so many more.


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Jul 25

Rest

unnamed (6) A few weeks ago, I confessed to a few trusted friends that I was exhausted.  Stressed, burnt-out, and just generally floundering at the end of my mental and emotional rope.

As is usually the case, it was a relief to simply talk about it, and I felt a little lighter as I went about the business at hand…. kids, conference planning, yoga, activities, errands, appointments and life. Just keep swimming.  Just keep swimming.

Then, also about two weeks ago, my lingering shoulder pain took a hefty jump from a level of 2 to an 8.  (If you’re not familiar with my long, boring shoulder saga, the very condensed version is: Hurt it in May, 2012.  Did physical therapy, eventually had surgery in Nov 2012, had a LONG recovery, did more physical therapy, and…. it’s still not right)

I have been contemplating returning to a different doctor for another opinion since… well, pretty much since I had the initial surgery… but I’ve been putting it off, because life.

Over the past few days, the pain has gone from being reasonably well tempered by three ibuprofens, to barely being touched by Vicodin.  I can’t get comfortable, can’t sleep, and as of this morning can barely move.  I’m hopped up on pain killers, I could fall asleep any second, my house is a disaster, and I can barely string a coherent thought together.

And in a strange sort of way, it makes me want to laugh. Like truly, gleefully, joyfully belly laugh. Because I realized something this morning, in the midst of my boo-hooing:

I so very desperately needed to rest, and now I’m resting.  Granted, curled up painfully and awkwardly on the couch in a drug-induced haze is not my preferred form of resting… but it’s resting nonetheless.  I am stubborn (so stubborn), and sometimes us stubborn people need a swift kick to get the message.  I consider this my kick.

The housework will wait.  The errands will wait.  Life will wait.

The kids are being sweet and helpful.

Netflix has my back.

My shoulder issues will eventually be sorted.  Soon I’ll get back to a doctor.  I’ll probably have another MRI. Maybe another ultrasound.  Possibly medications.  Likely more physical therapy.   Perhaps additional surgeries.

But today…. today I just rest.


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