The Conversation About Mental Illness

People have often asked me how I can stand writing about controversial things, and/or how I can handle the negative comments when I write something that’s widely read … especially the people who know how very sensitive I am (which is anyone who’s known me longer than about 90 seconds).   The truth is, sometimes I do get my feelings a little – or a lot – hurt.  And sometimes I wonder why I keep doing it.  And sometimes I want to just take my ball and go home.

But in many ways, it is far easier to be brave on my blog, where it has the potential to reach many people, than it is on a smaller forum.  Or than it is with people I know – even if you’re using the word “know” in the loose, Facebook-era kind of way.  I like to keep my own little personal Facebook bubble generally light and happy and controversy-free.  Partly because that’s just who I am when I’m not railing about my various causes, but also because I can’t handle the heat.  I can’t.  Every time, EVERY TIME, I think I’m brave enough to post something that’s going to garner mixed opinions … I regret it, I end up crying, or both.  That’s just the way I’m wired, for better or worse.  My blog is different, because even though there’s the potential for a much larger group of people to be much meaner to me, there’s also anonymity.  There’s safety behind the curtain.  There’s the “imagine everyone in their underwear” mind-tricks to keep things in perspective.  In small groups though, there’s just so much raw vulnerability. For a person whose greatest blessing and biggest curse happens to be vulnerability, it can be a lot to handle.

Sometimes I forget, though.  And sometimes I post something controversial.  And then I regret it.  And then I delete it.

I did that very thing tonight in fact.  I posted the thing, a respectful conversation followed, and still I panicked and deleted. I felt an immediate sense of relief …. promptly followed by whatever the opposite of relief is, promptly followed by bawling in the bathtub (the kind of crying where you feel like you’re never going to stop), and texting my friend to talk me down.

The thing is, I wish I hadn’t deleted it.  Because I think it’s an important conversation to be had.  I think it’s one of the MOST important conversations we should have.  So I’m bringing it over here where I feel brave.  Where I won’t feel the need to delete.

Like all of you, I was horrified by the news of another school shooting.  Like most of you, I have strong opinions on what I believe should and should not be done to hopefully help solve the problem.  Like a lot of you, I’ve been saddened and frustrated and angered by many of the memes I saw floating through my Facebook feed.

For reasons that are obvious to any of my regular readers, I’ve felt particularly stung every time I saw a meme screaming, “Mental illness!  MENTAL!  ILLNESS!”

I finally saw one that flipped a switch in me that turned off all reason, and I posted this:

I have a mental illness. It is currently well-managed. When it is not well-managed, the only person – THE ONLY PERSON – I’ve ever thought of harming is myself.

As I said up above, what followed was a respectful conversation.  No one was mean, no one called me names.  The comments were, even from the people who disagreed and/or didn’t understand the point I was trying to make, pretty benign.  “There are lots of different kinds of mental illness.”  “Different people are affected differently.”  “There are many factors at play.”

Yes.  Sure.  All true.

I feel like I shouldn’t have to say this, but for the sake of clarity:  I am not at all suggesting that the shooter was not mentally ill.  People who are of sound mind don’t typically go on shooting sprees.  The fact that people are suggesting he’s mentally ill isn’t actually my problem.

My problem is that we’re perpetuating a stereotype.  My problem is that we’re feeding a stigma.  My problem is that we’re taking this tiny percentage of those with mental illnesses (you guys, this is a TINY percentage) and using it as a scapegoat.  As a way to explain something away.  As a way to make ourselves more comfortable with a situation in which there IS no comfort.  “Oh, well he was MENTALLY ILL.  Of course.” My problem is that we’re holding this one, extreme, violent person and saying:  This.  This is what mental illness looks like.

I hate to break it to you, but mental illness FAR MORE OFTEN looks like the guy sitting next to you on the bus minding his own business.  Like the co-worker you’re joking with next to the water cooler. Like the person who sold you your house, or cut your hair, or did your taxes.  Like the girl in the bare feet and the owl pajamas.  The who falls and keeps getting back up again.  The one who isn’t going to bed until she hits “publish” on her blog post.

A few fast facts about mental illness and violence:

People with mental illnesses are far more likely to be victims of crimes than perpetrators. (source)

The absolute risk of violence among the mentally ill as a group is very small. (source)

The public is largely misinformed about any links between mental illness and violence.   (source)

These inaccurate beliefs lead to widespread stigma and discrimination. (source)

Someone in my since-deleted Facebook post asked me, “Are you saying that you think talking about mental illness is harmful?”  And what I think is very much the opposite.  I think we need to be talking about mental illness.  I think we need to know what mental illness is (and is not!). I think we need to have more compassion.  I think we need to harbor less judgement.  I think we need to demand true information, and real awareness.   I think this conversation needs to happen openly, honestly, and in an ongoing fashion.  Because what’s happening in the media right now?  That’s not a conversation about mental illness.  It’s fear-mongering.  It’s sensationalism.  It’s perpetuating a stereotype, it’s increasing stigma, and it is HARMFUL.

Let me say that again:  Make no mistake.  What’s happening right now is harmful to those with mental illnesses, and making those who suffer even less likely to seek help when it’s needed.

I’m going to close with something I wrote on the thread on my Facebook page before I deleted.   It was responses to this comment that were what eventually led me to delete the post.  Because it was so, so deeply personal.  And if you don’t feel heard when you write something so personal … I don’t know.  I think it’s one of the most painful things we can experience.  This is what I wrote, and the kernel from which this whole post was born.

There are so many people, so so many people, who’ve had or currently have suicidal ideation, who are afraid to get help for various reasons. I think the stigma is a huge one, as well as the fact that there is so much judgment attached (ie: How could anyone do something so *selfish*?, etc). But I also think that talking about it just makes people so damn uncomfortable that they’d do anything to avoid it. I get it. It’s uncomfortable. No one’s even mentioned it in this entire thread, despite my having led with it. But my life is valuable too, as is everyone’s who suffers from a mental illness. The problem is, it seems like no one wants to talk about mental illness until someone commits some horrific crime. This tiny, tiny segment of mentally ill people is literally the only exposure that people are getting. And by sensationalizing it, and using it to explain something away (something that is obviously multi-faceted) so many people are hurt. The feeling that one gets, from this side of it, is that your average, run-of-the-mill person who has a mental illness – which is SO many more people than most are aware of – is unimportant. If they take their *own* lives, oh well, as long as they’re not violent towards others. So sure, let’s have a conversation about mental illness, but that conversation needs to include the vast vast majority of people who live/work/exist without ever harboring violent tendencies. Otherwise, it’s just propagating stereotypes and increasing stigmas.

Let’s do better.  Please.

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An Open Letter to Kelly Clarkson

In a January 10th interview, Kelly Clarkson defended her decision to spank her kids, saying in part: “My parents spanked me, and I did fine in life, and I feel fine about it, and I do that as well.  That’s a tricky thing, when you’re out in public, because then people are like, they think that’s wrong or something, but I find nothing wrong with a spanking.”  The following is my response to those remarks.

You love your kids.  I don’t doubt this.  You would give your life for them.  Like the rest of us, you’re doing the best you can with the information you have, and you have the added pressure of having your every decision critiqued by the general public.  I can’t pretend to know what that’s like.

I understand what you are saying here.  I do.  You are simply doing what your parents did, and probably their parents too. Those patterns run deep, and they require a lot of effort, self-reflection, and often painful realizations to break.  Your parents loved you after all, so why would they do something that hurt you?  The fact is, they just did the best they knew how to do, with the information that they had at the time.  But we’re not our parents.  And we have more information now.

You say you’re “fine”, which is one of the most common refrains that I hear from those who spank their kids.  But – and I say this in the most gentle way I know how – you’re believing a lie.  You’re not fine if you think it’s okay to hit children.  That’s what spanking is.  It’s hitting.  And it’s hitting someone smaller and weaker than yourself.

The great thing about the passage of time is that we can learn from the generations before us.  Our parents did (and didn’t) do all kinds of the things that we now know more about, and can ideally learn from and do differently.  We didn’t wear seat belts.  Or bike helmets.  People smoked through their pregnancies. They were encouraged to wean after just a few months, or even weeks.  Just the other day I was thinking about piercings (I’m currently in the process of healing my latest one), and how the old school of thought told us to twist the jewelry every day.  Now, of course, we know that this actually impedes the healing process, and that the best thing to do is to just keep them clean and leave them alone.

When we know better, we do better.

There is a big movement right now admonishing moms to stop judging each other, and instead just recognize that people do things differently.  To a large extent, I agree!  I don’t care if you make your kids a homemade balanced breakfast, or if they eat a Pop-Tart in the car on the way to school.  I don’t care if their bedtime is at 7:00 or 11:00.  I don’t care if they spend their free time watching SpongeBob or reading Moby Dick.

The thing is though, spanking is not a parenting issue.  It’s a human rights issue. Children, like all humans, have the right to be free from violence, especially in their own home.  They have the right to autonomy, to decide who does and does not touch their bodies, and when, and how, and for what reason.  Hitting your children not only teaches them that it’s okay to solve problems by hitting, but it specifically teaches them to hit people who are smaller and weaker than themselves.  It also seriously blurs the lines of consent, and lets them believe that, well, sometimes it’s okay for people to touch private areas of their bodies, as long as the person doing the hitting is unhappy with their behavior.

Hitting a spouse – or a friend or a neighbor or a stranger in a bar – is assault, and a serious offense.  There are even animal cruelty laws to protect animals.  46 of the 50 states have enacted felony penalties for certain forms of animal abuse.  The fact that there are no such laws to protect children does not make it right.  Your right to parent as you see fit never supersedes your child’s right to be free from harm in his or her own home.  Because make no mistake.  No matter how you frame it, spanking is still hitting.  And hitting in any way, shape, or form (other than in self defense) is violence.  And it’s wrong.

The ironic part?  Parents that spank do so because they think it’ll improve their children’s behavior.  But study after study shows that spanking actually has the opposite effect.   Spanking makes a child less likely to listen, not more.  It also contributes to later aggression, anti-social behavior, and mental health problems.  This is real.  This is not an opinion, nor is it just empty words. Spanking is harmful, on every level, and the best of intentions (and absolutely, I believe that most parents are well-intentioned) doesn’t change that.

Our kids need our protection. They need our support and our guidance.  They need us to be living examples of what it means to be respectful and patient and kind.

More than anything though, they need our love.

And hitting should never, ever be conflated with love.

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It’s Okay To Be Annoyed (Or Angry Or Sad Or Hurt Or….)

The other day I asked a question on Facebook that basically started with, “Does it bother you when…” (The topic is not relevant to this post, and probably deserves its own conversation.) I asked mainly because I was curious, and sometimes I like to be curious out loud.  People’s answers ran the full gamut from, “No, not at all,” to “Sometimes”, to “I absolutely hate it!”  The one comment that is standing out to me though is this one:

I try not to be bothered by things like that. Life is too precious to worry about the little things.

Is it true?  I mean, sure.  Of course.  It’s important to try not to sweat the small stuff.  (And indeed, most of what we tend to stress out about is small stuff.)  I’ve written entire blog posts about it, including one about my then 3 year old throwing her brother’s shoes into a lake, and why I was able to laugh about it.  That was the post that initially led a lot of you to my blog, so I kind of have a soft spot for it.

But … I would write it differently were I to write it today.

The above comment, even in its truth, bothered me.  Largely because it sounds so patronizing, but also because – just like the blog post I wrote all those years ago – it glossed over the fact that we are given a full range of human emotions, and that THEY’RE OKAY.  It’s okay to get annoyed sometimes.  It’s okay to get sad and mad and frustrated and scared.  Because real life?  Real life isn’t always sunshine and rainbows.  It’s just not. In real life, sometimes we do get upset over little things (and big things, and everything in between).  Sometimes we’re cranky and irritable and don’t even know why.  We’re human.  We’re gonna feel stuff, and it’s not always going to be pretty.  And we can have those feelings, and recognize them, and accept them, and allow them to come and go with curiosity and without judgement.  There’s no prize for being perpetually happy.

I’ve been in therapy for the past twenty months  – I totally just counted on my fingers for that number – and not once in those twenty months did he ever tell me, “Don’t feel that.  Don’t think that.”  We’re going to think what we think and feel what we feel.  We can’t help that part.  Our brains do it all by themselves.  We can absolutely change how we respond to those thoughts and feelings, the tools for which therapy has taught me in spades.  Ha.  Tools, spades, see what I did there?  But the feelings themselves?  Sometimes they just come, and they’re okay, no matter how much someone else tries to shame us for having them.

I want my kids to see me dealing with my emotions in a healthy way.  I want them to see me continually doing the work I need to do to interact with myself and with the world around me in the best way I know how.  I also want them to see me being a human.  I want them to know that it’s okay to get annoyed sometimes, even over something that someone else would consider small.  I want them to know that it’s okay to have bad days and cranky days and I’m-going-to-hole-up-and-listen-to-melancholy-music-all-afternoon days.  I want them to know that they can feel whatever it is they feel, and that their feelings don’t make them more or less than the person next to them.  I want them to know that what they feel – whatever they feel – is VALID, and that I won’t try to tell them they shouldn’t feel it.

I think one of the greatest gifts (and rarest gifts, it seems) that we can give each other is the space to just …. be.  No trying to fix, no telling someone that they shouldn’t feel what they’re feeling.  No judgement.  Just space.  Acceptance. Sometimes the best thing we can do – really, the only thing we can do – is to just be there.  To just sit beside someone, literally or figuratively, in the hard and the scary and the uncomfortable and let them feel what they feel.  And it IS hard.  It IS uncomfortable. And oh my gosh, do we want to fix it.  Even I want to fix it, and I’m not generally a fixer. Sometimes though, you Just. Can’t. Fix. It. Sometimes, there are no magic words, and there are no solutions.  There’s just space, and time, and empathy.

I was venting to my go-to person recently (I don’t even remember what it was about anymore), and I was just having a moment of feeling the injustice of the world, and of life, and of circumstances.  And I told her how MAD I was, or SCARED, or SAD, or whatever it was I was feeling at the particular time, and the words were all flying out, and when I was I done she simply said, “I know.”   That response kind of blew me away, and instantly tempered a lot of what I was feeling.  It wasn’t a patronizing, “I know.”  It was a genuine, heartfelt, “I heard you, and I get what you’re feeling.” She didn’t tell me not to feel that way.  She didn’t tell me what I should do about it.  She just … heard me.  She saw me.  And I’ll tell you what:  That kind of response is a million times more helpful than any well-meaning “Look on the bright side; don’t feel that way; just think positively” admonishments could ever hope to be.  Having someone – or I guess more than one someone, if you’re lucky – in your life that can just hear you that way is utterly invaluable.

I spent the good majority of my life trying to be someone and something other than what I was.  “You’re TOO SENSITIVE,” was the refrain I heard – and to be honest, still hear – over and over and over, until it was like the scarlet letter that I wore around my neck.  And oh, it was heavy.  And it hurt.

But now?  Now I own my sensitivity.  I’m proud of my sensitivity.  I’m not “too” anything.  I’m me.  And yep, I feel things deeply.  Yep, my emotions are often always on a hair trigger.  Yep, my feelings are hurt easily.  Yep, I sometimes feel annoyance at something that you deem too small to worry about.

And you know what?

It’s okay.

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Why My Kids Are Not Impatient, Bored, Friendless, Or Entitled

Articles that talk about how terrible kids are these days are quite prolific.  Throw a stone anywhere on the internet, and you’ll hit one:  Kids are more entitled than ever.  More lazy.  More disrespectful.  And if this latest article is to be believed, they’re more friendless too.  They can’t possibly make friends it seems, because they’re too busy buried in their electronics, expecting life to serve them with a silver platter, and avoiding all human interaction.

Aside from tiring me (I mean really, you read one of these articles, you’ve read them all), these articles genuinely confuse me.

As a friend recently noted, “Where are all these unpleasant kids? I never meet any of them.”

And indeed, it’s true.  I know quite a lot of kids.  Besides my own four, I’ve spent a lot of time with their friends (Yes!  They do have friends); my own friends’ kids; kids we know through theater and sports and homeschooling groups; kids from the neighborhood; kids that come to our conference every year.  And by and large these kids I’ve had the pleasure of knowing are wonderful humans.  Kind.  Smart.  Creative. Compassionate. Well-spoken. Confident.  Ambitious. These are kids that blow me away with their maturity and their integrity and their grace.  These are not the kids that the above author talks about.  I don’t know where those kids exist, because it’s not in any world that I live in.

The article in question blames the  – theoretical – decline in kids’ attitudes and behaviors on five main things.  And yes, these are the same five things that are cited over and over in similar articles, and the same five things that need nothing more than a perspective shift to be disproved.

  1. KIDS GET EVERYTHING THEY WANT WHEN THEY WANT IT

None of us gets everything we want, when we want it.  Let’s just start there.  An unfortunate reality of life is that sometimes we just have to wait.   By navigating these situations together when they arise, your kids will naturally learn the art of delayed gratification…. without your having to manufacture contrived and artificial scenarios in order to teach them a lesson.  The article gives the example of a child being thirsty, and the parent offering up a vending machine.  This is bad, it tells us, because the child will never learn to wait.  But if I were thirsty, and there was a vending machine nearby, I would in fact buy myself a drink.  Wouldn’t you?  It is categorically unfair to hold kids to a different standard, especially under the pretense of teaching them a lesson.  Life (particularly time, finances, and circumstances) sometimes dictates that we must wait for what we want.  Helping your kids cope when it happens is a far more preferable, respectful, and kind alternative than making them wait just for the sake of making them wait.

  1. LIMITED SOCIAL INTERACTION

The author says,

“Kids used to play outside, where, in unstructured natural environments, they learned and practiced their social skills.  Unfortunately, technology replaced the outdoor time.  (Emphasis is mine)

This incredibly common refrain is built on the erroneous assumption that these two things – technology use, and outdoor time – are mutually exclusive.  Just a couple of days ago, I saw a meme that said, “I’m so glad I grew up doing this,” {insert picture of kids playing in a stream}, “Instead of this.” {insert kids standing and looking at their phones}. As for me, I am incredibly thankful that we live in a day and time when kids can do both!  My kids, right down to the nine year old, love their technology.  They do.  They also love being outside, being active, hanging out with friends, playing games, cooking, being creative… well, you get the idea.  Appreciating technology does not preclude an appreciation of other forms of socialization or activity.  In fact, I will go as far as to say that technology has been a tremendous aid in both forming and nurturing relationships.   And having a friend at your fingertips whenever you need one?  Invaluable.

Just last week, I was at an appointment with the 13 year old – who spends a good amount of time online, playing cooperative games with his friends – and the doctor commented on how smart and well-spoken he was.  Am I worried about his (or any of my kids’) socialization skills?  No.  No, I’m not.

  1. ENDLESS FUN

This was a fun one because the author directly contradicted herself on this point later in the article.  (More on that later) She says we have made life too fun for our kids, and that they’re constantly being entertained.  This of course leads to their inability to deal with necessary tedious tasks, and/or with the aspects of life that may be boring or monotonous.  She tells us we need to do a better of job of making our kids do unpleasant things, so that they’ll get used to it, because:

This is basic monotonous work that trains the brain to be workable and function under “boredom,” which is the same “muscle” that is required to be eventually teachable at school.

I’m not going to mince words about this.  I find the above to be incredibly sad and even concerning.  Boredom is a necessary muscle for learning?  After watching my four kids grow and learn over the past 21 years, I’d say it’s actually the exact opposite.  Learning in any sort of meaningful way requires engagement, not boredom.  It happens when the person doing the learning is interested, and invested, and indeed an active and “plugged in” participant.  It does not happen when one is bored and disinterested.  You know what makes an ideal environment for learning, no matter your age?  An activity that you find fun.  Does she have a point though?  Are there tasks in life that are boring or monotonous?  Well, sure.  But like the rest of us, our kids will learn to handle such tasks naturally and easily as life unfolds around them.  Unless you deliberately shield them from this aspect of living (which, I’m honestly not even sure if that’s possible), they’ll learn.

  1. TECHNOLOGY

Again with the technology.

My best friend lives in another state.  I talk to her every day, every day, thanks to … technology.  My two youngest boys have a group of close friends that they love to play games with.  When circumstances permit (they don’t all live nearby), they get together in 3D life.  And when they don’t, they play the same games together online.  How cool is that?  Technology has enriched our lives, not damaged it.  The author worries that access to so much technology keeps us from staying emotionally connected to our kids.  But again, the two aren’t mutually exclusive.  When a parent is paying attention and putting in the effort, it IS possible (probable even!) to have a close, connected relationship with their kids, and allow and appreciate and embrace their use of technology.

Finally, she worries that the highly stimulating world of video games makes the rest of life boring, and leaves kids “vulnerable to academic challenges.”  Which confuses me, because earlier she wanted kids to be bored?  In any case, we need to give kids way more credit than they’re being given here.  They know the difference between video games and real life, between online conversations and in-person hugs, between action movies and cars on the freeway.  And in the event that those lines are blurred, the answer is presence, connection, and assistance with navigating.  The answer is NOT throwing the proverbial baby out with the bath water.  Technology has been such an incredible tool in our lives, both for reasons of practicality and enjoyability.  Could we live without it?  Well, technically, sure.  But I’m so thankful that we don’t have to.

  1. KIDS RULE THE WORLD

I think this is the part where entitlement comes in.  Something that a lot of people fail – or refuse – to understand, is that there is a marked difference between letting kids “rule the world”, and respecting their autonomy as individual and unique humans with their own needs, tastes, preferences, and ways of interacting with the world around them.  Too many parents fall into the trap of micromanaging.  Of treating their kids like robots instead of people:  In goes a pre-determined set of variables, and out comes a perfect, obedient product.  Except kids are people and it doesn’t really work that way.  But speaking from (a lot of) experience, if you dare question the status quo on the matter, you’re accused of, well, letting kids rule the world.  Like so much of parenting, and of life, this is not a zero-sum game.  This kind of black and white thinking presupposes that there are exactly two options: 1) Control and manage and limit every moment of your children’s day, OR 2) leave them completely alone, and indeed do not be a parent at all.  But there are other options.   From food to bedtimes to clothing choices, it is entirely possible – and preferable! – to take a team approach, to give them choices and autonomy and respect, without leaving them to essentially raise themselves.  The author argues that “if we leave it all up to them, all they are going to do is eat macaroni and cheese and bagels with cream cheese, watch TV, play on their tablets, and never go to bed.”  First, no one is advocating for “leaving it all up to them.”  Second, it is categorically untrue that a child would never go to bed.  Finally, extremes and straw man arguments never helped anyone get to a closer, more connected relationship with their child.  And isn’t a closer, connected relationship the ultimate goal?  If it isn’t, it certainly should be.  Giving kids a safe, secure, and happy home… one in which they are heard, respected, and valued members of the family… is a great place to start.

 


 

In my house, and my family, my kids are real.  They have moods and moments and hurdles just like anyone else.  They are also kind.  They’re considerate.  They’re smart and respectful and responsible.  They are the kind of people I would choose to be around even if they were not my kids.

I don’t need to “train their brains” (the author’s solution to today’s problem children) to be anything other than what they already are.

I don’t need to micromanage them.  I don’t need to manufacture unpleasant tasks or situations in order to teach them a lesson.

Side note:  Under a heading of “Don’t be afraid to set limits”, she suggests  “converting things that they don’t like doing/trying into fun, emotionally stimulating games.”  I’m… confused, as this is in direct opposition to what she said in point three.

I don’t need to choose between technology and emotionally connecting with my kids, because the two can and do exist simultaneously.  I don’t need to train them to delay gratification, and I don’t need to force them to do monotonous work.

What I do need to do is treat them kindly.  Gently.  With respect and courtesy and in a manner that I’d like to be treated myself.  Does that ensure that they’ll be perfect, or that there will never be bumps in the road?  Well, no.  See above about them being, like myself and their father, human.

But I’ll tell you what.  My kids, as well as the vast vast majority of other kids I have the privilege of knowing, are individuals who are lovely, engaging, and a true pleasure to be around.   Maybe it goes without saying, but I find it incredibly sad and disappointing to know that so very many people have such a low opinion of today’s young people.  These impatient, bored, friendless, entitled kids the author writes about?   Maybe they exist – if they do in fact exist at all – because no one believed in them.

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There Is ONE Person To Blame For Sexual Harassment (Hint: It’s Not The Victim)

Happy New Year!  I didn’t at all intend to start this year with a post like this, but I saw a meme, was swiftly irritated…. and, well, nothing inspires me like a little (or a lot) of irritation.  

So the Golden Globes were this past weekend.  I used to be a big fan of the award shows, but have mostly stopped watching them.  We did have the Golden Globes on though, mainly because Stranger Things was nominated, and Tegan is still into all things Stranger Things, all the time.  It didn’t win, but Lady Bird did, as did its protagonist, Saoirse Ronan.  I was really excited to see that, as I’d just seen that movie a few weeks ago, and absolutely loved it.  Very well deserved win.

People have incredibly strong feelings about the Golden Globes, and all the award shows, and Hollywood in general.  This post is not about that.  People get all worked up about how much money is spent on dresses and jewelry and hair and makeup, and it’s not about that.  Other people stress out about the political climate, and celebrities getting on soapboxes, and how everyone has an agenda.  It’s not about that either.

This is about sexual harassment, and about the fact that we are still – in 2018 – blaming the victim.

This is the meme that came across my newsfeed:

I’m feeling particularly generous, so I won’t start out by pointing out the fact that “harassment” is misspelled.

It’s not nice to tell people that they’re dressed like hookers.  Let’s just start there.  A person’s attire does not dictate their profession.  And even if it did,  it’s gross  – and easy – to turn sweeping generalizations and stereotypes into insults.  Seriously, calling people hookers?  Wow.  What a well thought-out and mature argument.   (Side note here, because it has no bearing on my point: I think all three women look gorgeous.  Also, Halle Berry is 51!  I hope I have even half the confidence she has to so totally own and rock that dress when I’m 51.  The masses like to tell people what they should and should not wear at certain ages.  Malarkey.  Wear what makes you feel good.)

Comparing them to hookers isn’t the biggest problem here, though.

The problem is that sexual harassment is caused by the people doing the harassing.  Full stop.

A woman’s wearing a low-cut top?  Still the fault of the harasser.

A woman’s wearing a short skirt?  Still the fault of the harasser.

A woman dares go out into public with her hair done and her face made-up and lots of skin showing?  Still the fault of the harasser.

Sexual harassment is an actual problem, and blaming the victim just perpetuates it.  Writing or agreeing with or sharing memes like this makes you part of the problem, not part of the solution.  If you think certain clothing gives men carte blanche to say whatever they want, you are part of the problem.  If you think that woman should feel complimented or flattered when they’re cat-called, or receive unwanted advances, or are touched in a way that makes them uncomfortable, you are part of the problem.

And while it should go without saying (except that I’m having to say it), not only is it insulting and unfair and disgusting to make “suggestive” clothing the cause of men’s misbehavior, it’s also just categorically untrue.  Lots of women are harassed.  Wearing lots of different kinds of clothes.  True story:  A couple of weeks ago, I was driving to an appointment downtown.  I’m a 44 year old mom, driving a mom-car, wearing my mom-uniform of jeans and Chucks.  I glanced over at the car next to me at a red light because, well because that’s what you do at red lights.  The driver looked over at me, made eye contact, and smiled.  Not a friendly smile, but a decidedly creepy, leering smile.  I forced myself to give him the benefit of the doubt, and decided that maybe it was innocent after all.  Maybe he just had that sort of face.  A few more sideways glances at future lights (he was beside me for what felt like 15 miles), told me my instincts had been correct.  He was leering.  And being gross.  And making me incredibly uncomfortable.  I was wearing jeans and a t-shirt.  It wasn’t okay.  And guess what?  If I’d been wearing any of the dresses in the above photo, it wouldn’t have been okay either.

Sexual harassment is the fault of the one doing the harassing.  Each time.  Every time.

The great irony in this that the ones blaming the victims,  the ones taking the onus off the men?  They’re actually showing their distinct disregard for both genders, in one fell swoop.  They’re turning women into objects, sexual non-humans that are merely present to attract attention.  But they’re turning men into objects too:  Walking penises incapable of controlling themselves, doing nothing more than looking for their next conquest.

Our women deserve better.

Our men deserve better too.

Most men manage to make it through the day without harassing a single person.  Most men know how to respect women.  Most men see women in low cut dresses as…. women in low cut dresses, not as a get-out-of-jail free card to treat them however they’d like.

As for the others?  The ones who do use power and intimidation and ego to sexually harass women?  That is their fault. 100% of the time.

And it doesn’t make a damn bit of difference what their victim happens to be wearing.

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10 Tips For A Low-Stress Holiday

Christmas is ONE WEEK from today, which is… weird.  It’s just really weird.  This was a strange year for me, and the holidays came up quickly.  I had finals for the first time in 20 something years, and Tegan’s play was wrapping up.  When those two things were over (the first week of December), life suddenly exhaled and went “whoosh”, and things got quiet again.

And now it’s one week before Christmas.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have REALLY stressed out during some Christmases past.  Like, truly, severely stressed out.  I held myself to this ridiculous expectation of having to have everything perfect… from the (of course, homemade) advent calendar, to the paper snowflakes, to the photos, to the parties and the light displays and the hot chocolate and the cookie baking and the shopping and the wrapping and the Christmas cards and the new pajamas and the Christmas Eve church services and the big Christmas day spread of food,

and and and and….

And we were going to be happy about it, dammit!  It was exhausting.  I’m exhausted right now just thinking about it.

A few years ago, I decided that that really wasn’t too fun, and I wasn’t going to stress about it anymore.  The first thing that went were the Christmas cards.  And you know what?  Life went on even though we stopped sending Christmas cards.  (The sad thing though is that since we stopped sending cards, we almost completely stopped receiving cards as well… which makes us appreciate the ones we do get all the more).

But we didn’t stop doing everything.   In fact, we still actually do a lot of things on the above list. It’s just that we now do them because we want to do them, not because we feel like we have to do them.  And it has made all the difference.

Here’s a partial list of some of the things I keep in mind every year to keep the holidays (much) less stressful.  I can’t rightly say stress-free, because… well, because life comes with stress sometimes.   But the following surely helps.

1. Adjust your expectations.  Your house doesn’t really need to be cleaned in every corner to have company over.  If it’s stressing you out, skip it!  NO ONE WILL JUDGE YOU IF YOU DON’T DUST YOUR CEILING FANS (and if they do, honestly, are they the kind of people you want to be inviting over in the first place?)  They came to see you.  You don’t HAVE to send Christmas cards.  You don’t HAVE to make 87 kinds of cookies.  You don’t HAVE to read “Twas The Night Before Christmas” just because it’s Christmas Eve.  It’s not going to be perfect.  It never is.  That’s okay.  Let go of whatever’s not serving you. Let yourself off the hook, rid yourself of the need to be perfect, and just enjoy the holiday.  If you’re expecting a perfect holiday, with perfectly coiffed children, and perfectly well-behaved pets, and chestnuts happily roasting in an open fire… you’re likely going to be disappointed.  Instead, enjoy it for all its beautiful, messy imperfections, no matter how they may unfold.

2. Keep your kids a top priority.  This is perhaps the most important thing of all, especially during a time when many parents are finding themselves reacting to stress and/or unusually high energy by controlling, punishing, etc.  This is a time when kids need parents who are patient, calm, and looking out for their best interest.  Are they getting enough rest?  Are they eating nourishing foods?  Do they WANT to go to another holiday party?  Do they WANT to sit on Santa’s lap?  Getting tuned in, staying super connected, and respecting their needs and desires will not only be a great thing for your relationship, but it will also alleviate a lot of the collective holiday related stress.

3. Go with the flow of changing needs and preferences. This was one I had to learn over time, to be sure.  At the time of this writing, my kids are 20, 17, 13, and 9.  Christmas is different than it was when they were little … and that’s okay too.  They’re not interested in the same activities.  They’ve outgrown certain traditions.  Not taking it personally when they say, “No thanks” to driving around the neighborhood to look at the Christmas lights goes a long way towards lessening your holiday stress.  Kids grow, things change, holidays are different.  The upside?  Kids grow, things change, holidays are different.  A new thing for us this year is that the 17 year old offered to cook Christmas dinner (he’s making lasagnas), and the 13 year old offered to bake some of the treats and cookies.  Which just means that we get to enjoy them in a whole new way.  And that’s really, really cool.

4. Focus on the little things.  In a practice that really should continue all year long, enjoy all the fun little things of the holiday!  Making the paper snowflakes, decorating the gingerbread house, picking up the special drink from Starbucks, watching the favorite Christmas movie for the 87th time, enjoying hot cocoa made from scratch (or from a canister, if that’s more your style!), just being together.  This is the 21st Christmas we’ve had since we’ve had kids, and while we’ve done some pretty cool and big and interesting things during the holidays…. it’s the little moments that I remember the most.  Because in reality, they’re really not so little.  They’re the important stuff.

5. Simplify your gift-giving.  It has taken us a little trial and error, but streamlining our gift-giving has helped a lot in terms of keeping our focus less on just getting a whole bunch of “stuff” and more on picking out the few things that we know someone else will love.  Mike and I stopped getting gifts for each other several years ago (though he does break the rule sometimes :)), mainly because we get what we need throughout the year, and we’d rather spend our Christmas money on the kids and/or other people who may need it more than we do.  For the kids, we generally do “Something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read.”  We’re not super rigid about sticking to it exactly, but it is a great place to start, and it’s made us really think about what we’re getting them.  It also feels like it makes each present more meaningful than when we’d get piles and piles of gifts, just to…. get piles and piles of gifts.  We do buy for all the nieces and nephews, but for the adults, we do a name drawing for each side of the family, so we only buy for whatever sibling, parent, or inlaw that we’re paired with.  Which makes it fun, and easy, and lets us think about something that will be meaningful and enjoyable for that one specific person.  Your mileage may vary of course (you do you), but this way has worked well for us, and made gift giving fun again, instead of stressful.

6. Keep only the traditions that are important to you.  When Spencer was born, I went a little crazy with the new traditions we “needed” to follow.  From the books we’d read, to the movies we’d watch, to the activities we’d do.  And because life happens, and things change, and kids grow, I’ve had to accept and realize that not all traditions have to be kept.  We did hang on to a couple though.  Christmas Eve is always sacred, and has been for the past 20 years.  It’s just for our own core little family.  We’ve gone to church some years, we’ve stayed in and watched movies some years, we’ve hung out and had carpet picnics some years…. but we’ve always spent it with just us, and if I have to, I pull out full mama bear protection over that Christmas Eve bubble.  The kids all exchange presents on Christmas Eve too – they do a name drawing among the siblings, and all really enjoy it.  I really, really appreciate Christmas Eve with all six of us, and I know that it’s not something we’ll have forever. We also watch the same movies every year, though not everyone chooses to watch anymore.  There are still a couple of cookies that I HAVE to make too (black and whites and Oreo balls are my specialties.) But other than that, we’re …. fluid, and we let the kids lead.  

7. Don’t be afraid to say no.  Just like with point number 1, there should never be any “have-tos” during the holiday season.  You don’t have to go to that party just because you were invited.  You don’t have to go caroling.  You don’t have to go to that cookie swap or that White Elephant gift exchange.  If you and/or your kids are feeling stressed, burnt out, or like you’ve taken on too much, it’s perfectly acceptable (preferable, even!) to politely decline.

8. REST – I PROMISE you that the world won’t come to a standstill if you take an hour or an afternoon or a whole day to drink tea and watch Christmas movies.  I promise you that the holidays will still come and go and be perfectly fine and lovely and joyful if you ignore the chores one day.  I’d even argue that taking care of yourself and making sure that you rest is every bit as important – if not more so – than anything else on your holiday to-do list. Unless literal LIVES hang in the balance, it’s okay and good and vital to rest, recharge, and take some regular time for yourself…. even during the hustle and bustle of the holidays.

9. Live in the present.  One of the lessons I find myself needing to learn over and over again (and have written about several times on my blog) is the importance of living in the present.  This is never more applicable than during the busy and stressful seasons of life.  I took a Buddhism class this past semester, not because I want to convert to Buddhism, but because I needed a religion credit and I always found it interesting.  Lo and behold, I learned some hugely meaningful things in this class, one of them being…. the importance of presence.  There is only right now.  Truly getting this, and LIVING this, is life-changing.  For real.  My therapist, who is not Buddhist, and does not resemble Buddha in any way, has stressed this same point to me many many times.  In fact, one of my biggest take-aways, over 18 long months of therapy, is this:  “Right now, there is no problem to solve.” Problems come when we’re focused on the past, or worrying about the future.  When you’re really and truly in THIS MOMENT, there are no problems.  Including the shopping, the wrapping, the cleaning, the baking, the decorating…. right now, there are no problems, and therefore, no stress.

10. Remember your reason for the season. I deliberately said, “your” instead of “the” because my reason for the season might not be the same as yours.  Christians like to say that Christ is the reason for the season, but I think that it’s important to remember that 1) most of what we do at Christmas time has been adapted from Pagan traditions, not the other way around, and 2) that there are many many more holidays than Christmas, and that they’re all celebrating something different.  I know it’s a cliche.  It is.  But whatever the season means to you, focus on that rather than on the busy, the crazy, the chaos, the stress that the holidays can sometimes bring.  And the rest of the extraneous “noise” tends to fade away.

___________________________________

Just because you’re invited to the stress of the holidays, it doesn’t mean you have to accept.

Wishing you all a calm, peaceful, and stress-free holiday, no matter what it is you celebrate.

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It’s Not Me, It’s You

Not a lot of things make me angry.

A lot of things make me react, for sure, but I tend more towards melancholy, hurt feelings, depression.  But anger isn’t generally one of my bigger go-to’s.  Having said that, I have spent a VERY large portion of the past 18 months being extremely angry at my therapist.

At least I thought it was anger.

What I realized somewhere along the way was that 98% of the time, it wasn’t really anger at all.  I was uncomfortable because he’d challenged my core beliefs.  I was defensive because deep down I knew he was right.  I was embarrassed because he’d brought things to light that I’d have rather kept hidden.  I was frustrated because he’d put the onus on ME to examine, to question, to choose whether or not I was willing to change something that wasn’t serving me, or wasn’t serving the people I loved.

None of those things are the same as anger.  It’s just that it’s So. Much. Easier. to blame someone else than it is to do the uncomfortable, messy, hard (soooo freaking hard) work of actually doing a little bit of self-reflection.  If I blamed HIM, then I got to completely let myself off the hook.  I didn’t have to admit, or change, a single thing.

But the thing is … it wasn’t him.  It was me.

I’ve been thinking a lot about anger the past few days, ever since I read the comments on my “Can We Stop Being Jerks At Christmas” post when it ran on Scary Mommy.  I stopped reading after the first couple hundred, because after awhile they all honestly sounded the same.  I’m judgmental, I’m arrogant, I’m sanctimonious, and screw you, you-can’t-tell-me-what-to-do-with-my-kids.  Ad nauseam.  By the way, while I’m on the subject, the not-really-a-word word, “Sanctimommy,” is THE silliest, most ridiculous word to come out of the internet, and the idea that I’m supposed to be offended or feel bad to have it hurled in my direction is…. laughable, at best.

The one big theme I saw though, the one that ran through nearly all the comments, was anger.  Dear Lord, so much anger.  Anger directed at me, for…. daring to suggest we be nicer to our kids.  Does anyone else see the irony in that?  Nothing makes people angrier faster than proposing a little more respect.  A little more grace.  A little more understanding.  Nothing makes people angrier faster than challenging the status quo.  Challenging the idea of punishment, of spanking, of time-outs, of manipulation.  Nothing makes people angrier faster than bringing up the idea that YES, children can learn discipline, and self-control, and empathy, and personal responsibility without being shamed and threatened into it.  Nothing makes people angrier faster than the assertion, that yes, gentle parenting is not only possible, but is in fact preferable, for all parties.

But I don’t actually think it’s anger.

There’s always much ado about the fact that “there’s no right or wrong way to parent”, and that to suggest otherwise is arrogant and judgmental.  Well, sorry (except I’m not), but I do believe that kindness is always the right choice.  I do believe that respect is always the right choice.  I do believe that treating our kids the way we’d like to be treated, that treating our kids like HUMAN BEINGS instead of second class citizens is always the right choice.  Always.  Every time.  And it’s a hill I’d be willing to die on… any day of the week and twice on Sundays.

And I wonder, if you’re so confident in your own choice, why on earth would it make you so angry if someone else suggested something different?

It’s likely because you’re not really angry.  You’re uncomfortable, you’re defensive, you’re frustrated, you’re embarrassed.  Your toes have been stepped on.  But you’re not actually angry.  And you’re certainly not angry at me.  You don’t even know me.  But just like with me and my therapist, it’s easier to be angry at me than it is to actually think about anything I said.  To actually ponder it.  To actually wonder if I made any sort of point worth listening to.  It’s easier to make it my fault.  To call me names.  To call my kids names.

It’s been a long time since I’ve gone to church with any regularity, but I have some very strong memories of some sermons that really affected me.  And they were never sermons that were sunshine and rainbows, never sermons that patted me on the back for what I was already doing.  No, they were the ones that called me out, the ones that challenged me.  The ones that stepped on my toes.  The ones that made me want to hide, red-faced, under the pew because surely he was talking directly about me.

So I get it.  I actually do get it.

But I think that parents – ALL OF US as parents – should be nicer to our kids.  And no negative comment will ever change that.

So call me names.  Call me judgmental.  Call me arrogant.  I can take it.  But some day, at some point, you might want to admit the fact that it’s not actually me you’re mad at.

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Can We Stop Being Jerks At Christmas?

Why do the holidays seem to bring out the worst in people?  Don’t answer that yet.

And why, WHY, do people insist on treating their kids like they’re not even people?  Don’t answer that yet either.

Christmas depresses me.  I mean, don’t get me wrong.  I love Christmas.  I love making it special for my kids, love giving presents, love making cookies, love the food, love the festivities.  This year is a mellow year for us.  We just came off the nine-year-old’s play, which was taking a lot of time, especially during that final tech week.  And my semester just ended, the same week as her play.  So right now, I’m exhaling.  Exhaling and getting ready to enjoy the holidays, but not freaking out about getting anything in particular done in time.  What will be will be, and it’ll be nice.

But it still depresses me.

Mainstream parents tend to go a little crazy this time of year.  I’ve never made any secret about the fact that I disagree with mainstream parenting in general… but never do I disagree with more fervor than at Christmas time.

I don’t have the vocabulary to express how much I hate some of what goes on during Christmas.  (And by the way:  Like they say in the movie Stepmom, hate isn’t a word I use often.  I think it’s a “perfectly acceptable word, but only to be used when I truly detest something”)  I truly detest what some parents do this time of year.

I wrote about the Santa Cams a few weeks back, but the latest thing that’s been brought to my attention is the idea of “present jail.”  In a public post that is getting praised up and down on Facebook, one mom posted a picture of a cardboard box with some presents in it, and writes:

So….we started this yesterday because one little girl refuses to listen and behave. Any present still in the box at Christmas goes put up and can only be EARNED back by good behavior. If they can follow the rules and be good for an entire day, they can return a jailed present back to the tree. Sometimes having a visual helps a lot more than just telling them. And they have to put the present in there themselves. Presents are a privilege not a right, naughty children do not get gifts for misbehaving. #meanmom

The first time a friend showed it to me, I said, “I should write about that.  But how many times, and how many ways can I say, “BE NICE TO YOUR KIDS?”  I’ve said essentially the same thing dozens, if not hundreds, of times.

And I’m saying it again, I think in the hopes that someone, somewhere will read my words, and say, “Oh.  I hadn’t thought of it that way.”  One person.  That’s all.  And maybe it’s you.  Maybe you’re the one I’m talking to.

This whole idea of earning gifts is archaic and cruel and the exact antithesis of what gift giving should be.  Gift-giving should be unconditional.  That’s the whole point.  Gifts should be something that come from the heart of the giver, with no strings, and no expectations.  Buying a gift, and then taking it away as punishment?  It ceases to be a gift … even if they “earn” it back.  You took something that should have been an expression of love and turned it into an ugly and void commodity.  Congratulations.

And why just the kids?  Why do kids need to earn their presents?  If you buy your husband a new watch, and he comes home from work grumpy one day, do you hold it ransom?  Do you tell him you bought him a present, but he doesn’t get it unless he “behaves.”?  That is not a way to treat someone you love, no matter their age.  It seems kind of ludicrous to think about doing it to a spouse or a friend or another adult loved one, so why, WHY would anyone think it’s okay to do to kids?  As horrible as I think it’d be to do to an adult (and I do indeed think it’s pretty darn horrible), I think it’s a million times worse to do it to your kids.  Your kids are still learning.  Still figuring things out.  Still working out how to deal with their feelings, and how to to navigate a world that is nuanced and tricky and at times extremely complicated.  They need parents who are going to love them through it, to be by their side, to model appropriate behavior.  And at this time of year, they need parents to show them what giving really means.  Can you imagine the sad and confusing message it sends to them about generosity to be told that they have to earn their gifts?   That their gifts can be taken away at a moment’s notice if they’re “naughty?” Naughty, by the way, is a word that should never be used for a child, or anyone, especially one who is just trying to deal with something difficult the best way they know how.  They need our HELP, not our punishment and our shame.

I’ve had a few moments over the past month or so that I’m not proud of.  I’m a human, and I’m not perfect.

Guess what?  Your kids are humans and are not perfect either.

They deserve your love, your compassion, and yes, they deserve your generosity!  Whether it’s in the form of your time, of an experience, of something handmade, of something they’ve been wanting from a store.  It feels good to give to people we love.  At least it’s supposed to!  I can’t imagine it feels good to hold presents hostage, unless it honestly makes you feel good to do something unkind, which…. isn’t right.  It’s just not.  We’re not designed that way.  We’re designed to love unconditionally, to give without expectation, to show our kids (through our words, through our actions, through our time) that they matter.  That we love them.  That we are, in fact, their biggest fans.  Their biggest supporters.  Their biggest role models.  The ones they can count on when life gets squidgy, and the ones who will stand beside them when they’re scared, telling them, without a moment’s hesitation, “Don’t worry, I’ve got your back.”

It feels good to love with that kind of love, because IT IS GOOD.

Nothing about buying and withholding gifts (and being so dang proud of it) fits into this model of true, unconditional love.  In fact, it downright perverts it.

Kids need and deserve our love and compassion all year round, but especially during the holidays.  Schedules are messed up, sleep is spotty, there’s extra excitement and stimulation and fancy foods, and it’s no wonder a child – or an adult – would be out-of-sorts.  LOVE THEM THROUGH IT.  Help them.  Don’t punish them.  Don’t turn gifts, something that should be fun and loving and happy, into a gross display of power and intimidation.  Don’t teach your kids that gifts should come with strings attached.  Don’t teach your kids that other people are theirs to control and manipulate.  Don’t teach your kids that the way to solve a problem is through shaming and scare tactics.

Please, please don’t.

This Christmas, be nice to your kids.  Please.  Treat them like people.  Treat them the way YOU would like to be treated.

And I’m pretty dang sure you wouldn’t want your new iPhone taken away because you were a little snippy one day.

Be nice to your kids.

____________________________________________________

This post was also syndicated and appeared on Scary Mommy, and was mentioned on The View!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F5Qo_jcZ260&t=102s

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Breathing

I have the word “breathe” tattooed on my left forearm.  (Snoopy at his typewriter is on my right. :))  I felt the word was important enough to get permanently etched on my body because it is literally the first answer for EVERYTHING.  Yes, there are going to be problems to solve.  Yes, there are going to be actions that need to be taken.  But the first step, the step you need to take before you do anything, is breathe.  It’s one of the first things you learn in yoga (indeed, yoga IS breathing).   The physiological benefits of mindful, deep breathing are real, and plenty.  It slows your heart rate, sends more oxygen to your body, calms your nerves, relaxes your muscles, strengthens your lungs and your heart, and lowers your blood pressure.  Plus…. it just feels good.

I see a lot of people who need to breathe right now – and I’ll include myself in that, because it’s never not a good time to breathe – so I give you the following two tools to help.  Do one, or do them both.  DO IT.  The first is self-explanatory.  Breathe along with the graphic.  One slow, deep breath in, and one slow, deep breath out.  And repeat.

The second is something that always helps me to breathe:  the sound of running water.  I took the little video at the cabin I go to up north, and still return to it from time to time to remind me.

Don’t overthink it.  Don’t try to feel anything special, or get any particular result.  Just breathe.

 

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Happy Things

A sweet meme texted by a sweet friend

I had two separate people tell me today that my blog has been extra dark and bleak (dreary? I forget the exact words) lately.  In my defense, I think it’s just been real.  Regardless, it’s been coming across as dark to at least a couple people, so rather than pull down half my November posts  – which is always my first inclination, and I know, I know: it’s my blog and I can post what I want and I shouldn’t let other people’s comments get to me and etc etc etc – I decided a straight-up happy post would serve as a nice balm (and hopefully a reminder to people that I’m… nice?  Or not dark?  Or something?)

A little bit of happy:

~ This is Sophie ^ Today is Sophie’s Gotcha Day, which I wouldn’t have known, had Facebook not told me.  We adopted her nine years ago today.  Tegan was especially happy to learn this, as she’s always keen on celebrating…. well, everything, but particularly her fur-babies.

~ My house is clean.  It’s nice to have a clean house ANY time, but it’s always particularly nice on the weekends, because it means I get to wake up to a nice, clean, organized house at the beginning of the week, which greatly cuts down on the Monday blues.  It’s like New Years.  But without the “I ate way too much junkfood” hangover stomach.

~ Mike and I have been working on building a (cardboard) jukebox for a 50’s diner scene for Tegan’s latest play, and we got it just about finished today.  There are just a couple things being added to make it more 3D.  Finished projects make me extremely, extremely happy.  Something about having a vision and making it come to life.  I live for that kind of thing.

~ Tomorrow is Sunday, but it’s really Saturday, because Mike has a three day weekend that ends on Monday.  So today’s really Friday.  Or something.  And Tegan has a theater showcase on Monday (not the play that the jukebox is for), that she and her friends have been working really hard on, and we both get to watch it.

~ Next week is Thanksgiving!!!  I also have an eye appointment next week, which I’m actually really looking forward to, because I definitely need a prescription adjustment, and being able to see is always nice.  But I’m not looking forward to it as much as Thanksgiving.

~ Right now, right at this very second, the house is quiet and peaceful but: I can hear the 17 year old laughing with a friend through the magic of the interwebs, the 20 year old talking very sweetly with the 9 year old, and the 13 year old feverishly and happily tapping his keyboard as he plays a cooperative game.

And it’s all very, very good….

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