“Your Phone is Your Own Property”, and other screen time rules I give my kids

This article, titled “‘Your phone is not your property’ and other screen time rules I give my kids” is currently being shared far and wide. Unsurprisingly to anyone who reads my work, my perspective is a little bit different. While this mom is clearly a hard and fast rule kind of person, I tend not to see things in such black and white terms. Cell phone use, like just about everything else, is filled with shades of grey, and we do our kids no favors if we set such a hard line that they don’t even get the chance to learn how to navigate it.

Here are my responses to her rules, along with why they’re different.

Dinners are generally cell-phone free. I say “generally” because there’s no actual rule about it, although the 11 year old IS a fan of announcing “Family time!” if someone answers a text. There are six of us, so while we don’t typically have many phones at the table, there’s usually one or two. And nine times out of ten, I’m happy someone has one. It makes it so much easier to quickly Google that obscure thing we happened to be wondering about in one of our infamously random dinner time conversations. For the most part, we spend dinner eating and chatting together anyway. No rules necessary.

Be creative and flexible when trying to get work done.  Phones, like so many other things, can provide distractions. If it’s a problem for you, schedule in phone breaks! For example, set a timer and work for 20 minutes, then take a break for 5. I am working through my final few classes for my Psychology Bachelors, and I’m telling you…. having the option to “phone a friend” or play a quick game sometimes has been invaluable to me when writing papers or working on otherwise tedious assignments. I don’t keep my phone nearby ALL the time (I know my own limits), but it is extremely helpful when I’m in need of a break.

Plan for play time, and lots of it!  Regular downtime is so important, and shouldn’t have to wait for the weekends, especially when you’re a kid! Kids should be playing... whether that means outside in the creek, up in a tree house, or yes, on a console or computer playing a video game. Strict rules about when or where or for how long kids can play video games only makes them crave it more. When the limit is lifted, and an equilibrium is found, it becomes but one of a million options.

Figure out how your phone affects you at night.  Everyone is different, so blanket rules about cell phone usage never helps anyone. Some people do better if they shut their phone off a couple hours before sleep. Others sleep better if they play a few rounds of Sodoku right before bed. (That exact thing was actually suggested by a doctor, to a friend of mine with anxiety and insomnia. It helped.) Sometimes some of the best conversations I have with friends are late at night, when life is quiet and guards are down. Sometimes I need to knock off early, and I stick my phone on the charger by 9:00. If something isn’t working for you, we’ll work on a solution together.

Figure out how your phone affects you in the morning.  Just as with nighttime usage, morning cellphone usage varies from person to person. Some people might find it too much of a distraction to get ready on time, while others may be able to work it into their morning seamlessly. Whichever camp you fall into, life sometimes interferes, and mistakes sometimes happen. We won’t be mad if you’re late because of your phone, or any other reason. We will talk with you about strategies for next time.

Your phone is YOUR property.  The popular party line says that kids don’t own their phones. Their parents bought them and pay the bill, and therefore, they belong to the parents, not the kids. In the kindest way I can think to put this: That is some misguided and unfair BS. My kids’ phones (just like their clothes, their computers, and their other belongings) belong to them.

Is there conversation about internet usage and social media safety? Yes.

Is there ongoing communication about what sort of apps they’re using, games they’re playing, and friends they’re talking to? Yes.

Do I have their passwords and go through their phone and read their texts? NO! To do so would be to violate their privacy. And yes, children are deserving of privacy, too.

The one caveat? Safety, for yourself or others. If there is an actual threat of harm in some way, I would intervene in whatever means necessary, as would any caring parent. This is NOT the same thing as casually strolling through your daily history just because I’m the parent and I say so.

Our kids are living in a different world than the one we grew up in. And I’m thankful for that! What a cool thing to be able to walk around with fully connected, working computers in your pocket. Is it a responsibility? Of course. But the best thing I can do as a parent is work with my kids as they navigate that responsibility, not against them.

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Bipolar II – A Day in the Life

It’s really beautiful, the view from the top. So beautiful I want to cry. I’m flying. I’m invincible. I’m full of grand ideas and grand plans and grand words. So very many words. The world is my proverbial oyster, and dammit I’m going to hold onto that slippery little sucker with all of my might. And I do. I do hold onto it.

Until I don’t. Until something weird starts to creep in. It’s unpleasant and frenetic and exhausting, like a million neurons are firing at once. I can’t get comfortable in my own skin. I can’t sleep, because it’s more important that I research opening up my gym. Or coffee shop. Or buying the church that’s for sale on the corner.

I can’t sleep because my skin is crawling. Because my heart is pounding. Because I’m drowning in my own thoughts, and feelings, and words. Because there’s just not. enough. time. I’m scared and I’m exhilarated, all at the same time. I text a friend at 2:00 in the morning and then get my feelings hurt when she doesn’t respond.

And then my feelings are hurt all the time. My feelings are hurt by what you said, by what you didn’t say, by what I thought you meant. My feelings are hurt by my own active imagination and it is EXHAUSTING. It strangles me. I see what’s happening, I see it like I’m looking at a stranger, but I’m powerless to stop it. I don’t blame anyone for deciding they can’t be my friend, for deciding they hate me. I hate myself.

I’m not flying anymore. I’m sinking. Sinking and sinking and sinking. I could claw my way up, but the walls are slippery. The darkness is enticing. It swallows me whole. There’s no more color, there’s no more joy. There is blackness. Like a cloud that I carry with me everywhere I go. I go through the motions, but I’m not there. I’m ensconced in the ugly safety of my cloud. I’m oblivious to everything that isn’t darkness. I’m crying but I’m not SAD, and I’m offended by anyone who uses the word. I’m nothing. I’m a shell.

I have to force myself to shower, to leave the house, to see people. My God, people. I convince myself that I’ll never connect with another person as long as I live. Who’d want to connect with someone so broken? So dark and so lifeless? Who’d want to connect with someone who isn’t even connected to herself?

I’ve forgotten the view from the top. I’ve forgotten how beautiful it is.

And then, for a blissful and limited period of time I’m “normal.” My life is normal, my relationships are normal, my feelings are normal.

Until one day, without warning, I’m flying again.

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Embracing The “And”

The other day, I posted an article about video games, and the amount of learning that comes from them. (The article is here.) The comments were fairly predictable, ranging from “Right on!” to “No way. That’s ridiculous.” to “Glad it works for your kids; it’d never work for mine.” The ones that most interested me though were the ones that said something along the lines of, “Kids need to play outside/get fresh air/read books/use their imaginations/etc”

I used to think that way. In fact, I used to have black and white thinking about a lot of things. And then I discovered how very, very much I was missing out on because of it. The world is not black and white. The world is not either/or. It’s a million shades of grey and a million shades of technicolor.

You don’t have to choose between playing video games and playing outside. They are not mutually exclusive.

At the time of this writing, my kids range in age from 11 to 22. They all love their video games, and are welcome to play them as often as they’d like. They also love music, and being outdoors, and swimming, and hanging out with friends, and reading, and researching. None is more valuable than the other. They are options, all there for the taking. Just a couple of days ago, the two middle boys had friends over, and the group played board games and card games and hung out and chatted for nearly 11 hours straight.

You can love video games AND love spending time with your friends.

You can eat the salad AND eat the chocolate chip cookies.

You can hike the mountain AND snuggle down on the couch.

You can watch the movie AND read the book.

You can be honest AND kind.

You can be angry AND forgiving.

I think we get stuck in these black and white ruts and don’t realize that more often than not, there are options. There are “ands”. And yes, absolutely, sometimes there’s not a choice. Sometimes life throws us curve balls. Sometimes we have to do things we don’t love. That much is true. But what a gift we give ourselves and our kids when we find the “ands!” One of the reasons I chose to homeschool (and particularly unschool) was precisely because I wanted my kids to have as many choices as I could give them. I wanted to make their worlds larger. It makes me sad to see homeschooled children whose lives have been made smaller, not the other way around.

I want my kids to do what makes them happy in the moment. I want them to know that they can play the video game and read the book and hang out with their friends and play the instrument and go outside and sit and think and ponder and putter just….. BE.

And likewise, I can go to school, and take care of the house, and write, and plan a conference, AND be an engaged, present mother. And when I feel one slipping? It’s time to readjust, that’s all. I’ll admit it, it’s easy for me to jump straight into the black and white thinking of, “That’s it, I’ve failed at everything, I might as well stop trying.” That’s often my first thought if I’m being honest. But someone once told me that our first thought – especially if it’s a negative one – is usually wrong. And in this case it’s true. I have choices. I have “ands.” I can adjust. I can decide. And if that means making big and/or scary changes? That’s okay too.

There are choices. There are ands.

I’m not afraid of my kids playing video games any more than I’m afraid of them reading a book. If they play games all day one day? Cool. If they read all day one day? Cool. I don’t worry, because my kids don’t have the baggage that I’ve had to overcome. They don’t have the all-or-nothing thinking that makes us desperately, obsessively (and unhealthily) cling to one choice over another.

They know there are ands. And they use them.

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When I Won’t Agree To Disagree

“Let’s just agree to disagree.”

It sounds nice, doesn’t it? A neat, tidy, and respectful way to end an argument or debate. You have your beliefs, I have mine, and we’ll just set them aside as neither right nor wrong. We’ll both go on, happily secure in the knowledge that our opinions are equally valid and okay.

It seems foolproof. It does. And in many, many cases it is the kindest solution to disagreement.

But I’m not always going to agree to disagree. I’m not always going to “respect your opinion.”

I won’t agree to disagree with you if you think hitting children is okay. I will continue to speak out about children’s rights, and their right (like all people) to bodily autonomy, and to decide who puts their hands on them, and when, and how, and for what reason.

I won’t agree to disagree with you if you think it’s okay to make jokes about, disparage, or treat anyone differently because of their race, their religion, their gender, or their sexual orientation. I won’t agree to disagree with you if your position is racist, sexist, homophobic or otherwise unkind. I will continue to speak out about fair and equal treatment to all.

I won’t agree to disagree with you about religion, unless your religion (or lack thereof) teaches you to love, to include, to show compassion for all. I will continue to speak out about a Jesus that walked in love for all people, but especially for those who are marginalized by the rest of society.

I won’t agree to disagree with you if you think that mental illness is all in your head, or something that can be cured with “positive thoughts.” I will continue to speak out about awareness, education, and breaking the stigma for those with depression, anxiety, bipolar, and other mental health conditions.

Agreeing to disagree has its place, to be sure. Cannot stand my favorite band? Cool. Hate my favorite movie? Okay. Like nuts in brownies, pineapple on pizza, or caraway seeds in your bagel? Your choice to make.

But there’s a certain point where choices are not equal, where a person has to decide what’s right and wrong, and good and bad, and worthy of taking a stand. A hill to die on as it were.

Speaking as someone who is an entirely different person than she was 25 years ago, I know my opinion can be changed about many things. But not about this. Not about anything above.

Does that mean then that I’m a closed book? That I won’t even discuss it? The opposite is true. I think it’s important to talk about. I think that’s how seeds are planted. I think that’s how people grow.

But just know, if you choose to talk to me or fight with me about any of the above …. I will never, ever agree to disagree.

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To The Frustrated Mom At The Movie Theater

We were standing in line at the movie theater. We were about to see Breakthrough, which really requires its own post because, wow. There were raised voices a few people behind us, and while I couldn’t tell what I was going on, I did very clearly hear a mom snap out the words, “If you don’t stop, I’m going to spank your heinie right here in front of everyone. I don’t care.”

Tegan looked at me with wide eyes, and we both glanced back to see the pair: a boy of about 6 looking nonplussed, and a mom looking…. well, looking very, very tired.

There was a time my little blogging fingers would have rushed home to tear out a post against spanking, and about respect, and about treating your kids how you want to be treated.

And to be sure, my stance hasn’t changed. Violence – and yes, spanking is violent – against children is wrong. Kids should be treated with respect. Kids should be treated the way we want to be treated ourselves.

But I keep thinking of that mom, and feeling a whole lot of unexpected compassion. Because the thing is, I’m tired too. And that deep-in-your-bones mom fatigue? Sometimes it comes out sideways.

I don’t know that mom. I don’t know what kind of day she’d been having. I don’t know what kind of life she’d been having. I don’t know if she has support. I don’t know if she’s grieving, or if she hasn’t slept for a month, or if she’s struggling to put food on the table. I don’t know if she’s single, I don’t know if she has a partner who hurts her. I don’t know what it was that drove her to snap with a threat to her son in the line at the movie theater. Maybe she knows no other way. Maybe she’s parenting the way she was parented, and the way her parents were parented. Maybe she lacks the tools she needs to know that there are alternatives.

So tired mom at the movie theater? I see you. I see your tired eyes, and I see your frustration. I see your love for your son. I see you doing the best you can with what you have at your disposal, and I see you struggling.

I will always advocate for the children. That will never stop. But to the mom at her wits’ end? I’m on your side too. I see you. I hope you know you are strong. I hope you know you can do this (and that you don’t have to resort to spanking). I hope you know that you have other moms in your corner, rooting for you to succeed, and I hope you know that we understand. That we’ve all been there. That we know what it’s like to be frustrated, to be exhausted, to be at the end of our proverbial parenting rope.

Parenting is hard sometimes. Sweet baby Jesus parenting is hard. But if you can hold on, then it’s beautiful.

I believe I can make it through the hard moments. And mom at the movie theater? I believe you can, too.

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What I Learned From Rachel Held Evans

Rachel Held Evans died on Saturday, May 4th. She was only 37 years old.

If you didn’t know of Rachel, she was one of the good ones. She was a progressive Christian author, writer and speaker who challenged the evangelical culture so vocally that the Washington Post once called her, the most polarizing woman in evangelicalism.” She left evangelicalism herself in 2014, and started attending an Episcopalian church.

I share that little bit of history for some background, but that’s not what I’m thinking about right now.

Rachel was honest about her own walk with God. About her struggles, about her doubts, and about her revelations. For someone I never knew personally, she was about as real as you could get. She wrote beautifully, with grace and with humor. She wrote like she was your girl friend, sitting next to you sipping tea, and not some untouchable leader from behind an ivory pulpit.

She provided a much needed bridge for people like myself… people, particularly women, who’ve left evangelical Christianity, and didn’t know what to do next. She asked the hard questions, she challenged the big topics, and her courage? My word, if she was ever afraid she certainly didn’t let it stop her. She just kept on going.

She gracefully took on conservatives. She wrote about racism, abortion, evolution, women’s roles, LGBTQ rights, Donald Trump. She shied away from nothing. She had a heart for truth, and love, and justice, and she wasn’t afraid to use it.

I didn’t know Rachel Held Evans, but I admired the hell out of her. She had that rare gift to be able to speak with truth and passion and authority…. and still be so kind, and humble, and lovable. She was adored by everyone from evangelicals to atheists alike.

And sure, she had her few detractors, like anyone in the public eye, but she didn’t let it stop her. She kept going. She just kept on going, right up until her death.

I’ve been hiding lately. Someone I have to see in 3D life told me I wrote as though I thought I was better than everyone else. For some reason, that comment hurt me more than just about any other unkind comment I’ve ever received (and there’s a large pool from which to choose from). I retreated into my introvert-writer-turtle-shell, and vowed to stay there.

But Rachel wouldn’t have let it stop her. She would have had a response that was likely both witty and gracious at the same time, and she would have moved on.

I don’t know what I’m doing with my writing. Hell, 99.7% of the time, I don’t know what I’m doing with my life in general.

But I know this.

Life is precious. Life is fleeting. Life is too damn short to be afraid to speak your truth. Rachel spoke her truth. Over and over and over again.

So until I’m ready to write for myself again, I’ll write in her honor. It just feels like the right thing to do.

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An Open Letter To Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon

Jeremiah is a Top 20 contestant on this season of America Idol. He’s also a young man who, when he came out as gay, was not accepted by his pastor father and mother. What follows is in response to his most recent performance, in which he sang Landslide in their honor, and heartbreakingly told the camera that he loved them, and that he was sorry he disappointed them.

So, American Idol! I have watched every season of American Idol since it premiered. I even saw them perform live once, when my oldest was little. Like any talent-related show, some seasons were better than others. Some seasons it seemed like the judges, and then America, made all the wrong choices. I’m excited for this year though. There is a tremendous pool of talent in the top 20, and I can’t wait to see who makes it to the final five.

You, Jeremiah, are one of the most talented. You have an incredible gift that you have honed well. One of my biggest pet peeves is singers who try too hard, and over-sing the song. You don’t do that. In fact, you almost do the opposite. You let the song sing through you, and the result is real and pure and raw and beautiful. You’re not disconnected when you sing. You ARE the song… with all its heartfelt story and emotion.

From your very first audition, you talked about your family’s story. I can relate. I can. I too grew up in the church, grew up feeling as though everyone was watching me, grew up feeling like one misstep would cause great disappointment. My father wasn’t a pastor, but he was an Elder, so I hope you’ll give me a pass on that one.

Being true to yourself, and coming out as gay in that environment was incredibly brave. You should be proud of yourself for that alone. What a hard decision it must have been, knowing what you would face in response! But you did it anyway, and that took an immense amount of courage.

I can see how much you love your parents, and how much it hurts you that they cannot accept you. But their refusal to accept you the way they are? That’s a “them” problem, not a “you” problem.

I heard you apologize on national TV. But what do you have to apologize for? Being human? Falling in love? Being perfectly wired to be exactly who YOU are?

I would like to believe that your parents love you, and that they have a very misguided way of showing it. I’d truly like to believe that. But I don’t know them, and I don’t know if that’s the case. Here’s what I do know:

You are beautiful, talented soul who is going to go far, not just on American Idol, but in life.

You are a gift.

You are loved.

You are perfect the way you are.

As a parent, it’s heartbreaking for me to see you sing up there without their support in the audience (I did see your boyfriend though, and am so happy that you have him!) As a parent, it’s difficult for me not to feel angry at them for not accepting you. As a parent, I can’t imagine anything that would make me withdraw my love for my children. As a parent, I can’t imagine anything that would make me do anything but continue to love them… fully, wholly, and unconditionally.

And I’m so very very sorry that you don’t have that.

I truly hope that they see the damage that they are doing, and the harm that they are causing. But please know that even if they don’t, you have a whole nation of people lifting you up, rooting for you, and loving you from afar. Know that we, a diverse group of strangers, are all in, and accept you exactly the way you are.

Know that this mom in Mesa, Arizona thinks you are special, and strong and brave and talented. I know it’s not the same. I know. Because we want our parents’ support. We never stop wanting that. But I’m in your corner, and I stand beside you.

And until and unless your parents come around, I – along with thousands of other moms and dads out there – will consider you my honorary son/nephew/family, and will support you accordingly.

Love,

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The Heartbreaking Art of Making Mom Friends


When we first moved to Arizona, I was befriended by someone in a homeschool group when our boys hit it off. She invited me to church, they invited us to dinner, we went to each other’s birthday parties.

But we’re not friends anymore.

When Tegan was in gymnastics, I was befriended by another mom when our girls hit it off. She invited us for a playdate, we went to each other’s birthday parties, we did yoga together.

But we’re not friends anymore.

When we went to our first homeschooling conference, I was befriended by another mom when our boys hit it off. (Sensing a pattern yet?) We became very good friends. We got tattooed together, we got pierced together, we flew across the country to visit each other.

But we’re not friends anymore.

Repeat, ad infinitum.

To say it’s all left me a little gun-shy is an understatement. I don’t make friends easily as it is, it takes me forever to open up, and I’m constantly afraid of getting hurt. And let’s just be real for a minute here. Making friends with other moms is HARD. Join any sport or lesson or class, and there’s that one group that already knows one another, that may or may not be receptive to outsiders. There’s that one person who (though you know intellectually it is not the case) appears to have it all together, and therefore feels way too intimidating to approach. Then there are the ones like me ….. the other outsiders, the ones that sit so quietly on the sidelines that it takes an act of God to work up the nerve to strike a conversation, let alone a friendship.

And it’s a weird and almost backwards way to make friends when you think about it. You may literally have nothing in common with these people other than the fact that your kids have something in common. But how else do you make friends when you’re a mom? By and large, for better or worse, you make friends through your kids.

And it’s scary out there. Especially when, like me, you’re in constant fear that you’re going to f*ck it up.

Tegan (11 at the time of this writing), has been in theater for 3, 4? years, and I am just now getting around to make friends with some of the other moms. She’s so proud of me too:

“Look at you, making mom friends!!”

If she only knew how hard it was. My one true extrovert, she’s never met a stranger, and she doesn’t know the fear of a friendship ending. But I watch her and I learn something. I learn to be more open, I learn to let my guard down a little bit, I learn to let myself be vulnerable, I learn to let myself speak.

Even if it means another crash and burn.

And so, finally, I’ve made a few local friends (I’m super, super good at making long-distance friends, but in person friends is a whole new realm of terror). Does it make me happy? Yes. Does it scare me shitless? Yes.

But here’s the thing. Life is hard. And relationships are incredibly hard. Especially when they basically start off as relationship by proxy because your kids are in some sort of activity together.

There’s an art to making mom friends that I just don’t naturally have. Sometimes I feel like it takes a Herculean effort just to appear like a normal human. (Am I making the right face? Did I say the wrong thing? Do they think I’m stuck up? AM I MAKING THE RIGHT FACE?) But just because it’s harder for me doesn’t mean it’s impossible for me. Just because I struggle with it, doesn’t mean it’ll never happen. I’m learning. God knows I’m a slow study, but I’m learning.

Because if I’ve learned nothing else, I’ve learned that if I’m willing to put in that effort – effort, by the way, sometimes just means saying, “How are you?” instead of smiling and eye contact – it’s really, really worth it.

Even when it’s scary.

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Seven Things Not To Say To a Friend With Mental Illness

I have been open about mental illness since the very beginning. As I tested the water here on my blog, I received nothing but support, and it encouraged me to continue to write about it, continue to talk about it, and continue to be vulnerable about it. I’ll gladly talk to anyone about my experiences, and I’m always up for answering questions.

The problem with such transparency? The well-meaning (and truly, I do believe deep in my heart that they’re all well-meaning) comments intending to help, but which ultimately hurt.

Here are a few such comments, in no particular order.

Cheer up/Don’t be sad/Just think positively. Oh were it that easy! The biggest problem with comments like that is that they assume the problem is a choice. Just try harder! Just choose to be happy! That’s not how it works, and it’s condescending and insulting to imply otherwise. No one CHOOSES depression. No one chooses mania. No one chooses anxiety. And if it were that easy to stop, no one would suffer from them in the first place.

But you have so much to be thankful for. Yes, someone’s life might appear to be problem free. Great job, great marriage, healthy happy kids, etc. I would say first of all that no one knows what happens behind closed doors, and even if someone’s life was as picture-perfect as it seemed? Mental illness does not discriminate. It crosses all borders, and doesn’t care about your gender, race, religion, or socio-economic status.

I know just how you feel. No, you don’t. If you’re fortunate enough not to be affected by mental illness, you have no idea how I feel. Please don’t believe otherwise. If you are one of the unlucky ones, chances are you really can relate…. but even then, I think there’s a risk in assuming that we completely understand how another person feels. No two situations are alike, no two people are alike. Ask questions, share experiences, but tread carefully with phrases like, “I know how you feel.” Never say you understand unless you truly do.

Everyone feels that way sometimes. One of the most disheartening experiences I’ve ever had when it comes to sharing my experience was about a year ago. I’d hit a bump in my recovery, my meds were being all switched up, and my diagnosis was being expanded to include Borderline Personality Disorder. I was a mess, I confided in a friend, and she asked me to describe what it all meant. I did my most vulnerable best, she looked at me with almost a shrug and said, “Oh. We all feel that way sometimes.” Oof. It is extremely minimizing to dismiss a very difficult mental illness as something that we all experience from time to time. I worked, and continue to work, hard – HARD – to do the things I need to do to be well. It’s hurtful for that work to be rejected with a flippant refusal to believe that there was even a problem in the first place.

You need to exercise/get outside/heal your gut/eat these foods/take these supplements/use these oils/try this product. I know that you want to help. I do. But I PROMISE you that anyone dealing with a mental illness has done his or her homework, knows the options that are out there, and has made decisions and determinations about what does and does not help them. They’re also (one would hope) working with a team of professionals whose job it is to help them get well. What your friend needs from you is friendship, not advice.

My brother has bipolar too. He’s in jail. I used this as an example because it was something that was said to me once. (And by the by, how was I supposed to respond to that? I still don’t know.) But it speaks to a larger issue of making assumptions and comparisons. Not everyone who has bipolar ends up jail. Not everyone with schizophrenia is violent. While those things certainly are the reality for some people, every illness is different, and every individual is different. Yes, there are patterns of behavior, and there are shared symptoms… but it’s a slippery slope when you start to believe that the character you saw in Silver Linings Playbook is the epitome of mental illness. Everyone is different.

You just need to turn to God. I saved this one for last, because I think it’s the most damaging on the list. Too many people think that if you just believe hard enough, if you just pray hard enough, that God will take away your illness. This belief is so, so harmful for believers. It leaves those struggling with mental illness feeling as though it’s their fault, that they’ve fallen short, that their faith isn’t strong enough, and that they’re just not TRYING. It is NOT their fault, it is not a sign of weakness, and it can affect anyone. Anyone. Regardless of where they do or do not stand with God. Regardless of how much they believe, regardless of how hard they try.

It can be a delicate thing, dealing with mental illness – dealing with any kind of illness – when it comes to your friends or family. And while it’s true that there are missteps that can easily be made, there are things to be said that can help, immensely.

I’m thinking of you.

I love you.

I’m here if you need me.

I hear you.

I see you.

Simple words that go a long way to let someone know you care, that you don’t think it’s their fault, and that you know they just can’t “snap out of it.” When all else fails, you can never go wrong with just Being There.

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Filed under bipolar, depression, mania, mental health, Uncategorized

I’m Not a Mean Mom… But I’m Not a Nice Mom, Either

Yesterday, a friend sent me a link to another Mean Mom blog post. The internet is full of these, and their praise is rampant. Moms virtually compete to see who can be the meanest, and backs are pat when the bar is raised.

It makes me tired.

I’ve written several times about why I’ve opted out of being a “mean mom.” ( You can read a few here, here, and here)

But the thing is, I don’t want to be a “nice” mom, either.

Nice is common. Nice is superficial. Nice is what you are to the cashier at Target, and the waiter at Cheesecake Factory. Nice is what you do when you follow polite societal norms. With a little bit of practice, anyone can be nice.

When it comes to my kids (as to everyone I love), I want to be kind. Kind comes from somewhere deeper than nice. Kind is precipitated by caring, by genuine feelings, and genuine desires. Kind makes me want to treat my children the way I’d like to be treated, and kind makes me want to put my children first.

Being kind is not the same thing as being a doormat. In fact, it’s the opposite. Kindness comes from a place of true connection. A place where there’s room for give and take, for honest communication, and deep relationship.

Kindness puts someone else’s needs above your own, and kindness begets more kindness. The beauty of kindness is that it spreads. The more kindness that you pour onto your kids, the more kindness they’ll pour onto others.

The more you show them you care, the more they’ll care about others.

The more you give, the more they’ll learn to give to others.

The more you model forgiveness, and grace, and understanding, the more they’ll respond in kind.

The world, especially these days, desperately needs more kindness. The world does not need more “mean.”

And as with anything else we’re trying to change in society…. the best place to start is with our kids.

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Filed under gentle parenting, mindful parenting, parenting, Uncategorized