Monday, April 14, 2014

Reason #437

Reasons You Should Never Mess With a Primary Caregiver
Reason #437 -- A Typical Morning

5:15 Wake up
5:30 Run—I won’t tell you how far, ‘cause you’ll know my time stinks
6:10 Take dog out for run
6:40 Make lunches
6:50 Pause to wake up kids, then finish lunches
7:00 Cereal and juice for kids, start bagel and sausage for Little A.’s second breakfast
7:01 S. shows up in “first draft” of her pirate costume for Florida history class
Clearly, she's not happy with it.
7:30 Get Big A. and Little A. out the door
Rummage, search, stress, cajole and tweak pirate costume into “final draft” while simultaneously…
Changing all the towels and starting the washer
Stripping Little A.’s bed
Making our bed
Vacuuming the mounds of dirt in the front hall
Loading the dishwasher
Booting up the computer for work
Supervising piano practice
8:35 Leave house for bus stop, pirate aboard

I have FOURTEEN more hours to go, people! Geesh. But I think the final draft came out great!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Cheesy Love Poem: NPM

I hear it's National Poetry Month, so here's a flashback poem, a glimpse of a very young me falling in love.  Totally cheesy! (Hahahaha--read the poem; you'll get it!) W&L folks who gave blood in the gym at one of the Chi Psi blood drives might recognize a few details.

In all seriousness, though, how lucky am I to have been writing poems about my husband for twenty years now?

Blood and Sandwiches

I went to give blood
The other day and
A sweet old man in
A uniform said
Won’t you have a sandwich
And I said no
I usually end up with
Pimento cheese there
What is

He asked me if
I was living off
(Ungrammatical I know)
And I laughed because
How could I

But they say
Live long enough
You’ll find out
So I lived
And what
Do you know

Three days later
I found you
And me with you
And w*o*w
Funny old guys
In uniforms
Know what
They’re talking about

Let’s get lunch.

Friday, April 4, 2014

I Am Spartacus

This is the third of three posts I’ve written recently about my depression. I had filed them away, never to see the light of day, but to heck with that. I’m writing about this now; it’s my truth and that’s okay on my blog.

And, because I know that reading other bloggers’ honest accounts of their struggles helps me, I hope it helps someone someday.

With this particular post, I know I’m messing with the timeline, because I’m now (April) posting something I wrote in January, something that led me to decide to post about depression in March. I think we can work with that--just don’t think about it too hard!

A couple of weeks back, I started a blog about a couple of sweet moments that were rays of light in what’s been a dark time for me. I started like this:

When I struggled with postpartum depression after S. was born, I forced myself to write in my journal every night.

It didn’t have to be long and it often wasn’t—three or four sentences at most. But I made myself write down one good thing that happened that day.

I had planned to write more about how those recent, brief positive experiences cheered me up. Maybe I will sometime. But after I wrote the introductory sentences above, I decided to dig up my journals and read the entries from the first year after S. was born.

Yes, I had a few “Awww, I’d forgotten that” reactions, but one thought overwhelmed me.

What a load of crap.

Yes, I’m glad I documented the good stuff. But writing down only the good stuff doesn’t mean the bad stuff didn’t happen. Forcing myself to record the best two percent of the day did, in fact, help me to keep going, but it didn’t negate the other 98% of the day, which sucked.

Why am I glad I documented the good stuff? Because I wouldn’t remember it otherwise. Why? Because I was horribly depressed and, for a good chunk of those first eighteen months, suffering thyroiditis and the subsequent hypothyroidism. I wouldn’t have remembered because I was mentally and physically gutted.

That was the bad stuff. It was real and it happened. I don’t see any point in hiding it anymore. If I say depression is nothing to be ashamed of, why do I keep acting (or trying to) like I’m always fine?

In a mystery novel I like, Julia Spencer Fleming’s One Was a Soldier, the main character says this, “We’re all so in love with the idea of moving on and growing through loss and making lemonade when life hands us lemons that we don’t take time to mourn. Before you can move on, you have to stand still and account for what’s been lost. Sometimes, you have to throw the damn lemon against the wall and yell, I wanted chocolate chip cookies, not this bitter fruit.”

So, that day I ended up exploring more of the mourning and anger of my depressions—recent and not-so-recent—than the bright moments. And I actually think that was the most productive thing I could have done at that time.
Back in April now—pay attention, keep up, we can do this!

Today, I saw this on Upworthy and it’s so true. Not only does the video give us a lot of great information about mental illness (illness!) these days, but it also reminds me of how depression feels—going through the motions of life wrapped in a furry, suffocating, gray thing, feeling like everyone can see how messed up you are, and yet not really being seen by anyone.
I didn’t see the video until today, but it’s the other half of why I started to post about my depression. The first half, as I’ve written, was because I need to be honest about my life, depression, anger, and all. The second half was to get some attention for that elephant, for me and for all the others.

Either way, I’m standing up to say, “I am Spartacus…and I struggle with depression!”

And my profound admiration and gratitude goes out to everyone who has commented or messaged me. I've always known I have been blessed with beautiful friends, but hearing from some of you that you also deal with depression and are still as amazing as you are means the world to me. We are Spartacus!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Reading Between the Lines

I had an interesting conversation lately. I mentioned how hard it was to keep up with my running when I’m depressed. My friend, in caring and concern, said, “But I always feel better when I run.” So true!

It’s like that old saying, though—you have to have money to make money. I find I need to have a teeny little scrap of spiritual energy to do anything to feel better.

When I’m depressed, I often think of a great description I read in an absolutely fantastic book, Emergence by David R. Palmer. (Now that I think about it, Emergence came decades before Hunger Games and Divergent and pretty much leaves them in the dust. Just sayin’.) Anyway, his main character describes depression as ignoring twenty good choices and flipping a coin over what’s left.

Yep, when I’m depressed, I could be dying of thirst and have some overpowering reason not to get a drink of water.

Anyway, now that I’m feeling better, I can’t believe how…unlike myself I’ve been. Take reading, for example.

Evaluate the following statements, True or False.

  • I learned to read looking over my dad’s shoulder while he read Dicken’s A Christmas Carol to me.
  • I read nine books a week for most of elementary school and junior high.
  • Teachers used to yell at me for reading while I walked up and down the stairs on the way to and from recess.
  • On nighttime car trips, I tried to read by the light of the streetlamps we passed.
  • At Christmas, my family gave me books, but not until the very end—otherwise I’d be oblivious to all of it.
  • For a number of years, I read Les Miserables once a year.
  • When the last two Harry Potter books were released and delivered to our house, I told Big A. to put them on a high shelf between five and eight o’clock at night, so I would be able to focus on dinner and bedtime with S.
  • For a number of years, I read The Lord of the Rings once a year.
  • I generally read fiction at one hundred pages per hour.
  • My only requirement for a handbag is that it be able to hold a paperback.
  • I have read Clarissa, or, The History of a Young Lady, which the New York Times estimated had a word count of 984,870—moreover, 984,870 not very good words. (That's my opinion, not the NYT's.)
  • I love my job as an editor because I get to read.

Okay, yeah, they’re all true. Geez, I’m predictable.

But that’s the thing. Reading hasn’t been fun lately. For me, that’s like missing a…well, a part of me. The fancy word for it is anhedonia, the inability to find pleasure in things you usually enjoy. Anhedonia sounds a lot better than it feels.

Now, that I'm feeling better, I’m really enjoying rediscovering my joy in reading. And walking the dog. And cooking—oh, and eating. And running. And hanging with my family. And…everything.

It blows me away how all those fabulous feelings snuck away into the fog without me noticing. And I’m so glad to have them back. I hope the novelty wears off a little so I can do something other than eat, read, and walk the dog A LOT.

I also hope the novelty never wears off; I want to remember the contrast so I can hold on to my profound appreciation of life’s pleasures.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Do Stuff With Them

I’ve mentioned before that life seems to hand me lessons to learn over and over again. This one comes back to me on a regular basis. Maybe I need to learn it again for each stage of their development?

Our Girl Scout troop went on our spring overnight this weekend. We had five girls and five moms at a beautiful campsite. The rain held off, we cooked our food, explored nature, chilled out a bit, and had a fantastic time. Not much sleep, but a fabulous time.

As soon as we got there, my camping-with-kids instincts took over, which, oddly, trump my parenting instincts in some ways. Back in the day, I was a counselor at Camp Arrowhead. Both camp and the Girl Scouts believe in letting the kids do the work. So we kicked off our overnight by letting the girls make lunch for their moms.

Now that sounds horrible, right? But does it really?

I recently read an article—which I’ve completely lost track of, but if someone finds it, I’ll credit it—that pointed out school is, in many ways unnatural. For most of human existence, children followed parents or adults of their community around and learned to be like them. They weren’t isolated with their peers and one adult.

That made me think of the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. The children in all the books not only learn by following their parents around, watching and helping, but they aspire to be like their parents. Almanzo dreams of the day when his father decides he’s ready for…wait for it…more, harder work. And, on top of that, the work the children do substantially helps their families. They can see the value of it, after they’ve stomped out fire in their haystacks or ground meal to keep the family from starving.

All that’s great on paper. Then there’s real life.

Our kids are getting a little older and we’ve started doing the whole thing where I say, “Can you please do this?” and they say, “Unnnngh” and roll their eyes and drag their feet.

Now, that ain’t happening here. No way.

But I also prefer to prevent behaviors—channel energy in a positive direction, give them something better to do, use their power for good rather than evil—however you want to look at it, if I can. This one had been stumping me, though.

At least, it stumped me until I watched how happily our Girl Scouts served their moms sandwiches, swept, gathered wood, made fires, washed dishes, and generally helped out. Proud of their skills, the older girls made meals by using knives and matches. They loved what they learned and did--even I can catch on with evidence like that!

So, yesterday Big A. had to go to work. The kids and I got together to make a traditional Italian meal for Sunday night supper—as a surprise for Daddy.

Well, that got them interested. First we shopped for ingredients and a special dessert Daddy would like. Then they found out all the “cool” stuff they “got” to do—they both peeled garlic and chopped bread crumbs. They helped season it. Little A. loved opening a giant can of tomatoes. S. chopped all the onions: “Mommy, they really do make you cry—it’s not just in cartoons.”

They used the hand blender to “search and destroy” tomatoes in the sauce. Little A. really loved that one, giggling as he pulled the trigger on each tomato.

We ended up making an amazing dinner—it just truly tasted fantastic. But even better than that? The kids and I had one of the best days ever. They wanted to work. They loved the results. I loved not getting one single eyeroll. Big A. loved his surprise.

Lots of love going around, people. Do stuff with your kids!

The kid has chops.

This is how we roll...garlic!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Oldie But Goodie

To no one's surprise, I have a warped sense of humor. This is one of my favorite cartoons ever. When I recently found it in some old papers, it made my day. I hope it makes yours brighter, too!

Happy Day, Folks!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Never, Never, Never, Never

This is the second of three posts I’ve written recently about my depression. I had filed them away, never to see the light of day, but to heck with that. I’m writing about this now; it’s my truth and that’s okay on my blog.

And, because I know that reading other bloggers’ honest accounts of their struggles helps me, I hope it helps someone someday.

I grew up in a house full of people fascinated by history and politics. My father has a particular respect for Winston Churchill. Reading the title of the blog, you may reasonably expect me to follow it with a discourse on Prime Minister Churchill’s speech at Harrow, including this famous quote:

Never give in, never give in, never, never, never--in nothing, great or small, large or petty--never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.

Or you may just be curious as to what kind of naughty thing *I* would say never to do. And that could be interesting, since I’m pretty open-minded in general.

What I really want to say, to myself and to you, dear readers, is this:
 Never, never, never, never read the comments.

Visit: for more.
I love the comic going around the interwebs these days, the one called “Nest” by Robot Hugs. It conveys the absolute best way to help me when I am depressed. I say that without qualifications. Apparently a lot of other people feel the same, since I’ve seen it many places. Here it is again, for your viewing pleasure. 

I have been on both sides of depression and I know how utterly frustrating it can be to be patient. As both a person struggling with depression and a person watching a loved one’s struggle, I want to cure that disease—just as I want so desperately to heal my children when they have colds or fevers or stomach flu. It stinks to watch someone you love hurt. It stinks to hurt.

The beauty of the comic (the term comic doesn’t seem awesome enough for it!) is that it offers something for bystanders to do when a loved one is depressed. I know it’s what I crave. And think about that for a minute—realize how few words are involved in the scene depicted. A few light inquiries. That’s all.

I’m an editor. For fun, I read and write. I talk more than I really should. I talk a lot! Words are the medium of my life. But when I’m depressed…

Depression, for me, skews my interpretation of the world. The disease twists well-intentioned words so that I hear them as criticism. “Can’t I do anything to help?” becomes “Hurry up and get better already, slacker. You’re irritating me.” Depression’s translation has nothing to do with reality, but that translation ends up living in my head.

So I find the wordless caring shown here beautiful—supportive, safe, loving. It moves me to see it posted so many places online.

I should just never, never, never, never read the comments.

I only read a few. But. I have already deleted several of my responses to some of the most ignorant comments. What is the point in responding? Yet I am horrified that a chemical imbalance that affects a vital organ that, in turn, affects the rest of the body, can be so…judged. Then again, we just found out a quarter of Americans polled don’t know the earth goes around the sun, so…

Maybe I actually should be quoting Mr. Churchill more thoroughly. Maybe this “apparently overwhelming might of the enemy”—ignorance—will someday yield to good sense or good science. Maybe someday at least three-quarters of us will realize that depression is a disease. Maybe we will realize that those who survive depression do so by never, never, never, never giving up for a very long time, through very stern days.