Friday, August 29, 2014


This post may seem like that most insidious of things, a humble brag, but it’s not. For one thing, I take no credit. For another thing, the writing served two purposes—it reminds me of what really matters at the end of the parenting day and it leads into my next blog. Naturally.

It’s been a summer marked by change. Of course, children change most of all. And, when I think of their milestones at age nine-turning-ten and six, at first I think of all their achievements at school, celebrated so thoroughly in May and June.

More recently, I remember how startled I've been when we sit together at a meal and I think, How tall they look! Then comes the second, heart-bursting and stomach-dropping thought: They’re not sitting on their feet. It’s amazing when they grow like that. I look over, startled, and then just admire what they’ve done. Getting taller. All on their own. Wow.

But this summer, like seashells, I’ve been collecting other little markers that, in the end, mean more to me. It all began when we went to our favorite Italian place for a meal. As the hostess turned to collect menus and lead us to the table, she knocked her notebook onto the floor. Faster than I could think, Little A. leapt forward, picked it up, and cheerfully said, “Here you go.”

Something inside me said, This is important.

My heart nearly burst with pride. I realized that this act of kindness truly meant more to me than his report card. I filed that reminder away for the future, for the times when I need to choose parenting priorities.

And then we’ve also had an abundance of small ones in our lives this summer. Dear friends had a beautiful baby girl in the spring and other babies have crossed our path. One sweet girl, about a year old, played with us for nearly an hour at the beach one day. I say “us”—she really played with S. and Little A.

As soon as we arrived, S. laid out a beautiful and elaborate sand project. As she sculpted away, the little one toddled up. Right away, S. saw that the baby and her pudgy fists of destruction were heading for her sand city.  

Calmly, sweetly, cheerfully, our tween started making quick sand castles between the baby and her project. She built tower after tower for that baby to smash, moving on to tunnels and buried feet when the baby’s interest waned. Little A. joined in at times. They had a blast, even though S. never did finish her beautiful sand-sculpting project that day.

Again, the voice inside told me to pay attention.

The remarkable thing about both these incidents—and other sweet moments I’ve stored away this summer—is that I did nothing. Neither did their dad.

On vacation, Little A., bundle of energy, runner-into-walls, thrower of things, hurdler of obstacles, never-say-die, all-around tough kid, played with another toddler in the baby pool. He gently, sweetly, and patiently tossed a beach ball over and over, responding to the baby’s cues. Later that night, Big A. asked me how the kid learned to do that.

I stumbled around, looking for an answer, but in the end, I had to say, “I guess he learned it from the way he was treated when he was little.”

I thought about the wonderful teens who have stayed with the kids when we couldn’t, the teens and big kids who’ve shown delight in our kids—at school, at church, in scouting, at the do jang—and I thought what a wonderful gift they’ve given us.

They’ve shown our kids that big people have fun taking care of little people.

More on that in my next post, which will be my first blog by request!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


I've started composing blogs in my mind, but I can't go on until I take time to acknowledge that our family has changed profoundly in the last few weeks.

My husband's father, the children's beloved Papa and the best father-in-law a girl could ask for, passed away peacefully on August 15.

With the help of a wonderful community of family and friends, we said farewell with a funeral Mass and Celebration of Life on Saturday, then--again, thanks to some wonderful, generous new friends--said a final farewell at sea.

Words seldom fail me, but, now, even a picture's proverbial thousand words seem inadequate. How could I pick one? Or ten? Papa lived life so fully, so vividly, and with so much love that his going leaves a huge hole in this world, not to be patched by words or pictures.

So I will leave this. The whole family gathered for Papa's 72nd birthday a few short weeks ago. On his birthday, the quote on our calendar seemed so fitting that I haven't changed it yet.

"The measure of a man's character is not what he gets from his ancestors, but what he leaves his descendants."
Farewell, Papa! You have left us so much--wisdom, memories, adventure, joy, and love. 
We will sail on until we see you again one day!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Light

I have felt no desire to add my voice to the discussion of Robin William’s death. Until now. Now I want to say something about the inevitable and seemingly unending comments about how happy he seemed, how much he had, and whether he chose to die or died of a disease. Now I feel like my perspective might add something.

Everything I say comes with a caveat—it is based on my experience and my observation. I’m not a scientist or any sort of expert, just someone who has been severely depressed.

If you are depressed or know someone who is, a great number of resources can be found on this page:

Telling someone who suffers from severe depression that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel—or that there’s help, or love, or that this, too, shall pass—is like telling a person who has lost their vision that it is day.

Maybe they’ve seen day before and maybe they haven’t, but they can’t see it now. Their ability to perceive day is gone. Let me be very clear about this. A person without the ability to see does not choose to look away from light; the mechanism in their body for perceiving light has stopped working. Depressed people do not choose to turn away from hope, help, and love, the mechanism in their body that allows them to perceive those has stopped working.

Maybe you’re right there beside them, telling them about hope, help, and love. They trust you, they know you wouldn’t lie, they know you love them, but they’re still taking your word for it. And, more importantly, they’re holding onto faith that someday they’ll see again, that, in some inexplicable way, someday they’ll be healed. Their vision will return somehow. They must constantly choose to believe that, by some unforeseeable miracle, day will relate to them again.

And so it is with depression. You can say there’s hope and maybe I’ll hear you from my depression, but I can only take your word for it.

Maybe they’ve survived depression before, but not even memory of day can always help. I’ve been depressed before and I know it’s ended, though not exactly how. I know some things that usually go hand-in-hand with healing—slowing down, sleeping, exercise—but sometimes they come first and sometimes they come after. I have knowledge and memory of passing out of depression, but, in my depressions, I cannot perceive it. It doesn’t relate to me.

The sun shines brightly and beautifully, even for those unable to see it. And those who love and care for the depressed do so brightly and beautifully. Believe me when I say that your light is there. But depression takes away our vision.

Holding on through that loss of vision takes faith, courage, and will on the part of the depressed. Yet we are human. Our faith can falter, our courage crumble, our will weaken. We can grow weary. And, because we’re navigating treacherous waters without our sight, we can crash into rocks. Our boat can capsize; our faith, courage, or will can fail for just that second that lets us slip beneath the waves.

Of course we could navigate that river if we could see. Of course we could grab hold of the boat one more time if we were perfect. But we are blinded by depression and we are human.

I stand in awe of everyone who lives with depression. I call you heroes. And I mourn those who have lost their lives to depression. I call you fallen heroes.