Get Up.


It’s been a while.

Remember that time Dave was the one who was depressed? We got that shit managed and under control. Love won!

But now it’s me. I’m definitely not as bad as I was a few weeks ago. It was ugly.

The anxiety started right around the time Comey dropped his useless email bomb on America. I had a sick feeling that a lot of folks were going to believe it was significant (turns out it wasn’t, but TOO LATE!).

Then I had a full-blown panic attack on November 8. When I realized that he was going to win, I puked three times and went to bed.

The next day sucked. What followed is a blurry month of bathrobes and bed sheets.

I was down. Depressed. Dark and hopeless. I felt betrayed by racists (don’t even START with your argument for economics). I learned that my vote truly didn’t count (it’s one of those 3 million that made her the most popular candidate in history, but it wasn’t from the right state).

Our in-house economy was pretty bleak, too, so I felt like the world was falling apart. I cried a lot. I read incessantly. I cried some more.

Fuck breakfast. Fuck lunch. Fuck dinner. I didn’t do anything. I was a shitty wife and a shitty mother and a shitty employee.

Dave was concerned and took me to his therapist one Monday night and I just cried. She was amazing and I love her, and I started to feel a little more hope knowing that I wasn’t alone. She said that this malaise, this depression, is happening all over the country.

Is it happening to you?

One therapy appointment didn’t fix what ailed me, because the next day was another barrage of idiocy, stupidity, ignorance, and lies from the incoming administration. Mental note: that’s going to be a constant for the next 4 years (or however long he stays in office). Who are we? What are we doing?

I was next level. So I went to my primary care doctor and talked about it with her and she was like, “Yeah, this is a THING. It’s a deep despair and hopelessness. It’s happening to a lot of people.”

Is it happening to you?

She also said, “It’s not hopeless. We have come so far and so many people do not share this vision. Your hopelessness is a product of the distortion of depression.”


It’s taken about 2½ weeks and one dosage adjustment, and the results are remarkable.

This depression, this malaise, this "low" you feel is your body's way of telling you, "THIS IS NOT NORMAL." Listen, it's going to be like this for a while and if we need to be medicated for four years to make it through, so be it.

But the work doesn't get done unless we get out of bed. Get dressed. Get out the door into the snow or rain or sunshine and get to work. We need to look into the eyes our most vulnerable and extend a hand. The ONLY way it's going to get better is if a bunch of people work together to make it better, and we can't do that if we don't show up. 

It also doesn't help that the sun is out for like 38 minutes a day or whatever. No, I don't live in Alaska but I speak in hyperbole. You can translate.

Get up. Pick up trash at the park, or go to a Black Lives Matter meeting, or figure out how your city can change all the streetlights to LED, or fight for bike lanes, or vegetable gardens at every school, or native plants in city planters, or support refugees in your town, or become a Girl Scout leader or a Cub Scout leader, or go to Standing Rock, or walk dogs at your local shelter, or run for office...

Get up. Show up. You are needed and necessary. Go where your work is appreciated. Go where you are needed and wanted. Go where your heart tells you, and avoid people who do not appreciate your work. Local and internationally, your work is needed and necessary. It's going to take more than a safety pin to bind us back together.

It's going to take action. It's going to take elbow grease. It's going to take YOU.

The revolution will not be televised. It will happen in real life.

I want to tell you that the first thing you have to do is get up and deal with the depression. Call your doctor and take control (you can get health insurance here) (#ThanksObama). There are numerous medications with few side effects. You deserve to feel better. You deserve to have control. You deserve to have the will to fix this.

But first of all, you need to get up.


The Way I Felt With Little Kids

I, uh, don't have any tolerance for what my friend calls "mommy wars". Mothering is hard. If somebody's shouting about how y'all need to stop complaining, just do yourself a favor and go away from them because that person is a dick. Who needs that kind of negativity?

I've got kids that are older now and it's a lot easier. If you've got tiny people, I've found in my limited experience that it gets a lot easier.

Listen, I found this today, and I felt myself go back to that place of anxiety and anger and frustration, and I know, in the deepest part of me, that I was not alone. I felt like a nuclear bomb had been dropped on my life. It was real.

So here's what I wrote one day when I felt like it was too much and maybe I wanted to not be a mom that day.

Recapturing My Passion for Parenting

  • I feel frustrated at home because I am constantly fighting messes.
  • I feel frustrated because I can never truly relax and enjoy a conversation when the kids are around.
  • I feel angry when I want to socialize with friends and can't.
  • I feel angry when my thoughts are interrupted.
  • I feel violated with the kids actions are destructive and create more work.
  • I feel panicked with the kids' whining and interrupting hinder meal prep.
  • I feel stressed in my car because it is messy and dirty.
  • I feel violated when the kids don't nap or respect quiet time.
  • I feel angry when I prioritize the kids' hunger over my own.
  • I feel smothered when I find books and toys in my room.
  • I am nervous when I wake up in the morning and I don't know how I'm going to handle the day.
  • I feel angry when the kids make messes while I am getting ready to leave.
  • I feel overworked when I have to choose between supervising bath time, making meals, laundry, and picking up the house.
  • I feel overwhelmed and hopeless when Dave works late or has doctor's appointments.
  • I feel envious that Dave doesn't have to balance childcare to make doctor's appointments.
  • I feel violated when both children speak to me at the same time.
  • I feel overworked when I have to clean up after all three meals.
  • I feel uninterested in playing with my kids.
This was kind of an assessment, I guess. I just needed to get a clear picture of where I actually was in that moment. It felt good to clear dissect and clear out every feeling. It was my starting line.

But here is the second part. Not as long, but equally important.
  • I feel good when I make the kids laugh.
  • I take pride in handling a heavy workload.
  • I feel empowered when I take care of MY needs.
  • I understand the importance of making some things a higher priority than others.
  • I enjoy being in a family.
  • I enjoy having fun with the kids.
  • I enjoy laughing with Dave.
  • I need time alone.
  • I need time with friends, away from children.
  • I like spending time with other couples.
  • It's OK to feel sad or overwhelmed.
Whatever situation you find yourself in with small children, it's real, man. Leave the house to go do paid work? It's hard. Stay at home with your kids? It's hard. Have a paid job and you do that job at home? It's hard. Kids are hard. 

That's all I've got.


An Open Letter to the Guy in the Plumbing Department at Lowe's

Dear Guy at Lowe’s,

I’m sorry I don’t remember your name. Shit, women always apologize. I’m not going to apologize.

Let me start over.

Hey. Last week you helped my husband find some pieces to finish a drip line project for our yard. When you’d finished helping him, you looked at me and said enthusiastically, “Now you can go shoe shopping!”

My friend, we have a problem, and it’s a serious one.

I think I replied with, “I don’t go fucking shoe shopping.” I have a foul mouth. I was insulted. Sorry.


I’m not sorry. At all.

You were wrong to say that to me because it was packed with meaning, and everything you meant was wrong. You don't know me, and what you believed about me was totally wrong.

First, you assume that I actually GO shoe shopping. Wrong. At the time of your comment, I was sporting a pair of flip flops from Target that I bought for my daughter’s kindergarten commencement. She is now a 3rd grader. The last pair of shoes I purchased were for a wedding I went to in 2013. I don’t go shoe shopping, really.

Second, you assumed that I would rather go shoe shopping that go to a hardware store. Wrong again! I love the hardware store. I love nails and power tools and plants and lumber. I don't like department stores. I dislike, with great intensity, commercialism and purchasing stuff and buying new shoes when I have perfectly acceptable shoes at home that work just fine. Interestingly, I do ACTUALLY need new shoes, though. Maybe you noticed the sorry state of my flip flops… Why don’t I go shoe shopping then?

Third, you assumed that I had the money to go shoe shopping. Ugh, another wrong. We’ve been broke for a long time. And you know what? It’s OK. We’re working hard to make ourselves not-broke. You probably didn’t notice that my tank top was several years old and bore the always-present hole where my son’s leg wore it away against the button of my jeans. He just turned 6. I haven’t carried him for years. We had a little cash to spend on a DIY drip line and some plants. If we have a little money, I prioritize plants over shoes.

Fourth, you implied that shoe shopping would be my “reward” for slogging through the hardware store with my husband. This, my friend, is what pissed.me.off. I don’t get “rewarded” in my house. I’m equal. If I need shoes, I fucking buy them and I don’t ask permission. My husband’s needs do not come ahead of mine. I take care of my own shit. And for the life of me, I cannot imagine a level of hell more tortuous than going shoe shopping on a gorgeous Saturday. That ALONE would be awful, but with my husband? Fuck no!

I’m not alone.

This may shock you, but women enjoy a variety of different activities, but not all women enjoy the same activities. Let me put it a little differently: WOMEN ARE NOT ALL THE SAME.
The following is a list of activities that many women enjoy. It is not, by any stretch of the imagination, exhaustive. Some women enjoy some of these activities. Not all women enjoy all these activities. Some women don't enjoy any of these activities, but enjoy other, unlisted activities.

  • hiking
  • running
  • sewing
  • cooking 
  • napping
  • travelling
  • carpentry
  • whittling
  • camping
  • gardening
  • rock climbing
  • soldering
  • weight lifting
  • glass blowing
  • computer programming
  • brewing beer
  • acting
  • auto racing
  • drinking beer
  • bridge building
  • watching sports
  • jewelry making
  • interior design
  • online gaming
  • cosplay
  • writing
  • painting
  • gambling
  • reading
  • mathematics
  • home improvement
  • learning
  • engineering
  • medicine
  • astronomy
  • photography
  • teaching
  • politics
  • horseback riding
  • film making
  • horse racing
  • family
  • animal husbandry
  • botany
  • neuroscience
  • construction
  • family
  • shoe shopping

You may feel compelled to defend yourself by labeling me “sensitive” or “over-reactive,” but I’ll remind you how offensive stereotypes are. You’re an older white guy. Some people might think that because you’re an older white guy, you’re a politically conservative bigoted racist who likes NASCAR and drinking beer. Maybe that’s you to the letter. Or maybe it’s not. I’m not going to make that assumption, because I don’t know anything about you beyond your job and your dumb comment. I know you said something without thinking about what the words meant, but they meant something. Let me clarify, once again, my point.
  • Women are not all the same.
  • Different people are different.
Each human you meet is a unique package of experiences, passions, likes, and dislikes that separates them from every other human on the planet.

So just stop.  Right now. Just stop.

If you think you know what’s going on inside a person’s head because of their gender, sex, race, perceived sexual orientation, clothing, religion, political affiliation, hair color, language, car they drive (or don’t), makeup, piercings, tattoos, shoes, handbags, where they live, their job, the way they write a post on Facebook – ALL OF IT - you are wrong. Just stop. You don't know.

I don’t know.

None of us, except that person, know.

If we assume we know, we’re being an asshole. My friend Janelle is fond of reminding me that “sometimes, we’re all the asshole.” It's OK to admit being the asshole. We all are because we're flawed humans. But we can all try to not be the asshole.

Let’s all commit to working a little harder on not being the asshole.




Why I Don't Follow Sick Kid Stories

I don't know if you've noticed, but there's a lot of sick kids out there.  Lots.  They've got cancer and weird blood diseases.  They were born with genetic mutations that have left them unable to walk or eat or learn or laugh like other kids.  Or they fell off the monkey bars and sustained life-altering brain damage.  Their parents write blogs and lots of people follow their stories.  Strangers even, follow them.  My friends will sometimes talk about a sick kid they're following, and my mom tells me about others.

The internet is a great place to find support if you are the parent of a sick kid.  Really, it's a beautiful community maker.  As a parent, you can vomit your whole (truly) awful story out onto a blank blog space and feel the catharsis of getting the tragedy out.  You share your link on Facebook or Twitter, and in return, you may find yourself enveloped in a community of supporters who love you and empathize and offer help and love in your hour of deepest need.  Prayer circles widen and you don't really need to make a million phone calls.  You just write what's happening and the support of friends and strangers is there.

I do not follow sick kids.

A friend on Facebook brought it to my attention, actually, and it was really, really weird.  He lashed out at his Facebook friends because nobody responded to a "write on this sick kid's wall" request.  This guy always seemed to be following and posting about sick kids.  When I read his accusation, all I could think was, "That's not how I want to spend my time."  I don't judge anybody else for caring, but I felt rather offended that I was getting yelled at for not caring about the same things as him.  I sort of felt like, "Geez, leave me alone."

But it forced me to really consider why I don't care follow those stories.  Once upon a time, I had a sick kid.  I had a kid who almost died twice and I spent over a year dealing with the possibility that we might head to the hospital at any moment, and walk out without my kid.  I didn't have a kid with a chronic illness like cancer or cerebral palsy.  But I measured medication three times a day that ensured his heart wouldn't beat at 220 bpm and make his organs explode.  I visited the pediatric cardiologist monthly.  I watched for signs of acute hypoglycemia.  I was on a death watch.  I wrote about it.  I vomited my story and hoped that people would rally because I needed a team.  I didn't get strangers (I didn't know how to share on Facebook), but I had friends and family around and it felt pretty good.

But the thing is, at the end of the day, no matter how many people you have around you, it's you.  It's you fighting alone for the life of your sick kid.  And I remember feeling like the life was literally draining out of me.  I couldn't feel positive.  I couldn't feel fearless.  I couldn't feel OK or un-scared.  I was living a half-life - half for me and half for him.

I have tried to read sick kid blogs.  Sometimes I'll hop over to a link a friend shares, intending to get sucked in to the humanity of the story.  I like feeling.  I like empathizing.  I like being part of a larger community that holds up and sustains someone in need.  But whenever I make the attempt to get reeled in, I get through maybe the first paragraph and the morbid reality kicks me out.  I can't handle it.  I don't need to feel that secondhand.  I've had it first hand and it is no way to live.  I don't want to spend any more time dealing with the possibility of a child dying.

I am interested in why people follow them.  Perhaps news and reality TV and social media are inoculating us against one-on-one closeness.  We have such wide circles of virtual companionship that we feel compelled to seek closeness in other ways.  Following the story of a sick kid we don't know allows us to feel safely.  It's not our kid.  It's not our story, but we can be part of it at a distance.  When that child heals, we can all rejoice together and let that family move on together.  If that child dies, then we can all mourn together and support the family through gifts and prayer.  But at a distance.  We don't ever really have to look into the eyes of the grieving parents.  We may have no memory of the child as healthy and vibrant, so the sudden void of presence does not ripple through our lives.  That child was never ours.  We'll never feel sadness on a birthday.  Christmas stays the same.

My kid is healthy.  I don't write about him anymore.  Lots of people celebrated with me, sustained me.  People who offer kind words, hugs, and blessings slake the thirst of a desiccated heart and soul.  If you are up to the challenge, those parents need you.  My heart truly cries for parents enduring the painful reality of child loss.  Writing and sharing provide therapy, and a widening circle of support and community buoy one's soul.  But I cannot do it.  I cannot insert myself into the lives of strangers enduring loss because that's not how I want to live.  If you can, share those stories.  Help those parents by widening their circle of support.  Just don't get mad at me for not wanting to join.  It's too much for me.



For my whole life, I've been told I'm a flake.  "You don't finish things," I heard.  "You start projects and don't finish them."  "You just don't follow through."

So for the last, oh, 30 years, I have believed I'm flaky.  When I started something and either took too long or never finished it, from craft projects to college, I thought it was because I'm flaky.

When I found out I was pregnant 8 years ago, after the initial freak out, I thought, "How am I going to do this?  I'm a flake.  This kid doesn't deserve a flaky mom."  Through the course of my pregnancy, I would occasionally find myself drifting into a place where I’d worry about all the deadlines I'd miss and all the projects we'd start and never finish.  Would we have an ever-growing pile of half sewn Halloween costumes in the corner?  Would her room become a haven of partially painted bookshelves and unfinished scrapbooks?  Would I commit and then not follow through?  Would I make promises I couldn't keep?  I didn't want to do that to my kids. I burned with shame and my kid wasn't even born yet.

I've been parenting for a few years now, and I'll tell you, no greater life test exists than raising a child.  I passed all the immunization tests and even got my kid to the dentist, but my first challenge was preschool.  I got her registered, and she got to school every day.  I made snacks when I said I would.  I got her places when I said I would.  We both graduated from preschool with honors and moved on to kindergarten.  At that school, I had to volunteer once a week.  I got nervous because, you know, long term commitments aren’t really a flake’s forte.  But guess what?  I did it.  I volunteered every week.  I even had another baby and did the same things for him.  I brought snack.  I made appointments and kept them.  On paper, I was a really good mom.

But ugh, that voice in my head was always there, criticizing me.  I heard it in the tone of relatives and a childhood friend.  And I'll be the first to admit, that I have left some projects unfinished.  But there is a difference between being a flake and having a firm grasp on what is important.  And you know what, that time I told my husband I was going to start collecting stamps?  Yes, in that moment I told him I wanted to be a philatelist, I was utterly serious.  But I did nothing to pursue it beyond saying that I wanted to do it.  Consequence of my inaction?  Nothing.  Nobody got hurt.  Moral of the story:  That wasn't "flakey."  Stamp collecting is simply not important right now.  My kids are.

And you know what I realized?  Maybe I'm not a leader.  I'm not the PTA president or Girl Scout troop leader.  Other people can be chiefs.  I'm an Indian right now.  I'm OK with that.  But I'm no ordinary Indian.  I'm an Indian with enthusiasm, and that makes all the difference.

I've approached motherhood in that spirit.  I can think of a million examples in my life that I thought were flaky red flags.  Those critics still hounded me.  Like, for example, everybody told me that I'd get SO sick of the Wiggles and I'd be humming the Wiggles in the shower.  And I felt like, "Crap!  I'm not listening to The Wiggles!  Am I blowing off this major component of motherhood like I do everything else?"  But soon I realized the Wiggles aren't a necessary for happy kids because I saw that my kids were happy.  And I really just don’t want to listen to irritating children’s music.  Putting the kibosh on irritating children's music doesn't make me a flake!  It makes me happy.  We listen to everything from TOOL to the original cast recording of The Book of Mormon in the car.  I love hearing my 7 year old singing wildly inappropriate music a 7 year old.  And I don't care what everybody else is doing.  I'm engaged in this way.  I'm not flaking out.

You know, forget all that Indian crap.  I am a leader.  I am my kids' chief.  My "flakiness" is actually my mad leadership skills in disguise.  I wake up almost every morning committed to not doing lame stuff.  I am not a flake.  I am dedicated to showing my children how the dreary, humdrum monotony of life can be broken with honesty and laughter.  That thing they call flakiness was actually me saying, "This is boring and I won't live my life like that."

But you know, those critics were right about one thing.  When they said I don’t finish things, they were absolutely correct.  Motherhood is a project I'll never complete.  I'm going to be doing this forever.


Depression: A Love Story

Depression sucks.

And I don't mean "sucks" in the, "Dude, you got in a car accident?  That sucks." sort of way.  I mean literally.  Depression sucks away life.

I have been living with depression for years.  But it's not mine.  I live with my husband's.

I feel compelled to start by clarifying that we have a happy marriage.  Like all marriages, ours ebbs and flows through times of bright highs and bleak lows.  Through it all, we love each other dearly.  We respect each other and work continually to ensure that we are taking care of each other.  We both geek out regularly and find joy in atrociously dark humor.  We encourage each other and take pride in the other's achievements. At times, we have each been the north star for the other, ensuring that life's tribulations do not veer us too far off course.  In short, we are in it for life.

However, a while ago, it sucked for a while.  Dave was becoming increasingly unhappy at work and disinterested in life at home.  He dreaded leaving in the morning, yet he stayed really late at the office, sometimes not arriving back home until 9 or 10 o'clock at night.  I would be left alone with one small child, then two, for 15 hours with no relief.  I was exhausted.  He looked hollow and gray.  We argued.  We were both frustrated and angry at this awful something that we couldn't name.  I was scared.  Every time he'd leave on a business trip I slept with the phone by my bed.  I knew that eventually I'd get a call from the hotel staff informing me that he'd overdosed and was dead or a cop would be telling me they found Dave's car wrecked and he was dead.  Too many nights I finally fell asleep at 2 or 3 am, exhausted from that worry.  Though we had never discussed it, intuitively, I knew he was suicidal.  I would feel sheer relief when he returned, but the grayness followed him and honestly, it wasn't him anymore.  He was this shell of the person I fell in love with.  I didn't know him anymore.

I encouraged him to call a therapist.  He didn't.

I encouraged him again to call a therapist.  He didn't.

I shouted at him to call a fucking therapist so that he could figure out what the fuck was wrong.  He said he couldn't.  Physically, he couldn't.

So I called.  And he went.

Thus began his slow journey back to life.  He's been seeing a therapist and a psychiatrist almost weekly for nearly two years.  

Dave was diagnosed with depression in November of 2011.  He learned that he's probably been suffering from the disease for most of his life.  Upon diagnosis, he immediately began trying various antidepressants.  For a week he'd be up, then down again, and he'd need to try something new.  He landed on one and it sort of worked, but he realized that he was still feeling anxiety (depression and anxiety are kissing cousins, and they are the worst relatives. ever.).  Anyway, he was then prescribed something for anxiety.  We both felt we were getting closer to the source of the problem, but there was something...else.  We couldn't place it, but something was still off.  He would have these graceful highs of tremendous productivity, happiness, and excitement, and then within a week, a day or even an hour, he'd crash and need to spend money, be away, and feel totally hopeless at work.  These were dramatic, blundering, infuriating lows.  After discussing this with his therapist, he was diagnosed with bipolar II.  He was prescribed mood stabilizers and again, we feel closer.  For this reason, talking therapy is as essential as pharmaceuticals for this type mental illness.  He would have still felt "off" if he had given up sessions and just taken his meds.  He would have continued to suffer needlessly.  The combination of pharmaceuticals and talking therapies is essential for the regulation of chemicals in Dave's brain.

As a spouse, it's really hard sometimes.  I feel angry that his brain attacks him.  I feel frustrated that I have been robbed of the experience that ideal, freakishly-wrong-but-I-still-want-it "Leave It To Beaver" family.  I have felt resentful at times that I've spent time and energy dancing around his illness, ensuring that nothing happens that will send him spiraling south.  I've felt frustrated for my own experience.  Sometimes I just don't want to have to deal with it.  More often, though, I've been angry FOR HIM.  I am angry that his brain has blocked joy, that he has never really felt the instinct to nurture our kids and that he sometimes felt emptiness while holding his babies.  I feel angry for him that negative thoughts pervade his thoughts and pollute his joy.

Dave will probably never get better, but he fights every single day to get closer.  He is a one man army and most days, he is winning.  He will probably be medicated for the rest of his life.  This is what he needs  to experience joy and to live a full, satisfying life, which he is entitled to.  This is essential for Dave to not suffer.  This is what he needs to not kill himself.  Depression hurts physically and mentally, and it is unnecessary.

Depression is a chemical imbalance like diabetes or hypothyroidism, and we would never expect one to conquer those two conditions without medication.  Depression is insidious because it pervades the thought process.  It infects even the happiest, most joyful moments and corrupts memories.  We all need to talk about that, to get a firm grasp on reality, because what's happening in a depressed brain, what that brain is perceiving about life and experience isn't fucking real.  It's a sham, a great fleecing, a royal, outright lie.  Life is good and beautiful.  It's not perfect all the time.  But it's mostly good and everybody deserves feel that joy.

This worked for us: me calling the therapist and Dave going to the therapist.  Dave takes his medication because he wants to feel better.  He has recently taken control of his illness by finding his own doctors in our new city.  This is HUGE.  This will not work for everyone.  I know of a couple who encouraged each other to get treated and they are now both (wait for it) happy.  You can be happy.  Your spouse can be happy.

While talking with an old friend last week about Dave, he kind of danced around asking me about Dave's illness by saying, "I hope you don't mind me asking, but...".  No, I don't mind.  I want you to ask me.  This experience with mental illness is tattooed on my soul.  I will never not have this experience, and I am not ashamed or embarrassed to live with it.  Please ask me about it.  Please talk about it.  Please release yourself from the stigma of mental illness.  There is nothing to be ashamed of.  I view Dave's illness as an unwelcome intruder in our lives.  Always on the periphery, waiting for the right cue to make a grand entrance and steal the show, Dave and I work together to keep it in the shadows, where it belongs.

I will end this with some final thoughts:

1)  Dave's therapist encouraged me to read Andrew Solomon's book The Noonday Demon so that I might understand Dave's experience.  I am eternally grateful to her, and I cannot recommend this book enough.  I learned so much about him and felt comfortable talking about this age-old illness.  This book is practically a handbook for anyone experiencing depression either first- or second-hand.  Please order it from the link above and read it.  Your view of depression will change for the better.  I promise.

2)  Dave encourages you to read comedian Rob Delaney's personal account of depression.  Dave connected with this piece on a deeply personal level and hopes that other people suffering will also learn they are not alone.  They are not alone.  He also hopes that others will seek medical help so that they might experience joy again.

3) Never give up on life.  Never underestimate the power of kindness and love.  Every person deserves to feel joy and happiness.  If one drug doesn't work, try something new.  But do not give up on the possibility of a bright future.  It takes time and work, but anything worth having is worth fighting for.  Joy is worth the fight.

P.S.  Allie from "Hyperbole and a Half" created a beautiful piece about her journey back from the depths of depression.  If you're in for a tear-filled laugh, please read.


End of Chapter 1

Man, it got ugly there for a minute.

And by minute, I mean 6 years.

Anybody can start from the beginning of this project and figure out that nothing’s been easy for a while.  But if you read through, you’ll find a common theme of hope.  I have never given up hope.  Far away from the soul-crushing anomalies and beneath the omnipresent darkness, I detected light and hope and believed I would get there.

But, nothing will fuck with your head like the feeling of failure.  Nothing.  Once somebody has told you that you failed, no matter how small or insignificant that thing is, that feeling is emblazoned in your heart and mind as the one thing you perpetually dodge but always court.  No matter what you try, what risk you take, what goal you set to accomplish, that hissing, tsking voice is there.  Reminding you of that one time…

But what if you didn’t fail?  What if that was somebody’s boneheaded perception of events or their own issue that led them to criticize somebody else’s work or life?  See, here’s what I’m asking.  What if there was no such thing as failure?

As evidence, I’d like to submit Shitstorm 2006-2012.  This six year long whirlwind of bullshit left me with two options:
1.       Bitterness.  I could rise up full of righteous rage for all the injustices we endured, cutting myself off from people and places who didn’t help or should have helped or tried to help but just missed the mark.  I would wither and die, desiccating like seaweed at low tide.
2.       Introspective.  I could spend some time thinking about life and love and the things that really matter in the world.  I could take those lessons to heart and change my perspective into one of gratitude, all the while laughing at the forces that tried to break my family.  I would endure and bloom.

Happy for me, I chose option 2.  I’m not tooting my own horn, because I still struggle with want vs. need, luxury vs. necessity, and the desire to scream and yell at walls because my kids won’t go to sleep.  But seriously, nothing will make you appreciate life like seeing somebody come back to life.  And that’s what’s happening.  I never gave up hope that it would get better, and finally, it has.

This month, for the first time in years, I felt OK.  We’ve all decided that kidlet’s school was no bueno, so we’re home schooling in the fall.  We joined a swim team and haven’t been late to practice once, and we’re in love with this experience.  I have a legit vegetable garden.  We paid our bills on time.  I stick to a meal plan.  Mostly.  “We’re OK,” I thought.  “We’re actually doing OK.”

But then I got a phone call and I learned that because I’m lousy at sending cards and I call late on birthdays and Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, and because I don’t read minds, I needed to go see a therapist.  I was being a bad family member.  Literally.  I was doing irreparable damage to my relationships.  I was failing.
I got two hours of sleep that night, terrified that I’d taken slices of my family members’ hearts, seared them and laughed.  “Am I really an asshole?” I wondered.  Maybe.  I did forget to call at a reasonable hour on Father’s Day and honestly, I don’t send cards.  Am I a self-absorbed piece of crap?  Maybe.  I have a blog and regularly post status updates on Facebook.  Sometimes I call people and talk about myself.  But these claims leveled against me were really harsh.  In anger and confusion, I wrote letters that I’ll never send, defending myself and retaliating with similar petty claims.  I edited and re-edited and then deleted them.  I looked deep inside and asked why somebody could possibly think this about me.

So, I went to see a therapist today.  When I told him all of this, he laughed.  He fucking laughed.  He was like, “So, you’re supposed to remember all of this shit in the midst of dealing with moving 400 miles away, a depressed spouse, leaving your career, your husband changing jobs, finding new schools, finding a better school, finding new doctors, grocery stores, friends, and well, everything else that comes with this kind of change, all while running a household and mothering two small children?  I’m sorry, but you’re doing just fine.”

So I walked out and left all the failure at the door.

When I got that first phone call, my mother-in-law was visiting.  Tearfully, I asked her, “At what age do you get to say, ‘I’m not changing either.’”

“Well, it happens when you like who you are.  It’s not an age or a birthday.  It’s a mental place.”

I think I’m there.  It’s not that I’ll stop learning.  It’s not that I’ll stop growing or trying to be a better person.  That’s as important to me as breathing.  But I’m not going to start sending cards when I’ve never sent them before, simply to appease somebody else’s sense of…whatever the fuck it appeases.   I don’t even know.  I think cards are lame.  I’m going to continue to write about my experience in living.  I’m going to continue to post stories on Facebook.   I'm going to learn how to do math art and revisit calculus and get re-certified as a trainer.  But honestly, I don’t give a shit what anybody thinks anymore.  The point of the story is this:  I’ve come too far and learned too much about myself to have some third party come in and tell me that everything I’ve learned is wrong or simply not good enough.  I actually like myself and the way I live my life!  My kids and my husband are happy.  I am happy.  We overcame by not giving up and have succeeded by emerging happy.  Nobody else gets a say in how we run our life under our roof.  Nobody.

Lesson learned.

So that’s it, I guess.  The bad shit is over and we’re good.  Like really good.  I’ve got new writing projects and I’m excited to share those, but really, if you’ve been reading and supporting, I am so thankful.  Your comments and encouragement let me know that I’d touched on something important.  Writing this blog has been as therapeutic as sitting on a therapist's couch.  Motherhood is the most demanding job on Earth and I continue to find humor among the most exasperating moments.  Really though God/Universe/Spaghetti Monster, I promise I'll continue to write as long as I can just go the rest of my life without my house flooding again.  Really. 

End of Chapter 1


Memorial Day Reflections

To begin, I am a pacifist.  I never, ever agree with war.  I used to, but not anymore.  Words are more impressive than guns; love will always beat hate.  I feel mixed when I immerse myself in places of war like Arlington Cemetery, military museums, and today, the bowels of an aircraft carrier. 

We spent the weekend in San Diego celebrating a wedding.  On our way out of town, we decided to take a tour of the USS Midway.  I felt uneasy paying the price of admission because I felt like I was supporting war.  But because I love my country like a family, I accept and love the best and not-so-best of those I love.  This ship represents my country’s history, and as such is a part of me, and I need to know.  I need to know about my family.

The USS Midway is staffed by an impressive array of veterans whose service spans over 60 years.  We met many docents throughout our tour.  Each of them is a proud volunteer and is exceedingly happy to answer every question you might have.  Steve, who served in Vietnam, lent me the month-by-month records of the Midway’s history.  I learned that the USS Midway spent most of her time assisting military missions.  She served in Vietnam and was the flagship vessel of the Gulf War fleet.  However, she also assisted in humanitarian missions, including the evacuation of over 3, 000 refugees in Saigon and over 1, 800 refugees (I think) when Mt. Pinatubo exploded.  Most of the time, though, she’s been a vessel of war, as she is designed to be.  I visited the War Room, the origin of strategy for the Gulf War.  I felt uneasy in the place where war began.  From Wayne, a retired Marine with a tattoo of a giraffe on his leg (they’re the wife’s favorite), we learned about how planes take off and land safely on deck, how the captain is ALWAYS responsible (even if he’s asleep!), and how to chart a course through the open sea.  We moved on through the tour to the Ready Rooms, the place where pilots would gather to watch movies, read mail or meet before a mission to receive their orders.  Though I didn’t get our docent’s name, he held an impressive stature.  He was tall, confident, and carried an air of authority.  He was kind of a badass.  He talked to us about the functions of the Ready Room and how all the seats are arranged by rank.  Naturally, I gravitated to the seat of the highest ranking officer.  Dave sat next to me.  Just like home, right?  Anyway, at the end of his presentation, I asked him about his service history.  He flew in the US Navy for over 20 years.  Now retired, he spends much of his time on the Midway talking to people about life on an aircraft carrier.  We moved through several Ready Rooms, each adorned with shields of battalions, jackets, medals, and letters.  Each piece of memorabilia churned a swell of pride and sadness because these men, these brave men, left land and all the loving people on it, to fly out into the blue unknown to defend and fight, and hopefully return.  Many did not.  I tried to talk to Dave, but I felt that ol’ sentimental frog in my throat.  I held off.

 As we returned to the lower decks, we saw dozens of veterans out chatting with visitors.  One caught my eye.  An older gentleman sat at a table next to a sign which read, "Talk to a real WWII veteran."  I thought, "What's so special about that?"  To my amazement, somebody was talking to him!  Really?

And I realized, in a lightning bolt moment, that my childhood was special and unusual.  That even as I loathe war, I cannot deny the countless times I watched my grandfathers sit together on our patio swapping stories from World War II.  Though my mother’s father flew out of England and my father’s father sailed through the Pacific, they are joined in the eternal brotherhood of men who defended our country in a war of the world.  I noticed the line of people waiting to speak to this man, and I realized that mine was not the experience of every child. 

I grew up with the distinct privilege of hearing real stories from real heroes and seeing real tears shed from decades-old wounds.  Their stories have become an undeniable part of me.  Though my father denied for many years the legitimacy of his service, recently he has accepted his place in our nations’s history.  He served our country in the Air Force.  He assisted young men as they flew out of Vietnam.  I asked him once about a good memory he had from that time.  He told me, “Once, these guys were on a plane coming home, and when we lifted off, the whole plane erupted in cheers.”

I learned early that some wounds never heal.

About two weeks before he died, I got to visit one last time with my grandfather.  We went out to breakfast, and in the course of our small talk, he said, “Boy, when I left San Francisco and left for the Pacific, I didn’t know if I’d come back.”  I imagine that all the men and women who serve share a similar sentiment because, as we all know, they don’t all come back.

With one hour left in Memorial Day, I reflect that I’ve spent my life with conflicting feelings.  I love veterans but hate war.  Does hating war mean that I’m disrespecting veterans?  I don’t think so, though many may disagree.  I maintain that the finest way to honor a veteran is to find a peaceful solution to a conflict.  Less war means fewer veterans.  Sounds pretty good!  I dislike emotional and physical wounds.  I dislike political games.  I dislike unnecessary death.  My position on war is independent of my feelings towards those who serve.  I’ve seen my grandfathers’ faces when they talk.  It’s what they don’t say – that’s what should never have been seen.  But, they saw it and then they lived lives in dignity and honor for their families and country.  I take pride in knowing that their legacy is part of my story.  I want peace so badly, and it is because of these great people who see, hear, smell, taste, and touch that which no human should ever have to experience at the hands of another.  Yet I am profoundly grateful to them every day.  I cannot help but shake hands with folks in uniform and say, “Thank you”, and wish them good luck.  And sometimes shout, "HAPPY VETERAN'S DAY!" to the guy in uniform at the airport CPK eating his pizza on Veteran's Day.  He shouted, "Thank you!" right back and some people clapped. 
Seriously, the real people in that uniform are a big deal to me. 

Seriously.  War sucks. 

Today I mourned the loss of those who served.  Today I remembered those who went away and came back, but lost themselves on the battlefield.  Though still with us in body, they are forever changed.  Today I thank those who might help them regain their sense of self again, that they might live out the promise of a life well-lived.  Today I remember those who put on a uniform, yet are no longer with us.  Today I thank the spouses, children, mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and friends who supported them.

Let us honor our veterans and love peace equally.


An Open Letter to the Teachers at the Special Ed School Behind My House

Dear Teachers,

The first thing I heard was the rattle of the gate, which I thought was odd because it was the middle of the day.  Everybody who might hop the fence should be in school, but somebody wasn’t.  Then I heard you.

“Adam*,” you asked, “Why did you climb over the fence?”

“Because I’m sick of this,” he yelled.  “You guys are mean and unfair.”

You answered in a calm voice, asking how and why, saying again and again, “I want to understand why you are upset.”  You repeated over and over, “I want to talk to you.”

"You guys are..." Adam shouted, each time leveling a new accusation upon you.  Unfair, mean, monsters, hateful.

You unlocked the gate, and he asked, “Are you unlocking the gate?”

“Yes,” you replied.  I heard you tell him that another teacher was on his way to the other side of the alley, and then Adam took off.  It was too late, though, because the other teacher was there.

I considered calling the police because I was concerned for your safety, but your voices held me back.  You stayed so calm.  You were so remarkably calm.  I heard the struggle in Adam’s voice, the rage, the fury at not being understood and wanting to lash out at every force that lashed against him in the world, and I heard your calm voices.  I heard you say again and again, “We want to keep you safe.”  And I knew it was true because he could very easily have run into the street.

I think Adam was pinned to the ground.  He sounded so angry, threatening you, telling you he wanted to hit you or kick you or something worse, and you stayed so calm.  You spoke so quietly and respectfully and compassionately to this boy, this boy!, who was obviously struggling, and you wanted so badly for him to get up and walk back into school under his own power.  You gave him more chances than I’ve ever given my kids.

You worked with him for a long time and I do not know the outcome.  I stopped listening because hearing children struggle hurts my soul.

But I want to pass this along.  Your extraordinary compassion, patience, and love testify your dedication to the life of this student.  I never heard you complain.  You never blamed him.  You never accused him.  You simply repeated, “We want to keep you safe.”

I don’t know what it all means.  It might mean nothing.  It might mean that your high level of training, experience, and knowledge make occurrences like this commonplace.  But for me, it wasn’t.  For me, this experience highlighted the difference between your job and everybody else’s.   Most folks who walk into an office don’t deal with threats of getting punched in the ribs by someone they love.  They won’t deal with the possibility of that person’s relatives working against them.  They won’t deal with the whims of a system that willfully leaves this child underfunded and his teachers overworked and underpaid.  It means that you and this child perpetually get less, yet you need and deserve so much more.

I guess I just want to say that what I heard broke my heart into a thousand pieces and yet, each day you come to work, yours gets broken, repaired, and re-broken on a daily basis.  It’s part of the job.  You are amazing.

That’s all I’ve got.

*The boy's name has been changed.



Every night, I begin screaming on the inside around 5 o’clock.  The trigger begins around 4:45.  Here’s how it goes:

                “Mom, I’m hungry.”
                “Mom, I want a snack.”
                “I know you’re hungry.  You just had a snack an hour ago.  I’m going to start dinner soon.”

I begin whining on the inside. I want them to not ask me for anything because they’ve been asking me for stuff, food, help, drinks since 7 am.  I want a little bit of a reprieve.  I want help.  But nobody is coming to the rescue for another hour, at least.  I begin to want to cry.
Fifteen minutes later, I’ve made it into the kitchen and am pulling veggies, cans of beans, maybe some pasta, or leftovers out onto our shiny counters.  The whiny-dialogue begins again, only this time they’re in the kitchen, underfoot, in the fridge, in the cupboards, at the counter:

                “Mom, can I have some yogurt?”
                “Mommy, I’m thirsty.  Can I have some hot chocolate?”
                “I’m making dinner right now.  Why don’t you go build a train track while you wait?”

It is not an angry “no”, for neither of my children direct rage or fury towards me.  Instead, theirs is a response full of self-pity and disbelief.  Their whine cries, “How on Earth can you expect me to survive the next half hour while I wait for you to prepare the bounty of food you intend to place before us on our table?”  Verbatim.

Sometimes I’m fine.  Sometimes I can tolerate everything and this common refrain rolls off me like oil in a hot pan.  I move through the evening calm, unperturbed, amused even, that this is my daily grind.  Every once in a while, I even enjoy it and I think, “These are treasured days.”

Other times, I’m not fine.  Those times, I feel suffocated and this refrain sticks to me like hot iron and I’m treading, trying to keep my head above water.  My heart beats fast and I take a sip of wine and it doesn’t help.  My head still feels light.  I’ve been known to walk out of the room and suck in big gulps of air.  I  want to feel the air at the bottom of my lungs because that’s what feels best.

I want to feel my lungs full of air.  And I know exactly why.  Full lungs and partially full lungs are the difference between a mediocre run and a great run.  The start of a run is a battle of wills.  My mind needs some clarity and my muscles fight viciously against my method of attaining it.  I hear things like, “I didn’t eat enough food” or “I’m thirsty” or “I didn’t sleep enough” for the first few minutes.  After beating through that jungle, I spend the next few minutes trying to sync my feet and breath.  I like taking 5-6 steps for every inhale and another 5-6 steps for every exhale.  Depending on terrain, I try to maintain this rhythm.  It is a song I have been fine-tuning for three decades.  Sometimes it’s more of a jazzy, interpretive piece.  I’ll know where I’m going but have no idea how I’m going to get there.  I run at an irregular pace and my breathing is inconsistent.  Those runs are usually mediocre, sometimes good.  Those times, I'm struggling for rhythm, and before I know it, it's over.  Other times, my run is an opera.  Those days are my favorite days.  Every step is a melody, perfect and pure and sure.  On those days, I breathe deep and my lungs fill up, expand into deep, massively stretched bladders of air and my back releases pent up tension and my face relaxes and I can just keep going forever.  I have been known to smile stupidly.

At five o’clock, I try to mimic the latter.  But it usually doesn’t work.  I clearly need pharmaceutical intervention.

I talked about the witching hour with my neighbor one night.  I admitted how confounded I felt, unable to maintain control of my emotions at the clock ticked towards five and everybody begins to lose it.  My neighbor, an older woman who raised two girls alone, said simply, “Oh, when my girls were young, I wanted to wipe the 5 off the clock.”

I took a deep breath.  I wasn’t alone.  Other mothers shared my experience and felt the same way!  I am not crazy or incompetent or an asshole parent.  This experience is just part of this season in my life.

Not long after ourconversation, I accepted an invitation out to a Mom’s Night Out.  I hadn’t been out in a while and I freaking needed to get out bad.  I asked my neighbor if she could watch the kids, and she obliged happily.  When she arrived that night, she smiled and told me I looked nice.  She took my hand, placed a $20 bill in my palm, and said, “Have fun.”