Saturday, October 24, 2009

Apple Cheeks

Aren't 20 month old's just the cutest things ever?! A grandson provides a window into a world that we mothers quickly forget once our babies are off into the world. Every moment is precious, hilarious, completely lovely and sometimes heartbreaking. But mostly full of utter joy! Remembering my babies turning into toddlers and moving on to grade school, high school and college makes my head swim. Where did it all go? You think you will never forget the delight of simply watching your child with his first armful of apples on a beautiful fall day. And in the midst of work and running here and there and scrambling to meet all the tasks that come with raising children and keeping a roof over their heads we forget those blissful moments. My wish to you is to simply take a minute or two and watch a little human explore his or her first fall days. Precious!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

You need to step back...?

I have been talking with a new friend of mine whose daughter is in the midst of a mental health crisis. It is somewhat unusual in most people's circle of friends to know someone who has a child in a lock-down psychiatric facility and who was placed there after spiraling into a psychotic meltdown. But, it happens and it happens to the best of families, moms, dads, sisters and brothers. Having gone through this myself I know that friends and acquaintances generally want to help. They want to offer the right words to support you in your panic and fear of the unknown. My new friend reminded me of what was helpful.....and what was not helpful.

Hope, hope and mostly, optimistic hope.

Things to say:
It will get better. There is excellent treatment available. It can take time and what can I do for you while it is taking time? Let me run errands, make a meal, buy you a coffee, pick up your children/dry-cleaning/paycheck and deposit it for you so that YOU can spend time with your sick child.

Run away, change the subject, interrupt to change the subject, look horrified.

Not-so-helpful things to say:
Oh-my-gawd, what are you going to do???? (not kidding, this has been said). Oh dear, this is so horrible, what will ever become of her/him? Let me tell you about my friend who's daughter/son had (fill in the most awful story you can imagine) and then add (and she/he is now living on the streets, completely destitute, fried on drugs and the family can do NOTHING)!

The last not-so-helpful thing to say deserves a few comments. "You should try to give (your son/daughter) space. You are too tied up in all of this. You need to back away some." Well, please change the crisis from a mental health crisis to a medical crisis. Your child has just been hit by a car and is in the ER and then in intensive care. What parent is ever advised to "give them space"? Friends and family rally around so that the parents can be there, doing everything they can to support the care team. Our friends and family offered that to us and no one ever suggested that we should lessen our time and effort to support our daughter. Thank you, family and friends! The above and not-so-help comments have been said to my friend. Somewhere in these comments, even if meant to be helpful, lies the subliminal message, "Could your parenting style have caused this?" Parents question themselves enough as it is in the midst of these crises. We need no nudges to consider our own feelings of guilt and fear.

So, dear friend, your daughter will get better. You will have some times in the near future when you can breathe again. There is hope. Your support and advocacy and sometimes even down right pushiness is critical for her recovery. Tell your friends what they can do for you even if it is just to listen. Stay the course. I wish you peace.
Salome Painting by Jordan Swain (

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Do something for yourself today!

It is almost the week-end and I have been working non-stop. The cold and flu season is sneaking up on us as it always does this time of year. It coincides with the university quarter system which means that we are halfway through and students are stressing out over mid-terms, term projects and papers, late nights and early mornings. I am proposing that any of you that read this post join me for a "mid-term" break of at least one hour today, Friday (don't wait until Saturday!) to take care of yourself. I am remembering my trip to Nicaragua. The picture was taken at the experimental farm outside of Matagalpa. The land had been completely stripped by poor farming methods. The amazing Nicaraguans working here have slowly and steadily returned the land to its glory. The jungle, the plants and even the howler monkeys returned to their home. It takes nurturning. A little bit every day. Go have tea in a coffee shop with a good book. Take a walk (under an umbrella if you are in Seattle) and look at the colors on the trees. Be alone. Don't talk. Pet your dog. Go home for lunch and soak in the tub for an hour. If you live in the city go to the nearest park and people watch. If you live in the country go outdoors and sit quietly until you notice all the life around you. Turn off your phone, don't read your email, close out all the requests and complaints and whines coming at you. If you are home with babies, do not clean/make dinner/pick up toys/ or run errands with baby in the car seat. Take just one hour and breathe. We all need to refresh ourselves...and keep breathing after we leave our "hour". Join me and if you take this challenge, tell me what you did for yourself!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

New York City

Wow! New York City is an awesome place. Yes, true, I have never been there and was thoroughly immersed in the adjectives that everyone uses to describe this city. Huge, busy, crazy (cab drivers), crowded, anything you could want in food, shopping, sightseeing, ambience, culture (or lack thereof), ethnicity, music, etc. etc. etc. I loved it. Although this was a short visit the people that we had contact with were helpful and kind and certainly nothing like the stereotype of the New Yorker. (Speaking of stereotypes not everyone in Seattle necessarily wears Birkenstocks, drinks Starbucks and/or holds in their emotions). Anyway, I digress. We went to NYC to meet with our agent. Linea and I have written a book together and we are in the throes of getting this published ( Another step forward in this effort!
Less than five years ago we all supported Linea's dream to finish a degree in music performance and end up in New York. "Waiting tables while I tried to get music gigs," said Linea. Then she spiraled and crashed into a bone breaking depression that involved hospitalizations, medications, treatments beyond our comprehension and a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. With a big, wide and unpredictable detour she did not end up in New York in the music world. But she was in New York as we spent time with our agent in her office on Union Square discussing the publication of our book. Life is so mind boggling at times.