Have a Loved One Who is Struggling With Depression? Here Are The 5 Ways to Best Support Them.

September is Suicide Awareness Month.

September is a designated time for us to share stories, resources, and awareness. Over 40,000 people a year in the U.S. die from suicide. That is a horrifically high number. I don’t know how many others suffer from depression and anxiety and grief as a result of those losses, but it seems like it must be astronomical.

Here are a few things I’ve learned that I think are worth passing on this September.

1. Be Nice. This may sound overly simplistic, but it couldn’t be more important and a lot of times it couldn’t be more difficult. For me, a red flag that I’m sinking into a depressive state is my irritability. I snap at people and I say rude things – things I don’t even mean. As a result, I piss off people around me and I end up feeling horrible – sinking me even further into the hole sliding into. It’s strange because I don’t even notice I’ve sunk that low until I find myself repeatedly acting like an asshole. Instead of yelling back every time or screaming, “WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?” like you probably want to, a gently phrased, “Are you feeling okay? You don’t usually snap at me so much.” could go a long way. So could a touch on the arm or a neck massage. Emotions are strange – and depression lies and makes you forget that you were ever capable of feeling well – so you just might help your loved one realize that what they are feeling and how they are acting isn’t typical for them.

2. Take something off of their plate. A common symptom of depression is extreme exhaustion. Offering help with even the simplest of tasks (washing dishes, picking up something from the store, making a freezer meal) can help your loved one feel like they can handle life a little better. Forget the phrase, “Let me know if I can do anything.” Instead, ask if there is anything you can help with at a specific date and time, or offer up 1 or 2 options of specific help that you know you could provide.

3. Ask them if they have self-harming thoughts. Not everyone who has self-harming thoughts, or even suicidal thoughts, is at that moment actually contemplating suicide. However, it does give a huge heads up that professional help is needed. Most people don’t offer up to others that they are having self-harming thoughts and most loved ones don’t think to ask. Even though it can make us uncomfortable – THIS IS THE QUESTION WE NEED TO ASK. If they are having those kinds of thoughts – tell them they NEED to make an appointment. With ANYONE.  Depression lies and tells us that everyone probably has these thoughts even though this is not the case. A general practitioner is a great place to start if your loved one isn’t already seeing someone. Tell them to use you as an excuse for making the appointment. You aren’t expected to help them figure this out on your own – but you can refer them to a professional who can.

4. Share your own struggles. You might not have experience with anxiety or depression or other mental health troubles, but if you have battled – let them know. Sharing your own experiences lets them know that it’s okay to not feel okay. It opens up the opportunity for your loved one to speak about struggles that are often hidden inside because they of the stigma that surrounds those topics. It will help them feel not so alone. Be mindful not to tell them what will work for them – because what each person needs is different.

5. Take care of yourself. If the person you are supporting is very close to your inner circle, you need to be mindful of compassion fatigue. Compassion fatigue is when the physical and emotional toll it takes to support a loved one starts to affect your own health. It’s important to be supportive, but you cannot do that well without taking care of yourself. Do not feel guilty about taking care of yourself. I don’t know who made up the phrase, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” but it’s dead on. Remember that you are not responsible for fixing your loved one’s depression all by yourself.

If you have been affected by the suicide of a loved one, know that it is not your fault. We can only do what we can do, and as much as we would like to think we can control the actions of those around us, the reality is we cannot do more than offer the support we are capable of offering.

If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also text HELLO to 741-741 for free, 24-hour support from the Crisis Text Line. Outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of resources.

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This is How Behavior Charts Will Always Be Implemented in Our House

My daughter is an age where she is developing new skills at a rapid pace. She is putting pieces together she would have missed before. She is figuring out how to do things, which inspires her to figure out more. It’s wonderful to watch, and even better to be a part of. She’s young enough to include me in her process and her celebrations. In many ways, it’s like we’re doing all of these great things together.

This age she’s in is full of moments that make is easy to be a mom. More than easy, really. I’m so lucky to be a part of it all I can’t help but smother her with kisses and squeeze her in my arms as much as possible. I praise her effort, her persistance, and her achievements. I burst with excitement and gratitude and positive energy.

At this same age, my daughter is also pushing her boundaries further than ever. Boundaries I created. She is testing the limits around her. Limits that I put into place. She is asserting herself as her own person, making sure her voice is heard. When I’m not marveling over something amazing that she’s telling me, I’m listening to her shouting out, “NO!” in my direction. LOUDLY.

This age she’s in is full of moments that make it seem impossible to be a good mom. I try to hold it together because I’m supposed to be the adult here, but sometimes I really suck at adulting. Sometimes I explode with frustration and anger and monstrous meanness.

It seems to me that I am bombarding my daughter with an outpouring of emotion on a regular basis but exactly which type of emotion it is varies depending on the moment. During the good times, everything is laughter and tenderness. During the bad times, everything is chaos and crisis.

A few weeks ago, my daughter and I had our roughest week together – ever. She was whining and crying and no-ing left and right. I was turning red and yelling in response. We both cried a lot. I took away her sandals as a punishment one day after she threw them at my head. It was an ugly week for both of us.

I knew I had to help her turn her bad behaviors around, but I felt a bit like a hypocrite after exhibiting some frightful actions myself. So, when she told me I was acting ugly and stupid I didn’t correct her – I told her she was right. I asked if she was willing to make an agreement with me – to work on listening and acting nicer.

Each day if she acted nicely she’d get a smiley face and once she earned five smiley faces she’d get her sandals back. Since I also needed to listen and be nicer, I explained that I had to follow the same rules she did. I’d “grade” her each night and she’d “grade” me using a sad or happy face system. She told me that if I got a sad face I’d have to lose a shoe. I agreed. She demanded that she get to pick out which shoe. I agreed again.

She seemed pretty happy about our arrangement and we shook on it. For the first time all week it seemed, we hugged and left each other full of smiles, tender touches and all the feely-good feels.

Our system worked. She didn’t say no to every request I asked of her. I worked on speaking calmly and kindly. If I ever started to raise my voice, she’d remind me of our agreement.

“Mom, I think you might lose a shoe today.”

“No way. Not today, babe!” I’d reply as I held up my hand for a high five.

By the end of the five days, she earned her sandals back and I kept all of my shoes. We celebrated with ice cream.

So far, our nicer habits have continued without continuing our charting. Here’s hoping they stay that way for awhile – and if either of us need some smiley’s to promote positive behavior – the other will be there to go along for the ride.

I’ve Been Giving My Threenager a Bad Rap

 

Today my three year old self-reflected for the first time in her life. Or, maybe she didn’t. But for the first time ever, she shared her self-reflection with me. That – for sure – is true.

That’s the amazing thing about having kids. You get to witness their first-evers and those first-evers last……forever? I don’t know the expiration date on that but while it lasts, it’s amazing.  Captivating. Thrilling. Watching your kids accomplish new physical or mental feats is tantamount to climbing Mt. Everest, or being treated to an all-inclusive resort that boasts five-star chefs and excellent bar service, or traveling to an exotic locale and capturing video of never-before-witnessed natives in their natural habitat. It’s unparalleled.

My daughter is a spunky little feisty-muffins with a penchant for silly faces, word play, cackling laughter, a side of sass, and possibly a slight anger management problem. She gives her fuzzy blankie with the pink hearts on it a hug more readily than she’ll give me one, and after three years of holding her, when she snuggles in close to me I know well enough to be wary of getting head-butted. She runs, hops, jumps, or skips, but NEVER walks. (Unless you ask her to run, hop, jump, or skip. Then she walks as slow as a sloth.) She is a tiny-yet-mighty strong-willed mystery. She is a beautiful conundrum.

Since she has been able to speak she has bested me during every verbal exchange we’ve ever had.

“Put your pants on.”

“YOU put your pants on!!”

“Put your foot in the leg hole”

“YOU put my foot in the leg hole!!”

———

“Sit down.”

“YOU sit down!”

“Sit down or you’re going to go to time out.”

*she stays standing*

“Do you want a time out?”

“Yes.”

———–

“Don’t hit.”

“YOU don’t hit!!”

(I don’t hit! … but do you see what she does? Here I am defending myself to you because of her.)

———–

Usually, when I observe my three year old, I’m in awe because she surprises me so much. She surprises me with her many clever made-up words. She surprises me with her sense of humor and her creativity. She surprises me with the power of her fury. With her wit. Her breath-taking beauty. Her stubbornness. She surprises me with her cruelty – which might just be curiosity – but either way can be brutal. Her surprises never end. When I ask her what she wants to be when she grows up she tells me she wants to be a donut.

We are not on the same wavelength – she usually doesn’t do what I expect she sh/would. She doesn’t do what I would do. She is a wild child being raised by a nerdy bookworm.

Sometimes this is infuriating. Sometimes it is the most beautiful thing in the world.

Since I can’t always predict or understand her behavior, she tests my patience. My flexibility. My coping strategies. In other words, my ability to be a good parent.

That’s all a little scary and intimidating.

Is that what “threenager” means? Scary and intimidating? Probably so.

My little threenager – who sometimes gets a bad rap for head-butting me in the jaw or screaming through clenched teeth as she punches and kicks (so hard!) – that kid of mine self-reflected today and I can’t stop thinking about it.

Here’s what happened. Every night we have our routine. Potty. Pajamas. Teeth. Books. Usually after we read a couple of books we lay together in bed and chat. Most nights, I take a few minutes and tell my children the strengths I see in them. I tell them they are hard workers and they are readers and writers and artists. I tell them they are good sharers and good sisters and they are nice and kind people. There are a multitude of variations to the list, it isn’t always exactly the same.

Tonight after I told my three-year-old she was a nice friend she said to me, “Ruby was mad at me today.” Her pal at daycare that she’s known practically from birth. They were born days apart.

“Why was Ruby mad at you?”

“Ms. Jodi was mad at me too.” she adds. Her beloved daycare teacher.

“Why were they mad at you?” I rephrase my question. I was used to her telling me she had time outs or had bad days. Not every day, but enough for it to be somewhat typical.

“I didn’t share the blocks.”

“I see.” I snuggled in closer to her and kiss the top of her head before resting my chin on it. A slightly risky move on my part.

“How did that make you feel?” I asked her.

To be honest, I don’t know what kind of reply I was expecting. Usually she’d make up a silly word and giggle, or ignore the question and make a joke about poop, or change the subject and talk about Anna, Elsa, or Olaf.  I don’t think I was expecting her to actually answer, but tonight she did.

“Bad.” She looked up at me and stared me right in the eyes. She didn’t even head butt me in the jaw.

Whoa. She feels bad when she doesn’t do the right thing. When she makes others mad. This was huge to me. She released a bombshell I was not prepared for. I was blasted with an wave of pride.

Sometimes her behavior makes my eyes water, not because of the remarkably strong toddler-inflicted pain she is capable of administering, but because what she says is so refreshing to hear.

“Sometime nice people don’t act as nice as they know they should. Nice people just keep working to act nicer.” I reassured her.

I know this, after all, from decades of experience.

Maybe my three-year-old and I aren’t that different from one another, after all. I suppose that shouldn’t really surprise me.

 

 

Their Pull

Boy and girl, though young and immature, both recognized Their Pull.

Pulling like an electric current around a giant loop.  A tingly, weighty, attraction.

Attracting them towards each other – their hands, their hips, their hearts.

 

Hearts and bodies aged, and the older they grew, the stronger Their Pull.

Pulling them with a sharp yank if they tried to push back.

Back to back they sometimes stood, until Their Pull flipped them around to face each other once again.

 

Again and again, they chose each other. No one else Pulled so tightly.

Tightly, they clung to each other, even if only via The Pull so others could barely see it.

It tugged ferociously when one hand grazed the other’s fingers, running lightly from knuckle to wrist.

 

Wristwatches and necklaces removed, they stood before each other bare.

Bare and exposed completely – Their Pull did not notice flaws.

Flaws and all, Their Pull kept them connected – their hands, their hips, their hearts.

 

 

 

 

Dear Husband, You’re The Perfect Dad, Even if You Don’t Know Where We Keep the Children’s Shampoo.

My husband is the perfect partner – both as my companion in marriage and my teammate in parenting. He is my other half. My knight in shining armor. The man of my dreams.

He’s my favorite.

What some imagine when they hear me say this is that he regularly loads the dishwasher or consistently folds mounds of laundry. Some might think he regularly bathes our children or packs up the diaper bag when we get ready to leave the house.

But, those people would be sorely mistaken.

In fact, my husband almost never carries his own plate into the kitchen or sets foot in the laundry room. I don’t remember the last time he gave our children a bath, but I do remember the last time he helped them brush their teeth because he yelled down the stairs and asked me whose toothbrush was whose. When it comes to domestic tasks, we tend to follow stereotypical gender roles and the “light” housework type duties end up on my to-do list, not his.

Here’s a classic example: when we watch Netflix together on the couch, I’m basically his waitress. I bring him ice water (from the fridge, not the faucet), or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (with enough jelly, but not too much) or whatever else it is he’s craving. He has this persistent habit where he’ll wait for me to get up – to use the restroom or whatnot – and then “since I’m up” he will ask me to bring him something upon my return. He will wait as long as it takes in order to remain firmly planted on the sofa.

And even though I’m a strong-willed feminist, I happily oblige. Because some things are more important. Like:

He is tender and loving. He is the master of cuddles and kisses and rubbing backs. He tells us, “I love you” and “I’m proud of you” and he says it like he means it. He paints his daughter’s fingers and toes, he dances with them in the kitchen, and he sips fake tea out of tiny china cups when they ask him to. He gently positions their hands around a baseball bat to show them how to hit the ball from the tee. He shows them how to properly pass a soccer ball with their insteps. He wipes away all of our tears with his thumbs and he kisses them away with his lips. He’s learned that he can’t solve all of our problems, but listening to them can provide the greatest of comforts. He loves his daughters, and he loves me, and we all know it. He makes sure of that.

He is proud of his family. This includes not only us, but his grandparents, parents and sisters, his aunts and uncles, his cousins and nieces and nephews. He values our company and he boasts about our strengths – even though we all possess different ones, and even when they aren’t the same as his own. He applauds his relatives when they achieve their goals – mastering a new riff on the guitar, scoring a goal, reading a challenging text, participating in a performance, getting a new job, running a race, or earning a degree. He smiles when he watches his daughters doing something they love and he says, “She’s awesome” on a daily basis. He boasts about their strength, their determination, their newly acquired skills, their stubbornness, and their goofy antics.

He takes care of all the things. He turns off lights, and vacuums out cars, and always puts things back where they belong. He researches for months to find the best deals on cars, lawn mowers and furnaces. He is the leader in our household when it comes to budgeting and saving, home renovating, and investment planning. He takes the time to figure out the best plan of action and he spends even more time executing his strategy. He’s always working on a project that involves rewiring, patching, painting, wrenching, tearing apart, or putting back together. He’s the one who handles the hours-long phone conversations with the cable company. That alone should earn him an award.

He doesn’t do the dishes or the laundry, and he has no idea where we keep the children’s shampoo.

And that’s fine.

He does a whole lot of other stuff. Important stuff. Stuff I’m not so good at. Plus, he loves us to pieces. We are so incredibly lucky.

 

This is Why Parents Are More Exhausted Than You Think They Should Be

At first, people understand that bringing new life also brings exhaustion. People ask new parents if the baby is sleeping through the night as if that is the magical key to them feeling like a fully functional human being.  But, every parent knows, it is not.  I’m quite sure that it is a scientific fact that parents never feel like fully functional human beings again.  Or maybe they just change the definition of what it “fully functional” means, which no longer implies anything closely related to “rested”.  Here’s why:

They never sleep through the night.  Never. Again.  Sleeping through the night initially means sleeping for longer than 2 or 3-hour stretches. Once your infant gets past that point people seem to forget that doesn’t mean jack.  At first, parents wake up in a panic when the infant doesn’t wake up and they check on them, adrenaline rushing, thinking they’re going to find a teeny tiny corpse.  They nudge the baby. Nudge. Nudge.  Until they hear an audible sigh.  Then they either can’t fall back asleep because of all that adrenaline or they can’t fall back asleep because they woke up their kid.  As the child gets older they wake up hearing phantom baby cries that exist only in their head.  Whey they accept that their kid can sleep through the night and think they’ve finally arrived, the toddler begins waking up in the middle of the night and coming in their bedroom, waking up and peeing the bed, waking up and screaming, “I need a tissue!”.  I hear it doesn’t get any better.  I’m already dreading waking up in a panic thinking about my kids as teenagers, wondering if they have snuck out of the house and as college students, wondering if they are okay or if they have been roofied and are lying in a ditch.  By the time their kid has a job, parents have aged and their sleep cycles have changed and their old selves become biologically incapable of sleeping.  The end.

There is no down time.  The other day I tried to program my cousin’s number into my phone – she had texted me and I wanted to add her name to my contact list.  I tried about 8 times before giving up completely because my children were all up in my space, bumping my arms and touching the screen.   It’s hard to explain to someone that you don’t have time to put a number in a phone, but this is a very real thing.  Unless you’re in the bathroom.  Sometimes parents get excited about shitting so they can scroll through their newsfeed.  Sometimes they pretend to shit so they can scroll through their newsfeed. Unless, of course, they’re the parent that the kids just barge into the bathroom with (there’s always one parent who’s the designated bargee).  Then there’s really no sanctuary, even in shitting.

There are no days off.  There are millions of ways people can fill their time and expend their energy without being parents.  Everyone is exhausted, no doubt about that. However, there is usually a way to get some sick time.  Take a day off to rest. Parenting, however? Being sick is the worst because you can’t be sick.  At least, you can’t act like it.  Food still needs to be served, laundry still needs to be done, kids still need to be loved.  Parents are basically on the verge of illness at all times, because they never get a chance to recover.  We blame our kids for bringing home germs from school, but the reality is we are stinking sacks of pathogenic meat ourselves.

Their brains are on overload.   There is a never-ending stream of chatter.  There are so many “Mama. Mama. Mama. Mamas” and grabbing things or pointing while asking, “What’s this?” and no matter what response is given there is an endless supply of “Why? Why? Why? Why?” and there are either requests for songs and to “Tell me a story, Mama” and loud, echoing whines about things like, “I wannnnnntttt a red sippy cup” even if they already have a red sippy cup.  There are a lot of fake phone calls and talking to kids using a dirty sock as a puppet.  It’s not so much that each individual question or statement is so bad (they’re not – they’re often quite amusing actually), it’s more the fact that every second is packed with endless auditory assaults and required responses.  As kids age they might utter fewer words, but the ones they do say are usually not as cute and the issues that arise are much more difficult to address.  Brain overload doesn’t go away when the toddler years do.

Sometimes they have to stay up until 2 am binge-watching Netflix with their spouse. Because sometimes they want to enjoy time with their spouse.  And sitting like a sloth on a graham-cracker-crumb littered couch while sipping on a glass of cheap wine next to the one you love,  without having to make conversation, can be almost as beautiful as watching the sunset on a beach in Mexico while holding a margarita.  Almost.  It’s quiet (other than the occasional crumb crackle).  It’s calming.  It’s rejuvenating.  And it is needed for marital stability.  It’s worth paying the price of giving up a night’s sleep entirely now so they don’t end up paying the high cost of divorce fees by the time the kids graduate from high school. They’ve already got college to pay for, don’t forget.

They get physically abused.   Don’t get me started on what pregnancy does to your body, I’m solely talking about parenting here.   There is a constant worry about torn corneas. Little hands start flailing from day 1 and continue indefinitely.  For the first few years parents are constantly carrying their kids around, lifting a 35-pound toddler on one hip, and a 20-pound toddler on the other.  These aren’t like bags of flour here, they’re writhing, wrenching, bucking broncos.  Parents on the living room floor trying to get a push up in during a Callilou episode are subject to little monsters in superhero capes jumping off the couch and onto their backs.  There is little to no chance getting through parenting without tearing a cornea or herniating a disc.

All the mother-loving cleaning.  The other day I was running late for work and when I went to grab the infant from her crib I realized she had puked on herself in the middle of the night. Her hair stood up straight and smelled like sick.  I tossed her in the tub and gave her a quick bath, before throwing some clothes on her and tossing her in the car.  (There’s another example of physical exertion – lots of child tossing going on).  The amount of frenetic cleaning of bodies and houses that parents end up doing is mind-boggling. Of course, everyone needs to clean their house, but parents need to clean their house SO MUCH.  Bending over, putting away, bending over, tidying up, putting away. Wiping. Wiping. Wiping.  Picking up toys. Toys. Toys. Spooling reams of unrolled toilet paper. Dishes. Dishes. Dirty laundry. Bodily fluid soaked laundry.  Replacing grown-out-of laundry.  Toys. Toys. Tiny pieces. Puke. Toys. Toys.  Toys. Never-effing-ending bowls and bowls of spewn Cheerios.  As kids get bigger, so does their stuff.  Teenagers have more surface area than toddlers which means more dust, more circles around the tub.  More bodily stench.  And definitely more clothes on the floor.

Worries wear out their bodies.  There are many mornings where new wrinkles and gray hairs suddenly pop up.  Deep grooves.  Thick, wiry hairs.  I pretty much stopped getting carded the week after I became a mom. My daughter emerged from my body and I immediately developed a web of creases beneath my eyes, not just from the exhaustion but also from the worry.   Anxieties tax the body and parents have a never-ending stream of them running through their heads.  Sudden infant death syndrome. Falling down the stairs.  Ingesting cleaning products.  Bumping heads on the corners of coffee tables.  Witnessing the ALMOST bumping of heads on the corners of coffee tables.  Thoughts of their kids being bullied, being out late at night, hanging out with the wrong crowd, marrying the right person…. Our poor little cells explode from the stress and our body can’t regenerate them fast enough.

Parents are so tired they sometimes lay on the floor.  Face smooshed right in the carpet. Now you know why.

P.S. Even when they’re on the floor, they’re still happy. They’re just too tired to smile.

parentsareexhausted

 

 

Becoming.

Today started out not-so-great.

Exhaustion.  Extreme fatigue.  Whining children.  Add doctor’s appointments and shots and you sort of start to get the picture.  So, when my friend asked if I wanted to bring the kids over for a play-date, I thought it sounded like something fun. Something that could improve our current status.

I was wrong.

Instead of mommy-friends chatting while the kids frolicked, the whining continued, and the mommy-speak was continuously interrupted by “I have to go potty!” and “Come shopping with me!” and “Meaarrrrrr!” (or however you spell the noise for a whining non-word that is toddler-speak).  My toddler even kicked and punched a baby doll and a giant stuffed brown bear.   I felt my fatigue worsen, my spirits dive and my social-anxiety skyrocket.  I was frowning and correcting and yelling and the kids were screaming and yelling and crossing their arms cartoonishly across their chests.

It was not very becoming.

So we left a bit early and on the drive home the kids fell asleep.  For a moment I let myself exhale, but that moment was short-lived and when we got home they were both awake, and awake with a vengeance.

After a couple of hours of trying to shove food in their faces, of toddler screaming and crying, of tiny feet pounding on bedroom doors, the toddler finally fell asleep (no such luck on the infant) and I managed to organize the toy room and do the dishes and a load of laundry.  Mr. Grouch came home not long after, wondering why I was exhausted and crabby.

It’s easy to let moments, and hours, and days like these, make me become bitter and short-tempered and jaded.  Even though I am all of those things on occasion, I sometimes feel like today will be the day that I become any one of those things, permanently.

Not sure how it would go, when she woke up, we dressed Toddler Grouch in her tights and leotard for her first-ever dance lesson.  She, for the first time that day, smiled.  I tried to shape her fine hair into a bun, a task much harder than it looks, and when I deemed it good enough, we packed the kids in the car and off we went.  I needed more coffee.

Thankfully, in the car, the day took on a different tone.  We stopped at the gas station and I got a cuppa.  The infant finally napped.  The toddler giggled and chattered from the back seat.  Mr. Grouch and I exchanged pleasant glances and knowing looks.  We walked into the dance studio and our day was transformed.

We watched our daughter in a moment of Becoming.  Of becoming her.  That kind of moment that parents cherish, that children have no understanding of.  Even after the fact, watching a video of one’s own self Becoming is not usually pleasant, or pleasing.  It is boring and ugly and embarrassing.

However, watching your own children Become is astonishing.  It is wondrous and marvelous and incredible and there are simply not words that properly describe the feeling of watching your child Become.

I watched in awe, as Toddler Grouch Became before my eyes.  She was a perfect balance of hesitant and courageous.  She listened.  She studied.  She sat up straight.  She goofed around and had fun.  She attended to the teacher.  She eyed the most experienced dancer in the room.  With a quick mention and a slight nod, she asked the girl, who was crying and standing near the wall, not participating, if she wanted to dance with her, and coaxed the girl back onto the floor.

She was Becoming, and in such a fetching way.

I caught myself becoming relaxed, happy, comfortable in my skin, and in my own life.  I promised myself I would continue becoming this kind of person, the kind that I was at that moment, the kind of person that I was only sporadically, but who I wanted to be, more frequently.

When we got home she ate two eggs, two pancakes, a bowl of pretzels, half an avocado and a glass of milk.  More than she’d eaten all weekend, it seemed.  After a nap, a dance, and some proper nutrition, she was becoming her old self.

Toward the end of the evening, we watched home video of her day.   We danced together in the basement and practiced some of the moves she learned.  She’s not too old to enjoy us celebrate her Becoming.  Yet.

If she’s anything like me, she won’t love these videos for long.  But, that’s okay.  We’re prepared to remind her that the videos are for us, anyway.  So we can watch her Becoming, long after she’s Become.

That they help us keep becoming who we want to be.

Pep Dance Class

 

 

 

 

 

What You Do When Your Mom Has A Brain Tumor

1. You slightly freak out.  And by slightly you mean seriously.

2.  You pretend to only slightly freak out because you have the kind of mother who says things like, “It is what it is” and “Bodies are strange” and “So what? It could be so much worse!” and “I like big butts and a I cannot lie” (I include that last quote not because it is relevant to this post, but because it gives you a glimpse into her character).

3. You learn that meningiomas are far more common than you realized.  According to the neurosurgeon as common as 1 in 5, however most people’s don’t grow (unlike your mama’s), and that they usually aren’t cancerous, so hooray for that. #silverbrainlining

4. You slightly freak out anyway.  (Reminder: Slightly = Seriously)

5. You think that maybe the tumor IS affecting her brain when she starts carrying a mini-brain, a 5 inch cross-section of a human head, that she borrowed from the anatomy teacher around with her, as a way of trying to explain her brain tumor to people.

6.  Even with mini-brain, you feel like you don’t have anywhere near the level of understanding about the tumor or the surgery that you need, so you decide to go with her to her appointments.

7.  You realize that even with mini-brain, your own mother wasn’t exactly certain where her own brain tumor was.  You determine that she just liked the mini brain.  It was kind of cute, in a creepy, cross-section sort of way.

8. You squint your eyes and tilt your head and start whispering, every time she says or does something you think is a little bit off, “It’s the brain tumor, isn’t it?”

9. You buy brain hats and have people wear them during a celebratory send-off.  A farewell toast to the tumor.

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10.  You stop complaining because every complaint is met with, “You think that’s rough? I’m having brain surgery”. And you really can’t argue with that.  You say goodbye to empathetic responses.

11.  You go to the pre-op appointments with her, and recognize that just knowing what is going on helps you feel more in control, while simultaneously reminding you that you really don’t have any control.

12.  You ogle brain charts and pretend to know what you’re looking at.

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13.  You ask enough questions that the surgeon gets you a 3d model, which helps your understanding immensely.

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14.  At the appointments, you make fun of her, per usual, and she laughs good-naturedly, per usual.

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15.  You notice how her left eyelid is pushed out so much more than the right. You wonder what the difference will be post surgery.

16. You say, “Go Blue!” Words you’ve never uttered before, that have always been considered essentially cuss words, since you usually say “Go Green!” instead.  You might even buy her a blue and maize beanie to cover her scars.

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17.  You tell her you thought she needed a cup of coffee and hand her a mug you made her, and when she doesn’t look at it and goes on a fifteen minute tangent about not having cream you finally yell, “LOOK AT THE MUG!” and then whisper, “It’s the brain tumor, isn’t it?”

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18. You remember that even though this might not be that funny, that you have the best sense of humor out of your siblings, who asked you if you meant to put an “h” instead of a “t”.

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19. You quell your anxieties with bottles of wine and trays of nachos. You nurture some psuedo-semblance of ease and your ever-growing food baby.
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20. You eagerly await surgery day.

When the Words Won’t Come Out

Sometimes we have things to say.  But the words are stuck inside.

It’s like our throat is a corroded pipe, full of gunk, and our mouth is the sink.

If at any time the faucet is turned on, the sink fills up immediately, becoming useless.  There is no choice but to turn off the water and wait for the solution of jumbled thoughts, disconnected. words and the multitude of anxieties that swirl around them to drain. It takes so long there is no standing there and waiting, there is only leaving and come back later.

Eventually the sink is avoided, even though we know this won’t fix the clog.

It is a temporary solution to the problem.

This has been my temporary fix:

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doode

 

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If you like what you see, follow me on Instagram. AMorningGrouch.  I’m starting to fill that sucker up like crazy.

This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things – A Book Review

I have hardly posted in my own blog the last couple of months and I make no excuses.  I am a sporadic blogger, one without much direction or focus, and that’s just what A Morning Grouch is about.  Random half-assery.  Most of the time I like it that way.

A few of my favorite bloggers are quite the opposite – they are very professional in appearance and productivity and are consistently posting fantastic little nuggets of wisdom, insight, sarcasm or hilarity.  (Sidebar plug: If you haven’t checked out I Got a Dumpster Family (gratitude, sobriety, parenting) or Sammiches and Psych Meds (humor, satire, parenting) you really should.  Those are my two faves, other than Clint’s).

When my pal Clint over at No Idea What I’m Doing: A Daddy Blog asked if I would review his latest book, HIS LATEST REAL BOOK THAT HE IS THE AUTHOR OF, of course I said yes.  I’m assuming he understood, because of my overall blogging half-assery, that it would take me much longer than I said it would to actually do it.  But don’t worry, Clint.  I didn’t forget.   And even though I feel like I hardly have time to wipe my own ass these days, I even made time to read it.  It was nice that his book is a selection of essays that can be read individually.

So here it goes:
THE GOOD:  Clint hits on the important topics of parenting and marriage – and he does so with authentic self-appraisal.  He addresses the issues with honesty and an open mind, something that isn’t so common.  Maybe it’s because he got to experience life as a stay-at-home dad, and got a taste of the reality that sets in after awhile.  In his first chapter, before getting his act together, spurred by a connecting conversation with his wife about the hardships of being a stay-at-home parent he said,

One month into being a stay-at-home dad, all I did was drink Diet Coke and bitch.  My lust for cleaning had dwindled.  I started to accept my failure.  I ate an alarming amount of ice cream.  I allowed the kids to watch movies all day so I could sleep warmly in my bed, away from what the kids were becoming…lazy slobs like myself.

He reflects on the crazy shit parents say when they are so sleep deprived they might actually crack and worry they might not be able to be put back together:

Tristan, I love you, but if you don’t go to sleep, I might die.  Is that what you want? For me to die because I feel like I’m dying.  Do you even care?

He describes the realities of parenting that you just can’t find funny unless you have kids, but once you do, you nod and crack up out loud to yourself, possibly spitting out your own beverage on the carpet (damn it!) when you read,

Until I had a child, I had no idea that a one-year-old could propel puke at a distance twice his own height.  I must have cleaned the carpet a dozen times in three days  Eventually I got to where I could see it coming, and once Tristan made the puke face, I pointed his mouth at my chest and let it happen.  Now let me just make this clear, I made a conscious decision to allow someone to puke on e because changing my clothing and taking a shower seemed easier than cleaning the carpet or sofa.

It’s sort of like when you hear the cat starting to make the pre-puking yakking and you move him over to the tile.  Cleaning the carpet freaking SUCKS.

It’s not just the reality and the humor that makes Clint’s book enjoyable and relateable, it’s that there’s a sweetness he’s got underneath all the puke or the silver-dollar sized zit on his ass (that’s in the book, too, and you can’t miss that disgusting chapter), like this:

What I’ve learned is that being the father of a daughter means a melted heart.  It means reading a poorly written book that summarizes the movie Frozen every night for six weeks, and although the writing is terrible and I’m sick of the story, I do it because few things are sweeter than having my daughter snuggled next to me.

Clint has his moments of disgust, annoyance and exhaustion, but they are all enveloped in moments of self-reflection, gratitude and appreciation.  It’s a pleasure to see him experience the full spectrum of emotion that surrounds successful marriage and parenting.

THE BAD:   There are a few stories where as I was reading I found myself thinking that I would have maybe said or done something different if I were in his shoes, like when he caught his kids looking at each other’s butt holes in the bathroom:

If they weren’t brother and sister, that would be one thing.  But they were, and that was just strange…Do you have friends that do that? Please tell me that you don’t have friends that look at your butthole.

But, it’s really easy for me to think of better things to say as an outsider looking in, isn’t it?  And let’s be honest, there’s a lot of people who would say or do different things that I did in many circumstances, and that’s just what makes us each  who we are.   So, in a way, I think that actually gives a bit of charm to the whole book.  Clint is a normal guy like the rest of us, who makes mistakes and questions himself, but in the big scheme of things is doing an awesome job overall.  And unlike most people he’s willing to put himself out there.  He’s the real deal, not the self-edited lying narcissist.  He’s a self-edited hilariously ridiculous sentimental goofball – the best kind of husband and father.  He validates our insecurities and inevitable parenting errors, while inspiring us to get off our asses and become better at the roles we care most about.  His writing is appealing and refreshing and HONEST, the most important trait in parenting, in living, and in this case, in writing.

THE TAKEAWAY:  Clint’s book, This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things is a great read for any parent of young ones who has that special balance between being finding the humor, being disgusted by, grateful for, and straightforward about their children and their marriage.

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