Category Archives: writing

Cabin Fever

It’s dark outside. The sun roams about behind grey mist trapped in the sky, mist which expands and sighs, drifting about aimlessly and casting shadows upon the ground beneath them.

I sit, inside, my HappyLight beaming artificial light upon my face. Our cat rests next to me, basking in the warmth of the same light infusing my soul with cheer. (Who said money can’t buy happiness?) My tea slides down my throat as I wearily glance outside at the muted colours of autumn draped in the tears of the sky.

Voices chatter from the television, the dishwasher hums in the background, and life goes on around me.

Yet here I sit, on the couch, trapped by some horrible autumnal cold accompanied by a hacking cough for good measure.

I suppose it would be worse if it were a bright summer day full of promising things to do across the countryside. But this…this seems almost worse. As if the world outside is closing in upon me much as the universe seemed to close in upon Dr. Crusher in Star Trek when Wesley’s warp bubble swallowed her whole.

The chill sneaks into my heart, worms its way up to my head, and settles there. The mist follows soon after, bringing with it a torrential rain, which if not properly prepared for, will lead to a great depression.

It is this against which I fight once the days grow shorter, the skies infinitely darker with the storms which swirl about in the midst of autumn and winter. Although spring carries with it the promise of allergic reaction, I welcome the sunshine, the warm breezes, and the sprouting of new life.

For now, I sink back into the dark brown couch, sip my tea, and stare at the raindrops sliding down the glass window separating me from the darkened world.

Thoughts about Ebony

I was going to wait to publish this post until after I’d had time to read it through. But given that I just accidentally posted it, freaked out, made it private, I’m realizing that folks who got it through email will be able to read the entire thing anyway. SO. Here ya go. With a temporary title that obviously will be the permanent title – my ramblings and thoughts regarding Ebony Wilkerson, tragically better known as the mom in Daytona who drove  her minivan into the sea.

The public defender’s office said there was a reason she beat her stomach. “She {is} being held in seclusion naked in her cell,” said Craig Byer.

Public defender James Purdey at first asked for Monday’s hearing to get Wilkerson’s 1.2 million bond reduced.

Purdey instead asked his client be transferred from the Volusia County Branch Jail to a psychiatric ward for longer than a typical Baker Act hold, so she can get mental pre-natal care.

The judge did not rule on the request to move Wilkerson because the judge said it’s something that hasn’t been done before. (Source)

According to the Ebony Wilkerson narrative we have thus far, she drove to Central Florida from South Carolina to escape an abusive partner. Her family struggled to get her help but she signed herself out of the hospital and somehow managed to get the keys to the minivan and drive it and all of her children into the ocean despite the family’s efforts to hide the keys from her.

This week, we are told she has been held naked, in seclusion at the local jail and started punching her stomach, causing her defenders to push for her to be moved to a psychiatric ward for “mental pre-natal care.”

What the hell is wrong with this picture?

From an emotional and advocate standpoint, a lot.

From a logical standpoint, I can understand why these measures may need to be taken, particularly if Ebony has been suicidal. Of course you don’t want to give her anything that she could possibly harm herself with but there has to be a way to do that without completely stripping her down and removing all sense of dignity, something she was more than likely running low on if indeed she was escaping an abusive relationship.

The judge’s reluctance to move her may also be grounded in logic as well. Perhaps she did not feel she had enough facts to justify setting a precedence with Ebony’s case. Or perhaps the Volusia County Jail has the capability to be considered as “clinically appropriate” (as is required of examination/treatment in the Baker Act) and therefore the judge did not see moving her as a necessity. Or perhaps there simply wasn’t anywhere to move her to which offered the same level of security the judge felt Ebony requires at the moment.

But when examined from an emotional and advocate point of view, this is absolutely heartbreaking.

A pregnant mother, escaping an alleged abusive relationship, drives her kids into the ocean despite attempts to help her. To me, this screams of absolute desperation. This is beyond sanity. It’s more than a call for help. This type of behaviour requires action.

But is what Volusia County doing enough?

How do we best handle this type of situation in this day and age?

It’s like I tell my kids and my partner – we can’t fix a problem unless we know about it. Unfortunately, women (and men especially) who are in abusive relationships are often quiet about their situations until it’s almost too late, and some until it is too late. Why? Because they are often threatened by the perpetrator that if they don’t remain silent, there will be repercussions.

Silence is also a hallmark of Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders for multiple reasons. Society believes we should be happy when pregnant or in the throes of new parenthood. Thing is, mood disorders have been happening since the dawn of time. Our responses to them over the centuries have varied but even early on, a few folks got it right. Take Asclepiades, for example. According to Thomas Millons Masters Of The Mind, he “argued against dark cells and dungeons for the mentally ill…thought patients should be in settings that were well lit and comfortable.” Asclepiades also proposed that “biological and chemically based treatment would be beneficial” in addition to dividing conditions into acute versus chronic and also distinguished between hallucinations, delusions, and illusions.

The main point of Asclepiades is that even in the early ages (171-110BC, by the way), someone recognized that locking away the mentally ill in dark, dank places was NOT the way to go.

Arataeus believed the “soul was the basis of psychic disturbances” and “mental disorders were exaggerated normal processes”. (Millon)

Then there’s Soranus who posited “consider(ing) culture as a factor in both investigating and treating mental patient.” (Millon, Masters Of The Mind). He also advocated for decent and kind treatment of the mentally ill, asking “his peers to remember who was ill; physicians should not view their patients as disagreeable persons who offended their self-image.” (Millon) It seems to this outside observer that Volusia County is not doing that in Ebony’s case.

Does being an abused woman or a woman at the hands of a Perinatal Mood Disorder excuse the type of behaviour Ebony Wilkerson has exhibited? No. But both are mitigating factors which led to her behaviour and should absolutely be taken into consideration as her case proceeds.

I’ve written extensively about Postpartum Depression as a defense. Cases like these are both fascinating and heartbreaking because all at once, those of us who have experienced a Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorder, see fractions of ourselves in the women who make headlines. We collectively gasp and think, my God, what if I had given into all those thoughts racing through my head? I could be her. I could be Ebony. I could be Miriam, I could be Andrea, I could be Otty.

We shudder because we were there, with them, in the dark, in the hell, holding their hands and they fell as we watch in horror. The way their fall is paraded in front of society scares the crap out of us and drives many to silence. Is this healthy for society? Yes and no. We should be outraged when children are subjected to death (or the threat thereof) at the hands of their parents. But at the same time, we need to take steps to prevent this type of situation from occurring in the first place.

How do we do that when every single case, every single situation from mother to mother and from birth to birth is different? How do we catch a falling mother if we don’t know she is falling?

Even if we start by putting measures in place to check for signs of falling, we will still fail if the mother doesn’t admit to having a problem or, as in Ebony’s case, refuses help (for whatever reasons – cultural stigma, fear, etc) which is offered to her because she is far past the breaking point and sees death as the only way out. Do we just throw our hands up in the air and let her do what she may? No. So what do we do then?

I don’t know.

What I do know is this:

  • Mothers (and fathers) do not deserve to be alone in this battle
  • Mothers (and fathers) deserve emotional support
  • Mothers and fathers need a village
  • Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders are not deserving of whispers, they require shouts
  • We need to speak up, every single time, not just when there is a crisis
  • Accept those who are hurting with open arms and provide a safe space for them to fall apart
  • Not judge those who have/are struggling so harshly

So what can we do to improve the situation for struggling parents across the globe with the very real (and often co-occurring) issue of domestic abuse/violence and Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders?

  • Make it okay to reach out for help and ditch the supermom/superwoman/superman/superdad façade
  • Initiate requirements for ALL health professionals who may come in contact with an expecting or new mother to be well-versed in the ins and outs of a Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders (this includes pediatricians, OBGYN’s, GP’s, Family Doctors, IBCLC’s, doulas, midwives, naturopaths, you get my point…)
  • Create local, state, and national referral networks which incorporate above said training on a regular basis
  • Create networks of parents willing to mentor other parents through these tough situations and make it easy to access across the board

Are these solutions going to fix our current problem? No. But they’re a start and sadly, most of it revolves around a tradition which our current technologically advanced society has strayed greatly from – the tight knit expanded family. It takes a village to raise a child but it also takes a village to raise a mother to raise a child right. In my post “On Not Wanting To,” I state the following:

Our village is in peril. Our village? FELL THE FUCK APART AND NO ONE GIVES A DAMN.

In America, we have a pitiful excuse for maternity leave. We are bombarded by stories of celebs who gave birth and look AHMAZING in less than three weeks after giving birth. We are insanely comparing ourselves to women who are a) genetically blessed and b) have crazy access to things like trainers, nutritionists, nannies… and then there are the way we compare ourselves to each other. Stupid idiotic milestones of when we went back to work, how much we manage to get done every day, pushing ourselves to be better than the next mom and still have it all pulled together.

It’s no wonder we are screaming out for help and some of us are doing so through extreme measures.

Let’s keep the “if I were her, I would” out of the conversation. We do not know what she’s going through. Even if we’ve been through hell ourselves, we do not know *her* hell nor should we take her story as one which portends the downfall of ALL women who struggle with domestic violence/abuse and a Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorder. Instead, reach out to mothers, to fathers, let them know it is okay to reach out for help. For that matter, teach it to your kids so that when they get older they don’t feel as if reaching for help is in essence, failure to handle something on their own. Yes, independence is a grand thing but there is a time and a place to lean on someone else. Not to lean in, but to lean on, sometimes for dear life.

Our village has forgotten how to do this very simple yet necessary human act. We are now expected to be everything to everyone and dear GOD help us if we are not. Should we assume something is wrong with every mother? No. But instead of oohing and ahhing at her baby, ask how she’s doing. Ask how Dad is doing. Do not dismiss their very real role in their new situation. By acknowledging them, you acknowledge their existence and empower them to express their feelings. And that, my friends, is possibly one of the most powerful things we can ever do for a new parent.

Will it keep more pregnant women from being held in seclusion, naked in a prison cell, after they’ve attempted to kill their older children and themselves? Not all of them, no. But it’s a start.

An even better start would be to continue educating people about Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders, including those in the law enforcement and legal arena. I realize they are bound by the courts and must adhere to the law but if they had a better understanding of the facts behind Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders, perhaps, at least, the treatment of mothers imprisoned for crimes committed whilst experience these disorders would stand a chance of improving.

In the meantime, I genuinely hope that Ebony Wilkerson receives the help she so desperately needs as she awaits trial for her actions on the fateful day she drove her minivan into the sea. We’re watching, Volusia County. Don’t fail us more than you already have failed Ebony.

If Postpartum Mamas Banned Bossy

“Shhhhhhh. Don’t talk too loudly and don’t let anyone hear you.” the woman whispered as they chatted in the vestibule at church. Her companion had just expressed concern about a young new mother in the congregation who looked a bit exhausted that morning as she wrestled with her six week old and two year old toddler.

She patted her grey curls and adjusted her purse as she glanced around and leaned in to speak. “Don’t say anything but I heard from Ethel that she’s struggling with…” she lowered her voice to barely a whisper “that postpartum depression stuff.”

Her companion gasped and put her gloved hand over her mouth.

“No… not that. Why, in our day, we didn’t have that sort of thing. We just made do. These new age mamas and their excuses not to do the work mothering requires of them. Why it just makes me so angr…” Susan wagged her finger in front of her mouth as the bedraggled topic of their gossip approached.

“Well, hello there, Beth! Just how are things with you these days? And ohhhh… look at the new little one! Isn’t she just precious?” Beth sighed, glanced at the baby then back at Susan. She forced a smile and said “Just fine, come on, Ethan. Let’s go find Daddy.” As they started to walk off, Susan made a knowing eye contact with Joan, motioning after Beth, as if to say “I told you so.”

They stood there for a few more minutes, dissecting every aspect of Beth’s behaviour, dress, and choice of clothing for her children but not once did they discuss how they could help Beth as she learned how to navigate her way through this brand new motherhood of two children. Instead, they simply stood aghast and whispering at her apparent failure, ignoring all the signs that something was amiss.

Sadly, this still happens to many mothers. We are judged. Discussed. Analyzed. Dismissed. All because so many fail to discuss what is actually going on inside our heads. Because not enough of us get BOSSY about it.

What if, when Beth finally heals, she grabs the bull by the horns and starts a support group at her church? What if she dares to get up in front of the congregation and admits to her experience and educates those sitting there? What if she dares them to do more for new mothers and therefore changes the lives of new mothers touched by this church? But if we ban bossy, the Beths of the world won’t do this because well, they’ll be sitting down and not doing anything to blaze a path because SHHHHHHH. We dare not be bossy.

If I had not been bossy with my maternal medical care, things would have gone unnoticed. Hell, even though I was bossy the first time, I still went untreated because I was seen as “wrong” even though I knew myself better than anyone else. My “bossy” hormones should have slid magically back into place at four weeks postpartum so it wasn’t possible for me to have PPD. Shame on me for daring to say anything about not feeling well and daring to expect the doctor to actually, oh, I don’t know, DO SOMETHING. I slinked away, disappointed at not receiving help and resolving to stand up for myself down the road if necessary even if it hadn’t gotten me anywhere the first time around.

I got bossy the second time around too after my docs scheduled me for an induction WITHOUT MY CONSENT after noting that my first baby had been “big” at birth (she was 8lbs 3oz, thank you very much.)

What would happen to women, to all the progress we have made in the birthing world – hell, in the postpartum world, if we banned bossy?

There would be no Katherine Stone.

There would be no #PPDChat.

There would be no ample supply of kick ass doulas.

There wouldn’t be a chorus of PPD advocates or breastfeeding or formula feeding advocates. Or Attachment Parenting advocates. Or…. do I really need to go on?

What about NICU Parents? Where the hell would they AND THEIR CHILDREN be without the bossy trait?

Bossy is necessary.

Bossy saves lives.

Banning bossy is akin to telling someone to sit down, shut the eff up, and take whatever life shoves their way. Maybe that’s not what this campaign is about, maybe it’s about taking charge and finding a more positive way to spin it but dammit, no one gets to tell me what word to use to describe myself.

Words are powerful things. They incite strength, they spark revolutions, they can make us cower or they can give us power. But the beauty of words is that WE get to decide what they mean to us, not those who are spewing them at us. We define them. We can take them and twist them into the most beautiful and amazing things ever seen by mankind. It is up to us to choose how to process that which is spoken to us, about us, by us, and for us.

No one should ever put bossy in the corner.

No one.

Instead, we should grab it by the hand, drag it out to the dance floor, and flaunt that baby like there’s no tomorrow. Own it as if we are in the spotlight with Patrick Swayze himself, getting ready to dive off the stage into his arms.

The idea that we are to ban this word to encourage young girls not to be afraid of being “leaders” scares me.

Are we really empowering girls by doing so or are we further protecting them from the big bad world out there waiting to swallow them whole? Bossy gets you places. Bossy starts inside, it drives us forward, and it ENABLES us to be leaders. Not the other way around. If we ban bossy instead of embracing bossy, we are further shaming the word and the attitude. Hell, motherhood alone requires a certain level of bossy, does it not? As does fatherhood.

I am bossy.

I am not afraid to say no.

I am not afraid to stand up for my beliefs. I am not afraid to stand up for others and the rights they have. I am not afraid to tell someone “No, that’s not right. This is the truth, and you need to listen to it.” I am not afraid to protect and defend mothers who suffer from Perinatal Mood Disorders.

I will be bossy about Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders until the day I die.

No social media campaign (or anything else for that matter) will ever change that.

Let’s not ban bossy.

Let’s make some noise…and make some history while we’re at it.

Because “well-behaved women seldom make history” yanno.

Here’s to all of us bossy women – rocking the world, taking names, and kicking ass.

Stay bossy forever.

A Different Kind of Snow Angel

A good snow meant one thing as a kid – FUN. We didn’t care about roads, power outages, or having to rush to the grocery store for OMG MILK, EGGS, BREAD…no, all we cared about was playing in the white stuff. Staying home didn’t make us roll our eyes, no siree.. staying home made us yelp with joy and dance with insanity. It made us….

DOWNRIGHT GIDDY.

We would willingly spend nearly 30 minutes putting on enough gear to go outside and dive into the winter wonderland. I don’t know about you, but one of my favourite things to do as soon as I stepped outside was to fall down and make a snow angel. I particularly loved doing this if we got to go outside while it was still snowing. There was always something so intensely magical about laying there, supported by inches of snow, slowly waving my hands and feet as flakes drifted down from above and melted on the few inches of my face exposed to the elements. Sometimes I stuck my tongue out to catch the flakes.

It’s funny how snow doesn’t mean the same thing now that I’m all grown up.

I don’t remember the last time I made a snow angel. Or went sledding, for that matter. I could have this past winter but I didn’t have the appropriate gear so I passed. I will have the proper gear this next year, however, and I can’t wait. (Disclaimer – I lived for nearly 20 years in the deep south where they don’t get snow often but they do get ice occasionally. Nasty, yucky ice.)

The snow this year was intense. I have tried to be humourous about it, but honestly, the past few storms have nearly made me weep. This year, I discovered my limit. Apparently when enough snow falls where the “removal” piles get so high it makes me claustrophobic is my limit. A lot of other people also hit their limits, I suspect. (Including a few folks I know who are expecting blizzard conditions tomorrow… my heart goes out to you, it does. Spring isn’t far away, you guys!)

Over the past week, the temps have soared, snow has melted, and more grass is visible than is covered by snow in most places local to me. The greenish brown landscape is almost alien at this point, given how accustomed we were to everything covered in white.

We hit another milestone today as well – for the first time in a couple of months, we can see our deck. Not just a few inches around the outer edges – the entire thing. At the peak of our snowy season, we had nearly 20 inches of snow covering our deck. Not anymore. It’s all gone.

Something of note here – turns out that snow angels aren’t just made by humans throwing themselves down on top of the snow.

They’re also made by melting snow – as a happy reminder that there is always someone watching over us:

snow angel

And that, people, is sometimes all the sign you need that spring is on the way. Well, that and a fleeting rainbow in the sky as the sun sets and clouds drift lazily on by.

A Different Breed

She sighs, in the dark, as her baby snuggles closer to her neck, his chubby fists opening and closing as he exhales and relaxes his body with a small whimper. She waits, supporting him, waiting for that moment when the weight of sleep brings a random tingle or two to her forearm. Stands up slowly, using muscles in her thighs to lift her upper body as she does so, careful to not a muscle touching her now sleeping infant. Eyes flutter shut as she puts one foot in front of the other, heading for the crib. Baby shifts, stutter sighs, and moves, nuzzling further into her neck. She moves her hand to the back of his head, rubbing it softly as she hums their song.

She manages to lay him down and leave the room. As she crawls into bed, her calves sink into the mattress first, then the exhaustion surges upward until her eyes slam shut until morning, all of an hour and a half away when she will wake up to a hungry baby, a dog with a full bladder, and a toddler who has probably strewn cheerios over half the house because she needed to feed the dog.

Motherhood.

It changes us.

Mentally.

Physically.

For some, motherhood is a warm field on a sunny day filled with laughter, babbling brooks, playful deer, and an intoxicating joy.

For others, motherhood is a dark room in the bottom of the keep, covered with bars, the key well beyond our reach. We fight, we scream, we rage against the thick door but it won’t budge. We see the warm field in the sun from the window a the top of our room and long for it – long to talk walks with our little ones as the sun beats down upon our faces and a smile spreads across our face but instead, we are trapped inside our own special hell.

Motherhood without a mental illness is not the easiest road to tread, either. Heck, life in general requires some level of tenacity. One of the most frustrating things I am faced with is not discounting the struggles that each of us go through – respecting the journey of every single mother without demeaning the journey of another. And yet, it’s my goal.

Over the past several years, I have been privileged enough to meet some of the most amazing and resilient parents. Parents who fight for themselves, for their children, for their relationships, for life. Parents who work through even deeper hells than I can even imagine and still manage to parent their kids, all the while, worrying about how their experience will affect their kids, their marriage, their jobs, their lives. Yet, every morning, they wake, get out of bed, and take another step forward toward healing, even if they are absolutely exhausted.

A friend of mine posted on FB a quip about hockey players being a different breed. He was commenting on Rich Peverly’s alleged desire to get back into the game despite having experienced a cardiac event on the bench. Any other sport and the player wouldn’t be thinking about getting back in the game, right?

The same is true of mothers battling against mental illness, whatever form it may take for them. We want to get back in the game. We want to play, we want to laugh. We want to be free to just…be…without the burden or restraint of our mental health on our souls. This is why we cherish the good days and wade through the bad ones. Why we hold on so tightly to every single glimmer of hope crossing our hearts.

We are a different breed.

We aren’t worse.

We aren’t better.

We’re just different and we want to be loved for who we are, not what you think we should be or could be.

We just are.

Love us anyway?

The Magic of Memories

We walked to school as children. Alone. Granted, we were usually in groups with other kids. Buddy system, safety in numbers, and all those other lovely cliches. There were crossing guards to stop traffic on the main busy road we had to cross on our way to the local elementary school. Then we went down a slight hill, under a bridge, and across a parking lot to the school and into class.

I remember the way the bridge vibrated as cars zoomed across it while we walked under it. How the cars zipping by filled the open cavern with an echo of their engines as they revved in anticipation of the slight hill on the other side. The musty scent of the dank and dark slopes of cement and the flapping wings of the pigeons living there as they flew back and forth in the midst of our chaotic humanity.

There’s one particular walk I remember, it wasn’t to school, it was home from school. I was walking with a friend of mine, Tasha, when all of the sudden, my nose started to run. Tasha and I were talking, looking down and kicking the random rocks collected along the dingy sidewalk. She looked at me, and as I looked at her, I could tell something was wrong.

“What’s wrong?” I asked. She pointed at her nose then at me. I wiped, and it was bright red. Just on the other side of the bridge, as the hill sloped up, there was a mobile home community. Tasha ran up to one of the mobile homes and banged on the door. An older woman answered and listened to Tasha’s pleas for a napkin, a tissue, anything for my poor nose.

The woman disappeared inside and brought a handful of tissues out, instructing me to hold them to my nose and tip my head back. (I always hated that when I was a kid – tipping my head back – I am so glad we don’t have to do that anymore). We stood there for a bit until my nose stopped gushing. I think it was early spring – I remember purple irises in her little patch of dirt in front of her mobile home. (Of course, this may be a crossed memory – I have a thing for purple irises).

Once my nosebleed subsided to less than gushing, we went on our way and continued to our respective houses. Tasha turned left, I turned right.

It’s funny what memories stick with us from our childhood when we sit and think about it, isn’t it? Sometimes they’re just flashes – a scent, a colour, a taste, a texture – other times, they are very vivid and we fully remember ever exquisite detail. As we grow older, we remember more but we also tend to remember less because we are more focused on surviving life instead of living it and seeing it through the eyes of a child.

I have written about this recently but it is such an important component to who I am that I write about it often.

Looking back over my life, I have been happiest when I just let myself be in the moment instead of focusing on getting everything right or capturing it at just the proper angle to post on Instagram or Twitter. Sure, there are some things I do share but there are others that happen far too fleetingly or that I know I could never accurately portray so I take a snapshot for my soul and hold it there instead.

Last week, for instance, as I was driving, a robin paced my car through a subdivision. I slowed down, it slowed down, flying right at the height of my head on the side of the road. He diverted right before I arrived at my designation. Fleeting things like that inspire awe in me. As I sat there, at my destination, a bald eagle soared overhead as well.

Here’s the thing with allowing yourself to enjoy the little things life has to offer. Are you ready? It’s a secret, a really sneaky one. *looks around dramatically then whispers loudly:

You don’t have to make special plans to enjoy it.

All you have to do is make the decision to find the joy in whatever it is that you’re doing at the moment. Notice the feel of the pen in your hands. Admire the way it writes on the paper. Look up at the sky. Find the birds soaring there and follow them until you can’t any more. Trace the clouds with your eyes and turn them into shapes. (I saw a cloud which looked like an AT-AT the other day!) This is why I still read books made of dead trees. Why I drink tea. There’s ritual and romance in both activities. Something phenomenal about holding a book in your hands, the weight of the knowledge sinking into your hands, which makes me swoon. I own a copy of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass which is more than 100 years old. It’s not a rare copy, but it is an old copy, first printing. Some of the pages weren’t cut properly which means those who owned it previously never read the words within. For me, that’s absolutely mesmerizing. The same with tea – it is an ancient tradition steeped in cultures across the world. It’s not just tea….it’s a living, breathing thing beating with the hearts of those who enjoyed it well before me.

Get excited about things you love. For instance – F1 starts this week and I cannot WAIT. I may even stay up to watch it even though it’s in Australia and this means my sleep will be all sorts of screwed up. But.. but.. F1!!!

With the onset of F1, there’s another milestone in the year just around the bend.

Spring is soon. According to the calendar, it will be here in eleven days. I’ve lived long enough to know that just because the calendar says it’s spring doesn’t mean the weather will listen. This much I do know right now:

  • There’s visible grass
  • The sky has been blue more than it’s been grey the past week
  • There’s visible grass
  • I didn’t need a jacket yesterday or today.
  • We can almost see our entire deck
  • Trees are sprouting buds holding the promise of new leaves and SPRING.

I cannot wait for the world to explode in colour and warmth. To open the windows and turn off the heat.. oh, wait.. we did that yesterday afternoon until the sun went away. I cannot wait to have the windows open for an entire day even if it does make me sneeze and cry.

Life. It is a cycle, one which whirs forward with or without us. Our cycle of life is what we manage to make of it. Does that mean I want to go back to being a little girl who bravely walked to school, taking the time to notice the flapping wings of pigeons under the bridge?

No.

What it means is I don’t ever want to lose that little girl’s ability to turn the most benign thing into the most magical thing ever.

Today’s magic was noticing the landscape reappear as the snow pack is slowly melting.

What was your magic today?

Permission

What’s the one thing we don’t give ourselves enough of?

Permission.

We don’t give ourselves permission to grieve, to hurt, to cry, to take the day off from things we need to – to take time for ourselves. So when we do try to unwind, this lack of “permission” to relax interferes with our ability to fully unwind.

Instead of unwinding, our minds race with what we should be doing or how we will get everything we need to get accomplished once we’re done unwinding.

We don’t give ourselves permission to grieve how WE need to grieve. It’s a process, an impossibly intimate and personal one at that. No grief is like the next. So instead, we “buck up” and move on, judged by those who think we haven’t done so quickly enough.

Then there are expectations, levels of impossible perfection. Yes, we should strive to be the best we can be at all times but you know what? Sometimes the best you can be is just that – the best YOU can be. Not the best she can be, or the best he can be, but the best YOU can be. It may not measure up to what you see in your head as the best you, but at the end of the day, as long as you’ve given it your all, that’s what matters.

The other thing we don’t do often enough is give ourselves permission to love ourselves or love those around us with wild abandon. We hold back a little piece of ourselves too often because we fear vulnerability. The act of blooming fully scares many of us because we have known pain and refuse to let ourselves get wounded again.

But here’s the thing about that – we don’t live if we hold ourselves back or if we let others change our sense of selves. Permission for truly being yourself is something only you can give. Realizing this is a huge leap forward toward healing any pain which may have frozen you in the past. As a popular Disney song commands us – let it go.

I’ve been growing into permission to be me. There have been days where I’ve been a wonderfully glorious blossom and others where I’ve been a wilted flower. But it’s okay because each day, I’ve been the best damn blossom and wilted flower I can be, which is what matters when the sun sets.

Then, in the evening sky, the moon rises. It waxes, it wanes, form changing with the twilight of every evening until it grows full then fades away completely.

My favourite is when the moon hangs low and grins down at us, like Lewis Carroll’s Cheshire cat. Sometimes, I imagine there is a devious cat just behind the inky darkness, waiting to pounce on us.

Moments like these are what help me hold onto whimsy in the face of the craziness of daily living.

Focus on the little things.

Give yourself permission to be the best YOU that you can be.

Love with wild abandon. Laugh with your belly. Sing with joy.

Above all else, grin back at the Cheshire cat and never forget to hold onto the whimsical.

On Not Wanting To

I’m tired, y’all.

I’m so damn tired of reading about women splashed across the front page because they’ve done something horrible to themselves or their children.

I’m tired of immediately wondering who let her down. I’m tired of wondering at what point did she fall through the cracks. I’m fed up, to be honest.

It happens way too often, these worst case scenarios splayed across the front page for all to read and shake their heads in disgust or sigh in exasperation because yet another mom has lost her mind.

I’m tired of this bullshit.

I get that drama sells and when it comes to sales or clicks, it’s all about the what will draw people in so OF COURSE LET’S SHARE A STORY ABOUT A MOM WHO FAILED.

Where the hell are the stories about the doctors who failed to screen? Where the hell are the stories about the partners who told these new moms to just suck it up? Where are the stories about their loved ones who didn’t show up to help them when they cried out for help? WHERE THE HELL ARE THESE STORIES?

It takes a damn village, people.

Our village is in peril. Our village? FELL THE FUCK APART AND NO ONE GIVES A DAMN.

In America, we have a pitiful excuse for maternity leave. We are bombarded by stories of celebs who gave birth and look AHMAZING in less than three weeks after giving birth. We are insanely comparing ourselves to women who are a) genetically blessed and b) have crazy access to things like trainers, nutritionists, nannies… and then there are the way we compare ourselves to each other. Stupid idiotic milestones of when we went back to work, how much we manage to get done every day, pushing ourselves to be better than the next mom and still have it all pulled together.

It’s no wonder we are screaming out for help and some of us are doing so through extreme measures.

There was a push for screening but it’s buried in the ACA and we know how well that’s been going with implementation, right?

Then there’s the complication of who will screen. Maternal mental health care crosses so many specialties it’s not even funny. OBGYN, midwives, doulas, Pediatrician, General Practitioner, Lactation Consultants….so who screens? Does the OB? The midwife? The doula? The Pediatrician? The GP? The IBCLC? WHO? Once they screen, what happens? Is the woman informed of her results? Is she successfully referred to the proper care? Is that care knowledgeable about Perinatal Mood Disorders? Will they dismiss her as an exhausted mom instead?

What about the potential physical issues which can masquerade as PPD? Like anemia, thyroid issues, vitamin D deficiencies, etc? Will those be ruled out before she’s put on medication? Or is the doctor just going to toss a script at her and leave her all alone on her skiff in the middle of a hurricane at sea?

Where is this information in childbirth classes? Why are we not informing new moms about this? Why are we not telling them that it can happen, dear caregivers? WHERE ARE YOU? WHY ARE YOU FAILING US? WHY ARE YOU GLOSSING OVER THE DANGER???

Wake up.

Women are dying.

Children are dying.

Families are being destroyed.

And you, you are sitting there claiming “It’s not my place.”

But it is.

Your move.

Get it right.

Whatever Wednesday: Wrong Number

Note: The following is based on a true event but details are grossly exaggerated. Maybe. Sorta. I plead the fifth. Mum’s the word and all that. Oh, and if you’re drinking or eating anything? Swallow it first and don’t take another bite or sip until you’re done reading. You’re welcome.

I just sat down at the desk to check Facebook for a few minutes when my cell phone started to ring. I looked at the number and didn’t recognize it. So, I did what any sane person does when an unrecognizable number calls you. I flipped it to silent and Googled the number.

I expected it to be some unknown land line. You see, I don’t give out my real cell number to anyone these days, I use my Google Voice number. So when a number from the area of my real cell number calls, I figure it’s probably a wrong number so I don’t answer.

Google’s results shocked me.

The number belonged to an adult lingerie/fantasy store.

Um, ‘scuse me?

I use Ama, er, um, uh… yeah. I’ve digressed enough. Anyway.

It gets better, yes it does.

I PM’d a friend on FB about the call, through tears of laughter.

“So… a lingerie store just called me….this has the potential to be hilarious.”

“What’d they want?”

“They left a voice mail… listening now…”

“It’s a message for Mary. Her item has arrived and is on hold. Oh, I want to call back and pretend to be Mary.”

“Poor Mary isn’t going to get her fantasy lingerie.”

“What if it’s not lingerie?”

“Maybe you don’t want to know what Mary’s into?”

“Yeah…maybe I should call them back and tell them I’m not Mary.”

“Hahaha.. Yes, before they reveal something indelicate!”

And so I did the good Samaritan thing, against my meddling blogger’s instinct’s gut reaction. I called the lingerie store to let them know they’d just left a message for Mary on my voice mail, that I wasn’t Mary after an initial resurgence of wanting to claim to be Mary.

Apparently, Mary gave them my number (or they transposed the numbers) when she placed her order for her item. Is her item lube? Cootchie cream? Whips? Deep Throat numbing spray? Cherry Anal Lube? Adult, um, toys? Lingerie? The suspense is KILLING ME, people! (All of the aforementioned are indeed items they sell through their online store – I am not making up the Cootchie cream or the cherry lube, y’all. Swearsies.)

The store owner/employee sounded horribly embarrassed, even uttering an “Oh myyyyy” which would have made George Takei blush, making me even MORE curious about Mary’s item.

After a few exchanges of pleasantries, we hung up. After some consideration, I think I need to call them back tomorrow to, you know, follow up and make sure that Mary hasn’t also used one of my accounts to pay for her, ahem, item. I don’t think she has, but this is just odd.

So, Mary?

Wherever you are, your item is waiting for you. It’s all alone. It’s yearning to be in your hands, against your skin, with you. It’s miserable without your warmth beside it or, ahem, around it. The spice in your love life will have to remain at the requisite level until you get your phone number right. No fifty shades of grey shenanigans for you tonight, sweetheart.

I hope you call to check on your poor lonely item soon…perhaps you will hear it calling for you, moaning all alone in the darkness in the store where they hold all the items people forgot to pick up.

Don’t leave your item in the lost and found, Mary. Just don’t. Be nice to your item, Mary, and it will be nice to you.

Go get ‘em, Mary. Rock it.

A Few Thoughts On Rejection

For those of you who had the balls to go audition for Listen To Your Mother, you rock. To those of you who made it, congratulations.

To those of you who didn’t – hello, my sisters.

I have seen friends celebrate and I have seen friends react to not being chosen. Of course it’s natural to be upset. In addition to pouring our souls out through words, we then got up in front of others and *gasp* read those words aloud.

The challenge in being rejected is to not take it personally. But.. but… those are my words, you’re thinking! I READ THEM. HOW IS THIS NOT PERSONAL???

Think of it this way – you plan to sew a gorgeous quilt. You need fabric first, right? So you go to a local fabric store with hundreds of choices. You spend hours sorting through the fabric, comparing them to each other and analyzing the appearance of each scrap in the final design. You can’t possibly use every single scrap of fabric in the quilt and end up with the appearance you want, right?

That’s what the people in charge of LTYM are doing – they are creating a quilt of words and they can’t possibly use all the words they hear or read during the audition phase. So they are forced to make a final selection after browsing the most amazing “fabrics” they have to choose from. In doing so, they work to find pieces which fall into a specific pattern, pieces which will work together for the show they envision. So, you see, it isn’t about you at all. It’s all about their job to select the best pieces for the design they see before them.

I went into auditioning this year with the mindset that I wouldn’t be chosen. But if I did that, then why bother auditioning?

Because standing in front of people, reading words I wrote, scares the ever-loving crap out of me. It is beyond my comfort zone. I don’t even read my blog posts to myself after I write them if that gives you any indication of how much I dislike reading my words. I struggle to accept the compliment of “hey, you’re a really great writer!” to be completely honest.

I am genuinely happy for those who made it into LTYM shows this year. It is an honor to be chosen and it takes courage to get up in front of such large audiences and read personal stories. To those who with me in not being chosen – you are still just as awesome as you were the moment before you took a shaky deep breath and stepped inside that audition room (or connected via G+ Hangout or Skype). No one gets to tell you any different. It takes guts to do that and even more guts to cope with rejection.

Below is the piece I read on Sunday morning for my audition. I like it, they laughed, everyone who has read it has told me it rocks. But it just didn’t fit into the show for whatever reason. I’m okay with that because you know what? I’m writing way more this year than I was last year and with each audition, I’m getting better at it. Sure, it’s nice to have acknowledgements and acceptance from others but in reality the only opinion which matters of yourself is your own.

Enjoy reading my audition piece!

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It’s a strange balance, this juxtaposition of womanhood and motherhood.

If we falter even the slightest, it’s as if someone yanked the worst possible Jenga block out of our intricately formed tower and we’re left hoping we’re as brilliant as Raymond Babbit, able to immediately calculate what’s fallen down as well as how to fix it.

As mothers, we are expected to heal everything, know everything, cook everything, be everything. I don’t know everything, I can’t heal everything, I am not everything, but I am able to cook almost everything. Except insects because that’s just gross.

When I was a little girl, I shoved stuffed animals under my shirt in the sunroom of our family cottage over on the Jersey Shore. I’d unceremoniously yank them out after a few minutes (which back then, felt like an eternity), giving birth to my “children.”

Stuffed animals made the best children in the world. They didn’t cry, they didn’t poop, they didn’t throw up….seriously. They were awesome. Plus, how on earth could you be sad whilst cuddling an adorable fuzzy teddy bear?

Fast forward about 20 years or so and there I was, in a hospital in rural South Carolina, about to give birth. It was a bit more complicated than yanking a stuffed animal from under my Mickey Mouse shirt – this time, I was screaming, pushing, and praying the epidural would magically start working on the side of my body engulfed in enough pain to convince me it was on fire.

Then, after 14 or so hours of labor, she arrived. In true Jersey Girl fashion, my oldest slid from the womb giving the doctor the finger on my behalf. I didn’t know what to do with her. She wasn’t soft and fuzzy. She was wet, naked, kicking, and screaming. The advice from the nurse about breastfeeding? Make sure you get the entire areola in her mouth – you know, the brown part. (Gee, thanks!)

I sought help at 12 weeks postpartum for depression only to be told “Hey! You don’t have PPD because at four weeks postpartum, your hormones slid magically back into place! But wait, there’s more…you’ve won a visit with our in-house therapist who will keep rescheduling!”

Swell.

We moved back to be closer to his family and I toughed it out without professional help. Then we got pregnant with our second.

Second time around saw me through over forty hours of labor. Delivery was fast once I pushed. But then, she was diagnosed with a cleft palate and I lost my mind. Medication at 10 days, hospitalization at 56 days, enlightenment shortly thereafter.

I didn’t have to suffer. I didn’t have to struggle. I had forgotten to mother the most important person in my life…me.

Self-care is not selfish, it is selfless. If you attempt to pour a glass of water from an empty pitcher, it is impossible. The same goes for self-care. If you attempt to care for others while not filling yourself, you will give nothing.

My third child was born after a quick and relatively simple labor. I didn’t have any issues after his birth as I did what I needed to in order to take care of myself first. I took care of my little guy and his sisters, but I managed my own well-being at the same time instead of just theirs.

I mothered all of us.

That, my friends, that is the key to mothering. It isn’t in balancing. It isn’t in being the Martha Stewart at the bake sale. It isn’t in knowing how to solve every single issue that may or may not crop up. It isn’t in being the Joneses on the street or even in being the Mom who lets her kid do whatever he or she wants.

The key to mothering is mothering EVERYONE in your family the best you can, yourself included. You are the nucleus of the family, the center of their worlds, and they are yours. Embrace this. Cherish this. Nourish this. In the process, however, remember to take impeccable care of yourself for without this important step, all of this may suddenly disappear into a dark vortex and suddenly, you won’t be in Kansas any more.

Remember Dorothy’s mantra? There’s no place like home. Only in real life, a mother’s ruby slippers are self-care and you absolutely must remember  to click them together….often.