Monday, December 31, 2012

If you drink, don't drive,

... do yourself a favor. Tonight is a night when so many will be out celebrating the end of the 2012 and the beginning of 2013. Please, make a plan. If you drink, don't drive! If you drive, don't drink! Not complicated. But it does require some thinking ahead. It requires you to think about using an alternate form of transportation such as a taxi, or using a designated driver, or being a designated driver. It might mean that you provide a place for your guests to stay, or that you provide a driver. There are many ways to be responsible.

Now I have nothing against enjoying yourself. I have nothing against those who choose to enjoy alcohol. Personally, I will be celebrating 32 years of sobriety in a few weeks, but that is because I am an alcoholic. I do not begrudge you one sip. But I do want you to think ahead and plan accordingly.

If you drink, please do not drive. I don't care how much you drink, one drink or several. Drinking and driving do not mix.

Lives are changed, destroyed in the blink of an eye. When my husband was killed by a drunk driver not only was my family destroyed but the family of the young woman who killed him was changed forever.

I know, most people think this can't happen to me. The young woman who killed my husband did not think she was impaired when she got on the freeway going the wrong direction and hit him head on at 60 miles per hour.

So, celebrate.Enjoy the party! Have a great time, but have a plan in place. Please.

If you drink do not drive!!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

A Christmas thought

The quote for the day is...
There's nothing sadder in this world than to awake Christmas morning and not be a child.~~Erma Bombeck~~

Now, when you read that do not think, oh dear, that is so right. Think, I am a child. A child of the Creator, and I deserve to believe that I am a beautiful, wonderful, worthwhile individual with so much to offer myself and those I love. The most important things I have to offer have nothing to do with the house being spotless, or the decorations being Martha Stewart worthy, or the Christmas dinner being course after course of delicious. What I have to offer is the heart of a worthwhile person. A heart that knows that I am intelligent, and caring, and worthy of treating myself well. A heart that is able to be a better mother, wife, sister, daughter, friend because I know my value.

Take time today to rest, even though you have things to do. Take some time to get at least a few moments with yourself, and remind yourself that a confident, loving smile is worth more than anything you can possibly accomplish today. Remind yourself that when we wake up on Christmas morning we are all someone's child, and relax and enjoy the day, no matter the circumstances. CHOOSE to believe in yourself, CHOOSE to hear only the truth about yourself from yourself and others, CHOOSE to remember who you are and nothing else can take that wonder away from the day. Relax, refresh your spirit, and wake up Christmas morning with the eyes and heart of a child!
Peace and Blessings,

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Those are people, mijo

As our nation, and the world continues to mourn, we need to continue to have the hard conversations about so many different things.This morning, for the first time, I read a message board thread that was a balanced civil discussion. It was such a relief to know that people were able to move towards that.

We all bring our own views and experiences to any conversation. When I discuss my views on guns-it really is helpful that people know that I have my reasons for my views. My reasons come from my experiences. As a child I grew up with older brothers who hunted and carried handguns. I have hunted with one of my brothers and his son. As an adult I have been the survivor of random gun violence. I bring all of these experiences and more to any discussion involving guns.

When the topic is mental health I bring my life as a person with mental health issues to the discussion. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when I was 19-ok, I was diagnosed as manic depressive, they didn't call it bipolar disorder back then(yes, I am old). I was diagnosed with PTSD and panic and anxiety 10 years ago. Major depressive disorder is one of the labels that is in my medical records.I manage my mental health with medication and therapy. I bring all of these experiences with me to any discussion of mental health issues.

When the discussion is about parenting my experience growing up in a dysfunctional family comes with me along with my experience as a parent.A parent of a young man with autism.

So all, of these different parts of us come into any conversation, and this is a good thing. There are so many conversations that we need to be holding.It is my fervent hope that we start talking and keep talking until we can move forward.  I am honestly sorry to my friends who think it is not the time yet. I get where you are coming from, but if not now, when. For me, it is time to talk to each other, and to keep talking to each other. So, I will hopefully be writing on all of these issues in the near future.

 While we may never know what Adams problems really were, or what the dynamics  in the family were, etc., we have read that there were issues, and that people were aware of the issues. The words autism and aspergers keep being bandied about, and that is an issue for me.

My son is blessed with autism. We want you to know that autism/aspeger's did not kill anyone.We want you to know that persons on the autism spectrum are much more likely to be victims than perpetrators. Much more likely to be victims of violence and bullying and abuse than to be the We want you to see my son walking through the store and not be afraid of him.Yes, I know, that if you are in a public place with us you might look at me funny when you hear me say "Those are people, mijo" as my son starts from point A to point B. That is me reminding my son to be careful, to be aware that he is 6'7" and 350 pounds and that he needs to walk responsibly and make sure he remembers to be polite and respectful. He doesn't need to be reminded as often as he used to. In fact not long ago he turned and looked at me and said "I know that." As a mom, that was  good moment, a moment when I knew that the lessons are learned. Of course, I am also the mom who still automatically throws her right arm across the chest of anyone in the passenger seat if she has to hit the brakes when driving, so I am pretty sure "Those are people, mijo," will still come out of my mouth.

Today I am still attempting to process some of the things I have read about the choices Adam's mother made in her parenting.I have to admit that when I  read that Nancy Lanza told her friend that "she introduced guns to Adam as a way to teach him responsibility" I bring my experiences with me and I have trouble grasping and processing that information.

My son is a young man now, and I still work every day to instill respect and responsibility in him.He makes me quite proud, truth is, there are days he is more responsible than I am.We chose to teach responsibility by having a pet to care for. Having the expectations of behavioral goals that needed to be met.  My son has chores lists. He has had chores commensurate with his abilities all of his life. While he knew his dad was a softie, he knew that if mom got home from work at midnight and the chores weren't done, he would get up and do them. I actually only had to get him up 2 or 3 times to teach him that.

So, like everyone, the tragedy last Friday is on my mind. Like everyone, I think about how we are responding and as a nation. Like each of us, I will bring my experiences with me to the conversation. I will attempt to keep the conversation civil and respectful, but I will not stop attempting to keep the conversations going. I owe to my son,and the people I love.  I owe it to the friends and family members who are burying their loved ones this week, and I owe it to myself. And like my son, I will try to remember as we go through this, in private and in public to never forget...
Those are people, mijo.


Monday, December 17, 2012

The Little Things

Sometimes, in the midst of great sadness, or crisis we feel totally useless. As if we have nothing to offer. This is true at times like now when we are all mourning a great tragedy. It is also true at times when the only sadness or tragedy is personal. One of the things I struggle with when I am dealing with my depression is the feeling that I am not helping anyone else. Helping, teaching, sharing my stories with others is one of the things I know I am supposed to do with my life.

When my life struggles get in the way of that, it compounds the issues for me. There are very few things in life that I use the word hate for, but one of the things I do use it for is this. I HATE feeling useless. I HATE feeling that I am not encouraging and supporting others in my life as I should.

But this is simply not true. This is one of those things that I need to remember to take my own advice. I need to remember when I start feeling unneeded and useless to ask myself the same questions I have counseled others to ask.To ask yourself if the things you are saying to yourself are the truth, or if they are just negative untruths you have learned over the years. Most likely they are untruths, because the truth is each one of us is a beautiful, worthwhile individual, deserving of the very best thoughts. So the next time you here yourself say something untrue about yourself, STOP, and replace it with a true statement. How will I know it is untrue, you ask? Here is the best test, would you say it to me, or any one of your friends? If not, then it is untrue, replace with something true!!

So, in a conversation this morning I said to a friend that I feel guilty for the times when I am mired in my depression and I am not helping someone else. She said to me, "You help us all by just being yourself, and though you might not feel strong, we know you are strong." Now, if you asked her she might think that statement was just a little thing, but to me it was huge.

After this conversation, I got dressed to go out and take care of some errands. It's been cloudy and dreary here for days, and of course, it's just a few days before the shortest day of the year, so sunshine has been at a premium. I am one of those people who NEEDS the sun. Dark and gloomy really gets to me. So, while getting ready this morning, I felt the need for some color. I pulled out a summer skirt and top that are splashed in bright blues, greens and orange shades. One of my favorite summer outfits-bright and filled with sunshine! This choice was a small, insignificant act on my part. I just felt the need for a bit of color in a sad dreary time. But, this small insignificant act in my life reminded me in the next 2 hours that small things, the little things, have great value.

In the 2 hours I spent running errands, at each of the 3 places I stopped, the first thing I heard were compliments on my outfit. The lady coming out of the convenience store as I was going in smiled at me.

"What a lovely skirt." she said.
"Thank you, I just felt the need for some color this morning"
"I'm so glad you did. Maybe we all do, thank you."

A perfect stranger thanked me for wearing a bright sunshiny skirt. Now I was smiling. My small, insignificant choice made her smile, and her compliment made me smile. I am not useless, she is not useless. We were both used to bring a bit of light to an otherwise gloomy day. Yes, it truly is the little things in life!!
In this life we cannot do great things.
We can only do small things with great love. ~Mother Teresa~

Sunday, December 16, 2012

More thoughts on our loss

When you write a blog, you put your thoughts out there for all to see. I am often astonished to look at the stats for my blog. I have followers around the world(bless each and every one of you). I have friends in other countries, so I assume I will see those countries, but I know no one in Russia, Malaysia, Indonesia, and many other countries. Yet, they read my thoughts. So, yesterday, in the midst of our nations grieving, I chose to blog some of my thoughts.

Now, my thoughts are mine. I received many messages of support for what I wrote, but I also received more than one message telling me I was wrong. Which is fine, because we all bring our own experiences to any issue. But, at some point, we have to be willing to discuss.

My experiences and beliefs lead me to weep for all who died. Yes, as I said yesterday, I include the young man and his mother in my prayers. Someone told me that they just couldn't understand praying for someone who was pure evil. They couldn't understand that I could differentiate between the tragedy being monstrous and the young man being a monster. Let me tell you why I weep for Adam.

I read the descriptions in the papers this morning of his behaviors in school. Those who know me can guess who I immediately thought of. I could have been reading about my son. I immediately had the thought that I could have been Adam's mother.Yes, I pray for Adam. I can not think of him as monster, or evil. I will not, as someone said I should, call him IT. When I pray for Adam and his mother I will call him Adam. Just as I will call all of the children and adults who died by their names when I pray for them and for those who mourn them. Just as I call the 22 year old who killed my husband Jessica in my daily prayers.I will continue to pray for Adam, and for each and every one of our children who were lost in this tragic, horrendous act. I will not call anyone IT, I will not think of anyone as pure evil or a monster, because there is a part of me that thinks that is perhaps part of the problem. We demean and dehumanize when we stop thinking of human beings as human beings.

There are so many issues that need to be discussed, so many. We will not all agree on how to change things, but I honestly think we can all agree that some things need changed. It is possible to have friends that you are diametrically opposed to what they support and still remain friends. I know this because it is true in my life. I have friends from all political and religious parts of the spectrum and we love each other. I think it maybe because while we can think the person is wrong or misguided we can respect that they have the right to feel and believe what they do. We understand that people can honestly look at things and understand them differently. Different doesn't mean someone is right and someone is wrong, it simply means different.And, honestly, differences can be discussed without demonizing or marginalizing the other persons opinion. In fact, as members of society we should each make it our project to bring the civic conversations in this country back to this.Because, the truth is, words have power, and you have no way of knowing who you are hurting with your words.

So many issues that need to be discussed. We owe it to all of the ones we lost to make sure these things get discussed. I refuse to believe that now is not the time. It is past time, and we all need to make sure that we don't get through the next few days in our grief and then return to business as usual. We all need to make sure that all of the issues can be discussed, and addressed. Because,I can not stop feeling that I could have been Adam's mother.

I'll be writing a lot about my thoughts and experiences in this our time of loss. I will inspire some, I will offend some, but I will continue to share-because all of the children were our children and we all mourn, and writing is one of the ways I mourn.

All human beings are limbs of each other,
having been created of one essence.

When time affects a limb with pain,
The other limbs cannot at rest remain.

If thou feel not other's misery,
A human being is no name for thee.

great iranian poet - sa'adi - c. 1210-1290


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Once again

Once again, our nation reels in the aftermath of the unthinkable. We see our friends on fb and message boards trying to come to terms with the horrors of a mass shooting. It's been a difficult week for our national psyche.

It's been a hard week for our personal psyche.

I wrestle with this as someone whose body and psyche bear the scars of gunshot wounds from random gun violence; as the widow of a man killed by a drunk driver;as the parent of a young adult male blessed with autism; as someone who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 19-and has managed to have a good life;as someone who who has friends who own guns, and friends who don't. There are no easy answers, but it is past time for the conversations to take place

There are many levels of conversation that need to take place.I cringed when I heard the words autism and aspergers in the news yesterday. It is difficult enough for my gentle giant man-child to walk through a public place without hearing hateful words being directed at him. We don;t need the additional stigma. There are those thinks meds should be banned-we have no knowledge of any meds yet. I take meds for mental health issues, and they make my life better.There are those of us who think reasonable gun control laws will help.There are those who think we all need more guns (have to admit that one eludes me)There are just so many different issues here. I admit that when I heard that the guns belonged to his mother I had difficulty wrapping my head around a mother with a child with some issues having a Bushmaster .223 semi-automatic rifle and body armor in her home. But, saying that gets me lambasted by my friends who own guns. There has to be a way for us to discuss ALL of the issues in a reasonable way.I don't know that there are any easy answers, I do know that we have to discuss these things.

Many Americans want reasonable controls on who can purchase firearms, when, how, and what kind. They don't want to interfere with hunting or keep non-violent law abiding people from having a registered handgun at home for protection, but required safety classes, no semi-automatic weapons, waiting periods, registration, and no criminal records seem reasonable enough. But,I get that there is disagreement, I just think we have to stop lining up against people with differing opinions and seek a reasonable compromise. Come let us reason together.

I see my fb feed filling up with people who are asking their friends to post 20 stars for the children and 6 stars for the adults who were killed yesterday. I get that. But for me there were 8 adults killed yesterday and my prayers have to include the young man and his mother. I have to pray for them all.

I see comments everywhere referring to the young man as a monster, a psychopath, sociopath, evil, etc. I get that, but I cringe when I read that, because we have no idea exactly what happened in this young man's brain. I can agree that what happened was monstrous, horrific, and has changed us all. I have to include him in my prayers, because in my faith traditions, he is being held and healed by a loving Creator.More than one person has commented that they looked at his picture and could tell he was evil. I looked at his picture and wept for the sweet child I saw. I  have to pray for the father and brother who are left to mourn in the midst of unthinkable pain.

So many conversations need to happen, and while we are numb with shock and grief,we can still begin to have those conversations. Conversations about gun controls, conversations aobut mental health issues, conversations about a society that seems to glorify violence. All of these things need to be discussed. Not with finger pointing and rancor. Not with defensive posture towards those whose ideas are different than ours. But with compassion, and caring, and civility. We seem to have lost that, and perhaps that is also one of the things we need to discuss.

We're all reeling over the news. Believe me, I get it. In addition to the sense of helplessness, disbelief,and shock we all feel when these things happen, it brought lots of memories up for me. I am a gun violence survivor. Random, senseless violence. It leaves us all reeling. But, it is time to move forward after the shock wears off. It is time to come together, to reason together over the multiple issues at work here. It's past time.

As I pray for each family of the 28 people who were killed I will go back to the poem that has brought me solace in the violent death of my husband...may each one who mourns be comforted...

Love is stronger than death.
So I must be content to know that
love is not affected by death--
it doesn't end, it doesn't diminish,
it doesn't change.
Instead, love is immortalized
and eternalized through death.
And the possibility of that love ever
being damaged or broken
is eliminated forever.
I'll put my trust in love.