Challenges …

So have you done the ALS Ice Bucket challenge?  The videos I’ve watched are entertaining and attention-grabbing, which of course was the aim, and suddenly a little-talked-about disease is receiving the big focus and funding necessary for ramping up the research.  A diagnosis of ALS is a death sentence, regardless of age or station in life, so a cure would be a godsend. The conversation is in full bloom around the country, as intended.  We can’t really address things we have never faced, don’t know about, or are afraid to discuss.

Concurrent with the ALS wave, the death of a much-loved entertainer has sparked a dialogue on the realities of clinical depression and suicide, with far different results.  The ugly, willfully ignorant comments on social media have been crushing.  If a friend confided in you that he or she had received a diagnosis of Stage 4 cancer and had only a short time to live, would your response be something like “Wow, dude, that sucks.  But hey, quit whining.  Chin up!  Everybody has troubles.  Keep a good attitude, get out and enjoy life, it’s bound to turn things around.  You’ll feel better before you know it!”  If you say yes, I call bullshit.

I’ve seen a few negative comments about the ALS challenge — it wastes water (give me a break — your twenty-minute showers and ice chests full of beer are all totally justified, I suppose); it’s stupid and juvenile (but painting your face and body for a sports event, or wearing a block of cheese on your head isn’t); I don’t see the point (of course you don’t, it’s under your hat). But the response has been predominantly positive and lighthearted, and it’s fun to watch.

The conversation about depression and suicide is an entirely different story.  It’s a fact of life that our bodies get sick and die — it happens right in front of us so there’s no denying it.  But you could talk and type all you want and way too many people will still never comprehend that our brains and psyches get sick, too.  If you wouldn’t shame someone for getting cancer or having a brain hemorrhage or getting hit by a drunk driver, why would you use shame as a tool against illnesses and injuries of the spirit?  And who the hell are YOU to do that in the first place?

Here’s an actual example of the complete nonsense being posted:

“The fact still remains he (Robin Williams) killed himself because he made bad choices in his life … society is only making a big deal out of him because of who he was and his money.  Wealth comes with challenges.  Depression is one of them.  … A person’s stature in society shouldn’t make them any more important than anyone else. … Seek out help.  It is out there but you have to lose your pride to find that help.  Don’t be a coward and take the easy way out.  Listen to the voice inside you that tells you right from wrong.  Don’t try to tune it out or you will be in for a rough time.”

What a steaming pile of panther whangy.  (Thanks, Phil.)  If you don’t know what you’re talking about you’d be smart to shut your pie hole.  I’ve never been clinically depressed, I’ve just been hit with garden variety blues from time to time, but I’ve watched beloved family members suffer and die from it, so I’m here to tell you:

1)  Clinical depression is not caused by “bad choices.”

2)  The conversation is not really about Robin Williams, except that his life perfectly illustrates how deadly the disease is.  He had it all, but money, wealth, and fame do not in any way make a person immune to a disease of the brain and spirit.

3)   I haven’t seen anyone express the view that Mr. Williams was “more important than anyone else.”  His high-profile death and the fact that he was loved by so many people have simply generated a national conversation that needed to take place.

4)  “Losing your pride” has little bearing on seeking help.  A person lost in the dark tunnel of clinically-depressive illness is mostly incapable of reaching out.  I’ve been told by people who’ve been there and survived it that it’s hard to even hear other voices or entertain possible options — for them, they’re in the process of dying and it takes everything they’ve got just to hang on.  Robin Williams DID seek help, and had been treated for depression for years, but just as with cancer, a “cure” was not easily come by.  Complicating matters, anxiety and depression are clinical symptoms of Parkinson’s, which he was also dealing with.

5)  Rather than being “cowardly” and “taking the easy way out,” a person in the throes of the illness finally succumbs to the relentless pain and suffering, concludes that the world would be far better off without him, and exercises the only option that seems to be left.

6)  “Right from wrong.”  What an incredibly judgmental thing to put on someone.  If you’ve never been in that long dark tunnel, hating yourself for who you think you are and what you believe you’re doing to your loved ones by simply being you, then you need to SHUT UP.

7)  “Don’t try to tune it out or you will be in for a rough time.”  If people with clinical depression could “tune it out,” they’d do it in a heartbeat.  And as for a “rough time,” it’s clear that you couldn’t care less about what they’re going through, so DO.PLEASE.SHUT.UP.

No one is immune to mental illness, so it would be in your best interest to stay off the soapbox.  Many people are born with a genetic predisposition to any number of spiritual and mental illnesses, and all the arrogance and condescension in the world won’t change that — that approach just lets people feel better about themselves because it didn’t happen to them.

If you’ve been spared from the disease of depression, why not adopt the approach of the ALS people and do something to help raise awareness.  I just did.

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The care and feeding of The Madison …

This is the story of a boy and his dog.  And a young man and his dog.  And an old girl and “her” dog.  Turns out they’re all the same dog — a Maltese named Madison — and she’s led a fairly incredible life so far.  Her first story was happy … until it wasn’t.  The boy loved her, but his girlfriend didn’t, so while he was away working nobody took care of tiny Madison.  The young man took her in then and loved her and provided for her, and they were a good team.  But his life got really busy and Madison was spending a lot of hours alone.  SOOOO … the old girl talked him into letting the little peanut come stay at her house, at least for a while.  That’s love in its purest form, people, and Kim and I don’t take lightly the sacrifice he’s making for the sake of her health and well-being.

Miss Maddie will be ten years old in October, but she still looks like a puppy and remembers how to act like one.  She was coughing and gagging every day, and seemed listless, so on a hunch we changed her food and treats to brands that don’t contain wheat.  Thanks to a tip from a certified dog person, we also eliminated chicken.  The respiratory symptoms are going away, she’s sleeping fewer daytime hours, and she’s started initiating rambunctious play again and bringing us her dapper little green dinosaur so we can wrestle it away from her and throw it across the room.  She’s good as gold about potty habits, and she sleeps all night without disruption.  If left on her own she wakes up about 8am, just like I do.  Perfect!

Madison adores Kim, but she’s chosen me as her Person, which fills me with gratitude and gooey slurpy love.  Even when she has old-lady breath — which we’re also working on — I can’t get enough of her.  She goes with us on all the little errands that don’t require taking her into NO DOGS areas (the nerve!), and she’s a calm and entertaining passenger.  When we instead tell her “Maddie has to stay this time,” she looks at us with her big black eyes and takes it with good grace.  She doesn’t chew on things, or get up to shenanigans, and we never have a second thought about leaving her to roam the loft while we’re out.  She’s a little lady.  Her joy when we get home is something we didn’t know we were missing … and would have a hard time giving up now.

She’s an instant conversation-starter and makes friends all over town.  Jeez, to be so popular!  She still gets to go to The Farm to see her black Lab friend Mia and the three kittens, James, Red Molly, and Elsa … and her Big Guy when he’s there.  But it’s clear she isn’t really a farm girl, with her alabaster fur coat and frilly tail — she’s a princess and we’re happy to let her be exactly that, especially since she doesn’t have an attitude.  It’s a happy arrangement … except possibly for the Big Guy, who misses her when he’s home at night.

Maddie makes us laugh, and she brings out a tender grandparent-y thing in both of us that feels just right at this stage of our lives.  Thank you, Kevin, for having such a good heart — we love you.  And Madison will always belong to you, no matter where she might live out her days.

 

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Save the drama for ya’ mama …

There are a million things involved in a move.  First of all, way more work than you ever dreamed.  Changes in every direction.  Base lines to reestablish — we go here for groceries, there for prescriptions, and all those other places for everything else.  Life turns upside down for a while, and not all of it feels good.

But then there are the unexpected bonuses, the stuff you never really thought about.  And I can’t think of a better bonus than leaving drama behind.  When we left, all that exhausting craaazy that was attached to our former lives fell away.  Ceased to exist.  We were so covered up with moving it took a while to realize why we felt so zen, but once we figured it out we vowed not to go there again.  Ever.

I can never remember to check my blood pressure, but I’m pretty sure it runs lower than it used to.  I sleep like there’s no tomorrow.  Deep, restful sleep, for ten hours a night or more.  That’s never happened before.

It’s occurred to me in the past few days that I will do anything legal, moral, and not too stupid to keep from being dragged back into <<<< Stresssss Worrrrllldd>>>>.   We like this too much, we’ve settled into our own little routines too well, fallen in love with feeling happy and at peace too deeply, freed ourselves too ruthlessly from the things that don’t fit, to ever go back.

One of the most liberating things in life is the word “no.”  Prolly gonna be using it unreservedly.

 

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I think I need a nap …

Holy-moly, so bored!

Kim has a play date with a friend south of town.  Something about building a fire pit.

Got the mail.  Paid bills.  Did laundry.  Annoyed people on Facebook.

The sun’s shining, it’s a perfect Saturday.  Art Tougeau is still happening today.  There was a parade on Mass St. at noon, and tonight the Lawrence Band Summer Concert Series kicks off in South Park.  There are people everywhere.

Ugly truth:  this chick isn’t bored.  She’s freakin’ lazy.

 

ATLawrence

Maya Angelou ~1928-2014

 

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Staying in the swim …

We’ve recently changed up our exercise routine because Kim needs to rest his ankle and shoulder, so he’s off the racquetball court and I’m out of Aqua Zumba for now.  Instead we’re swimming laps in the early mornings.  Our spring/summer schedule filled up when we weren’t paying attention, so the earlier start every day has been a good thing, and Kim’s owies are starting to like the new regimen.

One of my last class sessions was something I’m glad I didn’t miss — you can’t prepare for serendipities, you just have to be lucky enough to notice all the little nudges that take you through your days in style.

Okay, I need to tell you that when John was just out of college and starting his first career, he got involved with an organization that provided a social life for developmentally-challenged young adults.  His stories were funny and endearing, and it was clear right away that he had a gift for what he was doing.  He eventually went on to exchange his design career for one as an oncology RN, and he’s not only really good at that, his tenderness for his first clients has stayed with me.

So there was a morning a while back when I’d almost skipped Zumba class … again.  But hey, I showed up.  I was in the water warming up when the door opened and a young guy with killer abs walked in, followed by several men of mostly indeterminate age and clearly working under challenges of various sorts.  Nice Ab Guy asked if this was Zumba class and I said yes.  He asked the instructor if it would be okay for them to work out with us and she said of course!  So he helped the other guys tighten their waistband drawstrings, finessed ear and nose plugs, and coaxed them into the shallow end of the pool.  They were none too sure about the whole thing, but their shy smiles were to die for.  The eldest had scars over his back and arms that looked like severe burn damage and I prayed that some inferior human creature hadn’t hurt him on purpose.

The music cranked up, loud as always, and the new guys, with encouragement from a dozen or more mamas, got into it.  Ab Man was born to dance, and obviously to help people who need him.  The sweet guy with the burn scars was so sincere and earnest about trying to keep up with the moves, I had to put my face in the water to camo the tears.  One young guy spent his time looking around, blowing bubbles, and making the water splash big.   He may have had the best time of anyone.  Every glance at one of us asked “Is this okay?  Can I do this?”  When class ended we all told them to be sure and come back, but that didn’t happen before I dropped out.  I hope they remember their time with us as one of the really good days.

I’m lazy and whiny and it’s almost second nature for me to pick the easy way if there is one.  Those guys’ lives are hard in ways I’ll never get, but they keep going and they’re as stoic as anyone I’ve ever seen.  I hope the people they encounter will be unfailingly kind to them and that even though they’ve been burned by life they’ll never lose those shy sweet smiles and their willingness to be and do and keep on giving.  I have no right to even ask that … but there’s so much they can teach the rest of us and we need them.

 

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This is SO for the birds!

It’s an established truth that no good deed goes unpunished.  We didn’t know until this spring that there’s a gap across the top of our balcony wall.  The birds knew, however, oh, yes they did.  They were already well into their nest-building project before we noticed, so of course we chose to be kind.  And they were just the sweetest, flying back and forth to the trees across the street, bringing raw materials for their new home.

The babies hatched a while back and it’s been impressive to watch the bird couple delivering round-the-clock take-out.  Somebody told us they barely eat while they’re raising their babies.  Probably don’t sleep, either.  They were having an intense argument on the balcony rail this morning … wonder why?

So yeah, the babies.  We were kinda wondering when they might be big enough to leave the nest — and then we saw one standing on a windowsill and pecking at the window.  Holy cow, he was HUGE.  But they’re still hanging around home, we can hear them.  And their parents are still feeding them, worm by worm.  The little shirkers!  They need to convert all that worm pate’ into lift and get on with their lives.

Because shit!  I mean holy shiites, Batman, it’s unreal.  It’s everywhere!  Trailing down the brick, splattered all over the deck, piled on the railing, splotching up the chair cushions, frosting all the herbs and flowers.  I’m out of adverbs, but it’s disgusting, unhealthy, and nasty to the max.  And there’s not one thing we can do about it unless we want to be monsters.  In light of which I’ve pictured myself getting a ladder, reaching into the nest, grabbing the first little cheeper I see, and teaching him to fly.  From four stories up.

So as I was saying, not a thing we can do.  Mr. & Mrs. Bird clearly tabbed us as gentle souls on their first pass and it was over before it started.  They’ve won this one, but rounds two and beyond are ours.  Except that I think I heard more birds on the north end of the gap this morning.

Well, shit.

 

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