Archive | August, 2011

National Suicide Prevention Week

31 Aug

Two years ago, on a sunny August afternoon, I was leaving a LLL meeting and got a call from my cousin Brian’s girlfriend, Jessica.  It was an unexpected call I was not prepared to handle.  It was a call about which every detail has been etched into my memory.  That call would forever alter my personal path here on Earth and the paths of many of my family and close friends.

Jessica called to tell me that Brian, my cousin and close friend, had taken his own life.  In the moment, I was completely stunned.  All of the breath was knocked out of me by some unknown force.  Miley Cyrus’ “It’s a Party in the USA” was playing in my car, oddly enough.  That song will forever remind me of that fateful moment in time.

Before Brian’s death, I didn’t know much about suicide and I didn’t know anyone personally who had made that choice.  Depression runs deeply through the veins of my family and so I had been through attempts with various family members, which in themselves were agonizing.  It’s an entirely different agony when someone you love actually completes suicide.

Brian’s death propelled Jessica (and I in her wake) to do something about suicide prevention.  She started attending Survivor of Suicide (SOS) groups on a regular basis.  She gathered the family together to walk in November at the annual SOS event.  She created The Jack Eight Remembrance Fund (  She orchestrates a benefit fundraiser for different charities each year which promote healing for those who are left behind in the event of suicide, “survivors” we are termed.

September 4th through 10th is Annual National Suicide Prevention Week.  It’s hosted each year by the American Association of Suicidology (   I find the statistics on suicide to be staggering.  According to the National Institute of Mental Health, in 2007, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.  There were 34,598 deaths by suicide reported that year, which means the overall rate was approximately 11 deaths per 100,000 people.  It is estimated that 11 attempts occur for every death by suicide.  (It’s ridiculous that the most current statistics are as old as 2007!)

The National Institute of Mental Health has a comprehensive list of whom to call, what to do, and how to prevent suicide:

We also have a great list of resources posted on the Jack Eight Remembrance Fund website:

This November, we will be hosting the 2nd Annual Jack 8 Poker/Bingo Tournament to benefit the Alliance of Hope:  More details to come.  Right now, we are seeking donations for the silent auction.  If you have something you’d like to donate, please send an e-mail to

Valuing Ourselves – and Others

30 Aug

Jen’s latest FEAT—which centers on self-acceptance—got my wheels spinning back to a thought I’ve had many times over my nearly 16-year career as a mom: Other moms can make you feel like crap.

Like the high-school queen bee whose popularity rises in proportion to how bad she makes other girls feel, certain moms relish nothing more than a) pointing out the talents/innate genius/physical gifts of their own offspring and b) snarking about other moms and their children.

These chicks are smart in how they undercut their erstwhile rivals, rarely engaging in any kind of face-to-face confrontation. Rather, snide side comments to a third party are their forte. This has the two-fold effect of putting the first mom down and intimidating the listener.

Back when I lived in Little Rock and my teen daughter with autism was a toddler, another mom I knew (a friend, I might have said at the time) constantly regaled me with her own daughter’s brilliance, particularly when it came to her staggering vocabulary. This stung all the worse as on that score my daughter (to this day largely nonverbal) was showing a notable lack of progress in that area. All the while, Uber-Mom kept discussing another friend’s child, about whom she had “concerns.” It got so bad that I began a pattern of cancelling play-dates at the last minute, too anxious to cope, too gutless to explain why.

While I’m definitely not blame-free on the score of expressing opinions about another child or mother, I pray I don’t ever do it as a way of inflating myself. I am the first to admit my failings as a mom—and I’ll readily share them with whoever’s listening. But do take a page from my book and steer clear of mothers with a not-so-hidden agenda of tearing someone else down to feel better about themselves.

We’re all better when we don’t.


24 Aug

Yoga is powerful.  Someone I admire once said that doing yoga twice a week will change your body.  Doing yoga five days a week will change your life.

As a busy mother of three, I can only dream of practicing yoga more than once a week.  While vacationing recently, my mom gave our family a beautiful and generous gift.  She hired a yogi to come and teach yoga on the beach (three mornings in one week)!!

It was glorious.  Being outdoors, feeling the warmth of the sun on my face, the wind blowing my hair, the coolness of my feet in the soft cold sand, and hearing the waves crashing nearby was surreal.

We had three different yogis that week, by choice.  Two of the three included a guided meditation, which I always love.  One of the yogis had been inspired by an Indie Arie song.  She said the only thing constant in life is change.


The only thing constant in life is change.  I started thinking about it.  I am not a person who generally runs from change, in fact, I embrace it most days.  I believe that life on Earth is a continuous evolution; that as people, we are constantly growing and changing.  Plants, birds, animals, humans, cells, energies; everything is changing.

I think back to the child I was, the young woman I developed into throughout the high school years, and the free spirited woman I became in college.  I think of all of the things I would have missed out on, had I not branched out and tried something new: home brew, cliff jumping, artichoke, freshly made juice, skiing, getting a tattoo, overseas travel, hiking to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, chiropractic adjustments, meditation, reiki, and even yoga!

As a mother, it’s even easier to see.  My children are growing, learning new things, developing their personalities, trying new things, testing boundaries, and exploring new things.  As they change, I change too.  I’ve had to alter discipline methods (many times).  I’ve had to change the way my home was child-proofed (I thought it was perfectly safe until my son came along!)  I’ve changed the way I perceive things too, like extended breastfeeding, movie ratings, circumcision, buying organic produce, chiropractics, and teasing.

Philosopher and psychologist Carl Jung once said, “What you resist persists.”  I have found this to be completely true in my life.  The more I try and control things, the more they seem to spin away and out of control.  The more I let things be, the more things fall right into place.

Just like the waves in the ocean undulate and never stay the same, so must we as humans.  If things never changed, I shudder to think of how oppressive our society would be today.  So today and every day, I salute change!

Post-Stress Back-to-School Syndrome

23 Aug

You’d think I would be turning cartwheels right now.  For the first time in six years, I have two children in full-time school.  My 15-year-old daughter with autism started her sophomore year on Monday.  My Kindergartner son had his first day last week.  Both my offspring are out of my hands nearly eight hours a day.  And I like where they’re spending that time.  I worked to find good classrooms for them, devoting significant research and networking to the task.  I know my children are safe in the care of talented teachers.  Each is poised to thrive this year in their respective situations.  So why am I not singing for joy like a character on “Glee”?

Because I am suffering Post-Stress Back-to-School Syndrome!

All that work, planning, assembling of school supplies, purchasing of uniforms, reading of paperwork, discussing expectations, signing of forms…it all took a toll on my nervous system and psyche.  The goodbyes were no picnic either, though both kids seemed genuinely happy to head off on their respective educational adventures.

My task now is to do more than merely fill those hours.  I need to readjust my mindset so I can get as much out of their time at school as they do.

But first I hope to take one big, long breath.  I know I need to heal from this “break up” of sorts as my kids go their way—and I try to find mine.

52 FEATS – NUMBER 34 (Keeping a Food Diary/Counting Calories)

22 Aug

Well, last week was a total bust.  Turns out that pedometers from the dollar store are really crappy.  I’m shocked!  I clipped that thing on, but I was either constantly (accidentally) hitting the reset button or it just wasn’t counting any steps.  And then the clip broke off.  So now it’s my daughter’s new toy – she calls it  her “counter.”  At least someone is able to use it.

But whatever – gotta move on.

I don’t want to do this next one, but I really need to.  I’m a 37-year-old woman, but I still have the mentality of my younger, skinny self.  You know the one, the teenager with the uber-metabolism who can eat whatever she wants without any consequences.  But I’m not her anymore, and unfortunately, it’s catching up with me.  Boo!

I know I’ve got to get myself back to the gym, but more than anything else I really need to cut down on how much I eat.  From what I’ve read, one of the best ways to do that is to keep a food diary.  I’ve got a cool app for my iPhone called “Lose It” that I can use to track everything I eat, and it automatically counts the calories.  I can also enter any exercise I do, so I can keep track of how many calories I’ve eaten in a day vs. how many I’ve burned.

I’m not doing a crash diet here, I just want to be more mindful of everything I shove into my face.  And if it helps me button my pants, so much the better!

Child Proofing Refresher

17 Aug

Child proofing for me has been an ongoing evolutionary challenge.  Just when I think I’ve got everything under control, something (or someone) comes along and shows me how much more should be done!

With my first child, we covered all the basics like outlet covers, locks on the kitchen cabinets that contained chemicals, a bumper pad around the ledges of the fireplace, and having safety doorknob covers on any room we didn’t want her having unsupervised access to.

When my second child came along, we had to forget the doorknob covers (because as soon as she was tall enough, she very quickly learned how to open doors even with the covers on).  We ended up adding a padding to the coffee table which worked until she figured out how to climb on it.  Then, we had to remove it altogether.  We literally had no coffee table in our living room for about three years, which was especially challenging when I hosted book club meetings!

Both girls were relatively good about adhering to my stern looks and voice stating “danger” when they went near something that would be harmful to them.  For example, they never went into the kitchen and tore all the cabinets apart.  They never got into the toilets.  At the time, we didn’t have stairs, so that was also a nonissue.

Since my son has become mobile, it’s been an entirely different experience.  Nothing seems to be off limits to him.  He doesn’t react the same way to my stern face and voice stating “danger”.  He repeats “day-der” and then smiles and does whatever it is again.  He gets into the trash can.  He plays in the toilet.  He climbs the furniture.  I even caught him climbing the outside of the staircase!

At the house we now live in, we do have stairs, so I’ve added gates at the top and bottom.  I still haven’t figured out a way to keep him from climbing the outside ledges though, short of constant supervision.  I’ve had to improvise, for instance, when I have to use the restroom.  I have to use the pack n play, so I know he is safe.  We haven’t yet baby proofed the master bathroom, so I can’t even let him wander around in there while I’m indisposed.  We’ve had to flip a couch upside down, because that’s the only way he couldn’t climb it.  We’ve had to install locks on all of the toilets, the trash can and the recycle can.  We’ve got a lock on the cabinet in the kitchen where the chemicals are stored, but still need to lock everything else up as well.  Anytime I’m in the kitchen, he’s in the kitchen, leaving a trail of chaos in his wake!

I decided it was time for a refresher in baby proofing!  I found this comprehensive list at

  • Use covers on electrical outlets and latches on cabinets
  • Set the temperature of your hot water heater between 120 and 130 degrees to prevent scalding burns
  • Prevent poisonings by keeping household cleaners, chemicals, and medicines out of reach, storing them in original containers with a child resistant cap
  • Use stair gates and window guards
  • Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and fire extinguishers ub tge house and use flame retardant sleepwear
  • Remove furniture with sharp edges or use soft guards
  • Consider using a wall anchor for the stove and large pieces of furniture that can tip over
  • Use nonskid backing on rugs and make sure carpets are securely tacked down
  • Remove breakables from low tables and shelves
  • Remove small toys and other choking hazards from around your child
  • Do not carry hot liquids or food near your child and do not allow your child near stoves, heaters, or other hot appliances (curling irons included).  When cooking, use the back burners and turn pot handles inwards
  • To prevent drowning, empty all water from bathtubs and pails, keep the doors to the bathrooms closed and never leave your child alone in or near any body of water
  • If you must have a gun in the house, keep it and the ammunition in separate locked places

Some other important things to remember: keep a list of emergency contacts near the phone; including the number for poison control.  Lock any rooms that are not child proofed.  Install a safety fencing with a self closing, self latching lock around any swimming pools.  Hot tubs should always be covered and locked while not in use.

Moms of the World Unite (Over a Box of Tissues)

16 Aug
yes, that is me – with some weird death grip on my son

According to my husband, I have ice water running through my veins.  I can turn off the Playstation 3 my son is playing – in the middle of a level, jeez!! – without blinking an eye because it’s bedtime.  I can tell my kids they’re not getting dessert because they didn’t eat enough of their grow food, while I simultaneously plan how to eat an ice cream sundae behind their backs.  I can say no to requests for candy, TV, toys, trips, extra bedtime stories, and just about anything my kids ask me for.

But let’s face it, I’m still human.  A mom’s heart can only take so much.

Lately, I’ve endured several giant tugs – no, rips, really – of my heartstrings with my son, the almost-Kindergartner:

1) He wouldn’t ride on the same step with me on the escalator.  He insisted on being as many steps above me as possible.

2) He wouldn’t let me hold him on the merry-go-round.  Of course he doesn’t need me to hold him – he’s almost six, for crying out loud!  I suppose it’s a wonder he even wants to ride it at all.

3) He ice-skated around the skating rink twice completely alone.  (Of course, I was following him around outside, giving him constant thumbs-ups and taking videos.  Apparently, I am THAT mom.)

4) He sassed me.  This has happened a few times lately.  While I’m totally used to it with my daughter (I certainly don’t enjoy that, but for her it comes as naturally as breathing), my son has NEVER been a sassy kid.  He’s a pleaser, and doesn’t want to disappoint me.  Maybe his sister is rubbing off on him, or maybe it’s just nerves or the anticipation of newfound independence at school, but every now and then, he gives me some lip.  The other day at a restaurant, I told him to eat his veggies or he wouldn’t get any ice cream.  Without missing a beat, he said, “Bossy, bossy, bossy!”  I swear I dropped my fork, and the music at On the Border screeched to a halt.  And the (almost) funny part was, he looked even more shocked than me.  His eyes were as big as saucers as he shrunk back in his seat, looking so mortified you’d think he’d been body-snatched and had no idea where those words came from.

5) We went to Meet the Teacher night at his new school where he will start Kindergarten on Wednesday.  He didn’t want to leave.  Enough said.

Like I said, my heart can only take so much.  I alternate between pride at his growth and sheer terror at his potential vulnerability in the world.  Things are so exciting right now, but SO scary.  At least that’s how they are for me – he’s only feeling the excitement, which is a good thing.  Maybe we’ve raised him right.

I often smile when I imagine women throughout the ages thinking the same thoughts I do:  “Oh my goodness, my baby is growing up so fast!  Just yesterday he was toddling around on his daddy’s chariot, and now he’s a Roman soldier.  Where did the time go?”  I think of my mother tearfully muddling through my first day of Kindergarten (she sat in the parking lot and cried), and I bet my grandmother did the same for her.  But even knowing my thoughts about being a parent are probably never original, they still choke me up.  I have vowed NOT to look at any baby pictures of my kids this week or I may never recover!

Think of me tomorrow morning, at about 8:10 am, when I’ve just dropped off my son for his first day of Kindergarten.  I’ll be discreetly blowing my nose and dabbing my eyes while trying not to freak out my 3-year-old.  Feel free to join me, give me a pat on the back or even laugh at me.  It happens to all of us at one point or another, and misery loves company!

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