As the Walk Approaches

As the day of the Out of the Darkness Walk becomes closer and closer I find myself unexpectedly emotional. First I am blown away by the generosity of those who have given to my campaign. I did not anticipate raising this much–my team has exceeded our goal–and I certainly didn’t anticipate being so touched by every donation, every word of support, every story shared with me of mental illness or the impact of suicide. I am doing the work I set out to do and it has been a long time coming.

I am also finding myself thinking about my dad, and missing him, much more than usual. I suppose this seems like a natural connection, after all I wouldn’t be doing this at all if it weren’t for him. But it has surprised me. After nearly 11 years, the pain of him not being in my life has receded into a dull ache that makes itself known when something reminds me of him from time to time and only flares into a sharp pain on those days that make his absence most obvious. But that spike of pain behind my ribs has been visiting me more often as I ready myself for the walk. Right after signing up a few weeks ago I lay in bed one night, my husband asleep beside me. I was suddenly hit by a massive wave of longing for my dad. I desperately wanted to hear his voice and feel the rough skin on his hands as he held mine. One of the most distinctive things about him was his laugh, which could often devolve into a cough from his lifelong smoking habit. When I think hard I can hear it perfectly in my mind. I can recreate his saying my name, followed by that laugh, as if I had just said or done something hilarious. That night I thought of his laugh and it played in my head as if I could hear it and I dissolved into sobs into my pillow. It seemed so silly to be crying about something that has been the way it is for so long. But I couldn’t stop the sadness and each tear seemed to welcome the next until I was cried out and exhausted and fell into a fitful sleep.

I tell myself that this is why I’m walking, to spare some other daughter, or mother, or son, or best friend this kind of pain. Although the act of actually doing something is filling up some long empty space in me, I also find myself nervous. I’m not sure how I’ll feel to be with all of those other survivors. I’ve never talked in real life with anyone else that has lost someone close to suicide. I’m not sure how I’ll feel about those walking because they themselves have survived a suicide attempt. My feelings on it are so very complicated. I’m nervous that no one else will even talk to me or that this will be a disappointing experience, when it is something I have wanted to do for so long. I am so very, very glad that two of my best friends will be beside me. I could not do it alone.

So I guess the short story is that this is harder than I thought it would be. This is complicated and it’s bringing up feelings I had long buried. It reminds me that mental illness is such a devious beast that is not always easily dealt with. So this is more than a charity walk and more than a fundraiser and more than the realization of some work I feel is necessary. It is a journey for me, touching on feelings I haven’t wanted to feel. It is a part of the process and I am glad I have taken it on.

In Defense of My Cause

In these days of social media it often seems that everyone and their mother…and brother…and best friend is asking for a donation for their cause. I have heard people complain that it’s getting to be too much. Sometimes, I want to agree. But I don’t think we all need to give to every campaign out there. They are (almost) all important. Cancer needs to be researched. ALS needs some type of treatment. Children living in poverty need some type of system to hold them up. People around the world need access to clean water. I am thankful that through Facebook and Twitter and Snapchat and Instagram and whatever else is out there, thousands upon thousands of people can easily see that there is a friend walking/running/doing yoga/stripping/whatever for the cause of their choice and they can just click a link and add to the resources that will help. Yes, it can lead to guilt when you can’t give to them all, but just remember that someone can.

Back to my cause. Yes, I am joining (again) the lists of people who are doing something for some cause. But let me please just defend mine for a moment before you dismiss it as just another. There is something different about raising money for suicide awareness, prevention, and support. Rarely do you hear of a cancer that people are ashamed to admit that they have. No one is afraid to see their name on the list of donors for research into an incurable disease of the body. But when it comes to suicide, this is not the case. I myself couldn’t find it in me to admit, publicly, to the reason for my father’s death until 10 years after the fact. There are still important people in my life (who obviously don’t read my blog) who do not know and I cannot bring myself to tell them.

Because when you tell people that someone you loved with your whole being killed themselves, there is an automatic judgement. Their impression of them changes. I want my father to always be the person he really was. I want him to be the loving husband he was to my mother, the involved and passionate father he was to my sister and I, the chatty and helpful friend he was to almost everyone he came in contact with. More than that, I don’t want every negative aspect of his personality to be scrutinized. Yes he had a tendency to be grumpy, he was overly cautious, he smoked too much, and he had a serious temper that would flare and wane before you realized what was happening. But he was the man he was, he was not his depression and death.

In so many cases, this change in the picture of the person who is gone is understandable. So many times the depression was hidden. The death was a shock. No one, or only those very close to the person, knew what they were going through that led to this terrible end. And if people knew, and understood, and were supportive, could that end have been different? If they felt they could reach out and share and find that others felt the same way, would that have helped?

This is why I am walking. This is why I am raising money. This is why I share my story over and over again. We need to be able to share this. We need to end these false ideas–that depression is laziness, that only cowards commit suicide, that asking for help is weak. We need to offer treatment, understanding, love, help, to people at risk and to people touched by suicide. We need to show that little bit of light to people who are floundering and can’t see a way out. That’s why I’m on the list of people asking you to give. Because this is a cause that doesn’t see the light. That’s why it’s so aptly called the Out of the Darkness Walk.

I am so, so very grateful to those who have given. Every donation has touched my heart in so many ways. Every comment on my posts makes me feel wonderful. It is SO important to me to reach my goal. It has been a hard road to get here and I want my contribution to be meaningful.

My Donation Page

AFSP home page

Walking the Walk

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Both literally and figuratively. I have written several times here about suicide. Both about how it has affected me personally through the death of my father and how it affects our society as a whole. I have written about the need to end the stigma attached, not just to suicide, but also to mental illness and its treatment. But now I will be not just be talking the talk, I am walking the walk–with the support of some wonderful women who I’m lucky to have in my life. On October 26th we will be participating in the Out of the Darkness Walk sponsored by The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP).

AFSP does some difficult and important work and I have long wanted to be a part of it. But shame or fear have held me back. Please check out their website for information about the programs they run, the research they support, and some sobering statistics about suicide.

Now comes the part where I ask for your donation. While the money goes to fund some things that I think are extremely important–like valuable research into suicide prevention and prevention programs for colleges and high schools and support groups for survivors of suicide–more than money, what I’d like is awareness. Click on the links I’ve included here. Read about suicide and what we can do to prevent the suicide rate from rising. And know that so many people are touched when just one person takes their own life. While it may seem like a personal decision, it is anything but. That one death affects so many and the effects last long after they are gone.

This is a cause that is obviously close to my heart. If I can do a little thing, like walking in Battery Park with 600 other people like me, to stop another family from feeling that pain, how can I do anything else? Please look at our team page and think about a small donation. This has been a long time coming for me, and it is still difficult for me to do, knowing I am being supported would mean so much. And if you live in New York and would like to come join us, just let me know and I can register you with our team.

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Out of the Darkness Walks

Our Team Page

My Donation Page

Where Have All the Spoons Gone?

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Once upon time, shortly after we were married and all those gifts came pouring in, we had 10 sets of flatware. That is: 10 dessert spoons, 10 soup spoons, 10 salad forks, 10 dinner forks, 10 knives. In the time since, tragedies have occurred and things have been reallocated, leaving us with less than 10 full sets, but such is life. I haven’t taken an official count or anything. But last week I noticed after emptying the dishwasher that the dessert spoon (my personal fave piece of flatware) pile was looking noticeably short.

I knew that one of these brave souls had gone to the trash bin in the school cafeteria one day when I packed spoon yogurt and had no plastic ones left. Aside from that, what had happened? I took count and there were 6. SIX!!! So that means that 3 freaking spoons are unaccounted for. How exactly does that happen? This becomes a problem because the kids and I eat cereal or oatmeal every morning and all use those spoons–3 down. Then I always have yogurt–4. If I forget and stir my coffee with one we are down to 1. One little spoon!

Yes, I am aware that I can hand wash one and use it again or ‘gag’ use a soup spoon instead. But come on, who wants to spend time washing spoons when there are supposed to be 9 in the drawer? I can’t spend $70 per set getting more, matching flatware. Can I buy just the dessert spoons? Maybe on Ebay? Does it even matter?

My parents never had matching flatware. Or maybe they did before we came along and did things like lose pieces in the school trash bins or use them as trebuchets for Lego knights or whatever it is that my children have done with our spoons. Looking at our cabinets, our kitchenware is beginning to resemble that of my parents. We don’t have stacks of white matching Pottery Barn bowls anymore. We have some chipped Pottery Barn bowls and some Spider Man bowls and some plastic Taken N’ Toss multicolored bowls. We no longer have 8 juice glasses and 8 water glasses. We now have 1 juice glass and some pint glasses and maybe a water glass or two thrown in there with a stack of rainbow-hued cups from Ikea.

But when I think back to dinner with my family as a child, I barely remember the dishes we ate on anyway. I remember the food, I remember the way my father laughed at his own jokes as he ate bread with mayonnaise spread on it. I remember exactly where each member of my family sat. If I think hard I can remember my “special fork”–the one with a pointed end and a rose imprinted on it. If my parents had matching flatware would I have even had a special fork?

So maybe I’ll head to Target and pick up a few spoons or even grab some at the Goodwill. Maybe Declan will have a “special spoon” one day to remember when he thinks of how he sat between his father and I at our dinner table with his brother at the head. The mystery of the missing spoons may haunt me till the end of my days or I may find them all waiting for me the next time I get around to vacuuming under the couch. Maybe the universe took my spoons off to another dimension. Or maybe families are just meant to be built on mismatched spoons and chipped bowls and rainbow stacks of plastic cups.

Scars

On Friday afternoon I was enjoying some freedom. Both kids were in school and I was waiting on my next batch of work. I was out in the neighborhood. A nanny I’m friendly with and hadn’t seen in awhile stopped me to chat and we were catching up when my phone rang. The number was familiar. “Oh no,” I said to her as I hit answer, “I think this is school.”

On the phone was the school nurse. She told me that Brady had collided with another student in gym class and had “a fairly large laceration.” I heard “stitches” and “do you want me to call an ambulance?” and then said “I’ll be right there!” and started running toward school. Of course, this was the worst time for this to happen because Declan’s school day was about to end. I called his school and they brought him down to me as I passed by on my way to get Brady.

When I arrived at the office he was there waiting for me…with a HUGE bandage wrapped around his head and over his left eye. I hugged him and signed him out and spoke quickly to his teacher and the nurse, both of whom thanked me for being so calm. I’m glad I looked calm, because I didn’t really feel calm. I felt like I needed to do whatever needed to be done, but I did NOT feel calm. So off I went with Brady and Declan to the Urgent Care which is, thankfully, two blocks from school and right across the street from our building.

Somewhere in there I had called the husband and he arrived from work just as we got into the exam room. It was a good thing because when the doctor unravelled that bandage I was wholly unprepared for the wound hiding underneath. I’ll spare you the gory details, but it was basically a 1 inch by 1 inch hole in his forehead above his left eyebrow. I took in the sight of it and leaned back against the wall, keeping one hand firmly on Brady’s the whole time. I am not good with blood. Actually that is an understatement. I am HORRIBLE with blood. It is a good thing I never attempted to enter into the health profession. This kind of mangled flesh on my own child was just…wow. It was gross and painful and shocking and just pure awful. The doctor looked it over and called the husband into the hallway to tell him that we needed to call in a plastic surgeon for this one.

We had to wait for the surgeon. A friend came and got Declan for us, for which I am so very grateful. Brady was in good spirits in the waiting room, chatting and playing games on my phone. But once we were back in the room with the surgeon, he sort of freaked. The surgeon probed the cut, moving it from side-to-side as I tried to look Brady in the eye with a calm demeanor without looking at all at the blood. The worst part was to come…lidocaine. I, personally, HATE lidocaine with the fire of a thousand suns, which is approximately what it feels like when it’s injected into my body. I braced myself, but I wasn’t ready. When the doctor began injecting the wound, Brady flipped…the eff…out!

The husband and I laid over his body to keep him still as he screamed and tried to escape. I knew it hurt. I tried to look at him and be reassuring. He howled in pain and the needle slipped and we covered him. I felt nauseous and light headed. I knew my face was white. I kept my place until the injections were done and he was numb. Then I kept my arm across his legs and sat in the chair behind me before I lost it and found myself lying on the floor next to the table.

I was transported to a day at the beginning of my second grade year. To an exam room in a hospital where a doctor was putting x-ray films up on a lighted wall. I was amazed by the jutting bone I saw in the knee up there on the wall. I turned to my mother who was ghostly white and grasping for the chair behind her. In that second I knew exactly how she felt that day. That horrible realization that your child is injured. Like, really hurt, not a scrape or a cut or bump or bruise. That sick horrific feeling of not being able to do a single thing to make it go away and knowing you have to go through the painful process that will make it heal. It is a feeling one thousand times more awful than the sick you might feel when you yourself are injured.

I healed. I had two surgeries and have one heck of a scar on my knee to show for them. I spent 5 days in the hospital, missed 6 weeks of school, went to physical therapy. Brady’s healing process will be significantly less traumatic. He got several layers of stitches, for the several layers of flesh that were split open. He can’t participate in any sports or other physical stuff this week for fear of reopening the wound. He’ll have the non-dissolvable stitches out on Friday. He will have a scar, but it will be light and fine. We assure him it will be rock-star cool.

While he won’t have the complicated healing process I did when I was in second grade, I’m not sure the scar on my heart will be much lighter than the one my mother carries. I know she must see that x-ray each time she sees the line running down the side of my right knee as I’m sure I’ll see that needle when I look at the line on Brady’s forehead. Both my mother and I are lucky that these were injuries that heal. Some parents get a much tougher lot. But seeing your child’s body broken in any way is, just, traumatic. Kids get stitches. They break bones. They play and they fall and they break and then they heal. It is life. They accumulate scars just as we all do; reminders of falling off a bike, or running into someone in gym, or a door slammed shut at the wrong moment. Parents carry the scars as well; the scars of seeing open flesh and crooked wrists, of stemming the blood with a t-shirt and of rushing to the doctor. Sometimes, it feels as if my children are drifting away from me. That each day they take one more step from needing me. But as far as they walk on their own, they will always be a part of me. They left their scars on my body with their birth and scars on my heart with their lives. And I cherish them all.

On My Youngest Son’s First Day of Preschool

It is 10:45 on a Friday morning and I’m in the kitchen cutting a peach into slices. Tears slip down my cheeks and I take a deep breath. A few minutes earlier I heard a play conversation from the other room where my newly 3-year-old is playing with Lego guys.

“I really love you. I do!”

“Thanks! You’re the best!”

“You’re the best too!”

This mimics an exchange that we have countless times each day and I can’t help but feel smiley and gooey as he plays it out in his Lego family, which is comprised of several ninja. As I head to the kitchen I hear him make one of his guys ask “What are we doing today?” To which another replies, “We’re going to school!” followed by an excited gasp.

And so, as I cut the peach’s white and rosey flesh into an orange plastic bowl, tears well up in my eyes and brim over. They are tears of sadness and happiness; of confusion and uncertainty; of excitement and regret. In an hour and a half I will take my very last baby to his first day of preschool. He will stay for one hour and fifteen minutes, if he even lets me leave the room. It is barely a dent in our day, but it is an enormous event. While he will always, always be my baby, he is NOT a baby any longer. He has a place to go where I don’t belong. I am torn between anticipation for this next part of life and mourning for the life that will no longer exist.

Today I take my son to his first day of school and a bridge will be crossed that we can never go back over. Today we embark on an adventure that will have us each taking solo steps. It will be hard and it will be fun and it will change us. I worry that he is not ready, but more than that, as I tear up again, I’m trying to tell myself that I’m ready.

Finding the Good in the Morning Grind

Now that school is back in session my mornings have gone from sleeping until 8 and then waking up to drink my coffee and peruse Facebook to rushing around like a freaking lunatic starting at 6:45 in an attempt to make sure that everyone, including myself, is fed, clean, dressed, and has everything needed for the day in time for the walk to school. This rush usually leads to arguments, which lead to a frustrated mommy, which leads to yelling–all of which do NOT make for a wonderful start to the day.

Given my description it’s not difficult to see that I hate pretty much everything about morning. From opening my eyes to shoving shoes onto little feet and pushing them out the door, morning just seems awful. But morning also holds one of my favorite parts of the day–one of my favorite parts of parenting to be honest–waking my kids.

Yep, I LOVE waking my kids up and , no, not in an “I love to torture them” kind of way. In general, on school mornings, I have to wake both boys up. I’m up earlier than they have to be to get lunches ready and breakfast prepped. Then, about five minutes before Brady needs to be up, I climb up to the top bunk and gently shake him awake. Then I tell him he has five minutes and ask if he wants to snuggle. He usually responds by rolling over and pulling my arm around him. It’s warm and cozy and since I really don’t want to have gotten out of bed yet anyway, I close my eyes and pretend I haven’t. We lie there like that for 3 or 4 minutes and then I tell him it’s time to get out of bed and we climb down.

I then give him breakfast and set him up with whatever he wants to do (we allow TV in the morning). Then it’s back for round two. I lie down next to Declan and whisper in his ear, “Morning. Do you want to snuggle.” This is usually met by a stretch and some sort of groan or lip smack and we snuggle together in his bed for a few minutes before I have to force him to get up by offering to let him watch Peppa Pig in my room.

From there on out, all bets are off. I feel like I go from shoving food down their throats to forcibly brushing their teeth to struggling to pull socks onto their unwilling feet. Well, Brady does most of that on his own, so instead I’m following him around telling him 15 times to do each thing before he actually does it. But at least I get my peaceful moment of lovey warmth each morning. Because, like so many things about raising children, morning is all about finding that good thing that makes it all worth it.

Changes

As you can see, there’s a new look around here. I’m still playing with it, so there may be more tweaks to come. What prompted this change? The stroller, the green Bugaboo that carried my babies for 7 years and had the place of honor in my blog header, is no longer with us. Yesterday we cleaned it out and chucked it out.

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We hadn’t used it in months. Clearly the cat got a lot of enjoyment out of it during that time, as evidenced by the two-inch thick layer of cat hair on the seat. With Declan walking more often, it got to be unwieldy bringing such a big stroller everywhere. We’re not yet stroller-free–we’ve just switched to the lighter, smaller, MacLaren Triumph. But honestly, that will probably only last another year, if that. So the kids said goodbye to their trusty ride, I held back tears, and we gained a whole heck of a lot of closet space.

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In memorium, here are some adorable shots of my babes in the trusty green monster.

From serving as Brady’s first bed to bringing entire birthday parties to the park to hauling two kids at once, this sucker served us well and will be missed. It lived a wonderful, long stroller life. Brady is now in second grade and Declan starts preschool this week. The baby part of our lives is behind us and we’ve got to enjoy the kid part that is unfolding before us.