surviving outside adventures


Because it is Throwback Thursday I had to dig up an old photo to share…preferably one that won’t embarrass my four adult children. I just love this picture of my brothers and me for so many reasons.

The awesome that was 1970 fashion.

That pose.

Dear gawd, those damn pale, blue, cat’s eye glasses! I know my friend Kale praises me for being a hipster when hipster wasn’t cool by wearing those sweet frames; but trust me, they might have been ultra cool in the early 60s but  in 1970 definitely not. I cringe today every time I see someone wearing such frames…and yes, I’m kind of jealous that someone else pulls that look off and makes it look good.

Those tore up shoes of ours.

My brothers.

Randy.

Billy and his golden curls.

What lies behind that dead end sign on the street we lived on in Ben Avon during the summer of 1970.

Adventure! Grand, dirty adventures! A creek to wade in and swim in and even drink from. We had no clue what flowed from the giant drain pipe a little ways up the creek. We were kids. Kids who, if the sun was shining, were outside until the street lights came on because that was the way that it was.I seriously doubt Mom ever knew what we were doing and we rarely told her.

Who’s going to tell Mom about getting scratched by the raccoon she was playing with in the creek? Certainly not me. I could only imagine the trouble I would get into for that.

Are you going to admit that you literally rolled in poison ivy because your best friend and sister yelled and screamed at you to “STAY AWAY FROM THE POISON IVY!!” and you HAD to prove that you were immune. Randy never did even while scratching at literally his entire inflamed, itchy body.

Adventures behind the dead end sign, down the hill and in the creek were soon replaced with multiple other adventures because we moved…we moved a lot. A LOT…and because if the sun was shining (and sometimes not) outside was where we were until the street lights came on.

There were late night games in a local cemetery running from grave marker to grave marker, hiding and tagging one another.

Nobody tell that we snuck out after dark.

Oh those endless hikes up and down Robinson Road, which as children seemed huge as a child but not so much when I drove there the last time I visited back home. We chased cows in a nearby cow pasture and played in yet another creek…that also had a giant drain pipe emptying into it. Closer to home there was the trash barrel where the trash was burned and where we often played the Will It Burn? game because we had to try and discover what will burn and what will not.

Trees to climb.

Electrified fences to touch.

Circuses to perform complete with a high wire act on the clothes line in the backyard.

Open fields to run through as thunderstorms rolled in.

And so much more.

As children it was all so much fun…but sometimes not. I used to hide my books outside because sometimes I just wanted to sit and read…even if the sun was still shining and it wasn’t time to come in and make dinner or go to the store a mile away walking alone along Route 22 to pick up cigs and milk and tampons for Mom.

Boy was I shocked when I found out what those tampons were for a few years later!

As an adult and a parent I can’t help but sometimes cringe just a little. Okay, cringe a lot…especially about what the hell was likely draining in those creeks we always ended up in and that raccoon.

Still we survived…no rabies for me!

Different times back then we say. Still I often channeled Mom myself chasing the kids outside to play and make happy adventures. My favorite visual is Abby sitting on the curb loudly boo-hooing because “Mommy MADE me go outside and play!”. Still my clowns made their own adventures because it was their childhood and their time, their neighborhood. No creeks or raccoons or cow pastures or highways to walk along to go spend their 50¢ allowance on a small bag filled with penny candy. They were different kids, with different parents, growing up in a different place in a different time.

Still it’s a wonder they survived some of their bigger misadventures…that I know about and DON’T know about. Blame it on the bad parenting. It’s a wonder the four of them have reached adulthood.

I wonder if Hollie thinks that as she watches her children embark on their own great outdoor adventures in a different time and a different place?

Or perhaps she might better understand why mom would make them all go outside and play.

surrounded yet alone as the world goes on


I’m still here. Don’t be afraid. I promise I’m here and hanging on…barely, but hanging on. And meanwhile, the world does go on as it should…even when it seems to be a big shit storm happening like it has this past week in the news.

I forced myself to go to a small gathering the other day and pretty much as soon as I got there I thought to myself that it was a big mistake. It’s was not because of anything or anyone there. Not at all. It was me. It was the oppressive black cloud that lately has become all the more dark and oppressive in my heart and my mind. Sitting there surrounded by acquaintances, celebrating good things, I forced a smile on my face and the occasional laugh while thinking the whole time of that quote from World’s Greatest Dad that everyone is sharing all over social media because Robin Williams and depression and suicide.

I used to think that the worst thing in life was to end up all alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is ending up with people who make you feel all alone.
~Robin Williams as Lance Clayton in World’s Greatest Dad

My life, my world, my reality, my story right now. There’s so much more going on in the world around me that I should be worried about, that I should care about, that I should want to try to understand and to change:

  • The “serious” homeless problem in Manteca especially the scourge in Library Park…yes, the same Library Park where the homeless actually helped Abby and her friend to clean up in and around the gazebo before Hollie and Ben were married there four years ago.
  • The fact that there isn’t a homeless problem in the town of Ripon, just 7 miles south of us if I am to believe a local reporter’s opinion. Never mind there isn’t a problem because those who are homeless know that the police will pretty much chase them out… I learned that the last time my brother, the one who is homeless, visited here. It was amazing how he knew through “networking” where one could go and where one should never go…courtesies or no.. Ripon was on the don’t go there list.
  • Two recent drive-by shootings, one in the middle of the day literally in front of a friend’s home in the “good” part of our city and police won’t comment on whether or not they are gang-related or even related to each other.
  • Michael Brown and Ferguson and the police and race relations and who is affected and who is not and white privilege.

Don’t forget Gaza and the Ukraine and the Ebola outbreak…

Is it any wonder no one else is as depressed and nearly panicked as I am right now?

The homeless problem here in Manteca is indeed a real thing. It’s real pretty much everywhere else…except Ripon. I’m not so sure if it as serious as what I have witnessed in San Francisco or San Jose or Chicago or New York. I do know that there seems to be a lot of assumptions made…drugs, crime, danger to us good citizens who have a roof over our heads and no longer feel comfortable to use the restroom in Library Park or walk along the Tidewater Bikeway or hang out at the Historical Plaza at Spreckels Park. Some of that is real but then I recall the 5 homeless men who offered to my daughter and friend to pick up in and around the gazebo and then remained sitting quietly in the background as witnesses while we celebrated Hollie and Ben’s wedding. I think of my brother and his friends who regarded their lifestyle as adventure traveling from job to job, town to town, state to state. Listening to friends discuss how serious this is here in Manteca and how awful they all are in plain site, I can’t help but think this is a problem that won’t be solved anytime soon especially with this perspective.

The same is probably true with regards to Ferguson. I tried to follow the story this week when I had the energy beyond just getting up. I’ll be honest, I don’t understand. How can I really? I am a white woman raised in a white privileged world…yes even growing up on Food Stamps and Welfare living in a single wide in a trashy trailer park I still enjoyed a certain amount of white privilege. I can try to sympathize with what has been happening in Missouri this week but I won’t understand. It’s not my world. It’s not my reality…just as being homeless is not. That point was driven home in a big way this morning reading what a friend shared on Facebook of his experiences 30 years ago as a young, educated, hard-working BLACK man being pulled over while driving his nice car TWELVE times and handcuffed SIX times with no probable cause. Being the positive, thoughtful man that he is, he continued to share that he would like to think that things have improved over the years but it hasn’t…perhaps it is worse…perhaps it will get even more worse.

I just can not imagine.

Nor can I understand the way that this reality has affected brilliant people like Karen.

It’s all part of this “burden” of white privilege that really isn’t a burden for me or my daughters or my son unless I don’t school myself and my family about it and its reality that is our reality and not the reality of people of color in the ghetto and in the “good” neighborhoods. We must become aware of how racial privilege and our unconscious bias perpetuates a system of injustice. No, I don’t pretend to understand completely now. I can’t imagine that I ever will because I am not a black man or a black woman or a woman who has given birth to a mixed race baby or a mother raising a black child. But I do know that my eyes were opened a little bit more and I listened a little bit harder.

the lost little spark of madness


You’re only given one little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.
~ Robin Williams July 21, 1951 – August 11, 2014

Unbelievable!

My daughter Abby described the feeling of hearing the news of Robin Williams’ death this afternoon perfectly. It was as if suddenly all laughter and joy was sucked out of the atmosphere.

Unreal!

To hear his death was by suicide and that he had been struggling mightily of late with severe depression made it all the more palpable for me…for so many. Sometimes the most gifted, the most brilliant, the most talented, the people who touch your hearts with the most laughter, joy and love are the ones living in the darkest depths of despair.

If you only knew.

I know.

I know too well. I was raised in that despair. I am living in that now. God what hard work it is to live every day like this!

My heart breaks for this huge void left in the world, for the heartbreaking loss his loved ones must now live with. Still I give thanks…for the laughter, so much laughter…for opening my eyes to a different, delightful world view seeing the humor, the laughter and the joy in the simplest of things every day. I give thanks for his truly amazing body of work and the fact that each one of my children could recall their favorite characters he portrayed…except for Mork…none of them knew about Mork from Ork.

GAH!

Kids!

The first thing I intend to do is go through his vast filmography and binge for the next few days. There’s nothing else on TV worth watching right now so why not? Yes, introduce this circus act of mine to Mork from Ork is on that agenda for sure.

The next thing I intend to do is go to my doctor for help because the depression and anxiety I live with is becoming again too much. The usual self care is just not cutting it lately. When your young son points out that he doesn’t like your overwhelming sadness well, yeah, it’s time to ask for help. I have no shame in that. There should be no shame, no hiding, no fear of being mocked or looked down upon as weak, no brushing depression aside as a “lesser” disease. No one should feel shamed to ask for help. I’m asking for more help.

I’m also sharing thoughts and information from a February 2010 post about suicide, anxiety and depression because people need to know…people need to care.

It’s Never Painless
originally posted February 27, 2010

My heart just breaks for Andrew Koenig‘s family and the family of Michael Blosil,  Marie Osmond’s son. I can’t imagine any parent that would not feel for the pain they must be in right now.

Living with depression is hard. Living with a loved one with depression is hard. I don’t doubt how hard it was for Koenig’s and Osmond’s family. I don’t doubt the pain both young men suffered through and the pain their families are in is more than evident. Still I have a hard time with those who choose ending their life as a way to end the pain. Walter Koenig spoke of how despondent his son was and how low he sunk in his despair but I would suggest that this wasn’t the case. I don’t doubt the depression he shares that his son had suffered from but it takes energy to do something about the depression one suffers from. The same would be for Michael Blosil as well. It takes energy to seek help or accept help and it takes energy to decide to end it all.

I speak from my own experiences. Working on recovering from depression I know how hard it is. This last year has been so hard, so very hard. It is hard-freakin’ work. I also know watching my own mother living with bipolar disorder over the years that it takes energy to take your life or attempt to take your life. In the lowest, most despondent times of her life mom never had the energy to do much of anything. She physically could not. As a child I did not understand why she could not get off of the couch and why she would remain in the same clothes for days just curled up in a limp ball there. I just knew that in worst days this was how it was. This was her life…and it was our life. It was when mom would get up off the couch that I would worry because that is when she would do something and her doing something would be to attempt to take her life. She attempted this a number of times when I was a child. She never was successful. Years later in a more candid, close moment she shared with me the depths of her pain and how she just wanted it to end. She admitted that she really didn’t think of anything else. She just wanted the crushing, crippling pain to end. I told her then and I still believe now that had she been successful in any of her attempt the pain would not be over. No. The pain would remain. It would remain with her children, with her parents, her husband, her siblings. We would carry her pain. We would carry it with us always.

Suicide is not painless. The pain remains.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, symptoms of depression may include the following:

  • difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
  • fatigue and decreased energy
  • feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness
  • feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
  • insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
  • irritability, restlessness
  • loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
  • overeating or appetite loss
  • persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
  • persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
  • thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts

Depression carries a high risk of suicide. Anybody who expresses suicidal thoughts or intentions should be taken very, very seriously. Do not hesitate to call your local suicide hotline immediately. Call 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) or 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) — or the deaf hotline at 1-800-4889.

Warning signs of suicide with depression include:

  • a sudden switch from being very sad to being very calm or appearing to be happy
  • always talking or thinking about death
  • clinical depression (deep sadness, loss of interest, trouble sleeping and eating) that gets worse
  • having a “death wish,” tempting fate by taking risks that could lead to death, like driving through red lights
  • losing interest in things one used to care about
  • making comments about being hopeless, helpless, or worthless
  • putting affairs in order, tying up loose ends, changing a will
  • saying things like “It would be better if I wasn’t here” or “I want out”
  • talking about suicide (killing one’s self)
  • visiting or calling people one cares about

Remember, if you or someone you know is demonstrating any of the above warning signs of suicide with depression, either call your local suicide hot line, contact a mental health professional right away, or go to the emergency room for immediate treatment.

Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Don’t be afraid to reach out to help, to hug, to talk, to be there.

No matter what people tell you, words and ideas change the world. ~ Robin Williams

 

my plus 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 5


Do you remember your first?

Seriously, get your mind out of the gutter! I’m talking about politics. Do you remember your first political experience? How about the first time you voted? And the best personal political experience in your lifetime ever? This weekend I had the opportunity to hear some pretty amazing, smart women, women who when they speak politicians listen, share some of their first and best experiences as we gathered together to talk politics…naturally…and women…and women in politics…and healthcare and politics…and elections…and the upcoming midterm elections…and why a dear friend sitting next to me needs to someday soon put herself out there to run.

I remember my first political experience. I was 13 years old. Mommy Dearest dragged me to a political protest against then Presidential candidate Jimmy Carter because of his non-stance on abortion at that point in his campaign; which was kind of awkward and strange all around since Mom was a life-long Democrat and a self-proclaimed feminist because it was the 70s and because she scarcely could talk to me about periods at that time much less the mechanics of where babies came from. Yet there I was, standing next to her holding a sign declaring that God was at war against abortion. I was thirteen years old. My picture appeared on the front page of the Pittsburgh Press holding that damn sign as Mr. Carter walked by smiling and waving. Mom was standing next to me smiling and waving too. Oh gawd, I was mortified!!! I was thirteen.

My best political experience was the 1988 General Elections. I was in college working towards my nursing degree and taking care of prereqs like Political Science. Since we were just four months away from the General Election, our professor deigned to focus on taking us through the California ballot for that year studying each and every candidate and initiative on the ballot that year so that each of us would be able to go to the polls truly informed and voting as such. I aced the course and yes, I entered the voting booth for the very first time as a truly informed, confident voter. I brought my +1 too before it was even cool to bring a +1. Of course we wore our matchy-matchy acid wash jeans and big 80’s hair because 80’s.

I am so sorry Hollie! Truly.

But I will never apologize for taking you and Zoë and Abby and Jodie and Daniel to the polls.

Then again, perhaps my best political experience were the days Hollie, Zoë, Abby and Jodie all voted for the first time. When our government mucks up things that affect these ladies I love to remind them that my kids care and my kids vote. Yeah, my greatest political accomplishment is my kids vote…my kids think and my kids vote. Okay, fine. Four out of five of my kids vote…for now. Then again, 2020 will come soon enough.

Meanwhile, I had the opportunity to meet and talk to, laugh with and share with some extraordinary women who are committed to encouraging and training women to be leaders in their communities. Breaking bread with some of them we discussed healthcare and politics and what I believe to be a poorly written, tugging at your aching-breaking heart proposition that will appear on the California November ballot.

The biggest takeaways from political suite talks I engaged in this weekend? Politics is indeed personal because politics affects us all… we women…our access to healthcare…our children…our community. We can indeed be part of the change and we can make a difference with our words and our actions. We must. Anything we say or do, no matter how big or how small.we might imagine it to be can and will and does make a difference. Discussing what I learned this weekend with my +1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 I know I am because 4 of them vote.

In 100 days is our U.S. General Election. Regardless of which side of the debate you find yourself arguing, it’s imperative you are part of the process — along with your +1. In fact, your +1 may vote entirely opposite from you but what matters is you are both at the polls on election day.

 

subdued, simpler, smarter, selfiebration-ish


Back from BlogHer14, missing pretty much all the parties and the sessions yet my head and my heart are full.

For me, there was scarcely any time for pictures but plenty of time for meeting up with old friends; not all as life and commitments always are calling, but some…enough to fill me up with the love, inspiration and encouragement I have been missing…needing. And all together we were enjoying our time. Time to hug a lot. Time to network. Time to talk about our writing, our photography and what drives us to post and create on our spaces. Reflecting on the fact that, yes, we are the “veteran bloggers”. Time taken to realize that, OMG, our kids are growing (grown) up much too fast while we seem to be getting older, perhaps grayer, achier and a little creakier. No one really wants to talk about those hormonal hot flashes but thank goodness for the Yoplait Greek Yogurt fans one could pick up in the Expo hall along with some other swag.

side note: Today I learned that swag is actually an acronym for “stuff we always get”. So says my darling daughter, Abby….The more you know.

I do regret not planning to attend the full conference as it did seem to be getting back to the basics…the blogging, the writing, the putting ourselves out there because we are enough in everything that we do everyday.

Thank goodness for Twitter and BlogHer live blogging everything. I know it’s not the same but it’s almost enough.

Meanwhile there were still many opportunities to be engaged here networking, walking through the expo, screening a movie coming soon to a theater near you, enjoying delicious food while talking with incredibly smart people about that which they are passionate about, sitting together in a suite with an incredible view discussing women, health issues, politics, mid-term elections, changing the world, telling our stories, empowering and encouraging one another.

Meanwhile, Khloe Kardashian showed up in the Expo Hall.

Whatever.

This was a much more subdued, simpler BlogHer and I definitely liked it. I’ll write more about it later. For now it’s family circus time.