Thursday, June 27, 2013

New Location!

I have decided to move my blog to WordPress, so for future posts, please go to  Thank you so much for reading!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Livin' on a Wing and a Prayer

Ricky Gervais tweeted, "I'll pray for you = I want some credit for caring, without actually having to do anything that takes any effort or that actually works."  One thing I like about following him are the reminders to question what I believe and assess whether it still serves me.

I started really praying about 12 years ago when an acquaintance's 25-year-old son died in a car accident.  He had fallen asleep while driving to a new job.  He'd had a longer drive that day because he was taking care of his father, who had recently had a heart attack.  I'm not sure why, but I told his mother, "You and your family are in my prayers."  I hadn't been praying at the time, but to make what I said true, I started praying.

When I pray now, I mostly express gratitude.  I give thanks:
  • for the wonderful and challenging things that happened that day
  • for healing those who are sick (I picture people I know who are ill and visualize them whole, healthy, and happy)
  • for comfort coming to those who are suffering (especially people who have recently lost a loved one)
  • for being able to embody certain qualities I admire (being authentic, loving, courageous, etc.)

I finish with a Heart Meditation where I think of something that makes me smile, this is usually something silly my children have done recently.  Then keeping that image in my mind, I breathe deeply into my solar plexus and say, "Heart Focus," (take a breath), "Heart Breathing," (take a breath), "Heart Appreciation."

I don't pray to anyone in particular.  I believe there's an energy that flows through all things.  I believe that since everything is made of atoms that are simply vibrating at different frequencies, at some level, everything and everyone is connected, and we all influence each other.  I understand very little about quantum mechanics or "unified field theory," but clearly, I'm not the only person who thinks this.

In "Eat, Pray, Love" Elizabeth Gilbert quotes her friend Iva, 'Where do you get the idea you aren't allowed to petition the universe with prayer?  You are part of this universe, Liz.  You're a constituent - you have every entitlement to participate in the actions of the universe, and to let your feelings be known.'

Do I really believe that praying for my friend who has cancer will directly shrink her cancer cells?  No, but I think by telling her that I'm praying for her, bringing meals to her family, and checking in with her to keep her mood up, she remembers that she's part of a larger group of people who care a whole lot about her, and her immune system hopefully steps up and helps her respond to the surgery and chemotherapy that do directly kill the cancer cells.

Ricky Gervais got a lot of flak for criticizing celebrities who were tweeting about sending prayers to the victims of the Oklahoma tornadoes.  He tweeted, "I feel like an idiot now … I only sent money."  I think it's possible to both pray and to help directly, (by donating money, food, time, etc.)  They're not mutually exclusive.  Nor is prayer right for every person.  It's just another tool to bring the possibility of good into our lives.

Please write in the comments whether you think prayer is helpful and/or how else you cope with being unable to help others directly.

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Lawson Family Camping Curse

It is like me to be paranoid, but I may actually have brought a curse onto two of my friends.  The Rimbaud family and the Byron family have camped together multiple times without incident.  The only two times my family has joined them, people have developed pneumonia, had a recurrence of a stomach bug, sprained an ankle, and one poor boy who's only two years old has scraped his chin and cut open the side of his head.

Now, I didn't intend any ill-will or directly cause any of these incidents, but I feel like I'm gambling with their health and personal safety if I go camping with them again.  I like these people an awful lot, and they really don't deserve this kind of bad luck.

Why do I think it's my fault?   Probably because I'm self-centered and a perfectionist.  Plus, I like to delude myself into thinking I can control things in my life.  It's easy to chalk it up to coincidence, but it feels pretty spooky.

One friend said she plans to get some four-leaf clovers and a rabbit's foot next time, but I doubt that's going to be enough.  I think we're going to need to sacrifice an animal or one of the children, probably the most badly-behaved one.  Hands down that's going to be my three-year-old daughter.  Too bad, she was pretty cute.

What do you think I can do to appease the angry camping gods?  Am I really being paranoid or could I be inadvertently jinxing my friends?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Show Me How Big Your Brave Is

I wrote "My Miracle Child" because a blogger I follow, DJ Paris of "Thoughts from Paris," asked for stories about mental health.  He was planning to post every hour for 24 hours as a fundraiser for  When he first asked for submissions, I thought, "Oh, I'm not good enough to submit anything for that."  But a few weeks later, when I saw that he was still looking for a few more submissions, I thought, "Well, hell, my blog is supposed to be about being vulnerable and taking risks, I have to suck it up and submit something."

I watched his BlogAThon all day, hoping he would post my story.  He posted a video log saying that he would post all 29 submissions he received.  Alas, he didn't post my story.  I didn't even receive a reply thanking me for submitting something.  (Maybe that's too much to ask of an individual person, but I'm the kind of girl who appreciates getting auto-reply messages, just to know my email didn't get lost in the "series of tubes" that is the Internet.)

I'll admit it, I started feeling sorry for myself, throwing a little pity party in my head.  I felt like an ass for even sending it, let alone expecting him to post it.  I kept thinking, "Maybe he just couldn't fit it in for some reason," or "Maybe he somehow didn't see the email."  You know, instead of "He thinks you suck!"

Luckily, my friend Miss Bookish Girl sent me a link to the video for "Brave," the new single by Sara Bareilles.  It's all about speaking up for yourself, saying what you really think, and letting your creativity shine.

I suddenly had the impulse to tweet a bunch of people I follow on Twitter.  I sent a link to my blog post to about 10 people, including Anne Wheaton, who's married to Wil Wheaton (an actor famous for "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and "Stand By Me," among many other projects).  She has over 50,000 Twitter followers and is witty, inspiring, and wickedly funny.  She retweeted the link to my blog and replied to my tweet.  I thanked her, and she replied to that too.  It was like the movie "Frequency," I felt like I was communicating with someone from the future or another dimension or something.  I feel silly admitting this, but I'm totally starstruck by her.

Anyway, I watched the page views for "My Miracle Child" literally go from 7 to over 200.  There have now been over 1,200 page views, and since I imagine most people don't look at it over and over, I assume that means close to 1,200 people at least skimmed if not read that blog post.

Not everyone might think it brave to tweet a celebrity, but I felt incredibly vulnerable sending my writing to these people whom I admire, at the very least opening myself up to be ignored, at the worst, possibly being ridiculed by these people or their followers.  Instead, complete strangers thanked me and shared how they've gotten help for their depression or anxiety.

I'm starting to pester everyone I know to write and publish, because I believe that each of us has wisdom and experience to share.  Please put in the comments, how are you going to be brave today? this week? this year?

Monday, June 3, 2013

My Miracle Child

My second child, my daughter, is kind of a miracle child.  While I was pregnant with her, my uterus got trapped in my pelvis, making it almost impossible to pee for a few days, I had chronic constipation (3.5 years later, I still thank God I can poop normally now), and I was exhausted and depressed.

I told my midwife that I was starting to have suicidal thoughts, and she referred me to the department at the hospital that specifically treated mothers with depression.  I had group and individual therapy and sessions with a psychiatrist.

I learned there that 10-20% of women experience postpartum depression, but if a woman has had a depressive episode in her past, she is 40-60% likely to experience it.  I had been severely depressed in my early 20s.

I spent a lot of time crying and explaining that I felt like I wasn’t “good enough” for my son, who was 2.5 years old, my husband, or my daughter.  I remember quite clearly the therapist saying to me, “Consider that you’re not meant to be 'enough'.  It really does take a village to raise a child.”  I had this crazy idea that being a “good mom” meant doing everything (cooking, sewing, cleaning, and educating) with infinite patience.  I started trying to accept that I could be a mom instead of trying to be a “super mom”.

The psychiatrist prescribed Zoloft.  I had known before that I was depressed, but I never wanted to take medication because I thought I should be able to handle my emotions without meds.  I could control my thoughts and feelings.  Couldn’t I?

The therapists explained that taking medication for depression is no different than taking medication if you have diabetes or a heart condition.  I realize many people still disapprove of anti-depressants, as I once did, but I’m a convert now.  I don’t believe that medication alone can treat depression, but my anti-depressant helps me stay clear-minded enough to use the coping skills I’ve learned.  Of course, the trick is to find the right medication.

Zoloft made me even more nauseated than my pregnancy.  So sick that a few days after I’d started taking it, I started making plans to commit suicide, and I told my husband I wanted to terminate my pregnancy.  Thankfully we saw the psychiatrist right away, and she got me admitted to the psych ward at the hospital.  I tried another two doses of Zoloft before accepting that it just wasn’t the right medication for me.

The doctor prescribed Celexa, which ironically, lists nausea as one of its side effects.  Thankfully, it didn’t make me hurl.  I spent a week in the psych ward gradually finding the right dose of Celexa for me and attending group therapy to learn healthy coping skills.

Being hospitalized made it necessary for my husband and me to tell our friends what was happening and ask for help.  I had held people at bay for fear they would discover I was “messed up”, but I couldn’t hide it any more, and it was incredibly liberating.  Quite a few of my friends suddenly told me that they had also experienced depression.  All of my relationships got deeper and stronger after that.

My daughter just turned three years old.  She is an extremely cheerful child.  I even have an ultrasound of her smiling in utero.  Even though her pregnancy felt like it took two years, I’m grateful for all that happened.  I finally got my depression treated, I learned how to ask for and accept help, and I got to experience love for myself and all of the people in my life in a much deeper, more fulfilling way.  Yep, she’s my miracle child, some days it’s a miracle I don’t sell her on eBay.  Hey, she’s a typical 3-year old, we all have those days.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Giving What I've Got

In my last post, I wrote about being ambitious, taking risks, and pushing boundaries.  This week I remembered how important it is to also respect those boundaries.

My son's school is asking parents to serve on the PTA Board.  I'd ignored the emails asking for volunteers, but then I went to a meeting for parents of incoming 1st and 2nd graders.  Their plea was compelling.  The school does rely heavily on parents to raise money for school materials, field trips, and even some staff.  Still, I felt okay deciding to wait another year.  Both of my children would be older and need less of my time and attention.

Then I stopped to talk to two moms I know.  One of them may be moving away, but she said if she decided to stay in the area she would definitely serve on the PTA.  The other mom expressed confidence that I would do well, going so far as to call me "leadership material".  I felt both moved and embarrassed by their encouragement and their commitment.

I thought about how much I should volunteer.  Part of me felt that if I were going to volunteer, I shouldn't do it half-assed by doing the easiest job.  This is from my inner Perfectionist.  If I really want to help and make a difference, I should do the most challenging, time-consuming, and beneficial job, right?  And then I would get accolades from other parents about how selfless I am, and I would practically be a hero (cue the confetti and me doing the princess wave while wearing a tiara).

I had half-convinced myself to volunteer for the Fundraising position, which is the biggest, hardest job.  Then I wondered what my husband would say.  He's my sounding board for a lot of things, and even though I resent when he tells me not to do something, he's usually right.  I pictured  how tired, frustrated, and terrified I would be, trying to organize and motivate people I didn't know to give their time and money.  I remembered how badly I treat my husband and children when I am tired, frustrated, and afraid.

I realized I'm simply not capable of giving that much time and energy.  I looked through the open positions and chose to volunteer for the Hospitality position, which involves buying stuff and setting up for PTA meetings and events.  It was in fact the easiest position available.

I wrote an email to the two moms I had spoken to earlier, explaining my choice.  I confessed that part of my decision was based on the fact that only 3.5 years ago, I was hospitalized for planning suicide.  I had not attempted it, but I had made a mental shopping list and chosen a location.  At the time, I was pregnant, exhausted, and had totally unrealistic expectations of how to be a "good mom".  But I still have the passing thought that life would be better without me.  I know that that isn't true, and that it would devastate my family and friends, so I let the thought pass and accept that I just feel overwhelmed sometimes.

Still, after I sent the email, I cried.  That really hard, ugly cry.  I cried because I'm sad that I can't give more to my son and the other kids at school.  I cried because I felt again that fundamentally "I'm broken" or "damaged" somehow.  That I'm less than emotionally stable, mentally balanced people.

The two moms wrote back really compassionate, understanding, and kind responses.  I felt relieved.  I still worry that some people who read this will think I'm just being a crybaby and a slacker.  I heard or read a quote that I can't quite recall, but it was something about understanding and accepting that each of us has a different container that holds our capacity to give.  Some of us have a gallon container, some of us only have a cup.  I'll still give more than I think I can, but not as much as I think I should.

Please note in the comments your thoughts and experience about how much you give to your neighbors, your church, your kids' schools, etc.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Makin' and Keepin' It Real

I'm not very good at Wushu, but I competed once last year, and I've registered to compete again in a few weeks.  Why do I do this?  It's certainly okay at my school for adults not to compete, but I'm inspired by the adults who do.  They're gutsy, and I want to be gutsy too, even if I'm still just pretending to be.

One reason I compete is because I am a total slacker when it comes to practicing.  I can easily come up with excuses not to train: I'm reading a good book that I can't put down, I'm cooking dinner for my hubby, or feeling like, "I'm so bad at it, I shouldn't waste the teachers' time."  So, I figure signing up for competitions forces me to put all that aside and just get to work, doing my best and being okay with whatever that looks like.

I just found out that in competition the form I'm working on is only supposed to take 45 seconds to perform.  My teacher timed me, and I did it in about a minute.  Doing it that quickly with that kind of pressure makes all of my movements, especially the punches and kicks, more powerful and I think, more realistic.  I move more like I am punching and kicking "someone," not just thin air.

I recently read this quote by Ira Glass on Buzzfeed: " a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap and your work will be as good as your ambitions. It's gonna take awhile. It's normal to take awhile. You've just gotta fight your way through."

I think that's what I've already been doing with Wushu, and now I need to do that with the rest of my life.

I'm writing a short story, and I was thinking, "Well, I can use it as just an exercise, just practice for the 'real writing' I'll do some day when I'm a good writer."  Then I realized that in order to get better at writing, I have to make it count.  I'm not planning on publishing a novel yet, but I think I could work on this short story enough to submit it for publication in a literary journal or something.  It doesn't have to be an insurmountable goal to start, just something that's real and tangible.  "Risk nothing, get nothing," right?

I think to really excel at anything, you have take risks and be ambitious, more than you think you deserve to be.  I love this quote from Marianne Williamson: "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be?"

I'm going to continue competing in Wushu, I'm going to keep bringing drafts of my short story to my writers' group meetings each week, and I'm going to keep posting to my blog once per week.  Please post in the comments something you can do in your life to make a practice more real, more risky and more rewarding.