A note to my kids..

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Hi my babies,
As you well know, sometimes I have random thoughts that I am compelled to share with you before they get lost in the mess of mind and today I was having a few of them. Here they are.
Today I told one of you something I wish I had told you or even understood for myself a long time ago but I’m a slow learner. That’s ok. I get there eventually.  Here’s the thing:
It’s not your job to make me or your father (or anyone other than yourself) proud. Whether we are proud of you or not is irrelevant.

Once when you guys were really little I remember Benj saying to me, “Wow mommy, you really care about the way things look”. That was a major knife in the heart for me because it was true. I put a lot of energy into the way things looked.  Maybe more energy into things looking good than things feeling good. That was a big mistake. The way things look is irrelevant.  That’s something I still have to work on every day.


We put a lot of emphasis in our culture on being proud of our kids. Sometimes we think we are being awesome parents when we tell our kids how proud we are of them. #proudmom
But it’s not our job to be proud of them. Our pride is irrelevant.
Here’s my job:  To love you unconditionally and to support you in your journey through life as best as I can.  Sometimes I will fail horribly but I will always try and I will always do my best. Sometimes my best will not be good enough.  When I know better, I will do better and I will never give up. This is my job and I promise to do it.

Here’s your job: to learn and to grow and to live your life as well and as honestly as you can. This means that you will make a lot of mistakes. You might have some great successes and we’ll celebrate those,  but I can guarantee your mistakes because mistakes are how we learn and we are here to learn.
The knowledge and growth we gain through learning is awesome but the mistakes that lead to learning are often awful and painful and sometimes really awkward and embarrassing.  Your mistakes may embarrass me or make me mad or both. My mistakes may embarrass you and make you mad.  At times your mistakes will break my heart and my mistakes might break yours.  Here’s the scary part: your guides (that’s me and your dad ) are still learning too.  We’ve figured some stuff out but we don’t know everything. Here’s the comforting part: When I screw up I promise to tell you and to do my best to do better. When I screw up I won’t pretend that I didn’t.  I want you to be able to trust that I am doing my best by you at all times and your wellbeing will always come above my need to seem like I know what I’m doing.

The problem with putting too much emphasis on the whole “I’m proud of you” thing is that apart from being irrelevant, I think sometimes it really creates a barrier in us doing our jobs properly. I can’t help you or guide or support you properly if I don’t know what is going on with you. And you might not want me to know what is going on with you if you think it might make me less proud of you.  Can you see how this might create problems?  If that happens, I’m not doing my job of supporting you because I don’t know what type of support you need, and you’re not doing your job of growing and living because you’re so busy worrying about how things look.

Here’s what I know. Life is so messy and ugly sometimes. It just is. It just is.  Here’s what else I know. If things look good but feel bad, they are bad.  I would much, much rather see the ugly, real stuff and live it with you than let you live through the ugly stuff on your own. I would much, much rather be there for you, than proud of a less than honest version of you.  Every time.

I captioned the picture I took above as “Life” because to me, it’s the perfect visual metaphor for it. Sometimes the sun shines warmly and beautifully and brightly but the clouds are pretty much always around, waiting to waft in. Clouds aren’t a sign that you are doing anything wrong, they are just part of the design. Sometimes the clouds are thin and we can see the sun through them, things aren’t perfect but they are just fine and we know things will be just fine, sometimes the clouds are really heavy and dark, and they get locked in for days or weeks, sometimes there is no sign of the sun whatsoever and we are pretty sure life is going to be dark and grey or even black and stormy forever. But the sun is always there and it will eventually always come out again. There will always be another sunny day as hard as it is to believe sometimes. 

Here’s another way of looking at my job. I’m here to help you to deal with the weather. I am here to remind you that the dark days, the stormy black days are not the end of the world, and that the sun will shine again because yeah, you might know that but sometimes in the thick of it is almost impossible to believe that. Again, I can’t be there to help you remember or believe if you don’t share the weather report with me regularly. If I don’t know your weather I can’t offer you an umbrella when it’s raining, or a coat when it’s freezing, and I can’t remind you to put on sunscreen when it’s sunny and awesome and you think nothing can hurt you.  I know you hate it when I do that, but it’s my job and I promise you’ll thank me for that one later.  I promise.

And yes, it’s nicer for all of us when the weather is mild and lovely and so you might feel tempted to try to make me believe it’s sunny to save me from being sad or disappointed but again, I’d much rather you just help me to do my job. Let’s recap: my job is to be your guide and support and to love you.  Your job: to live your life, to learn, to make mistakes and to grow from them.
I’ll love you forever. No Matter What.

Mom

On outwitting the Depression Monster and the winner(s) of the Help Kirsty Find a Cause Challenge.

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(early morning runs mean you get to see the sunrise. see point #2 below)
Friends! I’ve been back from South Africa for 3 weeks now although it seems significantly longer. Like SIGNIFICANTLY.  I’ve been battling the depression monster HARD since I’ve been back. To be expected. A lot of it is re-entry, chemical, hormonal, a lot of it is situational too. Unresolved issues. Lots of sadness.
But I’m battling and will not be defeated.  The first couple of weeks were spent sleeping a lot. An unnatural affection between me and my bed. Gosh! That thing is comfy! When I wasn’t in it, I was spending a lot of time fantasizing about it. Not the healthiest.
To  be honest I’ve had quite a few days when it seemed most prudent to just lie really still in my bed and wait for my meaningless ridiculous life to end (hopefully in a non-painful and non-dramatic way),  there have been thoughts of how nice it would be to fade from existence without anyone actually noticing or being adversely affected. You know..the usual revolting narrative of Depression.  And then of course the lovely guilt that comes from being so “ungrateful” for the nice, comfortable, privileged, easy blessed life that I have undeservedly been living.  *I’m throwing this part in, not for attention or to be alarmist but as always, to let those who struggle with this stuff know that it’s not just you. It happens. Even to people who are seemingly going about their lives in a fully functional way. Who laugh and smile and show up.  It’s not just you and it’s not You at all.  It’s an illness and it needs attention when you think that way. Talk to someone when you think the thoughts might be unnaturally dark. Because chances are they are.
Some of the stuff I’ve been trying to do to to keep from spiraling:
1.Making a concerted effort not to isolate.  This is always my first instinct and as an introvert I like and need my time alone, so it’s a really fine line between healthy and unhealthy. To this end, I have been accepting invitations to get out and that’s been a saving grace. Truly. I am so grateful to have good friends who have made the effort to get me out of my cocoon. They have been more therapeutic than they can possibly know.  
2.Exercising as much as possible. I am not feeling particularly athletic because I am carrying extra poundage but I’m in decent enough shape since I exercised regularly in South Africa. So I ran a 5k race within a week of being home and have plans for running at least one race a month which keeps me diligent about getting out there and shuffling. Now listen, I know. This exercise part is So so hard when you are in a torrid love affair with your bed due to depression or otherwise,  but having an appointment with a partner is a huge, massive help.  I know that without one I’d be sunk. Do whatever it takes to motivate, sign up for race, make a star chart for yourself, give yourself reward, make it fun . Whatever it takes to get in some sort of physical activity regularly. 
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3.I’m easing back into oils and healthy eating.  I basically abandoned anything healthy (apart from exercise) when I got home, I continued to oil up my kids but stopped using them myself and took to my bed with as much chocolate as I could find. Folks, I do not recommend. So oiling it is, trying to drink a LOT of water, make good food choices. I grew a ton of wheatgrass for Easter and I’ve been enjoying my wheatgrass shots. I swear those things give you a TON of energy. Truly. Get past the colour (and my kids have issues with the smell?). That’s good stuff. I wouldn’t lie to you. I like the idea of thinking about the energy of the stuff you eat before you put it in your mouth. To me wheatgrass is sunshine-pure energy whereas chocolate, lovely as it is in your mouth is sludge energy wise.
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4. I’m slowly working on getting my house back in order, after abandoning it for 5 months to the care of husband and children. Hey look, it could have been a lot worse. Lots of de-cluttering. And then more de-cluttering. After living with a “capsule wardrobe” as the hipsters call it, and a sublime lack of junk in Cape Town, I came to appreciate how absolutely preferable it was to have only things you where in your closet and only things you use in your drawers. Getting dressed and ready was so simple. Keeping things tidy was a cinch (well ok my sister was around to clean up after me but she had to clean up a lot less than she does when she is at my house here).   Our living space was so tranquil and functional and it is my goal to get my home here as close as possible to the way it was there.  This week I got my bedroom back to basics and slimmed down Ella’s wardrobe too.  It was amazing how much more energized I was when I woke up this morning and contemplated getting us both ready. Excess stuff is an ENERGY SAP and depression leaves you with literally not one ounce of energy to spare so if you are depressed or just lacking in energy see about getting rid of stuff as soon as possible is my advice.
5. And finally, as  resolved in this post,  I’ve been trying to find a purpose to keep me from naval gazing. Which brings us to….
Yesterday was the deadline for the “help me to figure out how to have a more meaningful life” project and coincidentally OR WAS IT?  it was also the anniversary of the day that I decided pack it all in and drag my family to South Africa.  Check it:
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Hah. One year later.  That was kind of tough to recognize. Because. Here I am. Back exactly where I started.  Relocation Dream Unrealized. Older, Fatter, Poorer. For sure. Wiser? I don’t know. Was the world improved for my time there? I don’t know. I donated a lot of money and clothing, I for sure supported the informal sector by buying all their stuff,  but my cash was so spread around that I doubt it made an impact on anyone.  I don’t feel like anyone’s life was significantly improved for my time there and that’s hard to accept. There are some other personal issues which give me a lot of pause over whether my time was well spent but when it comes down to it,  spent it was and so we go on.
I got a LOT of amazing ideas and input the last couple of weeks. And I’d like to link to programs that I learned about which I feel are worthwhile and/or want to get involved in.
The Brown Bag Food Project a local initiative which helps with needs of people in Northwest Ohio, but have also helped people from other places throughout the country. This project is possible only through donations from family and friends. 100% of all donations go to feeding families in need.
Habitat for Humanity. One of my personal heroes Susun is highly involved in Habitat and I am excited to become involved on a local level.
My amazing friend Megan started the Angels of Encouragement Ministry when she moved to North Carolina.  This ministry has helped thousands of people in Carolina and as far afield as Ohio. If you need help or can contribute in any way this would be a wonderful cause.
My dear friend Sandy allowed me to tag along with her and some amazing kids on a visit to Toledo with the Labre Ministry this week.
There is a tremendous amount of poverty right within most of our neighbourhoods. It may not be as obvious as it is in South Africa, and poverty is definitely relative but it is not hard to find people who are not getting their needs med either in terms of nutrition, medical care, mental health counseling, housing and education if you seek them out just a little bit.  I am confident that we all have something that someone else desperately needs even if it is just a genuine show of warmth and caring.
Another non-coincidence arrived yesterday (deadline of deciding which project to pursue) when one of the artists I had worked with in Cape Town emailed me to remind me that he was desperate to get a wider audience/market for his work. It seemed clear then that my choice was the right one.
The grand prize winner of my efforts to help figure out what I really want to make my personal project goes to a few different people.  My sister, and partner in crime Shona, who helped me to come to know the amazing craftsmen of the beadwork I fell deeply in love with in South Africa,  my friend Sandy who commissioned several big pieces of art and helped me to see how needed and appreciated this type of support is and my friends Nathan and Amanda who took time with me on Easter Sunday to start strategizing on how to make this happen. Right now we are looking into NOVICA but if anyone else has other ideas/leads we would be very open to hearing them.  Here is some of the amazing art we are wanting to share with the world.
Please excuse the truly shocking quality of these snaps, they were all taken with my iphone hastily and texted to people to find out if they wanted them or after they got them. But they should give you a decent idea of a just a little of the brilliance that is out there. The items being held by the artists were all specifically commissioned and finished in less than a week from order.
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Here are my some of my friends posing with gifts Aaron brought home for them.
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We finally got this dude reunited with this horns this evening. What shall we name him?
Now I could really do with your input. Does any of this stuff appeal to you?  Something similar that you could envisage commissioning? What would you be willing to pay for the items that appeal. How much would you be willing to add on to that for shipping. Any other comments or input are welcome and appreciated. Love you all!