Five Random Things

29 Oct
This is the oldest photo I could find.  2009 isn't 2005, but it's close enough, right?

This is the oldest photo I could find. 2009 isn’t 2005, but it’s close enough, right?  Tiny Doodlebug with short curls!

Look out!  It’s 2005 and we’re blogging like in the good ol’ days!  To be honest, I didn’t start blogging until those good ol’ days were already just a memory, but I’ve really enjoyed reading other writers’ random things (Including Kim from Red Shutters, who tagged me), so I’ll join in with mine.

1. I love video games. I’m solid with a sniper rifle or shot gun, and my favorite magic powers usually involve invisibility or shooting fire at my enemies. But I absolutely refuse to shoot “real” people.  Aliens?  Wizards?  Fine.  World War I soldiers?  Street walkers?  Nope.  So far my favorite game is Borderlands 2.  I suppose some of those characters were “people,” but they were futuristic space people and half-mutant, so it doesn’t count.

2. I have terrible social anxiety.  I hide it well, but speaking to small groups of people terrifies me.  I own a room of hundreds, or a classroom full of 9 year olds with ease.  So if the next time I’m at your party, you think I’m outgoing?  I’m probably pretending you’re 9.

3. I’ve performed on stage at Carnegie Hall.  My college chorale performed one Christmas with Skitch Henderson and the NY Pops (though I didn’t realize at the time how famous Skitch was).  I will always regret turning down the chance to play with the orchestra.  See?  I’m not a vocalist.  I joined the choir just to go to NY.  And when one of the woodwinds found out I played flute and invited me to take a seat with the orchestra, I was too shy to say yes.  ::face palm::

4. I am married to my elementary school sweetheart.  No, really.

5. Before I was a mom and PPD advocate, I was an elementary school teacher.  I adore the ages nobody else seems to love – I’m at home with 4th graders, 5th graders, and middle schoolers.  And as several people have pointed out to me recently, that teacher self?  Resonates in most everything I do.

So there you have it!  Five random things that maybe you didn’t know about me.

I wonder who I can rope into this next.  How about Lindsay from With a Little Love and Luck, Story from Sometimes It’s Hard, Melissa Lee of Sweetly Voiced, Rach Black from Life Ever Since, and Tabatha Muntzinger from So Tabulous?

From One Teacher to Another

3 Sep

When I was a second-year teacher, many years ago (before kids), I was stunned silent by a parent after a not-so-pleasant meeting about their child’s lack of work completion and general bad attitude.

“Are you a parent?” she asked me after much discussion.  And in the uncomfortable silence, I heard myself screaming in my head.

“Huh. She thinks I’m an idiot.  Great.”

“Oh, I see.  Because you’ve been through school, you’re qualified to do my job, but because I’m not a parent, I can’t possibly understand kids.”

And, “No!  But I have a DEGREE.  Who gave you a degree in parenting?  Huh?  Nobody, that’s who.”

Her question stuck with me, and though my years of teaching elementary school I often found myself wondering if the parents secretly lacked trust in my ability to educate their children based on the simple fact that I did not belong in their little club.

And then I had children of my own, and despite my best efforts to keep them little, one of them grew old enough to attend school.

My dad likes to say that nothing is as humbling as being a parent, and I have to agree.  Because what I understand now is that Mrs. Jones (or whatever her name was) wasn’t telling me I wasn’t qualified to teach her child.  She wasn’t even telling me that I didn’t understand children or that I was wrong in my assessments.  If I could step back in time, and translate her question, I’d tell that second-year teacher what the mom was really trying to say:

Look.  I know you’re trained for this.  And I know my child is having problems, causing problems, and that we are all frustrated.  But even though I know you want the best for my child, you can’t possibly understand where I’m coming from.

Because that 9 year old in your class?  Is the baby I carried for 9 months.  She’s the tiny being I brought into the world.  Me.  With my body. I look at her and I see sleepless nights and endless nursing sessions, clogged ducts and tearful latches.  I recall how her baby smell slowly faded from my grasp and the moment when her first steps left me simultaneously cheering and catching my breath.  And just as I breathed life into her, she has breathed life into me.

I can’t possibly be objective.  I don’t want to be.

And so, to my daughter’s teachers, on her first day of Kindergarten, I want you to know:

I am trusting you with my baby.

And as exciting as it is – thinking of all she will learn and all the ways she will grow over the next 36 weeks – it is equally as terrifying.  E and I?  We have been through hell and back together, but if I thought bringing a child into this world was hard, it’s nothing compared to letting them go out in it.

Thank you for loving her and for bringing your light into her life.  Thank you for all you will give of yourself and all the ways you will broaden her horizons.  I will do my best to gently follow her lead as she grows up and to not get in your way.  But when I fail?  Please remember it’s because I’m learning, too.  And know I wouldn’t have it any other way.

DoodleBug First Moments

Sometimes It’s…Just What I Needed To Read

22 Aug

Do you see the sidebar over there?  Those nifty little tiles and the list below? They’re not advertisements.  Those are the folks I read.  Every chance I get (which honestly is probably in the bathroom).  The ones I return to when I want to nod my head, laugh until I’m swallowing my own tears, or stretch and grow.

I wanted to make sure you saw them, noticed them.  Clicked through.  Because each of them will say something you need to hear, when you need to hear it.

Earlier this month, it was my friend Story who wrote exactly what I needed (and not necessarily what I wanted) to hear.

I’ve been having a bit of a crisis of self these last few weeks and if I’ve been quiet, it’s because I’ve been spending more time centering on the tangible things I love.  Yarn.  Bach.  Lesson plans and curriculum development.  My family.  Lingering phone conversations with friends.  Slamming my feet into the pavement and sneaking ever-so-close to my 5K goal.

So if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to borrow my friend’s words.  I hope you’ll click through to read her whole piece, because it’s the kind of writing the internet needs more of.  It’s the kind of friendship the internet needs more of.


 

SometimesFrom “For the days when you don’t feel good enough” by Story of Sometimes It’s Hard

… You hear in your head the voice that says “but that doesn’t really mean me.  If they knew what I looked like on the inside, they would see how I’ll never be enough.”

I know.  Me too. Me too.

Doubting yourself isn’t a fault. Feeling disappointed and discouraged isn’t a fault.

Feelings are never a fault.

Be who you are, mama. Be the imperfect, messy, tired, insecure, people pleasing, grouchy, angry, overachieving, ULTIMATELY LOVEABLE person who you really are…


I’ll have more to say about the freedom Story’s words gave me to look inside my discomfort and find myself again…when the words finally decide to make themselves known.  But for now, her words are enough.  I am enough.  Unfinished and messy, I am loved.

Please click through and read the rest of her post.  I actually printed it out, folks.  Seriously.

We Lost One of Our Own

12 Aug

I don’t subscribe to People magazine.  It’s not that I don’t admire talented actors, authors, politician, and the like.  I do.  But I’m not one to get star-struck in the traditional sense of the word.  I don’t think someone famous has merit simply because of their fame, and I couldn’t be less interested in where they went to eat last Saturday or why their marriage fell apart.

So when a celebrity dies?  I’m never struck in the gut like many of my friends seem to be, filled with outrage or grief. Why is the death of a news anchor from the 50’s or a famous painter more important than that of any other father, son, brother, or friend?  If our inherent value and worth is not dependent on how much we accomplish but instead ingrained in our shared humanity, each death is equally notable, for there are concentric circles of mourning that spread out from the places each person leaves behind.

I tell you all this to explain the shock I find myself facing after learning of Robin Williams’s apparent suicide on Monday morning.  The news found me via twitter late Monday afternoon and was soon impossible to avoid.  And as I read the full story, I found my usual modest sympathy and vague interest replaced by a heavy blanket of sadness.

And today, here I am, contributing to yet another blog post about the death of a celebrity, hoping maybe if I can sort out where this pain springs from that I will feel like I can breathe again.

It wasn’t that he was famous…  Maybe it’s a sense of familiarity I feel obligated to admit to, woven from all he shared of himself with us through his work. Perhaps it’s because when such a talent is snuffed out prematurely, we mourn in part for all the art they will not get to create.  None of that seems to quite fit, though, and I want to be sure I don’t internalize others’ grief.

I see the comments about how “maybe he should have tried harder,” that he “took the easy way out,” or that “he was so successful and seemed so happy,” and I remember believing those very things about depression and suicide.

MedicationsThat stigma? The prejudice? Kept me from seeking treatment for 5 months after my oldest daughter was born. It contributed to my refusal to take medications because I believed they were a sign of weakness.  Ignorance and mental illness conspired to nearly destroy my life.  Like many other things in life, I had to live depression before I could truly understand.

And now. I get it.  Robin Williams was an unwilling member of my community, as we all are.  We lost one of our own.  A warrior from a familiar battlefield – a dark place of such self-loathing and pain that I remember being willing to give anything, ANYTHING, to escape.  I think about the suffering that must have filled his days before depression took his life on August 11th, and I ache with understanding.

So today, I find myself more than a little numb.  I can sense the tears that want to fall and I waver between seeking out the stories and images that will let them loose and protecting myself from the pain, hiding in my work, my children, and a ball of yarn.

I find hope in the stories of my friends, the survivors.  I see you sharing your truths, opening up about something you’ve never been able to say before.  I see courage spreading like the branches of a tree and I catch glimpses of empathy among those who are lucky enough to be untouched by mental illness.  I find hope.

All it takes is a tiny sliver of hope.  You are not alone.  And neither am I.

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If you or someone you know is in crisis, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is always open.  1-800-273-TALK.  They host an online chat at http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.  Help is only a click away.

Momcraft: Moms Who Play Minecraft (and love it)

10 Aug

I was first introduced to Minecraft by a student.  “I built you a math stage!” he announced during a private tutoring session, “It’s a theater for you do to math in, because you love math so much!”

I will admit, when I first downloaded the game, merely to use as an educational and motivational tool, I was underwhelmed.  I just…chop down trees?  And dig for stuff?  How is this fun?

But as I used the game to teach arrays, fractions, and logic, curiosity got the better of me.  One night, after coming home from teaching, I opened the game and clicked on “survival mode.”  Instead of a plain world in which to build anything I wanted, I was plopped into the middle of the pixelated wilderness, with nothing but the clothes on my body.

Minecraft Spawn

That’s me. I get to be Supergirl in Minecraft. Oh, look! Pigs!

Minecraft is an open-ended survival game.  There are goals and challenges to complete.  Secret lairs and dungeons to discover, but you can just as easily spend your time farming and raising pigs or creating a herd of rainbow-dyed sheep.  So as I chopped down my first tree, the possibilities were endless.

After playing by myself for a while, I began to get lonely.  So I found Vikki, who became addicted to downloaded Minecraft after watching her son come down the stairs in tears after a particularly terrible gaming night.  Vikki and I met in front of a pumpkin patch on a private server I begged my husband to build, and it was almost as good as being with her in person.  To this day, there’s something wonderful about seeing her pixelated blue hoodie walk my way, knowing that my friend is practically within imaginary arm’s reach.

Together, we built a town.  We farmed and mined, creating something from nothing.  And slowly, other parents joined in on the fun.  We battled an incessant monster infestation, built fountains that resulted in our own drownings, and laughed at the arrows in each other’s butts.  Jessi explored, Lizz built a house (that I filled with chickens on her birthday), and Addye braved it outside the city walls.  We now have a hot tub, a diner, and an armory, along with sheep of every color, and a clubhouse to rival even the most exclusive.  And as of this week?  Momcraft even has a dad.

The town the moms built.

The town the moms built.

And though Vikki and I have graduated to a more public server (complete with a gold-based economy, stadium for games and shenanigans, and teenage players who can build circles around us), we long for the good ol’ days, where newbie parents battled the virtual elements together.  We have both found ourselves growing closer to our kids because of a shared love for the game, and I’m so grateful for both the fun and perspective Minecraft have provided.

As an educator?  I love the open-ended structure, the problem solving, the spacial reasoning, and the circuitry the game presents to players.  As a mom, I love that I have something I can play with my almost-six-year-old – not too violent and not too hard.  And as a gamer?  I love the fun.

Unless, of course, a creeper blows me up while I’m carrying 3 stacks of gold and the enchanted infinity bow I *just* made on my anvil.  Then, you’ll probably see me slam my laptop down in solidarity with all the 8-year-olds out there.  Like I said, perspective.

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Wanna join us?  Want to try the game out before deciding if it’s right for your kids?  Want to see why your children are screaming at the computer screen and have tears rolling down their cheeks because of a “zombie pig man?”  Come say hello in our closed Face Book group or leave a comment below!

I promise, you don’t need to know a thing to play.  You just need a computer, the game, and a username.  We’ll take care of the rest!

Momcraft Header

It Is Not A Hat

8 Aug

One, two, three.

Double.

One, two, three.

Double.

I count stitches until the rhythm takes over and intuition reigns,

knowing when to lift two loops over my hook in place of one.

Tiny twists capture wandering thoughts,

pulling them gently back to my hands.

In meditation,

string becomes stitches,

stitches become rows.

A form takes shape,

like clay on a potter’s wheel.

I am a machine

and I am not a machine.

It is a hat

and it is not a hat.

 

 

lambiehat

 

hat

Manufactured Memories (or Poop Jokes and Yoga Pants)

22 Jul

“The funny thing about taking family photographs,” my husband quipped in-between poses, “is that you’re basically documenting manufactured memories.”

I have to be honest.  Our family doesn’t often look like this:

Family Portrait

All of us smiling, standing in a field brushed with sunlight, and dressed to the nines in a color-coordinating palette of blues and oranges. There is a dramatic lack of yoga pants and mis-matched toddler socks here, along with way too much grooming.

And, can I tell you a secret?  The only reason my girls are smiling is that our wonderful photographer was cracking poop jokes from behind her lens, on my suggestion (I’ll take my Mom of the Year Award now, thanks).

But despite the surreal nature of the shots Shannon caught last weekend, I disagree that they fail to capture our family.  While we may not always look just like this, it’s a perfect depiction of how I feel inside.  My girls?  They fill my life with light. And though the mundane tasks of the day and sibling squabbles dominate my schedule, there is a contentment in my family that I rarely get the chance to capture.

The closer I look at our portrait, the more I see that Shannon photographed each of our personalities perfectly.  My shy, snuggly Bean and her comedian older sister.  My husband, with his arms wrapped around every one of us, the backbone of our family.  And me, with a genuinely happy and relaxed smile.

Manufactured?  Staged?  Maybe.  But not one less bit real.

Girls in Field Photo Shoot

 


If you are in the Boston area, Shannon (who is uber-talented) is running an unbelievably amazing summer special for $149! If that wasn’t enough, she loves Warrior Moms.  Creative Images Boston will donate $15 for each session that mentions Postpartum Progress!

Summer Special

Disclaimer: I received nothing in return for my post or sharing of Shannon’s summer special.  My post was completely unsolicited.  I just adore her and her work and love to help out a fellow mama.  Shannon, you’re amazing and I’m so grateful to you for capturing my family so perfectly.

First and Last: Happy Diamond Anniversary, Postpartum Progress!

7 Jul

Since having children, I find my life is often measured in firsts and lasts.

First poopy diaper, first bath, first words. First steps, and a first day of school.

Last swaddle, last bottle, last diaper.

Each milestone a testament to the bittersweet passage of time, and a common experience among all new mothers.

And then some unique to 15% of us.

First intrusive thought.  First time I screamed at my baby.

Last time I felt like myself.

My time as a new mother is marred by these moments.  Like scars, they fade with time but will never disappear altogether.

First antidepressant pill. First therapy session.

I can accurately recall dates for the onset of each depressive episode and panic attack.  Appointments for hospital visits and therapy sessions are buried in my phone’s archive.  At times it seems that the history of these 5 years is written in the margins of patient files and on the labels of pill bottles.

But as I look back at my journey through PPD, I find moments of light.

First tweet to Lauren Hale.

First visit to Postpartum Progress.

Last time feeling alone.

I wish I could remember which link brought me to Postpartum Progress…that I could point to a date or a website or a moment and bring back the relief I know I must have felt when someone finally told me I was not a bad mother.  I was not a freak.

First blog post.

And though I know I deserve credit for all the hard work of recovery, the simple truth is that I could not have done it without my tribe.  I would not be who I am today without Postpartum Progress, without Katherine Stone.

Last baby.  First joyful birth.

Because of Katherine, I found the doctors I needed to finally have the pregnancy and postpartum period I never knew was possible. Because of Postpartum Progress, I discovered a tribe of women just like me, whose strength and courage filled me when I had none of my own.

First time meeting Katherine.

Last doubt of my calling as an advocate.

And as she has morphed from a Bono-like celebrity in my eyes to a mentor, resource, teammate, and finally friend, I have constantly found myself honored by her presence in my life.

When I think of her impact on my life and multiply it by the TEN YEARS she been advocating for women and families, I am inspired to do more and be more.  You see, Katherine’s gift is that she doesn’t just help women like me.  She doesn’t only provide them with resources and information. She empowers them.

Last shame.

Last regret.

With Katherine by my side, I find myself grateful for where PPD has led me and who it has helped me become.  So when I tell her “thank you,” that really doesn’t even begin to cover it.

She didn’t just save my life.  She gave me a new one.

katherine and me

 

Postpartum progress 10 year

July 13th marks the 10th anniversary of Postpartum Progress.  YOU can help moms just like me by donating to the non-profit by clicking HERE.

You can learn more about Postpartum Progress and our mission HERE.

You can read other Diamond Anniversary Blogathon posts soon!  Link is coming!

Stigma Fighters

2 Jul

I’m thrilled to be a guest over at Stigma Fighters today, writing about how stigma continues to affect me, even 5 years post-diagnosis.

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I’d like to say I’m immune from stigma. After 3 years of blogging about mental health, and 2 years as an advocate, you’d think I’d be able to shake the shame surrounding my diagnoses of postpartum anxiety (and postpartum depression, antenatal depression, postpartum OCD, and generalized anxiety disorder) with ease. And from the outside, it must seem that I do.

I speak freely about my experiences with friends and family. I’ve hosted public events, fundraising and educating my local communities. I write for Postpartum Progress, the most widely-read blog on maternal mood and anxiety disorders. And I’m helping organize and direct an entire conference dedicated to those Warrior Moms who have survived from them.

But what you probably don’t see? Is that when I speak in person about my mental illness, I measure my words carefully, making note of my audience and surroundings before I ever open my mouth. I watch the face of my conversation partner for signs of disgust disguised as pity, and I find myself wondering at times if that mom from playgroup doesn’t ever drop her kid off to play because “she’s afraid I might go cray-zee.”

You see, the only stigma I’m immune to is the one I hold against myself…

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To read the rest of the story (you know you want to!) please head on over and say hello at Stigma Fighters.  The work Sarah is doing to raise awareness and change the way the world views mental illness is so important.

Stigma Fighters

Warrior Mom, Climber of Mountains

22 Jun

I slept for almost 13 hours last night after climbing 4.2 miles and 4,300 feet up to the summit of Mt Washington for Climb Out of the Darkness yesterday. 13 glorious hours. And as I massage my sore muscles, I am struck by the fact that I just accomplished an amazing feat.

In the last five years, I have struggled with three lumbar disc ruptures, a neck strain that sent me to physical therapy, and have been diagnosed with kidney disease. I have birthed two babies, leaving my core in ruins and with little time or energy to care for myself. And I have found myself fighting to love my body where it is while also wanting it to be better – stronger and more healthy.

Conditioned by society and pop culture, despite the wisdom of my rational mind, I have pulled and tugged at my stomach, cursed my thighs, and wondered how I would ever teach my girls to love their own bodies, when I could find only criticism for mine.

But today, in the shadow of yesterday’s glory, I am inspired by what my body was able to do and the courage it took to continue up the mountain. One rock at a time, I ascended 4,300 feet into the clouds. Though my back ached and my legs wobbled beneath me, I pressed on, honoring my body’s strength for the first time in a very long time. I am filled with gratitude for each and every pound that carried me up the hills and traversed the ravine.

As I crawled up the final push yesterday, I said out loud, “this is for every morning I thought I couldn’t get out of bed. For that moment when motherhood so overwhelmed me that I wanted to run away and leave it all behind.”

I have always been a Warrior Mom. Now, I’m also a mountain climber. Watch out world, there’s nothing I can’t do.

20140622-110742.jpg

Melissa and Juli, Andrew and Saige, and my husband Adam. I could not have done it without your support. Thank you.

You can learn more about Climb Out of the Darkness HERE.

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