LEADERSHIP

As I sit here watching tv, switching between Modern Family and James Spann and waiting to land in Oz, I am taking time to reflect on my weekend. I was blessed to experience two examples of leadership training in the Mountain Brook City Schools system.

If you are familiar with Cherokee Bend they have a program called FOAC.  It is a pretty cool program teaching kids teamwork and leadership.  They have classes for a certain amount of weeks and then the fifth and sixth grades have weekend campouts.  My son had his campout this past weekend.  He also had his rec league tournament.  I took him out of the campout for a couple of hours so he could play his game…mistake.  Anyway, when I came to get him, I walked in on him explaining his experience on the ropes course he had completed just moments before I arrived.  He described how he was scared at points.  Mr Hedrick, who is AWESOME, prompted him with great questions to explain how he got through through those points.  I was so proud of him at that point.  I had tears in my eyes.  He talked about how his team helped talk him through it.  TEAMWORK.  Teamwork breeds leadership.

TEAMWORK BREEDS LEADERSHIP.  What a great thing to teach our youth.  I watched a movie a couple of weeks ago about a high school football team who lost a lot of games, got a new coach and started winning:)  Anyway, the coach said “football does not build character, football brings out the character in you”.  Truer words have never been spoken.

Building character in a child begins at home.  I am not a perfect parent and will never claim to be.  My family has just as many issues as yours.  I’m fumbling along trying to do my best.  My illness does not help.  When I get manic, as I was Sunday, I get irritable and snap at my children and husband.  I find the silliest things to yell, yes yell, at them about.  I am not proud of it.  Some days I just can’t control it.  I have to step away from those I love and regroup.  But I tell them I love them and move on.

Parenting can be a crap shoot.  Your oldest usually takes the brunt of it too.  You think you are doing right by them by expecting so much from them.  You tell them in one breath that all they have to do is their best and in the next you tell them that is not enough.  I have done that with my oldest and many times it has backfired.  I just want the best for him, in some ways better things than I had and I had a pretty good life.  Then I stop.  I realize what an incredibly awesome kid he is.  He is funny.  God is he funny.  His friends love him.  Parents love him.  His Daddy and I love him!!!.  Somewhere in this crapshoot I am raising a pretty good kid.  I am raising four pretty cool kids.

I wish  I could have appreciated him more when he was young and not stress out so much about whether I was “raising” him right.  Sometimes you just have to let them be and be as good as an example for them as you can.  I see these young parents and I want to shake them.  I want to tell them to enjoy this time.  I want to tell them to get in the back yard and throw the ball, let them put makeup on you and pull all your shoes out of your closet.  I want to tell them to take that money they are spending on private coaches and teach them themselves.  But they won’t listen.  Sometimes parenting is learning the hard way.  We just have to buck it up and pray for the best.  PRAY PRAY PRAY.

I know I got off kilter but you should be used to that by now:)  The second example of building leadership in our youth is the LEAD program at the Jr High.  My daughter Maitland was next in line to go and someone’s grades dropped so she got a spot.  I had no idea what this was all about.  I still don’t really know.  All I know is a I saw a group of 8th and 9th graders work together to come up with a theme, a cheer, a dance and a float in four afternoons and compete with their peers.  These kids aren’t BFFs.  They don’t necessarily sit at the same lunch table, etc.  But they put those differences aside, got rid of their prejudices and used their individual strengths together to come up with something cool.  I am sorry that kid’s grades dropped but I am so grateful my daughter is getting to be a part of this program.  I highly recommend you get your child to apply, keep their grades up and hopefully their name will be drawn from the hat (or they get on Spartan Council:)).

It is not up to our school system to raise our children.  It is our job to build their character and groom them to be the best person they can be.  But when they become school age and they are involved in after school activities, we are not around them as much as their teachers, coaches and scout leaders. That is what is so great about our community and school system.  We can work together to raise great kids to become great people.  Not all of our kids will be leaders.  Some of the greatest people in the world are the “Indians”.  Not everyone can be a chief.

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FULL CIRCLE

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I had a date with my husband for the first time in FOREVER last night.  It was the perfect storm.  All the kids were out and about and taken care of.  Well, John was laid up in bed after having his wisdom teeth taken out:)

We didn’t go far; just down to Billy’s.  We wanted to stay close in case John needed us.  It wasn’t fancy either.  It was just us.  There are times when Dennis and I are the only ones at home but that is not always conducive to really sitting down and talking about what is going on.  There is always a pile of laundry or bills to pay or sales calls to make.  Their is too much clutter at home to clear your head and talk about us.  These are the times when we reconnect, recharge our marriage and find out something new about each other.  I wish we could do it more often but in reality, with four children, we just don’t have that time.  We have to wait for the perfect storm:)

In the past week, I have had lunch with my high school English teacher whom I have not seen since 1985 and  with my cousin who is like a sister to me.  My sisters don’t live in town and my cousin and I are just as close if not closer. I used to be her nanny.  Her youngest child’s diaper was the first one Dennis ever changed:)  I also got to spend some time with one of my oldest BFFs doing flowers for the church.  This is the church in which my grandmother, mother and  I were all married.

Between AWARE, my church and my friends and family, I feel like I am truly able to give back now.  When you are sick, be it physical or mental, your only option is to take from those who can give it to you.  When it is a physical illness, it is easier to take the help given to you.  That is not the case when it is a mental illness.  It is hard for people to understand why you can’t just go fold those clothes or make up the bed or unload the dishwasher.  Those are easy things to do right?   Why can’t you just do them?  Because WE CAN’T.  WE NEED HELP.

I still get depressed and manic.  That is just a part of myself I have come to terms with.  But I have tools to get better and I know when to ask for help before things get too bad.  I am not cured.  I am in remission.  There is no guarantee that I may not have to be hospitalized again.  You will know it when I do because I will share my journey with you.  I have a new voice now.  I have a new outlook and a new goal:  to help you understand that DEPRESSION IS AN ILLNESS.

AWARE is out of the honeymoon phase now.  The momentum of the tragedies has waned.  The number of new members on the AWARE page has dwindled.  BUT WE ARE NOT GIVING UP.  We are in it for the long haul. We have some great things planned for the fall.  If you have seen the comedian on Ted Talks who talks about his depression you are in for a treat.  He has agreed to come speak in September.  We need help though.  We need you.  We need you to help on a planning committee.  We need help finding a venue and someone to sponsor that venue.  Let us know if you want to help.

Being a Birmingham native and being gone for 10 years, I see things with a fresh eye.  My experiences from my time away have pushed me to help this community make some changes.  My English teacher laughed and said she may be embarrassed to be seen with me.   I know I have ruffled some feathers but change doesn’t happen without growing pains.  Every single person in the community if affected by mental illness and suicide.  Don’t kid yourself.  That mom next door who is perfectly made up each day and has her children dressed to the nines each day is absolutely miserable.  I know because you have told me.

We need the city’s and school’s support.  We don’t want them to cure depression or prevent suicide.  We need them to work with us and let us use their venues and email lists.  If they don’t I will be entering in every single contact I have from all  6 school’s directories myself.  Anyone want to help?:)

A plethora of reasons exist as to why we moved back.  One of the main ones is my illness.  I needed to be near better hospitals and doctors.  It has been a hard move on the children.  I will not sugarcoat it.  I second guess myself all the time whether this was a good idea or not.  But I don’t think I would have been able to fight this illness had we not been able to make some changes.  I know God had his hand in it. I know deep in my heart that this move will have a positive lasting impact on my family and this community.  It already has.  I have come full circle.

Enjoy this beautiful day.

 

 

 

 

‘A voice at the table’

Please read

What happens now?

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This week, we have grassroots effort at its best. Annemarie Matulis, director of the Bristol County Regional Coalition for Suicide Prevention in Massachusetts, tells the story behind a remarkable documentary on attempt survivors that made its debut last week at the state suicide prevention conference. Plans for how to share and distribute the film are still being discussed, but early reviewers say it should be a national training tool, if not mandatory viewing.

Amazingly, the 30-minute documentary was made on zero budget, with donated time and effort. Its next showing is in mid-May, at a fundraiser for suicide prevention work and a local teen center. Here’s Annemarie:

Coming across the issue of suicide attempt survivors was like déjà vu.

I have never forgotten how it felt to sit on my front step and whisper into the night, “He beats me. Please, God, help me.” In the early 1980s, our society…

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A NEW DAY

He is risen, he is risen!

Tell it out with joyful voice:

he has burst his three days’ prison;

let the whole wide earth rejoice:

Death is conquered, we are free,

Christ has won the victory.

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Yesterday I was reminded of how grateful I am to be alive.  I have four beautiful, healthy children, a wonderful husband and an awesome extended family.

I got a second chance.  God gave me the disease of Bipolar Disorder/Depression so that I would live to tell my story and help others.  He gave me the gift of being able to write my story so that others may feel through my words what I went through and what others feel as they battle the depths of depression.  My battle is a gift.  Alleluia.

“We do not presume to  come to this thy Table , O MERCIFUL Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in they manifold and great mercies.  We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table.  But thou are the same Lord whose property is always to have MERCY.  Grant us therefore, GRACIOUS Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us.  Amen.”  Book of Common Prayer, Holy Eucherist I.

This is my favorite prayer as we prepare for Communion.  It always gives me peace.  When do you feel closest to God?  Taking Communion and saying this prayer is when I feel His presence the most.  It reminds me that, in spite of my flaws, God loves me.  He loves me enough to give me a  second chance at life and share myself openly so that I may help others.

For so long I thought my disease was punishment.  That was my depressed brain talking.  That little man was doing everything in his power to break my spirit.  Many people would say that Satan was getting a foothold in the door.  He succeeded for a while.  However, as I lay in the hospital with nothing else to do but think about what I had done to myself and my family, I realized that I could wallow in my misery or take back my life.  It has been a hard road.  Some days can be a roller coaster for me.  I have to push myself to get up out of bed, get dressed and face the day head on.  I have to remind myself that some days that is all I can do and that is ok.  Tomorrow is another day and I can fight a little harder.

As a good friend of mine is suffering right now, I find myself wanting to shake them and tell them to snap out of it.  I know what they need to do to take the steps to get to a healthier place.  When I am down, I sometimes wish someone would give me just a little nudge.  They can offer to take a short walk with me.  I know this person knows the tools to help them be a little healthier.  I want to point that out without being insensitive to their sorrow.  It is hard.  I spend a lot of time worrying and praying for them.  I can tell them I love them but their depressed brain is telling them that I don’t really care.  They think I don’t understand what they are going through.  They think that I am the only one who can gets depressed.  I’m not.

This friend feels hopeless because they can’t get in to see a doctor.  It is so frustrating when every doctor you call cannot see you for at least four to six weeks.  The gatekeeper for the doctor doesn’t understand the urgency of the sufferer’s needs. They feel no one understands their misery.  They give up and suffer in silence.  This is the problem with the mental health system.  I don’t know how to fix it.  You wait four to six weeks to pay $150/ “hour” when in truth you see the doctor for only about 15 minutes.

My psychiatrist in Fairhope retired last year and I had to find a new one. He didn’t take my insurance but he had treated me after my first attempt in Fairhope because he saw the patients in The Harbor, the outpatient program I was in after my acute care stay in the mental ward of a nearby hospital.   I had to find one that took my health insurance.  I wanted a woman this time.  I was lucky enough to find a good one.  When we moved to Birmingham, the psychiatric “company” had a branch in Birmingham.  That was a horrible experience.  The doctor I finally got in to see, was Indian.  I could hardly understand a word he said.  I have nothing against the Indian culture but I felt as if I was run through a meat factory.

I turned to Grayson and Associates where my first Therapist works.  I was “lucky” enough to get in to see a great one.  She is personable and it didn’t take long for her to get to know me and she knows the ins and outs of all the psychiatric meds and how the cocktail I need can work best to keep me stable.  Again I say to myself I “lucked” out.  In reality God had a hand in this.  He works in mysterious ways:)

I am not sure how I got off track but I think my story earns merit.  It is so hard to get the right help.  Having a good fit with your doctor is crucial.  It often means a trial and error approach that can be so frustrating that you want to give up.  Please don’t.  While you are waiting to get in to see a doctor, take small steps to get better.  Start out by exercising.  If you can’t seem to muster up the energy, just take a small walk around the block.  You may find yourself wanting to walk just a bit further every day.  The endorphins will kick in and before you know it and without even realizing it you may feel a little better each day.

Pray.  You may feel God is not on your side and you don’t deserve His help.  But you do.  You are worthy.  God loves you even when you don’t love yourself.  He is MERCIFUL.

I love you too.  I love you enough to bare my soul so that I may help you fight for another day.  I know you just want to pull the covers over yourself.  FIGHT.  Fight for your family and friends.  They feel just as helpless when you suffer.  They are going to say and do the wrong things.  Forgive them, forgive yourself.  God forgives you ever day.

I hope each and every one of you had a blessed Easter.  I hope you reveled in God’s love.  I hope you looked in awe at the beauty that is around us.  Spring is a time of renewal.  It is a time for resolutions to better yourself.  I quit making New Years resolutions.  They never stick. I quit trying to give something up during Lent and started doing something.  Doing something is giving up something.  It is a chance to make a new habit stick.  Starting a new and healthy habit is hard but rewarding.   I try to make a promise to myself for my family and friends to better myself this time of year.

I will stop rambling now.  Enjoy this beautiful time of year and this glorious weather. Get out and get some vitamin D.

Blessings,

Lulu

IT TAKES A VILLAGE

Over the past three days I have observed some astounding things.  It Takes a Village.  Not one person could have pulled off the fundraiser for Chappell.  It was a true community effort.  I am so proud of our community for pulling the fundraiser off so quickly and so profoundly.  I understand a great deal of money was raised Thursday night.  I know Chappell and her family are in awe of this community’s generosity.

AWARE’s Town Talk did not draw a big crowd.  I was sad but I think if we helped at least one person that night then our efforts were not in vain.  I met some incredible people that night.  The Executive Director and one board member of The Crisis Center came to hear Sue speak.  They came because they had learned about AWARE from my blog.  To me this is huge.  They want to work with us to bring the stigma out of depression and to prevent more suicides in our community.  I am honored that they applaud our efforts and want to support us.  It Takes a Village.

The stigma of depression is not going to go away over night.  If the number of messages I get in a day from people who suffer in silence is anything to go by, we have  a long way to go.  I am proud to be your voice.  I am happy to help you in any way I can.  YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

Today I had the honor to help with the flowers at St Mary’s for Easter.  My mother used to be on the Flower Guild and I felt her presence as Ginger and I were working on the Columbarium wreath.  Big word huh??  I have never worked behind the scenes at the church before.  It Takes a Village.

Tomorrow is Easter.  It promises to be a beautiful day.  God has washed away the ugliness of Jesus’s crucifixion with the bitter weather this past week.  He has blessed us with the new growth of flowers and the lush green of the trees.  As you worship with your friends and family this weekend, remember It Takes a Village.  God put us here together on this earth so that we may work together in love and harmony to better the lives of ourselves and others.

Happy Easter.  God bless you.

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Depression: The New Cancer

0119040-R1-034-15AToday has been a roller coaster ride for me.  I try to get up at least 30 minutes before the kids do but that didn’t work today.  Instead one of my surly teenagers came to my side of the bed and said “get up!”.  Needless to say I leapt out of bed and dashed to get the waffle mix so they can make their waffles.  Why don’t I just get Eggo waffles instead you ask.  Because they get freezer burn and get soggy when you toast them that way.  This is easier.  I make the batter and the rest is up to them.  If they don’t like it they can find something else to eat!!

A friend of mine was just diagnosed with cancer as many of you know.  She is an incredible person and has a million friends.  I hurt for her because I know she is going through a rough time.  I keep asking myself what I can do for her and I come up nil.  She has food coming to her for months so that is a bust.  I am afraid to go see her because I might get her sick and she probably won’t feel like idle chit chat anyway.  So I offer my home to her daughter whom I love as if she were my own.  She is good friends with my son and I see her cuddled up on our sofa wrapped in a blanket.  I can offer her solace and a safe place to land in this turmoil that is now her life.

The Pants Store where she works is having a fund raiser for her this Thursday.  I am so for that.  I am so glad to see everyone rally behind this to help her and her family.  They were able to put it together so quickly.  I know they will have a huge turnout and I think that is wonderful.

But I am sad.  I am sad because those of us who suffer and are battling to keep our heads above water do so silently.  We get so down that we can barely get out of bed.  But no one sees us as sick.  We have to get up and make pancakes and clean the house and do laundry because that is expected of us even though we are sick.  We don’t get meals scheduled for us months on end.  We don’t get fundraisers either.  I am not discounting what we as a community are doing for our friend.  I am just asking you to think about what you can do for those that suffer in silence.

Sue Wygul Martin, a suicide attempt survivor is speaking Thursday night as well.  She speaks at 6.  She is blind due to her attempt and has a beautiful story to tell.  I challenge you to share your support for our friend and AWARE.  Go to the Pants Store at 5, drop your children off, come here Sue speak at 6 and return to Crestline by 7.  Support your friends who suffer in silence as well as those who are able to suffer publicly.  Depression is just as much a cancer.  It is a disease.  It can turn into death just as much as cancer.

Please share your support.  We are doing this for you and for your children. Your child may be suffering and you don’t know it because you don’t recognize the signs.  Your husband may be suffering because business is not going as well as he wants and he is mortgaged to the hilt and has no money to support you anymore and feels that you would be better off without him.  You may be suffering but are ashamed.  You wish that you could have a physical ailment so that you could have an excuse to stay in bed for a day or two.  I find myself hoping to get the flu or strep or worse just so I can  stay in bed for a couple of days and regroup and have someone take care of me and the children.  But we aren’t there yet.

We want a fundraiser.  Will you show your support?  You friend is suffering.  Have you taken them dinner?  How about cleaning their house for them or doing there laundry that is piling up because the thought of folding clothes or even transferring clothes from the washer to the dryer is just too overwhelming.  We need your attention.  We are sick.  It is a disease.  Medicine can only do so much then it is up to us to “fake it ’til we make it”.Please take an hour to come hear Sue speak Thursday night.  You won’t regret it.  Do it for yourself, your family and your friends.  Maybe you will save a life for your efforts.

I hope to see you at Park Lane and at The Pants Store.  I will sure be at both.

Oh, and our efforts are not in vain.  I was asked today if I wanted to speak to the volunteers of The Crisis Center and share my story.  One of the people on the board read my blog and contacted me.  The silver lining to the cloud that has hovered  above my head all day:)  I am also being contacted by a college student who is doing a paper on depression.  She has been reading my blog and wants to interview me for her paper.  I am spreading my gift to you….

Bloom Where You Are Planted

20140414_132756As I was driving around this morning for carpool, etc. it came to me that Spring and Easter are a time of renewal.  That isn’t news.  Our ministers preach about it often.

But to me, a Suicide Attempt Survivor, the rain today and the cold tomorrow represent a new chance to make things right in my life and with my family’s life.  God has washed away the temptation to end my life so that I may not have to suffer anymore pain.  He has frozen the impulse to make it go away quickly.  I am now free to experience my children’s milestones and create new memories with them and my husband.  That doesn’t mean I won’t battle depression at times.  It just means that I will fight harder to quiet the little man so that I can live.

God planted me just the way I am so that I may bloom bright and share my beauty with others.  There is a quiet beauty in those of us who battle depression.  We see life in different colors than you “normal” people.  Things can be brighter and we are on top of the world.  We have a hard time expressing the thoughts and feelings whirling around our hearts and minds.  Things can also get pitch black to where we freeze and block out the world and it takes all that we have to stand up on our own.  But we do.  We fight the blackness and show others our blooms.  We share our special gifts with others.  Sharing is good for us.  It validates us. My children and my husband validate me as well.  But everyone needs validation outside the home.  We warriors must balance our lives.  We can get stagnant and that is bad news for us.

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For you warriors and all, take the next couple of days to let God wash away the funk of winter and freeze away the ugly thoughts.  Bloom like the dogwoods and show others the beauty inside and out.  God says your body is your temple.  Take care of it.  Be a healthier you this Spring.  Resurrect yourself, bring that cool person you once knew out and show him/her off.

God wants us to live life to the fullest.  He wants to experience the joys and heartaches of life.  But He wants us to use Him to battle life and come out warriors who have won the war.  Are you a warrior?  Are you armed for battle?