These Are The Days

Smart ~ Writer ~ Mom

Month: September 2014 (page 1 of 3)

The Semicolon Project; The Sentence Is Your Life

A few months ago, a dear friend of mine posted on Facebook with a link to something called “The Semicolon Project.” I’d never heard of it before and was curious what it was all about. Have you heard of it?

It turns out, the Semicolon Project is a nonprofit organization that provides support to people and communities suffering with any kind of mental health issues. Specifically, those who may be contemplating suicide.

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This is the image from (along with a link to) The Semicolon Project Twitter page

Why a semicolon?

From their Twitter page and website: “A Semicolon represents a sentence the author could have ended but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life.”

September 10 was World Suicide Prevention Day and for the last couple of weeks the semicolon project has been on my mind.

Robin Williams’ death reverberated around the globe, didn’t it? His death was shocking and supremely sad. We ask, ‘how could someone so beloved, so funny, so talented, so MUCH be so derailed by debilitating anxiety and depression the likes of which most of us will never know, that he would choose to end his own life?’ But that’s it, isn’t it? His choice wasn’t really a choice like you or I would make. Rather, in his mental state, it seemed to be his only choice. And that’s the most heartbreaking part of it all.

On a personal note, I’ve known two people who have taken their own lives. And frankly, that’s two too many.

The first was a friend and former high school classmate of my husband’s. He hadn’t seen her in years, but one fall day she was traveling through our area. She called and asked if he’d like to get together. He and our then six-year old daughter spent the day at the local mall. She bought our daughter a pink Disney princess purse shaped like a doctor bag with hot pink handles. We all met up for dinner that night at Olive Garden. She talked about how busy work was and how tough it was to be a single mother; something she chose to do because she so wanted to be a mother. She spoke lovingly of her son and compared stories with us about raising little ones. She complimented us about how funny and smart and our daughter was and she and my husband shared some laughs over fun high school memories.

A few weeks later she sent my husband a text message telling him he had a lovely family.

Soon after, she died from a deliberate overdose.

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The second person was a classmate and friend of mine. He was larger than life, even when we were all in high school. He had a boisterous, manly laugh that sounded like it came from someone much older than his and our teenage selves. My fondest memory of him is when he played the role of Tevye in our high school production of “Fiddler on the Roof.” He nailed it. There was literally no one else in the school who could have played that role any better. It was made for him. Off the stage and in the classroom, he was a force to be reckoned with. And oh so incredibly smart. He would debate an issue about, let’s say, the twisting plot lines of Sophocles’ “Antigone”, with such conviction and eloquence. It was incredibly frustrating for the person who was debating against him (me). But I smile when I think about it because my argument was weak and his was exceptionally strong; but he engaged in the debate with me just the same. Very classy.

As happens with classmates, we lost touch after high school. We reconnected on Facebook a few years ago. The last time I saw him was in 2008, at our 20th high school reunion. He looked the same as always. And his wit and sarcasm were as sharp as ever. We shared some good laughs.

He died a little more than a year ago. And like my husband’s friend, he left behind little ones. I wasn’t in his day to day life; however, I witnessed a quiet disbelief online as his Facebook page filled with tributes and memories. Another life lost to the deadly effects of depression.

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Like so many others, I was treated for depression for personal issues that were exacerbated after the birth of my daughter in 2004. And although I never contemplated suicide – not even for a moment – there were times when I felt completely lost. But I never crossed that line, you know? I never crossed that arbitrary line in the sand where your mental state goes from unbalanced, unhealthy, unhappy, unstable to unable to live any longer. It is unfathomable to me. But I am not naive enough to think that it’s not the reality of many other people who arrive there and are seemingly unable to turn back.

I was going through some old pictures from high school recently and I came across some pictures of my friend dressed in his role from Fiddler. There is one shot in particular that seems to capture his essence. A huge smile. Gleaming brown eyes. Curly brown hair. He is missed.

Rummaging through our toy box recently I came across that pink Disney purse. After numerous purges and trips to Goodwill, this purse is still around. My girls love it. And it reminds my husband and I of a dear friend. She is missed.

I don’t know what I can do. I don’t know how to help. I’m not a licensed mental health professional. I’m not qualified to diagnose or treat anyone with any kind of mental issue. But I do think talking and writing about it helps in some way. The more people talk about mental illness, perhaps the stigma against having a mental illness or the seeking out of treatment and help will be lessened.

I really hope so.

 

Little Things Matter

When I arrived at the hospital I was prepared for a long and boring morning in the waiting room. To pass the time, I had a book with me (of course) and my phone was fully charged ready for some guilty pleasure web surfing.

I pulled in to the circular drive of the hospital entrance and was greeted by a valet parking attendant. Since the valet services there are complimentary, I handed over my keys and took the claim ticket. I walked into the lobby and was greeted by the friendliest woman sitting at the concierge desk. It’s like she was waiting just for me. We greeted each other and I told her I was here for a mammogram. She smiled and pointed to the first door down the hall to my left.

My book in hand, I entered the waiting room and signed in. A young woman with a bright purple blouse and sparkly earrings called me over and took my information. She asked if I had children and we swapped potty training stories. Her youngest is just starting out and my youngest is in the ‘almost ready to sleep with no diaper overnight’ stage. She handed me the paperwork and sent me to the suite across the hall. Light jazz music was playing – not the annoying muzac you hear on elevators. It was nice. Not sure who the artist was, but it was good. I barely had time to sit down and open the book I planned to read when my name was called. The nurse asked if I preferred “Kimberly” or “Kim.” Then she led me to a sweet-smelling changing area. I kid you not, it smelled like vanilla and cinnamon and although it was probably just someone’s coffee, it calmed me down.

This was just a regular mammogram. Nothing out of the ordinary. But I don’t know many women who approach this exam without any trepidation. What if they find something? What if I have cancer? What if What if What if?

I have a tendency to jump to the worst conclusions almost immediately. It’s not my most favorite trait.

Nevertheless, I entered the exam room which to my great delight was NOT FREEZING. *I had a mammogram in Syracuse and, although the nurses were lovely, the room was just this side of the North Pole when it came to temperatures. Not fun*

The attendant was friendly and efficient. The whole thing was finished in about ten minutes.

Fabulous.

After the exam, she said, “I know these things can be uncomfortable, but we’re glad you came in. Be sure to take a rose before you leave.” And there by the changing room door was a beautiful vase filled with individually-wrapped roses in a variety of colors. A nice touch.

Yellow roses are my favorite. But I took a pink one, knowing my girls would prefer that color.

It is kind of scary going for a mammogram, but I’m glad I did. And with October (Breast Cancer Awareness Month) just a few days away, I’m hoping other women will do the same. Because it matters.

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Just Breathe

Do you hear the same song on the radio more often than others?

I don’t mean the pop tune of the day or the Top 40 songs they play non-stop.

I’m talking about just your average, run of the mill song. Something from a few years ago or even a few decades ago that just so happens to play in your car or on your radio more often than other songs.

For me, that song is “Breathe” by Anna Nalick.

I love this song. I know every word and I sing along whenever I hear it. Or, if I’m by myself, I sing it at the top of my lungs.

It came out in 2004, which doesn’t seem that long ago. Not sure what it is about this song, but I seem to hear it at least once a week while I’m in the car. She has a beautiful voice; I wish she’d record more. And maybe she does and I just don’t know about it. Regardless, it’s a great song. And when I hear it, it’s like a moment of clarity and stillness in my day.

My favorite verse: 

“Two a.m. and I’m still awake writing this song
If I get it all down on paper
It’s no longer inside of me
Threatening the life it belongs to.”

Breathe. Good reminder for today and everyday.

 

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52 Weeks of Sisterhood: The Youngest Fans

There are definite advantages to living close to New York City. One such advantage happened recently when the NYC chapter of UCF Alumni had a party at a local sports bar, “The Storehouse.” Not ones to waste an opportunity, we all dressed in our requisite black and gold and trekked in for some fun.

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It’s water. I swear.

We arrived just after kickoff. The bar was filled with alumni from the past decade or so. A mix of young and slightly older grads who were getting their drink on, wearing sweats and UCF shirts, and welcoming newcomers like us.

There was a fun and carefree atmosphere, which made me wistful for my college days. I was working at Disney during my college years and although I lived for one year at Simmons College in Boston, the remainder of my degree-seeking years was spent working full-time and attending UCF classes off campus. Even though I didn’t have the traditional college experience, I still miss it sometimes.

Anyway, it was a “day” game and we arrived around noontime so we weren’t too worried about bringing our girls to a bar.

We settled in at a table in the back – a high-top for four near one of the many television screens. Our food and drinks ordered, we started hooting and hollering for our team. As I was sipping on a beer, I glanced over and noticed  my three-year old waving and smiling at the group of people at the table next to us. They were 20-somethings having a great time and they thought she was adorable. They started talking to her and also to my older daughter. They even took pictures of them and called them UCF’s youngest fans.

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We cheered and we ate and we drank. And then my little one got bored and started climbing the chairs. So I took her out for a walk and we happened upon Madison Square Park. What a find! Although there are lots of parks in the city, most of the really good ones are in Central Park. Note: we were nowhere near Central Park.

Madison Square ParkMany of the parks in the city are run-down or not as fun. But this one was great. The skies were growing darker and you could just feel the impending rainstorm that was coming. But in that moment, we decided to give it a go. She rode the swings and slid down the slides and had a ball.

We stayed a bit longer than we had planned. As we walked back in to the bar, it started to rain. As soon as we entered the bar, we realized our team had fallen behind. But it didn’t really matter. The girls had fun and they made some new friends (with alumni I soon realized were closer in age to our girls than they were to my husband and me), and we found a new park.

Mostly, we just had a fun family day in the city cheering on our favorite college football team.

Because She’s All About That Pink, ‘Bout That Pink (No Purple)

My little one is slightly obsessed with the color pink. And by slightly, I mean COMPLETELY, ONE HUNDRED PERCENT, OVER THE TOP, OBSESSED.

Don’t believe me?

May I present to you a snapshot of this last week:

pinkcollageShe’s definitely all about that pink (’bout that pink, no purple). Forgive me for the earworm. And if you’re not familiar with this catchy tune, here you go.

My favorite shot from this week was taken just today as she napped. We had just come in from a quick walk around the neighborhood. It looks like rain, so we weren’t out long. As soon as we got back inside, she raced upstairs, changed out of her pink outfit (the one in the bottom right in the picture above) and changed into a soft pink dress. Perfect for nap time.

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My sweet pink girl.

 

 

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