Resolutions and Reconnecting

Band Quote - Twitter Post

New Year’s resolutions are often broken or forgotten, right? Not this one. Not for me.

Back in early January, I’d written a post about having a fresh start and making resolutions, which I don’t like to do. They’re too much pressure. Instead, I prefer to strive for goals throughout the year.

BUT… This year I did make one resolution I was determined to follow through with:

Build deeper, more meaningful, richer relationships. Nourish those I have and create new ones, even if it means stepping out of my comfort zone.

Last fall, a friend introduced me to a book, The Gifts of Imperfection, by author and motivational speaker, Brene Brown, Ph.D. She writes about the importance of human connections. It reminded me that this is an area where I could use some improvement.

Brene says, “I define connections as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”

Friends

I’ve taken my New Year’s resolution to heart. I’ve been mindful of connecting more with friends and family, and building new friendships.

It takes time and effort to connect. But the benefits are so rich, it makes it all worth it.

A great example of this is my experience this past weekend.

A brief background: I was on the speech team in junior college. I’d never felt such strong camaraderie and connection. We worked on speeches together, traveled together for tournaments, and became each other’s vital source of encouragement and support.

We were united by the same goal: to be the best individual speaker or debater we could be, for our own personal development, and for the success of the team. We lifted each other up, in good times and in bad.

We became close friends during the two or three years we competed. We were inseparable, like we were looped together by an imaginary string.

Who do you spend most of your time with? Are they someone who you want to reflect? Do they push you to be the best version of yourself?  I'm so grateful to be building a team of positive caring and motivated women who are reaching out daily to help others.  We help each other build each other up and celebrate successes together.  Each of us are surrounded by other strong motivated women building a business in our own way!  #girlpower #girlbosses #positivevibes #lawofattraction by @crysp via http://ift.tt/1RAKbXL

Even though we’d vowed to keep in contact, after graduation we went our separate ways. We lost touch. Life happened and time flew by. It had been nearly 35 years since we’d seen each other.

Until last weekend.

It was challenging, as the four of us live in different cities. But we made it happen. We met in a central area at a restaurant for lunch. We’d kept in touch through social media, but… I admit, I was a bit nervous. Would we still feel that connection we’d had so many years ago?

I was thrilled that the answer was a resounding YES.

After huge, tight bear hugs and big smiles, we started to catch up on the past 30-plus years. Marriages, children, divorces, careers. It wasn’t just “surface” talk. We reconnected on a deep, emotional level. We inspired and empowered each other all over again. I could see why I liked them so much when I was 19.

Now we’re grown, with more experience and wisdom. Robert has a son and is an award-winning speech coach, at the college where we all first met. Paige is an accomplished businesswoman, now a stay-at-home mom of twin girls. Alexis has a teenager and preteen twins. She’s also a criminal defense attorney. (not their real names). I’ve been married 29 years, with two daughters in their twenties. I’m a writer and mental health advocate.

We’ve all taken different paths. But that string that held us together so closely at one time has merely stretched, over time and miles. We forged a bond that won’t break.

Image result for images of friends holding hands

At the end of our three-hour lunch, Robert looked around the table and said, “As I’ve been listening to each of you talk, I’ve realized something. We’re all doing what we’re passionate about.” That comment gave me goosebumps. He summed it up perfectly. Maybe that passion is our common link.

And it’s what I’ve always wanted for myself and now, for my daughters. I encourage them to figure out what they love and live their lives filled with passion and purpose.

Make connections. Nourish those relationships. Don’t let the special ones drift away.

We can’t get through this life alone. We aren’t meant to. We’re here to help each other.

At the end of our lunch, we had someone take a picture of us. I showed it to my daughters and they both said, “Mom, you all look so happy!” We were.

And we definitely won’t wait another thirty-something years before we see each other again.

Winnie the Pooh usually hits the nail on the head when it comes to displaying love for your BFF.

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The Chain Reaction Continues: Meghan Trainor Opens Up About Her Mental Health

It's the most confusing, frustrating thing ever

I love Meghan Trainor’s music. With empowering lyrics, her pop songs are upbeat, happy, and make me want to sing and dance. I’ve always pictured her that way too — bubbly, energetic, and confident. Maybe that’s why I was surprised when I heard her talk about her struggle with anxiety, panic attacks, and depression.

But hold on… why would that surprise me?

As a mental health advocate and someone who has recovered from panic disorder, I know darn well it doesn’t matter what the person looks like on the outside, he or she can still have problems on the inside.

People have said to me, “How can you possibly have anxiety when you’re so calm all the time? It doesn’t make sense.” I shrug and think, I don’t know. I can’t help it. 

That’s the thing. You never know.

I saw Meghan Trainor on NBC’s Today. She said the person who helped her “figure out” her anxiety was Today anchor, Carson Daly. A few months ago, Carson talked about living with anxiety.

At times I feel like there's a saber-tooth tiger

“He’ll never know how much his video helped me and my family. I told them that’s how I feel, I just couldn’t explain it,” Meghan said. “I went up to him (Carson) and I was like, ‘You don’t know what you’ve done for me, but it was amazing.'”

That reminded me of a post I wrote earlier this year, An Awe-Inspiring Chain Reaction. NBA All-Star DeMar DeRozan tweeted about his depression. That encouraged another NBA All-Star player, Kevin Love, to open up about his panic attacks. Which helped Carson Daly talk about his lifelong struggle with anxiety.

It was a chain reaction that gained momentum from the honesty and openness of each man.

And now, Meghan. She said when she was experiencing panic attacks, she assumed no one else felt that way. I used to assume that too.

I didn’t think anyone else in the world could possibly understand what I was going through. It didn’t cross my mind that others experienced the same scary panic symptoms. So I kept quiet and hid my fears. It was the worst feeling to be embarrassed and ashamed of something I couldn’t control.

One of the first steps in my recovery was when my doctor told me millions of other people have panic attacks. That shocked me. It was powerful to know I wasn’t alone.

We can’t underestimate the impact others can have on us. Hearing another person explain their challenges can be a turning point. It can clarify how we feel. And more importantly, it can help us realize we are not alone.

We must continue to speak openly about mental health. Don’t stop the conversation.

Keep the chain reaction going.

Green and Yellow Photo Quotes Fall Twitter Post

The Art of Doing Nothing

People say nothing

I just watched a trailer for the new movie, Christopher Robin. Near the end of the video, in that sweet, charming voice, Winnie the Pooh says, “People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day.”

He says it so matter-of-factly, like what’s the big deal? Doing nothing comes naturally to him. Lucky bear.

I love how Pooh gets words and phrases mixed up and how it doesn’t occur to him that everyone else has a different meaning. He’s less complicated. I admire his simplicity.

Ignorance is bliss. If you do not know about something, you do not worry about it.

On the surface, it sounds nice to live that way. But I know I can’t. I strive to learn more about myself and the world around me, and I don’t want to be ignorant about life. There are too many people to meet, places to travel, foods to try, and beaches to explore.

I don’t want to waste time doing nothing.

But wait a minute…

Relaxing, daydreaming, doing nothing at all — is great for stress and anxiety. It’s important for my mental health. And I know I don’t do enough “nothing.”

Maybe this Pooh quote resonated with me because lately my husband and I have been over-the-top busy. Some days it feels like we can’t break free of the whirlwind. Our business is taking much of our time. We’re also renovating part of our backyard. And of course, there are the every day responsibilities that can’t be ignored.

It's okay...Relax

School’s out, and it’s summertime. I love working in my office with the window wide open, feel the warm breeze, and listen to the neighborhood kids laugh as they jump on their trampolines and splash in their pools.

It’s the season to slow down, be a bit lazier, and have a more flexible schedule. Bask in the sun. Read a book outside. Spend hours mesmerized, watching the waves at the beach.

Except I’m too busy to do those things. Maybe later.

No. NOW.

Sometimes it’s hard to carve out time for self care. But it’s a necessity, not merely a luxury.

Despite the hectic days, I must find time to take deep breaths and meditate for even ten minutes. Do some yoga poses. Sit on a lounge chair under an umbrella and read. Admire the bright summer sky and wispy clouds, and daydream. Plant those tomatoes I’ve been meaning to get in the ground since April. Make a yummy salad and eat outside as the sun goes down. Take an evening walk and stop to look up, and stare in awe at the big dipper.

Notice what’s around me. Slow down. Be calm. Be mindful in the present moments.

I promise myself to live more like Winnie the Pooh, at least for a little bit every day.

And do absolutely nothing.

“The art of doing nothing is really something.”

Now if I could only get my brain to believe this.

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Ask the Question. Ask the Direct Question.

(Trigger warning: this post discusses suicide. If you need help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800)273-8255 or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line in the U.S. at 741741)

Image result for images of anthony bourdain

This morning I woke up to the tragic news about chef and travel host, Anthony Bourdain. Death by suicide.

Heartbreaking. And after the shock earlier this week, the suicide death of designer Kate Spade.

My husband and I love to watch Anthony Bourdain’s show on CNN, “Parts Unknown.” He was an amazing storyteller. He traveled to both popular and remote places around the world to get his stories. My favorite episodes were when he visited unknown villages, and I learned about another culture’s cuisine and way of life.

In his interesting, somewhat quirky, and cool way, Anthony would sit with locals and have in-depth conversations over a meal. People opened up to him. He had a special way of delving in to find out how they lived. His show wasn’t just about food. It was about family and life. He seemed full of life, with a yearning to learn more.

But he must’ve been battling demons so strong that he was in total despair.

On the Today show this morning, they interviewed a psychologist, and one of the anchors asked him what people should do if they think their loved one is struggling. The  psychologist stressed how important it is to talk about it, to ask the question.

The interview resonated with me. What the psychologist said is exactly what I tell high school students when I present NAMI’s (National Alliance on Mental Illness) in-school mental health awareness program, “Ending the Silence.”

If you notice the warning signs of suicide in yourself or a friend, or your gut instinct tells you that something isn’t right, something may not be right. Take immediate action. Ask the question. Ask the direct question: Are you thinking of suicide? Are you suicidal?

This may sound too direct and uncomfortable, but the other person might feel relieved that someone else said those words, that someone else opened the conversation. It may be a little easier to talk about it and admit they need help.

Skilled Sailor

Know the Warning Signs (From suicidepreventionlifeline.org)

Some warning signs may help you determine if a loved one is at risk for suicide, especially if the behavior is new, has increased, or seems related to a painful event, loss, or change. If you or someone you know exhibits any of these, seek help by calling the Lifeline (800)273-8255

Warning Signs of Suicide:

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves
  • Looking for a way to kill themselves, like searching online or buying a gun
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or isolating themselves
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Extreme mood swings

Please reach out for help. There is no shame in having a mental illness.

There is hope.

You are NOT alone.

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What Kate Spade’s Death Reminds Me

mental illness doesn't discriminate

(Trigger warning: this post discusses suicide. If you need help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800)273-8255 or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line in the U.S. at 741741)

I’m a huge fan of well-known designer Kate Spade. I’m fortunate that my husband loves to buy me purses for my birthday and Christmas. He does a great job finding just the right one (with a little guidance from our daughters). The last three handbags he gave me? All Kate Spade.

When I heard the news this week that she had died by suicide, I was stunned and saddened. To be perfectly honest, I was shocked. This famous, highly successful, 55-year-old woman seemed to have it all.

But that’s the thing — it doesn’t matter.

Kate Spade’s death illuminated the fact that no amount of wealth, power, fame, or love can declare someone immune from mental illness. ANYONE can be affected.

Image result for images of kate spade

Kate’s husband, Andy Spade, said his wife suffered from anxiety and depression for years, and that she was seeking medical help.

He said, “We were in touch with her the night before and she sounded happy. There was no indication and no warning that she would do this. It was a complete shock. And it clearly wasn’t her. There were personal demons she was battling.”

The depth of sadness, depression, and despair can devastate anyone.

It touched the life of my friend’s brother. It touched the life of a boy my daughter went to school with. It touched the life of a friend of my dad. And it touched Kate Spade. And countless others.

My heart breaks for them and their families.

Now, every day when I reach for my black leather Kate Spade handbag, I don’t see just a pretty purse. I glance at the small, gold logo that reads kate spade New York, with a tiny gold spade above her name, and remember that life is precious.

Her logo also reminds me that:

  • Mental illness can affect anyone.
  • Mental illness is a real medical illness that needs treatment, just like a physical illness does.
  • Stigma is beginning to lessen, but it’s still much too strong.
  • Shame can keep people from reaching out for medical help.
  • You should not be ashamed for having a mental illness.
  • It isn’t anyone’s fault for having a mental illness.
  • It’s important to advocate for mental health awareness.
  • It’s crucial to keep the conversation open.
  • There is hope.
  • You are NOT alone.

Kate Spade left a legacy of her work and designs. I pray for her husband, her 13-year-old daughter, and her family. You also, are not alone. Image result for images of kate spade's quote

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Beauty Within

when he wanted to take her picture,

I saw this quote on a friend’s Instagram post and loved it. It feels amazing when someone we care for brings out the best in us.

That true happiness and pure contentment which brings us joy, radiates outward. The inside beauty shines through in acts of kindness, compassion, and love for each other.

When I know I don’t look so great, in fact, I’m a total mess — my hair frizzy and out of control, no makeup on, my face sweaty and grimy with dirt from working in the garden —  my husband, Alex, will say, “You’re still beautiful to me.”

I might roll my eyes and blurt out, “Oh, yeah, right!” But he always makes me smile. He makes me laugh. And I know that deep down, I am beautiful to him, no matter what.

When our oldest daughter, Mackenzie, was one year old, Alex and I took her to a department store photo studio to get her picture taken. She wore a white, ruffly dress. A small satin bow held wisps of her hair. I took off her patent leather shoes and let her go barefoot. She sat on a platform, covered with a white fur rug. Her chubby feet with little pink toes looked so cute. She was adorable.

But Mackenzie was not impressed. She would NOT smile.

The photographer tried everything. She made funny faces, talked in silly voices, squeaked toys. Nothing worked. Mackenzie was on the verge of tears.

That is, until Alex picked up her favorite stuffed toy, a small Big Bird.  He threw it in the air, saying “Whee!” and caught it. She smiled. He did it again and she giggled. He threw Big Bird high in the air one more time, and Mackenzie let out a hearty laugh. The photographer got some great shots.

Now, every time I glance at that framed photo in the hallway, I smile, as I remember that day and why our little girl had that joyous look on her face.

The love for her daddy started within and beamed outward, for everyone to see.

Image result for quote on beauty is within

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Following My Passion

every accomplishment

Last weekend I tried something new, something that pulled me out of my comfort zone. I was the moderator of an author panel — and it was awesome.

Five months ago, I was asked to take on the role. The panel discussion was to be part of Pasadena Mental Health Day, a community event to raise awareness of mental health. The authors and I would discuss their Young Adult fiction books, all of which have a theme of mental illness.

Even though I didn’t know exactly what a moderator was supposed to do, I immediately said yes. As a writer and mental health advocate, I was intrigued. I’m passionate about speaking out about mental illness, to help lessen the stigma and let people know they are not alone.

At times I second-guessed myself about taking on the position. Can I really do this? Absolutely.

Over the next few months, I read each of the books. I truly loved them all. The characters resonated with me and I was amazed by how realistic the stories were. They dealt with serious mental health topics, which were expertly handled by the writers. While the books’ target audience is teens, I’d consider them crossover, great for the adult reader as well.

Author Panel flyer

I’m excited to share with you these talented authors and their books:

Brandy Colbert: Little and Lion. The main character, Suzette, is also known as Little. Her stepbrother, Lionel, or Lion, has bipolar disorder. This book demonstrates how mental illness affects the entire family. This quote is from Little: “Lionel said as much to me once, how so many of the same people who are quick to empathize with physical disabilities don’t understand why someone with depression can’t just get up and get on with their day like the rest of the world.”

Kerry Kletter: The First Time She Drowned. Cassie is mentally and emotionally abused by her mother. Suicide is also a topic in this book. This quote is from Cassie, after her mom hits her and she slaps her mother back: “Her eyes widened. They were wide with the shock of how big I had gotten. Like in all this time she had been feeding me her rage and despair, depositing it into me like coins into a slot, she had never stopped to consider what might happen to all that hate.”

Lauren Miller: All Things New. Jessa has severe anxiety and panic attacks. She hides it from everyone. After a horrific accident and brain injury, Jessa’s anxiety gets worse. Jessa’s dad told her, “I want you to be free. Free from the panic and worry, free from all that terrible self-doubt I see in your eyes and blame myself for. But you have to want it too, Jessa. You have to decide not to let fear win.” Click here to read my previous post on Lauren.

Marisa Reichardt: Underwater. Morgan witnessed a mass shooting at her high school. She develops PTSD, anxiety, panic attacks, and agoraphobia. She can’t make herself step out of her family’s apartment. Morgan talks about an old friend, Taylor: “She deserves to live every single minute of her life. She deserves to pull it behind her like a kite. I envy that. Why can’t I be happy to be alive instead of afraid of living?”

Peter Pan Quote

The books were amazing to read, that was the easy part in my preparation. But I also had to think about the actual moderator duties. As a speaker for NAMI’s Ending the Silence, I wasn’t too worried about being in front of an audience. But this would be much different.

I delved into learning the responsibilities of a moderator. I searched online and watched YouTube videos of panels. I researched the authors and prepared questions, and hoped and prayed it’d go smoothly.

The authors were incredibly nice and supportive. They’re experienced writers and are very well-spoken. I was the new one, exposed to an unfamiliar world.

We tackled the serious topics of their books, discussed their different writing styles, and they offered words of encouragement to teens who may be struggling with a mental health condition.

Before I knew it, it was time to wrap up the discussion. I did it.

What I learned from this experience was to continue to follow my passion, even if it takes me out of my comfort zone. Keep reaching, keep growing, keep learning.

Because you never know where it might lead.

Even if it's hard, roll with it. Try to learn something new every day. Do your best.  When you end up in a situation that you 'did not sign up for', think of it as an advanced course that your teacher decided you were ready for. Feel honored, dig in and learn learn learn!

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