Sharing My Birthday with Our Nation’s Tragedy

On my 37th birthday, I woke up to the horrific news.

My husband’s assistant called us early. She wanted to make sure we were watching TV. We turned it on and couldn’t believe what we saw. An airplane crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center. WHAT? How is that possible? And then the second plane.

A friend stopped by to pick up my girls and drive them to school. She was bubbly, wondering how my morning was going. Obviously she hadn’t heard.

The rest of the day is a blur, yet crystal clear.

My husband took me out for my birthday lunch. It was hard to eat. The events unfolding made me feel anxious and sick. The last thing I felt was happy.

It didn’t make sense. Our country, under attack by terrorists. I’d never dreamed that was possible.

I spent the afternoon at my friend’s house with our kids. We watched TV in disbelief. She made me a little cake. I felt like I shouldn’t enjoy it.

This is not a day to celebrate.

My husband, daughters, and I went to my parent’s house for dinner. They tried to make it special. None of us felt festive.

I couldn’t shake the eerie feeling I’d had since that morning. Like someone broke into our home, ripped it to shreds, and took everything that mattered. I felt invaded, shocked, terrorized. Of course, on a far greater level.

9/11. For 36 years, my birthday was simply, 9/11. Now those numbers mean so much more.

When I tell people when my birthday is, some give me a look as if to say, Oh no, I”m so sorry. Someone suggested I celebrate my half birthday instead. I couldn’t do that. September 11 is the day I was born, and I can’t change it.

Now I share my special day with everyone, in remembrance of what we lost. But also the strength of who we are.

Every year on my birthday, the first thing I do is reflect on the events of that heart-wrenching day. I think about the people in those airplanes and buildings, and how terrified they must’ve been. And the first responders who sacrificed their lives  with the hope of saving others. I pray for the thousands of beautiful souls who lost their lives, and for their families who still grieve.

9/11 is not only a reminder of how the world changed for millions of people, here and abroad.

It’s also a reminder that our lives can change in an instant. Treasure our loved ones, hold them a little closer. Celebrate them, and celebrate life.

That’s what I’ll be doing today. Spending time with my family, thanking God for this beautiful, amazing, and precious life.

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A New Mindset

A few weeks ago, I watched a vlog by Danny at Dream Big, Dream Often that inspired me. I keep thinking about it and have been trying to incorporate it into my life. So I thought I’d share it here, in case you hadn’t seen it.

The main point is simple: Instead of focusing on what you need to stop doing, focus on what you need to start doing.

Danny said, “We don’t have to focus on quitting anything. Just keep doing enough of the right stuff and the negative will not have room in your life.”

The positive changes will eventually push out the negative behaviors.

It’s important to make a plan and stick to it. Here are some ideas:

Instead of Saying: 

  1. I have to stop eating junk food.
  2. I need to quit watching so much TV.
  3. I should spend less time on social media.
  4. I need to lose weight.
  5. I need to stop wasting money.

Say This, and Make a Positive Change: 

  1. I’ll add more fruits and veggies into my diet. Have blueberries, strawberries, or apples with my yogurt. Eat carrots and hummus at lunch with my sandwich. Make broccoli or grilled zucchini and peppers with my chicken at dinner.
  2. I’m going to read more. Go to the bookstore and browse for a good book or magazine.
  3. I’ll call a friend. Make plans to meet for coffee or lunch.
  4. I’m going to take a walk every day. Can be short or long, just get out and do it. Wear my Fitbit or pedometer to count my steps.
  5. I’ll make my lunch two or three days a week. Make my own iced coffee.

These may or may not apply to you. But the idea remains the same. Add positive  behaviors to replace the negative ones.

Here’s the link to watch Danny’s vlog. Sign up on his YouTube channel for more inspiration!

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What I Never Expected When I Watched the VMAs

Sunday night my husband, daughter, and I tuned in to MTV’s Video Music Awards. It was fun to watch Katy Perry, Pink, Demi Lovato, and Miley Cyrus perform. I love to see what everyone is  wearing and their hair and makeup.

Later in the show, I didn’t expect it to take a serious and emotional turn — advocating for mental health awareness.

I never thought the VMAs would take my breath away.

It started when Kesha spoke. She said, “Whatever you are going through, however dark it may seem, there is an undeniable truth and strength in the fact that you are not alone. We all have struggles, and as long as you never give up on yourself, light will break through the darkness.”

Then she introduced a rapper named Logic. I have to admit, I didn’t know of him, but of course my 22-year-old daughter did. Logic was joined by singers Alessia Cara and Khalid.

The song is titled “1-800-273-8255.” The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

The stage was covered with the phone number. Logic sang his heart-wrenching lyrics with so much intensity, I was in awe. So were many others. Cameras scanned the crowd, and showed people tearing up as they watched and listened.

That wasn’t all.

Dozens of suicide attempt survivors went onstage. They wore t-shirts that had the suicide hotline number on the front. On the back, the shirts read, “YOU ARE NOT ALONE.”

One of the survivors broke down and cried as she heard the powerful lyrics:

I know where you been, where you are, where you goin’

I know you’re the reason I believe in life

What’s the day without a little night?

I’m just tryna shed a little light

It can be hard

It can be so hard

But you gotta live right now

You got everything to give right now

The message of hope and the importance of reaching out for help was heard by millions of people around the world.  Another step toward ending the stigma.

I want you to be alive

You don’t gotta die today

You are not alone

I was inspired by Logic’s speech after his performance:

“I just want to take a moment right now and thank you all so much for giving me a platform to talk about something that mainstream media doesn’t want to talk about,” he said. “Mental health, anxiety, suicide, depression and so much more that I talk about on this album.”

MTV released a statement that said Logic’s passionate performance “helped drive a 50% spike in call volume to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the hours following the show.”

Thank you, Logic. Thank you for speaking out.

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Just a Thought…

The time you enjoyed wasting

I love this message but have to admit I’m conflicted with it too. I feel guilty when I’m not doing anything. But I know that sometimes I need to not be busy. It’s part of self care.

Some days I’m tired, overwhelmed, or just don’t want to look at a computer screen. I know what would make me happy — take a walk, work in the garden, read a book, or just … nothing.

Sitting on the sand watching the waves roll in and out may look like I’m not accomplishing anything at all. But it’s quite the opposite.

I’m clearing my mind and rejuvenating my soul.

7 Ways A Wellness Retreat Just Might Save Your Life

While I sit on my beach towel, I think about how this world is much larger than me. I can’t control everything. Let it go. Problems will be resolved. There’s no need to worry about the small things. Don’t dwell on the past. Daydream. Think big, dare to let my mind wander about endless opportunities and possibilities.

Be still. Take deep breaths. Just be.

Cherish those calm moments. It’s not wasting time.

It’s so much more than that.

Just ran across this as I was scrolling. This could not have come at a better time. Sometimes you might need to remove yourself and take a break.

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Losing a Pet Is Heartbreaking: I’m Heartbroken

Dogs are not our

Twelve years ago, we met our best friend, Buddy. My husband and I drove to the house where he’d lived the first four months of his life. We were standing in the garage, and Buddy came galloping out, like he was saying, “Hi! I’m Buddy, and I’m fun!”

It was love at first sight.

Half an hour later, we were in the car with our high-spirited puppy, his crate, bowls, and toys.

On the way home, my husband drove and I sat in the back with the new addition to our family. He seemed nervous and snuggled right up to me, so close. It was like he knew I’d keep him safe. Our bond was instant.

I pet his head and said, “You’re such a good boy, Buddy. Don’t worry, everything will be okay. I love you.”

Buddy was the perfect dog for our family. His energy and playfulness filled our home with laughter. He was there in the good times, and there to cuddle and console when times were hard.

He was our protector, our walking partner, and our silent listener. He was never angry with us. He was sweet and demanding, stubborn and smart. All he ever gave was pure, unconditional love.

Our daughters, Mackenzie and Talee, were so close to Buddy, they referred to him as their little brother.

Peace from Panic

This past weekend our best friend and constant companion became very ill.

I’m grateful that Mackenzie and Talee both happened to be home. The girls gave Buddy lots of love and attention, like always. They played with him in the pool and took pictures. They saw Buddy’s decline.

We had to do what we’d been dreading for nearly 13 years. We had to say goodbye.

On the way to the vet’s office, I drove and my husband sat in the back with our faithful dog. Buddy snuggled close to my husband, and was calm. It was like he knew.

My husband pet Buddy’s head and said, “You’re such a good boy, Buddy. Don’t worry, everything will be okay. I love you.”

Full circle.

That afternoon, my husband, daughter, and I didn’t want to be in the quiet house. We  went out to do some errands. On the drive home, we took the “back way,” a beautiful, serene road with sprawling ranches on either side. We’ve gone this way hundreds of times.

There was something in the middle of the road. We looked closer and it was a gorgeous, majestic deer. We have never, ever seen a deer on that road. We slowed down and watched this amazing animal prance across the road and gracefully jump to the other side.

We all thought the same thing. It was a sign from Buddy, letting us know he’s okay. He’s happy and healthy again. We shouldn’t worry.

Our home feels so empty.

Every single room has reminders of our little guy. One minute I’ll be fine, and the next I’m tearing up and sobbing. It’s the small things that I want back. He followed me everywhere. The kitchen, the office, the family room, the bathroom.

When Buddy was sleeping and I’d walk into the room, I’d hear his tail thump, wagging because he was glad to see me. He loved walks and was super food-motivated. It made us laugh when he’d hop up on a lounge chair in our backyard, and bask in the sun.

One of his favorite things to do was spend time outside when I was gardening or if someone went swimming. The day he died, I broke down when I walked out to the backyard.

I told Talee that losing Buddy is too painful, and I don’t think I’ll ever want another dog.

She said, “Mom, you don’t mean that. He gave us so many years of joy, and you wouldn’t trade that for anything.”

No, I wouldn’t.

In time, there will be less tears. We have millions of happy memories. But right now the sadness and emptiness is raw.

I know we gave Buddy a wonderful life. But he enriched ours in ways that he’ll never know.

20 Best Inspirational Dog Death Quotes Pinterest Images

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Excited to be Published on NAMI’s National Blog!

I’ve written a post on my volunteer work with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), which is now published on their site. You can see it here: https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/August-2017/Talking-About-Mental-Health-Should-Start-Early

I’m a presenter for NAMI’s in-school presentation for middle and high school students, called Ending the Silence. We discuss the warning signs and symptoms of various mental illnesses, including anxiety, depression, and suicide.

I’m passionate about speaking to the youth. I think if the conversation is opened up with adolescents, it’s a step toward lessening the stigma. I want teens to know they shouldn’t be ashamed to have a mental health condition and that there is help available.

There is hope.

Knowledge

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10 Mantras to Reduce Stress and Anxiety

Serenity

I’ve had “white coat syndrome” since my early 20s. My blood pressure tends to surge at the doctor’s office. I don’t think I feel nervous. But deep inside, I must be. I can’t figure out why. My doctors and nurses are all very kind and easy to talk to.

I get frustrated because I can’t control my blood pressure in a medical setting. This is a concern, especially  because I have hypertension and take medication for it. And it’s well controlled — at least at home.

When I have a doctor appointment, I do my best to relax on the way there. I take deep breaths, listen to music, and tell myself I’ll be fine and not to think about it. But that makes me more nervous and I can literally feel my numbers rising.

Worrying-1

What am I so afraid of? My doctor has never gotten angry because it’s too high. He might look concerned, and we discuss how my numbers are at home. He takes it again at the end of the appointment, and it’s always in the normal range.

I’ve thought of different ways to help calm myself when I’m sitting in the waiting room. These techniques also help control my panic attacks.

The first tip is to use deep breathing and imagery. I imagine myself at the beach. I think about how it feels when grains of sand slide through my fingers. I smell suntan lotion,  taste the salty water, see shades of blues and greens in the ocean, and hear waves crash on the shore.

The second idea is to repeat mantras while I’m deep breathing. I like mantras because they’re short and simple, and encourage me to be positive and mindful.

It feels like I’m breathing in calm and breathing out nervousness.

Here’s what I do. I take a deep breath in and at the same time, say (in my head) the first part of a mantra. Then I exhale slowly and say the second half.

Like this: take a deep breath and think, “Life is”… slowly exhale and think…”good.”

My Favorite Mantras

I see my doctor in a couple of months. Until then, I’m going to practice my breathing and mantra exercises.

I’ve recovered from panic disorder. I’m hopeful that one day I can say I no longer have “white coat syndrome.”

Not to worry. I got this.

Take a deep breath...