Why a Target Ad Made Me Sad

Last night my husband and I were watching TV. A Target commercial came on and I felt myself wanting to tear up. What? It was a really cute back to school ad, with happy kids and parents buying colored pencils, notebooks, and backpacks.

It hit me. I don’t have any more “Back to Schools.” Mackenzie graduated college three years ago and has been living and working in the city. Talee graduated college this past June and works at a “big girl job,” as she calls it.

No more school days.

Even when the girls were in college, and we no longer did the traditional K-12 back to school shopping, I still had a back-to-school-time-of-year. Shopping for their dorms or houses, getting them some clothes and makeup, and maybe a notebook or two.

Mackenzie, Talee, and I have great memories of back to school shopping. The girls have often told me that their favorite part — more than buying new outfits — was going to Target or an office store to get their supplies. There’s something about clean, fresh paper, sharp pencils, clean erasers, and folders that don’t have anything written on them yet.

A fresh start.

Last September when Talee started her senior year of college, I’m surprised I didn’t think about it being my very last back to school year. Not that I would’ve done anything differently, it just didn’t cross my mind. And it’s important to me. One of those things you think will always be there.

This fall Talee will be moving out to be closer to work. It’ll be fun to shop with her for plates, silverware, pots and pans, and towels. I guess that’ll be my version of back to school.

My husband and I will become empty nesters again, and that’s bittersweet. I’m proud to watch my daughters become independent and grow in their careers and adult lives. But I miss their younger days. I miss driving them to school, picking them up, making lunches, and helping with homework.

Those days are gone and that’s sad to me. But I’m thankful I treasured those moments and cherish those memories. A new season is about to start and we have to move on.

A new beginning.

Maybe the next time Mackenzie and Talee are home together, we’ll go to Target or the office store and get some new pens, sticky notes, and journals. They’ll never be too old for that. Neither will I.

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Trending Now… Millennials and Mental Health

“Mom, you wouldn’t believe how many people my age talk about mental health,” my oldest daughter, Mackenzie said. “It’s not a taboo subject anymore. I know a lot of people at work and friends outside of work who see therapists or take medication for anxiety and depression.”

Really? I couldn’t hide my smile. Not that I want them to be dealing with mental illness. But I’m glad they’re not afraid to bring up the subject.

My experience growing up was completely the opposite. I felt alone. My panic attacks  began when I was ten. I kept it a secret. I didn’t want to be thought of as strange or different. I didn’t reach out for medical help until my early 30s.

Mackenzie is 24 years old. She graduated college three years ago and started working at a great company. She loves her job, and is happy living on her own and being financially independent. But she’s struggled the past couple of years with stress and anxiety.

Mental health conditions run in our family. I’ve recovered from panic disorder and agoraphobia. My youngest daughter Talee had panic attacks when she was young and is now panic free. My mom has dealt with severe depression. Doctors say our imbalanced serotonin is hereditary.

Mackenzie was aware of this, and spoke with her doctor about treatment options. She decided to try an antidepressant.

It’s been several months now. The medication has helped her immensely, with little to no side effects. She often says, “I’m so much happier!”

Music to my ears.

Mackenzie knows she’s not alone in trying to manage her anxiety. Many of her peers are stressed too. She says there’s an actual name for it. Quarter-life crisis.

I laughed a little. “You mean like a mid-life crisis, but a quarter-life crisis?”

“Yeah. You can look it up. It’s really a thing.”

How to Survive a Quarter Life Crisis | Christa in New York

Mackenzie’s anxiety may be caused by a chemical imbalance. But coping with generational stressors most likely contributes to it. I asked her why Millennials are so anxious.

“A lot of reasons. Everything is so fast-paced and competitive. Part of it is social media. The sense of immediacy, everything has to happen right away, at the click of a button. There’s pressure to constantly be ‘on.’ To look and sound perfect, and act like you have it all together. But you don’t.”

“What else?”

“A lot of it stems from when we graduated. We worked hard to get a college degree and now we’re in jobs that we’re not sure about. I love mine, but some of my friends are saying, ‘Is this what I really want out of life? Should I be doing something else?'”

She continued, “Then there’s personal relationships. There are dating websites and apps and pressure to find someone. The clock is ticking. But a lot of us aren’t ready to settle down yet.”

Some of these concerns go way back. But past generations didn’t have to navigate the constant deluge of the internet and social media. It can make life better but can also complicate it.

I can’t begin to solve the dilemmas facing Millennials. I’m just glad they’re talking more about mental health.

And that my daughter is happy.

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Jump In!

This morning my husband and I went on a hike in the mountains and it was hot. Too hot to take our 12.5 year old black lab. But we wanted exercise, so off we went. The wild plants on the mountains were dry and crunchy, and I thought how quickly fire could spread.

When we got home, I was so sweaty and could think of only one thing. The pool. In minutes, I put on my bathing suit, grabbed a towel, and glided into the water. Aah. It was perfect.

It was quiet and peaceful. Our dog hadn’t come out yet, begging for me to play ball with him. My husband was inside. I gently swam and floated on a pool noodle. I wanted to stay there all day.

It reminded me of when I was a kid and my friends and I would do just that. We’d stay out for hours. We’d splash, play mermaids or Marco Polo, and rest on the lounge chairs, without a care in the world. We’d go inside only to eat and go to the bathroom.

Then I thought about how much fun it was when our daughters, Mackenzie and Talee, were younger. They’d have friends over and swim all day. I loved to watch them jump on rafts and perfect their cannon balls and dives. They’d do headstands and somersaults in the water, and see how long they could hold their breath.

Oh, to be a kid again.

I thought about those simple joys of childhood as I floated on my back, eyes closed. That’s when my reverie ended.

My husband did a cannon ball and made a huge splash. Our dog came out and barked and barked at Alex, wanting to make sure he was okay.

Then the fun began.

Alex and I swam, kicked, splashed, and played ball with our lab. I tried a headstand but was wobbly and fell right over. I hadn’t done that in probably twenty years. After a few attempts, I could hold my pose for a few seconds, and even straighten my legs and point my toes. Alex tried and actually did a great job.

I told him I wanted to stay in the pool all day. He said, “Why don’t you?” Which was really sweet, but I can’t, there’s always too much to do. My carefree childhood days are behind me.

But that hour of floating in the crystal clear water was heavenly. There’s no reason I can’t do it again tomorrow.

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Shine Bright


I smiled when I saw this quote. I pictured my daughters and their friends playing with glow sticks when they were younger. I’d buy them for the kids to have at parties, in shapes of necklaces and bracelets. It was fun to bend and snap the dull-colored sticks, and watch them magically light up.

But this quote has a much deeper meaning. It reminds me of several of my family members who are in the military. In boot camp, they were broken down before they were built back up. It took years of training to develop them into the brave soldiers that they’ve become.

When I struggled with anxiety and panic attacks, it nearly broke me. I had panic attacks every time I drove, went to the grocery store, or the mall. It got to the point where I worried every time I had to go out. I was afraid of becoming a prisoner in my own home. Thankfully, after twenty years of enduring severe panic symptoms, I finally went to the doctor. I was diagnosed with panic disorder and agoraphobia. I received treatment with medication.

I recovered. 

It’s hard for me to describe how wonderful it felt the first time I drove somewhere, parked, and realized I hadn’t panicked.

I can’t tell you how amazing it was to meander through the aisles at the grocery store, relaxed and calm. To stop and read labels to decide which pasta sauce to buy or which cereal to get. Before, I basically threw food in the cart just to finish quicker.

Panic no longer had it’s heavy grip on me. I was in control. Sure, those familiar anxious thoughts still lurked in the back of my mind. I knew I wasn’t completely cured. But–I was able to go where I wanted, when I wanted, and not be overwhelmed by anxiety.

It was freedom.

My struggles with a mental health condition made me stronger and more compassionate. I know what it’s like to be beaten down by the stigma surrounding mental illness. I didn’t tell anyone about my symptoms for twenty years. I finally reached out for medical help when I couldn’t stand it anymore.

It’s going to take time and effort to end the relentless stigma. Years ago, I didn’t realize the hold it had on me. I’m thankful I made it through and am now able to spread the message of hope.

I want people to know that having a mental illness is no one’s fault. They shouldn’t be ashamed. I know how scary and lonely it is to think you’re alone. I didn’t believe anyone would understand me. Now I know there are millions who do.

Like a glow stick, I was broken. But now I shine.

There is always hope.

Angle The sidelight shining on her face highlights her profile and each strand of hair which creates a lot more detail to the image


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No Words

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*Possible trigger warning*

My heart is heavy and I can’t get something out of my mind.

My daughter Talee called me on her lunch break today. “Mom, remember Jason Burns?” (not his real name)

“Hm. I can’t picture him.”

“Mom, you have to remember him. He’s a year younger than me. He has older twin sisters that are Mackenzie’s age. A couple years ago he tried to kill himself by jumping off a two-story building.”

It felt like my heart dropped. I remembered that, but I still couldn’t place him. His name sounded so familiar. He must be 21 years old.

Talee continued. “He shot himself yesterday. He died.”

Oh my God.

Talee told me Jason was at home when it happened. “His mom was downstairs and heard a gun shot. She ran upstairs and found him.”

After Talee hung up, I was numb. My husband and I were out checking on our business and I was going through the motions but my mind was on Jason and his family.

I kept thinking his last name sounded familiar. Why? I must know them. Think.

Then it hit me.

Jason and his twin sisters went through school with my daughters. The twins were in Mackenzie’s religion class in high school. I could picture them clearly.

And the mom. I knew her. Madelyn. I was in a book club with Madelyn (not her real name) for several years and always thought she was so nice. We lost touch throughout the years.

This hits so close to home.

I can’t imagine the pain Jason’s mother and the entire family is going through. This tragedy is going to change all of their lives. I’m terribly sad for Jason. His young life ended much too soon. I have no idea the depression, despair, and hopelessness that he must have been living with.

I’m praying for Jason, his mom, and family. I don’t know what else to do.

I have no words.

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Just a Thought…


I saw this on Pinterest today and it made me smile. Straight and to the point. If you want something different in your life, take the initiative to make it happen.

Easier said than done. The first steps are the hardest.

Since I had surgery on my foot early March, I’ve had a hard time getting back into exercising on a regular basis. I eat pretty healthy, but I’ve let that slide too. Sometimes it’s so difficult to get motivated. It’s easy to fall into the trap of being lazy.

Last week I finally took control. I weighed myself one morning and promised myself to get back to a consistent healthy lifestyle. I’d like to lose a few pounds, but it really isn’t about that for me. I just want to feel healthier. Stronger, inside and out.

I don’t follow a strict plan, I basically go by this motto: Eat Less, Move More.

I’ve been exercising every day. Sometimes it’s just for fifteen minutes, sometimes over an hour. Every little bit makes a difference. I go for walks and hikes, ride my stationery bike at home, or go on the treadmill. The next step is to get to the gym.

When I exercise, I tend to eat healthier. I love summer fruits, so this time of year is great. My favorite breakfast is Greek yogurt and granola with a ton of strawberries, blueberries and peaches. I’m trying to eat less bread and sweets (I love carbs!) and more veggies. I don’t deprive myself (especially if I want dark chocolate), but I eat in moderation.

I didn’t like where I was, so I took the steps to change.

I’m not a tree.

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Big Changes

Four years ago, my husband and I took our youngest daughter Talee to college. Time has flown. This weekend we’ll watch her graduate.

I clearly remember moving her in to the freshman dorm. Walking up three flights of stairs multiple times on a hot September day, our arms filled with everything she could possibly need: clothes, shoes, school supplies, toiletries, bedding, and decorations to make it homey. She was excited to meet her two roommates. I hoped and prayed they’d have a great year.

It was difficult for me to believe my little girl was going to live away from me for the first time. Talee had severe separation anxiety in preschool. Growing up, she’d been painfully shy. In fourth grade, she had anxiety and so many panic attacks that she missed several weeks of school.

Talee matured into a strong, smart, and confident young woman. She was still nervous about starting college and living on her own, but knew she was ready.

It was bittersweet. I was proud of her and happy she was beginning an amazing adventure. But I didn’t know how I was going to manage without her at home. It was hard enough when our oldest daughter, Mackenzie, moved out. Now both girls would be gone.

On that freshman move-in day, I tried not to dwell on my status as an empty nester. I focused on organizing Talee’s new  space. It seemed an impossible task to fit three girls and all their stuff into a tiny room. Somehow we managed.

By late afternoon it was time for the welcome celebration in the football stadium. Excitement and nervous energy filled the air. Students, anticipating living the college dream. Parents, anticipating life without their children at home.

The band played, the president of the university spoke, and cheerleaders helped rally the crowd.

The speech that impacted me the most was given by Paul Wesselmann, The Ripples Guy, a motivational speaker. I’ll never forget what he said. This isn’t word for word, but it’s the basic idea of what he told us:

Parents, I need you to really listen. Your children are beginning a new adventure, adjusting to life without you close by. They’ll have successes, but there will be missteps along the way. Let them know you love them. Be patient. Be kind.”

And then he said this:

Students, I need you to really listen. Your parents are beginning a new adventure, adjusting to life without you close by. They’ll have successes, but there will be missteps along the way. Let them know you love them. Be patient. Be kind.”

The woman in front of me couldn’t stop crying. I choked back tears. The end of the ceremony came too fast. In a whirlwind, my husband and I gave Talee huge hugs, kisses, and told her she’d do great.

Talee learned a lot about life in the past four years. College was everything she’d hoped it would be — and much, much more. It’s going to be so hard for her to say goodbye.

Huge changes are coming. She was hired at a wonderful company and will be working in the city. She’ll commute from home for at least a few months. Working in the real world (at a “big girl job,” as she calls it), will be challenging for her to get used to. She’ll miss her friends, sorority sisters, classes, and of course, her boyfriend.

It’s going to be an adjustment for my husband and me as well. We’re thrilled she’s moving back home, we love having her and Mackenzie around. But it’ll be different.

Life is changing. I know it’ll all work out. Right now, I’m looking forward to the graduation ceremony this weekend.

Once again, we’ll head into the football stadium where it began. We’ll watch Talee walk in her cap and gown while Pomp and Circumstance plays. We’ll listen to speeches and cheer as the graduates toss their caps high into the air.

When I’m sitting in the stands, I’ll think about how far Talee has come. From a shy little girl with anxiety and panic attacks, to a confident college graduate with a bright future ahead. A shining example of hope.

One season of life is ending. Another is about to begin.

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Paul Wesselmann’s website is here

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