The Week that Felt Like Trying to Run Through Waist-Deep Mud

Nothing horrible happened this week, but my brain felt all murky and jumbled and just not…ok.

Have you ever had those dreams where you had to do something fast–run or get something–and every attempt felt like something like mud or jello was keeping you from doing the thing you needed to at the pace it needed to be done?

That was my week.

It was like trying to run a race through waist-deep mud.

But in my brain.

That probably makes no sense at all.

Thursday I had my monthly therapy appointment. I actually planned to bring up some of the challenges we have had with Charlie at school, but the minute I walked through the door and made a comment about the fall-like weather, my therapist gave me this look that was the definition of side-eye. Then she said right out loud, “you just don’t look like you are doing ‘fine’.”

She was not wrong.

But I couldn’t put my finger on why. Nothing remarkable happened during the week; it was the same as it ever was.

Teaching is exhausting this year for a number of reasons that I can’t really go into here. I can say my students are awesome, but require a LOT of me which means my grading and planning workload gets shifted to doing a lot on my own time for the first time in a few years.

Having two kids in school with all the homework and field trips and just “stuff” to keep track of is a part-time job of it’s own.

Cub scouts and soccer has carved out yet more of our downtime (although now soccer is over so maybe we will get some of that time back).

Cortney is on consistory at church which is awesome, but with two meetings a month plus his weekly bowling league, it means he is in and then back out again often.

We have more things to do at home that we just don’t have time for including winterizing the outside stuff, organizing inside, and the regular house-cleaning stuff.

I have deadlines for grades, conference presentations, articles, and PhD application materials looming.

Parent/Teacher conferences are coming up next week for me, and then the following week for our boys.

We have family photos coming up.

It’s just…a lot to keep track of. A very carefully choreographed balancing act.

I feel like I’m going to trip over my own feet and it’s all going to come crashing down at the same time.

Forget having time for my own self-care. That has come in the form of eating horrible things at night before bed that make me feel gross and bad about myself the next day. The hour between the kids going to bed and me needing to go to bed feels like forced relaxation–a time when I play on my phone or watch TV or read a book, while all the time thinking about all the crap in my school bag that needs to get done and now it’s just another day that I put it off.

I’m going to let someone (other than myself) down soon.

All of this is VERY anxiety-inducing for me.

And I know…I KNOW…if I don’t figure something out fast, I’m going to fall into depression and all those balanced items in my week are going to crash everywhere while I dig myself into a hole. The longer I allow myself to try to run through mud, the harder the fall is at the end.

I KNOW THIS.

And yet…I can’t stop. I can’t find a place to set anything down.

I’m mixing metaphors for goodness sake.

Because I’m running on shitty snacks and caffeine.

I know I’m on a frenzied road to depressionville, but I don’t know what to do about it.

My therapist says to use my support system, but I don’t know how to do that right now. I don’t know how to give any of this away.  My main support–Cortney–is deep into crazy busy at work himself working at his Chromebook from the kids’ bedtime until our own bedtime.

There is no way to stop this crazy train, Ozzy.

Where Were You When…

When I was a kid, I remember asking my parents “where were you when” type questions. “Where were you when JFK got shot?” or  “where were you when MLK was shot or the protesters at Kent University were shot?” My parents didn’t have the best memories so I didn’t get actual stories about it or how they felt. They don’t really enjoy discussing troubling or controversial issues, so there was usually some sort of change of subject.

I’ll be forty in less than six months and I’ve begun realizing two things: 1. I am the age my parents were when I started asking questions like that and 2. I’ve lived through some pretty historical stuff.

The Challenger explosion in 1986 is probably the first I can remember. I was about Eddie’s age. We were not watching it live on TV like so many other students around the country, but I remember talking about it before and what a big deal it was that a teacher was going to space. Third grade was the year we had a student teacher that sparked a fascination with all things space-related, and when that horrific tragedy occurred, it was a big deal. We didn’t really talk about it in school, but I felt the magnitude through my teacher’s and student teacher’s facial expressions and avoidance of the topic.

Later in 6th grade, the Berlin Wall came down. I remember watching it on TV. I was too young to know the history of it, but the celebration and joy and parties they showed on the news did not evade me. I was able to understand that something bad had gone away.

In 7th grade came Dessert Storm. Some of my friends had parents who were suddenly gone, overseas to countries I had never heard of until we started studying them in Social Studies class: Iraq, Kuwait, Iran. I remember a good friend’s dad was in the Reserves and he was called up and had to go. I remember how scared my friend was. To us, wars were in our history books.  Our grandfathers fought those–not our own dads and moms.

In 10th grade I remember getting word that Kurt Cobain had shot himself. It was the first time a pop culture figure’s death affected me. And it was my first time dealing with suicide. Sadly, it would be the first of many: Shannon Hoon, Bradley Nowell, Layne Staley, Chris Cornell, and Chester Bennington would all follow.

The Columbine school shooting happened my junior year of college. I remember sinking to my knees in front of the TV in the house I shared with four other girls. I was weeping before I realized what I was doing. I was in the school of education only a year away from my own student teaching assignment. This was the first of many mass shootings I would consciously witness in my life time. I would watch the US public search for someone to blame: the music kids listen to, drugs, mental illness, parents, but nothing would be done to curb them because apparently our right to “bear arms” is greater than our right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

I was in the middle of teaching a 6th grade Spanish exploration class as a long-term sub when my principal came to the door and told me about the first plane to hit the Twin Towers. She told me not to turn the TV on. I was confused because why would I? By lunch all the teachers were crowded around one small TV in the art room in silence watching those images over and over.

I often wonder what from the present will fall away and what will endure to make it to the history books. What will my own children ask me about? What will right now look like twenty years down the road?

Will they ask “what was it like when Trump was president?” or “Where were you when you heard about xyz?”

What will I tell them?

Feeling Like a Phony

Our new Sunday routine for the fall has me driving separately to church and leaving after the service while the kids go to Children in Worship (our church’s version of Sunday School) and Cortney stays back to count (he’s a deacon) or go visit his grandma and then picking the kids up.

I don’t leave to go take a nap–although today I was very tempted to do just that–I run any errands and then take my Chromebook and any school work or writing deadlines I have and head to our Barnes & Noble cafe section and work for a couple hours.

I’ve been delighted to notice that there is a whole crew of regulars here including the most adorable elderly couple who seems to be arriving after church for some coffee and chit chat. Even the barista must have this as her regular schedule. Today she said, “Oh welcome back. are you going to be one of our new regulars?” I smiled and said, “Probably. I’m more productive here than in a house full of kids.”

As she was ringing up my order I complimented her on the tattoo of a beautiful ship on her arm. She asked why I had “Write.” on my arm. “Are you a writer?” I fumbled. This isn’t the first time I have been asked this since getting that ink on my arm.

“Um, well, I write a lot, and um…I’m actually an 8th grade English teacher. But I’ve been blogging for ten years…and, well…I have been published a couple places and I guess that makes me a writer.”

I winced in my head. I have the word permanently on my arm and I seem so unsure of it when asked.

“What are you writing right now?” She asked me with clear curiosity.

“Um, well, I’ve been working on my statement for my PhD application and I have a chapter in a book I am writing…a book about teaching. I’m writing about teaching a certain book with a grief focus. I’m not sure it will be included, but I want to use it because I need a ten-page writing sample for my application too. So nothing, like, for publication, but yeah.”

OH MY GOSH. I internally rolled my eyes at myself. What is wrong with me?

“That is really awesome! A PhD! Then everyone can call you Doctor! So cool! Good luck!”

I shrunk into myself and hid myself in a corner table. I immediately decided to grade essays because I had NO idea to revise my statement, and I don’t actually know where to start with the book chapter, and WHO DO I THINK I AM?

A total phony, that’s who.

I am in one of those funks where I have this paranoid feeling that I have people snowed; that they think I can write these wonderful things, but in fact I am a terrible writer. I sent a draft to a friend recently and I am surprised–no, SHOCKED–she still thinks I have it in me not just to do this writing thing, but to get a higher degree in English education and teach other people to do this stuff.

I have doubts, is what I’m saying.

Today I do not feel like I can do it.

Today I feel like an impostor.

Today I feel like I have nothing together.

So I’m going to pack it up for today, but I will try again next week. Because I made this commitment and even if I totally blow it, I have to try.

The Village that Loves Us

The toughness of parenting comes in waves, doesn’t it?

When they are tiny, the difficulty lies in anticipating and knowing their needs. They can’t tell us; they can only cry. As parents we try to distinguish the hungry cry from the tired cry from the pain cry.  We fumble and misunderstand. We cry with them when they are colicky and can’t be soothed. We worry even when the doctor assures us they’ll grow out of it and be fine. We lose sleep over the smallest decisions, wondering “did we choose right? Or will this create trauma or damage?”

In this age of technology we ask Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. We ask Google and read blogs and articles–most conflicting each other. We put it out there and read, “ME TOO!” and feel better.

We are not alone with our worries.

And the children grow, and we get comfortable for awhile. For a split second we have a routine.

Then another wave hits.

We are worrying about whether they are eating enough, eating the right things, getting enough sleep, getting too much sleep. Are the tantrums they throw normal or symptomatic of something else? Is their refusal to eat normal or something else? Is their new biting habit normal or something else? How long do we “wait and see” before we should be getting professional help? Seeking tests or evaluations?

We turn online again. We ask those who have been through it.

Sometimes, though, there are things we don’t turn online to investigate because we don’t want to put our worry–our child’s potential struggle–out there for everyone to know about.

We get notes home, phone calls, and complaints about behavior, bad choices, and disrespectful behavior. We cry and wonder where we failed our child. Because it has to be something we did or didn’t do, right? Kids aren’t born making bad choices. We didn’t give quick enough consequences. We didn’t talk about respect enough. Something.

Maybe we even vaguebook about how difficult parenting is.

There are a bazillion parenting books out there. Shoot, I’m sitting in Barnes and Noble right now and before I settled in, I browsed. There is an entire section devoted to parenting. There are definitely universal truths in parenting, but none of those books was written specifically with my child in mind. None are uniquely for how to raise Eddie or Charlie or Alice.

Parenting sites and books and even psychologists can give general advice about how to parents certain behaviors and attitudes, but they can’t tell you what to do when you child acts uniquely like themselves.

So when my Charlie is struggling to find his way as a full-time school kid, I struggle with how to be his best mom. I cry a lot. I feel like I am failing him. And I worry about the labels that can stick to a kid because they adhere quickly and are damn near impossible to peel off.

I know this because of my own job.

My Charlie is a puzzle. He is so unlike me. I love him so furiously, but I don’t understand him more than I do, and I know it hurts both of us.

We had a hard start to this week. I did a load of crying.

But then this text came over my phone: “It’s not your job to solve the puzzle, mama. Just be there and love that darling little puzzle. Give yourself some grace.”

I crumbled. It was the first of many supportive notes of love that our village began to surround us with without even knowing the circumstances.

Family, friends, church family, the teachers at Charlie and Eddie’s school…the love and support began to pour in. And that is when I realized, we are going to be Ok. Charlie is going to be Ok.

Because it is impossible to fail when you have a village that savage loving you and supporting you.

I know my kids don’t have much of an idea yet of how lucky they are to be loved by so many. I hope that we can help them to grow and understand the fortune and wealth of love and support they were born into is a great privilege.

I know I was brought to my knees, humbled by the time people took to let me know my family–my little boy–is loved and to remind me that no one is labeling him as anything but “Charlie Bird”.

There are struggles we can expect as parents: battles over meal time, bed time, and bath time. The inevitable push-and-pull of the teenage years. The sex and drugs and rock n roll talks.

But there are other, more personalized struggles we can’t foresee. Thank God for the people he has placed in our lives to hold us through those times.

Thank God for our village.

The Art of Persuasion

“What do you guys want to watch? You can choose between Zootopia, Moana, Secret Life of Pets, or Trolls.

Eddie: MOM! You always give those four. I want to watch something different!

Charlie: ZOOTOPIA

Eddie: You knew he was going to pick that! I’m not picking from that list.

Charlie: It’s Zootopia then because Alice will pick Zootopia and Eddie votes for nothing, so no matter what mom votes for we win. Zootopia.

Eddie: Maybe not. Alice? What do YOU want to watch?

Alice: TOPIA!

Eddie: UGGGGGGG!!!! I’m going downstairs to watch what I want.

Me: No popcorn then. Only movie watchers get popcorn.

Eddie: UGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG!!! This is not fair!

<20 minutes later>

Eddie: Charlie! Here comes our favorite part! “You’re dead, Fluff Butt!”

Charlie giggles

Alice: “You dead, Fuf Butt!”

Me: (munching popcorn) told ya so.

We all know that sometimes it takes a bit of creative persuasion to get someone in our house to watch what we want to watch. To be honest, I would have been cool with any of the movies I listed above, but I love Zootopia and I know if I throw it in as a choice, Charlie will pick it every time.

But sometimes, rather than give choices, I just start something. You all want to watch a show? You will watch what I put on.

Ok, some shows don’t take a lot of persuasion.

“Who wants to watch some Beat Bugs?”

“MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

But other shows…

Eddie: Hey Bird, ya wanna watch Trollhunters?

Charlie: No.

Eddie: But it’s really good. There are trolls. And they get hunted.

Charlie: No.

Eddie: You would like it.

Charlie: No.

Maybe Eddie needs this…

This works for grown-ups too. For instance, I love Star Wars. A lot. But I haven’t seen Rogue One yet because it’s apparently hard to get out of the house to go to the theater without kids. Cortney, however, is cool with Star Wars, but hasn’t even seen all of the Original Three.

I KNOW!

Thankfully I have this handy dandy guide to help me persuade him:

Just kidding. All I need to say is, “Hey. Ya wanna watch Rogue One after the kids go to bed?” And he’d be like, “Sure. Let me grab a beer.”

The art of persuasion man.

*************

*Disclaimer: This is not a paid post. Netflix supplies the streaming and a device to stream it on; we provide our opinions. Beat Bug merch available at Target. Netflix did send us that too. We love it.

Fall Frenzy

Do you see that? Those red leaves? Last week those were not there. The calendar turned over to September and BOOM the tree-line started to turn.

Tomorrow the kids go back to school. I’ve been back to school for two weeks. Things are going to be the same, but very different this fall. Alice will be going full time to daycare all by herself. For the first time in five years, we only have one kid in daycare!

Charlie has graduated from daycare! He is starting Kindergarten tomorrow, and he is so dang excited! Eddie has always loved school, but starts the year cautiously with some worries. Charlie has no worries at all and cannot wait to start. We have had to count “how many days now?” since early August.

Eddie is starting 3rd grade tomorrow! This means he’s officially an “upper el” kid at their school. He moves to the Upper El” playground and gets to be a reading buddy for a lower el kid. He knows almost everyone in his class, but he is nervous about not knowing his new teacher’s rules or the consequences. He has trouble controlling his socializing, so he worries about whether his new teacher will like him. Spoiler alert: everyone loves Eddie because he is helpful and kind, but sometimes he thinks getting redirected means someone doesn’t like him. We are working on that anxiety.

Eddie is continuing scouts this year as a Bear Scout. Charlie could start as a Lion Scout, but we are not sure if we will start him this year or wait until next year. We are just so busy already as it is because both boys are doing soccer this fall too!

Eddie took last fall off, but he wanted to play again this year. He is a little slow, but he’s got pretty good footwork and I think he could be a good defense player if he practices and tries hard.  He says it’s fun, so we are supporting his efforts and cheering him on.

Eddie is the jogging green shirt in the center of the pic

Charlie is doing soccer for the first time this fall. He is ridiculously excited about it. He is a pretty natural athlete and loves to learn and get better at things. He’s pretty quick and will great on offense. He is willing to go all in and sacrifice his body for the game…which I’m sure will make me nervous more often than not.

Charlie is in the yellow shirt to the left of the pic.

In two weeks all three kids will start Children in Worship (our church’s Sunday School Program) after church. Since Cortney is a deacon and has counting duty this fall, Sunday mornings will be my writing time. This is the first time in a long time that all the kids will be occupied for an hour after church and I’ll get some alone time to work on my PhD application writing. This is giant relief since the weekly schedule of scouts, soccer, and Cortney’s bowling league night had me panicky about when I would actually have time to sit in front a keyboard.

I’m not a huge fan of having something on the calendar every day. It feeds my anxiety and worry that I won’t have enough time for myself which means I will overload on anxiety and then fall into depression.  However, we do have a Game Plan and Plan B’s for when I feel like it’s all too much.

Oh and we took the kids to the zoo as a Fun Family Adventure before all the schoolscoutssoccerbowling madness hits the fan.

And yes, we actually let them choose something from the gift shop. Their minds were blown too. We had a moment of weakness.

Oh and yes, Eddie chose a Snowy Owl because Harry Potter has one. We are reading Harry Potter together. It’s my first time too.

Happy fall.

Reflections on a Summer Almost Gone

I’ve been back to school for a week. Our kids still have one more week, but soccer practices have already started. The calendar says it’s still summer, but as far as our schedules go, it’s fall.

I wasn’t the fun mom or the productive writer or the great house organizer I wanted to be this summer. I didn’t do the things I wanted with my kids, I didn’t meet my self-imposed deadlines, and exactly zero of the organization projects I wanted to do this summer got done.

I keep blaming the fact that my summer break was shorter by two weeks and that I had less kid-free time, but to be honest, I just didn’t manage my time well.

But the kids loved the summer. We made trips to the library, walked to the donut shop, splashed at the splash pad, played at parks. It wasn’t such a scorcher this year, so we were able to go outside almost every day. Cortney expanded the sandbox so all three kids could play in it, and they took advantage.

It wasn’t a super busy summer, and that was Ok.

We did go again with my parents up to Pentwater for a long weekend. It was pretty windy and a bit chilly, so my dad didn’t take his boat along this year, but we had fun anyway.

We went from a Thursday to Sunday, and we packed in a whole lot of sitting around, not sitting around, and yummy snacks.

Grandpa made breakfast every morning and since the Sluiter children could basically eat ONLY breakfast foods for the rest of their lives, they were thrilled with homemade french toast, pancakes, and breakfast meats each morning.

And even though it was cloudy, windy, and sort of chilly, we still went to the beach on Friday because guess what? Kids do not care. They just want to play. So we adults sucked it up, and let the kids play for a few hours.

While Alice and Charlie stuck mostly to the sand, Eddie (who may be part fish) was in that chilly water almost the entire time we were at the beach.

Last year Alice wouldn’t even let her big toe touch the sand. This year she literally rolled in it as if it was the best thing ever to touch her skin. Kids are weird. And awesome.

My mom and I planned the meals/groceries a few weeks in advance, and we kept it pretty simple: grill foods and snacks. Of course my mom brought the fixing’s for s’mores even though the cottage doesn’t have a fire pit. But we had a charcoal grill!

Mmm…s’mores over charcoal!

Of course beach + s’mores = messy toddler, so a sink bath was in order. What cottage experience is complete without a toddler in the sink?

And just because it was cooler than usual, didn’t mean that the grandpa couldn’t take the boys fishing each day. Or that we couldn’t do a little ring toss, badminton, or card games.

Grandpa even helped Eddie with some of his cub scout adventures. They spent a lot of time on the fishing adventure learning types of fish in Michigan, Michigan fishing regulations, and of course catching fish!

They even learned about canoeing since the wind died down on Saturday.

Charlie got a ride in the canoe too!

Sunday was warmer and sunnier, so we hit the beach one last time before heading home. And of course Grandpa and Grandma had to treat us to ice cream!

I love that we have this summer tradition with my parents. It’s so fun to spend time together playing for four days.

Plus it’s a nice way to wrap up summer before I go back to work and the craziness of fall kicks back in. Even though the summer didn’t end up being exactly what I had in my head that it would be, we still had a great time.

And now I have to get back to lesson planning and making seating charts.

 

 

Sneaky, Sneaky

Recently I read some survey results that Netflix did indicating that 71% of moms admit that they “sneak” in Netflix time between all their busy momming duties. Some of the even hide in bathrooms and closets to catch the next episode of the new favorite show.

This statistic really didn’t surprise me at all. Staying home with my kids during the summer definitely makes me feel like hiding–and sometimes I do, but with a book on the deck. And that is usually only in the summer since I’m at work teaching during peek Netflix sneak hours of the school year.

But we do have a Netflix sneaker in our house: Eddie.

He knows there are certain shows that I’m fine with him watching, but that I don’t want his younger siblings watching yet. Anything fighty like Pokemon or Troll Hunters I would rather he watch on his own. So while I’m doing something with Charlie and Alice upstairs, Eddie will suddenly disappear. When I head downstairs to do laundry, I will find him curled up in front of Netflix binge-watching every episode of shows like Buddy Thunderstruck.

StreamTeam

Buddy Thunderstruck is one of those “choose your own adventure” shows like Puss in Book is. Speaking of that boot-wearing cat, there are new episodes of Puss in Boots that Eddie likes to watch too.

While he will sneak away during the day, his prime sneaky watching time is early morning. He tends to wake up around 6:30am, well before his siblings and I get up. This morning, for instance, I found him in a little nest he built himself watching Sing, which was just released on Netflix and which he absolutely couldn’t wait for the rest of us to enjoy with him apparently.

If I did stay home with my kids every day, all year long, I would probably become a Netflix sneaker too, to be honest. I imagine myself making the kids all rest during Alice’s nap and then I would binge on my ipad or something. Those surveyed said doing the sneaking gives them much-needed “me time.” What do you think?

What kind of sneaky sneakerton are you? And what would you watch? I would catch up Orange is the New Black since I haven’t watched any of it since my maternity leave with Alice.

Disclaimer: This is not a paid post. Netflix provides streaming and a device on which to stream. All opinions of shows are those of our family. Some more unfortunate opinions than others.

Three Middle Grade Books Dealing With Loss

I’ve never been drawn to middle grade books. I think by the time middle grade literature actually became good, I was an adult. It took me long enough to realize YA lit was fabulous, and as my friend Trisha says, I seem to not trust people’s opinions and have to experience stuff on my own…slowly.

Over the past year, I read three middle grade books that I really wanted to share. They all deal with loss to a certain degree that is age-appropriate and encourages discussion and critical thinking. Plus they are all beautifully written.

Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D Schmidt

middle grade books

In January, we had Gary D Schmidt visit the junior high where I teach. All 8th and 9th graders read his book Orbiting Jupiter in preparation. Because I knew I would be teaching it, I read it in two sittings the summer before school started.

The story is told from 6th grader Jack’s point of view. His family takes in 8th grader Joseph as a foster kid. Joseph has had a sorted past: he has an abusive father, no mother, and somewhere out there, a daughter. He has been in and out of juvenile detention centers and it seems Jack’s family is his last shot.

Like I said, it’s a quick read, but a powerful one. I sat in our front yard when I was finishing it. As I sat in my bag chair under our front tree, tears streamed down my face as I closed the book. I walked into the house and my husband said, “Aw. Did you finish your book?” I nodded. “Did you come in the house so the neighbor kids playing Pokemon Go wouldn’t see you crying in the front yard?” I nodded again.

Orbiting Jupiter was easily my students’ favorite book of the school year, and they read a lot of book! We read three together as a class and they read a minimum of five more on their own, yet this one came up over and over again as we talked and discussed themes, characters, etc.

The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin

middle grade booksIn November I went to the NCTE and ALAN conferences that were held in Atlanta, and received a TON of free YA and Middle Grade books. After finding The Thing About Jellyfish in my pile and hearing Ali Benjamin speak about writing about loss, I knew this one needed to be on my To Read pile.

My only regret is that I waited until summer to read it rather than reading it during the school year so I could book talk it; it sat untouched on my classroom library shelves all year.

That will change this year!

Told from 7th grader Suzy’s point of view, The Thing About Jellyfish is about the loss of friendship and the death of a classmate. When Suzy finds out her former best friend drowns, she decides to quit talking. She also becomes obsessed with jellyfish. The story is perfect for middle grade readers, but it’s also beautifully written prose that any age can find meaning in, like when Suzy thinks about how things are changing with her best friend:

I think about my hair, about the tangles I battle every morning. I have spent so many hours of my life trying to brush out tangles. But no matter how carefully I try to to pull the individual strands apart, they just get tighter and tighter. They cinch together in all the worst ways, until they are impossible to straighten out. Sometimes there is nothing to be done but to get out a pair of scissors and cut the knot right out.

But how do you cut out a knot that’s formed by people?

Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart

middle grade booksThis one was suggested to me by a student. It’s another one that I received at ALAN and although I hadn’t read it yet, I put it out with my LBGTQ display. It was quickly picked up and loved and recommended to me.

This is a dual narrative book and almost reads like both Lily and Dunkin are writing in a diary of sorts. Lily begins the book. She is a girl who was born with boy parts. She is going into the 8th grade and hoping the bullying and harassment stop this year. She is hoping her parents agree to getting her hormone blockers. She struggles with being Tim at school, but knowing she is really Lily.

Dunkin is the new kid in town. He and his mom moved down to Florida to live with his Grandma (who he calls Bubbie) after something happened with his dad who struggles with bipolar disorder. Dunkin’s real name is Norbert, but he hates that name. Dunkin also struggles with bipolar disorder, but doesn’t want anyone to know about it. He just wants to fit in for once and he thinks he has found the way to do that: by joining the basketball team. The problem is, if he wants to be popular and well-liked, he can’t be seen hanging out with Lily. They both have a secret and are not sure they can trust each other.

All three of these books are quick reads; I think I read each in just two or three days. But they each really stick with you. They all have an element of loss in the form of death, but they also deal with loss of friends and the naive childhood that is enjoyed before the turbulent middle school years.

I’m excited to be able to book talk these right off the bat when we start school in a few weeks.

 

The Recovery Letters

recovery letters

It’s been over seven years since my original postpartum depression diagnosis and over ten years since my general anxiety disorder diagnosis. Since that time, I’ve tried my best to be open and honest about my struggles while celebrating the victories of living with a variety of mood disorders.

I don’t always feel great about the stuff I admit online; in fact, I feel very vulnerable letting people know that I don’t always love being a mom and that there are days that I struggle to find anything joyful. However, I know what it’s like to feel alone.

Flipping through social media is a great way to stay connected, but it can also create a feeling of being left out, being alone. The images people put out there are carefully curated to look like their best life. I totally get that. I am guilty of that too. But I have also always tried to put the not-so-perfect stuff out there; because really, my life is very much not perfect.

I want people to know that they are not alone, but also that things can–and do–get better.

Two years ago I was honored to be included in an anthology of personal essays specifically about Postpartum Mood Disorders. When I first sat in my doctor’s office, I had a really false idea of what PMDs looked like, and it’s always been my goal to put a face on these disorders for others.

This summer I am honored to be included in another collection, this time of letters addressed to all sorts of people who suffer from depression.  One of the editors, James Withey, approached me because he wanted PPD represented.

recovery letters

The result is a collection of letters edited by James and his partner Olivia Sagan called The Recovery Letters: Addressed to People Experiencing Depression. Along with my letter are many, many others that are encouraging and uplifting and filled with hope. The message is loud: you are not alone.

The book will be officially released on Friday, July 21, but you can pre-order on Amazon. If you suffer from depression, this is a fantastic book to have on hand to flip through during your tough times. If you know anyone who suffers, this would make a lovely gift when you know they need a little extra hug.

Suffering from depression makes me vulnerable, but not ashamed. I am honored that I have been offered so many opportunities to put my words to good use to let others know it is a survivable disease.

Other anthologies I have been included in:

Mothering Through the Darkness: Women Open Up About the Postpartum Experience (2015)
My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Losing and Leaving Friends (2014)
Three Minus One: Stories of Parents’ Love and Loss (2014)

*None of the links in this post are affiliate. I gain no monetary compensation for sharing these books with you.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...