This is Eli

A blog about Eli. A blog about survival – and by that, I mean life!

WTFinGRAY

WTF Just Happened? The week in review (a day late).

WTF is happening in the world?

Please do this ASAP do not delay!

Please call your lawmakers ASAP and tell them to oppose the utter shit Graham/Cassidy bill. It does not support people with cystic fibrosis or sick people or the elderly. Sixteen patient and provider groups oppose the bill, including the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

It would institute lifetime caps, which could kill Eli. His latest drugs cost more than $200K/year people! Half of children with CF are on Medicaid. This bill limits Medicaid. And if you think the poor don’t deserve coverage may I suggest launching a search for your humanity? Include search dogs. And flashlights. Because that is cruel as hell. People with illness are often unable to work and have to rely on these programs to stay alive.

Go to CommonCause.org to find your elected officials. Please read the position statement and call for Eli’s sake.

 

Lawd.

I don’t do awards shows.

I did catch some after-tweets. Look at how sweet and classy the kids from Stranger Things were at the Emmy’s!

Amber Tamblyn says no one believes victims. She’s right. (NY Times)

A botched surgery left a barber with erectile dysfuntion. Decades later, he takes his revenge. (The Washington Post)

Who are the Rohingya? (Al Jazeera)

Myanmar’s Rohingya crisis explained(Bloomberg)

Houston church to Jewish lesbian volunteer: ‘You’re fired’ (Newsweek)

More than 80 arrested after protest violence in downtown St. Louis (SL Post Dispatch)

Maria pounds Dominica (CNN)

Live Maria updates (The Guardian)

WTF is happening on this blog?

I wrote about our trip to the Grand Canyon in Grand Canyon, Chasm of Death, Part 1. I sell words to get my family to the Grand Canyon. The Texas Panhandle disappoints us all.

I need to re-do my blog categories. I’m going to make a new one, called Adventure, which is all encompassing for our adventures, big and small. Much how the rich turned ‘summer’ and ‘summering’ into a verb ala “Buffy, where will you summer this year?” “Why, Mah-rtin, in Mah-ta’s Vinyaaayd ofcaaahs.” I have turned adventure or adventuring into our action word for poor people/middle class/livin’-on-the-edge people activities.

WTF are we watching on Netflix

First they killed my Father.

Holy. Motha. Well-told, poingnant and from the eyes of a child, Angelina Jolie’s movie based on the book is gonna bowl ya over.

It’s sad as hell. Be prepared.

To counterbalance, I started watching Portlandia again. At first Portlandia annoyed me. Now I can’t stop laughing. Go fig.

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I started planning our trip to the Grand Canyon with the following Google search:

“How to die at the Grand Canyon.”

Oh. Dear. Me.

There are so many ways to die at the Grand Canyon!

I did not want to die, nor my did I want my family members to die. Thus, I was merely cheating death by finding out how we could all die!

Seven hundred seventy people have died at the Grand Canyon since 1869!

There’s even an incredible interactive map about ways to die at the Grand Canyon. Like you can wear 3D glasses and look at it. And it’s based on a book! Tourists fall off the rim! People are murdered! And a mule even fell on one unlucky soul!

Should I read the book? No I should not.

Thirty six hours and 17 minutes and 3 seconds later I emerged from the interactive map.

Somehow I still wanted to go to the Grand Canyon. With a toddler. Who had a darting problem.

We’ll just have to put Eli on a leash, I thought.

Word spread among the family about where we were headed.

It was February 2016.

We received a letter in the mail from our nephew, Alex.

Alex lives in Milwaukee and along with most of my niece and nephews and family sprinkled all over the Midwest, we don’t get to visit Alex more than once a year, which I feel like shit about, all year long!

Mark opened this delightful little envelope to a hand-written note explaining a real big  problem.

Alex had been flattened by a bulletin board. He’d slipped himself into a paper envelope and hoped to go with us on our upcoming trip to the Grand Canyon. Ya know, like the story, Flat Stanley, which his class happened to be reading.

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I may not be the greatest auntie, one to remember birthdays and attend ball games —  but this, this I could help do.

Look at that dear heartfelt sweet adorable wonderful handwritten note. Alex you are about to get a mothafuggin A+. It. Is. Written.

When I get an idea in my head, such as, but not limited to, “Our family should see the Grand Canyon,” and “Alex is getting a mothafuggin A+,” soon after arrives a glint in my eye. We were going to go see the damn Grand Canyon and Flat Alex was going to rise to the top of his class. So help me God, Flat Alex, you shall beat all the other flat children!

Travel is so first world it’s not even funny. It’s sick, really. Even “budget” travel. Ha. Hahaha. The  ambitious trips we go on come in around $2K. To some, pocket change, but a lot for us. That’s a lot for most Americans. Too much.

I hereby rename travel ‘adventure.’ Because you, poor and/or middle-class person (ie us) can have an adventure at the park rather than going ‘traveling’ and saying irritating things like ‘travel feeds my soul…”   on  Instagram whilst refusing to acknowledge class privilege. You know what feeds my soul? The 40 percent off coupons at Michael’s.

WTF ever tangent, how were we going to pay for this? I’m not going to sit here and pretend that piece was easy to figure out.

There’s an underlying reason I try so hard to get a good adventure in wherever we can stick one. Eli has cystic fibrosis, a life-threatening wild card of a disease. I wanted us to go to the the ocean. Check, by 1.5 he’d been there.

In January 2016 he’d been hospitalized for the third time in three years.

But that was behind us. He was well now. It was time for the Grand Canyon.

Easy peasy not easy I needed to sell something.

My soul? Hmmm…

My body? Nah….

How about some words? Settled.

When Al Jazeera America existed, it paid well for me to go do off-the-radar stories.

I arrived in Duncan, Okla.

“Al Jazeera…America?” a local mulled it over. He asked if I was in the Muslim Brotherhood.

“No, I’m not in the Muslim Brotherhood.”

With that established, the source I met in a neighborhood where the private wells were contaminated by Halliburton, one of the most powerful entities in the state and fuggetabout this little town, drove me around and told me everything I needed to know.

At one point we pulled up to a home that Halliburton bought because it contaminated the groundwater. A security guy rolled up and parked, and this gent I was with floored it in his Jeep. Rapid shifted us on outta there.

“See, see what I mean?” he said.

“Yeah,” I said, thinking the security guard was actually probably just on his phone.

The guy with the Jeep never made the story. But he made the story.

I got out alive in the town that Halliburton owned.

 

I wrote.

In came the check and off we went.

We packed a bunch of stuff into the car, including Flat Alex. He played with Laila and Eli for a while before I slipped him into a side pocket of my messenger bag. No problem, buddy. So far Alex proved himself a quiet and agreeable little chap. Laila and Eli –  needed to take note.

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We loaded up the family truckster and hopped on Interstate 40 in Oklahoma City, heading West. Our destination for the first leg of this Grand Canyon-bound sojourn: Santa Fe, New Mexico.

En route, Mark got a grand idea. Thirty years ago, at age 5, he’d been on a road trip with his parents and three sisters. Outside of Amarillo, Texas, at a Route 66 roadside attraction, the family stopped at so-called Cadillac Ranch, a line of half-buried Caddies in the Texas dirt. We decided to do the same thing.

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Roughly 32 mood swings (none from Alex) , four hours and 260 miles later, we arrived in Amarillo. West of town, there they were, in a pasture, beyond a barbed wire fence, those half-buried Cadillacs jutting up from the earth that Mark remembered. Lots of people had the same idea we did, to get out of the car on this bright and sunny day and check out this tourist trap/art installation.

As we approached, Mark noticed things had changed in 30 years.

He did remember, at 5, seeing the cars. He didn’t remember so many people. Fifty or 75 milled around. There wasn’t spray paint back then either. A lot of people bought spray paint from a little girl and her dad out of the back of a pickup at the entrance. Word on the street was she was saving for a trip to Six Flags.

Man, was it dusty out in that field. The combination of wind, dust and aersosol paint did not make for a pleasant experience.

I immediately freaked out about Eli’s lungs.

We shouldn’t be here, in the dust and the fumes. This was ludicrous.

Who were these yahoos who thought it was an awesome idea to spray aerosol paint in the wind? These idiots next threw their empty spray cans on the ground. WTF?!?!

And guess what Eli wanted to do – Pick up every half empty paint can he could find and see how it worked, of course! When I 86’d that little initiative, he dissed the spray cans for the colored lids, which made convenient shovels with which to mess around with the sticky, red, dusty dirt.

Ughghghghhg.

It was then I discovered Alex had a social conscience:

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Processed with VSCOcam with a5 preset

We snapped a few photos, including one in which I pretended this place was awesome.

Total lie.

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Processed with VSCOcam with a5 preset

 

I worried not only about Eli’s lungs but that dear Alex would fall victim to a Texas panhandle wind gust.

Every time we took Flat Alex out, we so worried for his safety. There were toddler hands. There was wind.

We exited and piled back into the car post haste, vowing never to return.

Hey, Laila – did you like it the Cadillac Ranch?

“No, I didn’t like it.”

Eli-how about you?

“No.”

Right.

Next stop: Santa Fe.

In attempt at vacation cost control, we booked a campsite in the middle of Santa Fe at Los Suenos RV Park & Campground. We don’t have an RV – we have a tent. The Trip Advisor reviews seemed solid and staff were super friendly on the phone.

Texas hills had opened up into scrubby plains-mesa, where we saw antelope crossing signs, but no antelopes, jack rabbits and wild turkeys. We drove through a small dust storm. As we rolled along I-40 and into New Mexico, our elevation hit more than 7000 feet compared to just 1200 feet in Oklahoma, which was once the bottom of an ocean. Rolling

Then a snow storm hit.

Wait, what? Cuz we were camping and I didn’t pack for snow and cold temps?

Like we really didn’t have enough blankets for a snowstorm. What is this the Oregon Trail?

Oh dear God, night was falling.

What were we going to do?

And would we even survive?

 

 

 

 

WTF

It’s Monday, Sept. 11. Just getting caught up? Here is the news you can use:

WTF is happening in the world

Irma. Lord, Irma.

It’s Sept. 11 again. Here’s a column about that grim morning’s first victim more than a decade and a half ago.

WTF is happening on this blog

I’m still writing about my mental health. It is something I’ve been weighing since I started this blog five days after Eli was born, nearly five years ago, because stuff was happening that I did’t understand, to him, to us.

I hate mom blogs. They’re so predatory. Parents with ill children who blog about their children are probably the worst of the worst.

BTW, look at my adorable click bait!

My point is, it felt increasingly gross and insincere writing about our lives and especially my son, when I was experiencing an illness also. One I pretended wasn’t there.

Now that I’ve acknowledged my ongoing mental health battles and upkeep, I find myself in the midst of some kind of creative surge. I’m rolling with it. My heart is open to it.

I’m finding inspo here, there and everywhere, from conversations with friends old and new to rather canned places like my ‘inspiration quote of the day’ setting in Google Allo.

Which I kind of take issue with. Because about 90 percent of the quotes are from men.

But one did speak to me.

“Be the change you want to see in the world.”-Mahatma Gandhi.

I’d heard it before.

But I thought about it in light of my new openness about mental health here.

I’d like to live in a world where people aren’t ashamed of mental illness.

In that world, individuals wouldn’t turn to alcohol and drugs and addiction over admitting mental illness.

There is a wide spectrum of ruin that results because of shame, up to the destruction of families and suicide. The damage addiction inflicts can last generations.

To change that we – this generation – need to start talking about mental health. A lot. Within our own families and to our own friends and in the world at large. The stigma needs to die, and we need to kill it. Stigma, I cut you.

And while I’m on this bender, I’m going to add that I’d like to live in a world where the lives of the sick aren’t turned to ruin by the rigged system that both saves and  destroys them.

We can do better by the sick. They deserve life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, too. Their stories matter. Are real. Are happening. I’m going to try to tell those stories more often.

So there’s that.

I am trying meditation as a way to deal with my new best friend anxiety.

Wow is it hard to find 10 interrupted minutes.

Laila read to Charley the dog, and you couldn’t have punched the smile off of my face.

Eli painted the county lock up. About ten times.

If you are having thoughts of suicide, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 800-273-TALK (8255).

If you have questions about mental illness, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness help line: 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or info@nami.org

The NAMI HelpLine can be reached Monday through Friday, 10 am–6 pm, ET.

This is now

I finished reading “Little House in the Big Woods” to Laila.

“This is now.”

Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote those lovely, simple words. and I thought them to myself today whilst lazing around on the couch with Laila, Eli and Mark, chatting, watching the tele and having a cozy nap.

“This is now…now is now. It can never be a long time ago.”

“MOMMY LOOK!”

“Nice building, Eli! What is it!”

“JAIL!”


“Oh yes, Oklahoma County jail! The orange and black, I see it now! Why…jail?”

“I SEE IT IN THE CAR EVERY DAY MOMMY”

“Painting another one, are you?”

“MOMMY GET THE TAPE!”


“And another one?”

“MOMMY HANG IT UP!”

“Want to paint another building?”

“NO I LIKE JAIL”

I’m trying my hand at meditation.

This is unlike me. I don’t have patience for such woo woo things, things like stopping and breathing.

I began to see a therapist this week. I arrived 20 minutes late.

It stressed me out. Which is the opposite of the point of therapy.

I noted that unlike seven years ago, when I tried a few sessions out for the first time,I did not feel shame walking through the door, which was not in a giant academic hospital satellite, emblazoned with the announcement ‘Depression Center ‘- sheesh why not just put it in neon? – but in a one-room office embedded deep in an 80s office building maze.

I wasn’t sure where to begin my navel gazing, so I sat down on a cushy white love seat embroidered with a white sateen brocade – not my style- and told her about my medication switching that I suspected ran afoul, and caused my panic attack.

Nothing had upset me the day of the panic attack, during which I could not stop crying or seemingly breathe. My son starting at a new school could be ma trigga, I said. He has an illness. Growing up is getting sicker, and even as we focus on the happiness and beauty and joy Eli (and of course buddy Laila ) bring our way, and that living with illness close at hand  snaps into sharp focus, milestones are bittersweet. I told her I burst out sobbing to a school administrator a week or two before the panic attack, airing a fear that other kids would tell him he would die. Would make fun of him if he coughed. If I tried to put him in a hospital mask during the winter which I had at his last school, where no one batted an eyelash, because most kids there were there because they had health needs, often much more serious than Eli’s.

I told her I tried to shove depression and anxiety into a secret closet, where I fed it a pill through a slot each day and otherwise ignored it, even as seven years back it tried to kill me. I told her that shoving it into a dark locked closet wasn’t working out so hot for me. I told her about my heart palpitations amd insomnia and hands gone numb and dizzy spells. I reported that those all went away with Wellbutrin, though my chest has felt occasionally tight heading into Week 4 and I suspected SSRI withdrawl after seven years on Zoloft, the last three at 100 mg a day, had been behind my panic attack.

She told me that was a high dose.

Really? I asked. Because when my doctor doubled it three years ago when I told him my depression symptoms were returning he’d said it was a low dose, that he had patients in it for decades, some of them at 300 mg, which made me think NBD. Until I quit cold turkey, at his advice, while starting Wellbutrin, and experienced what I imagined was like a low-boil speed freak out that lasted a week. Except for those moments when it went high boil.

She took notes and told me she is a solution-oriented type of therapist. I told her good, because I’m a solution-oriented type of girl. She told me three times a day I should find time to take ten deep breaths, and showed me how to do this, from the belly.

I told her this is how we were trained to breathe in choir, but it had been a long time since I had the time to sing. Three times a day? When? Before I get out of bed, that should be No. 1, she told me.  That worked. I’ve been deep breathing before work in my car, after I park and steal time to put on makeup and listen to the radio. I’ve also already been taking deep breaths at night when my children hold me hostage while they go to sleep.

1,2,3, badda bing badda boom.

I told her I have refused to afford myself any intellectual curiosity whatsoever regarding my depression and anxiety, which I pretended not to have, until a few weeks ago, when my husband sent me an email with a single line in the body, a link to a PBS documentary on the depression epidemic, which I watched.

I felt both enlightened and disappointed, because while the documentary illuminated the subject and especially the stigma, those they picked to feature could not have been more damn gloomy, which depressed me. I mean those motherfuckers were gloomy. DoomyMcFugginGloomy.

I told her the next link YouTube suggested was a TedTalk featuring the psychologist and author Andrew Solomon called “Depression, the secret we share.”

I hadn’t heard of him, but his book “The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression,” which he spoke of, sounded fascinating.

I decided to give his book a chance, even though he started the talk with a super depressing and dramatic reading of an Emily Dickinson poem.

He lulled me back with the follow-up point that spoke to me: “Half of art is suffering.”

I’d put it at about 85 percent, Mr. Solomon.

The therapist gave me a few more YouTubes to check out. Another author to try, one specifically who addresses stigma around mental health.

I decided a few weeks ago to give this breathing business she had suggested a try.

Yes, I am already top of your class of one,therapist. Haha!

I downloaded the app Headspace, and tonight completed my first 10-minute unguided breathing.

Thus far, I gathered that while you shouldn’t try to suppress wandering thoughts, you should ‘touch them like a feather to fine crystal,’ which is a visual deserving of all the mockery.

I settled in nevertheless and attempted to deep breathe in my room whilst lying down, my children shrieking outside my door, playing games with dutiful Mark.

A sampling of my wandering thoughts included: Is this app voice Moss from the IT crowd? I love Moss from IT crowd. Seriously is this him? *reenacts IT Crowd Moss-isms in head* Christmas shopping – should I get it underway? Oh, here comes the memory of our trip to The Pioneer Woman’s Mercantile in Pawhuska, considered by Mark a hellscape, but it did allow me to start Christmas shopping in early August. Monarch butterfly eggs- are they in my garden and should I go looking for them with the kids? Does meditation have some overarching point? I’m a whore for goals, so what’s my goal here? Should I stop setting goals. Yes, I probably should. Oh shit, I better focus on my breath.

You get the picture. In between those thoughts, tickled with my feather to fine crystal (or not, but acknowledged), I did think about breath, of my cozy blanket, the screeching children, the cacophonous cicadas, my breath. There may have been microseconds of a fairly clear mind in there. Maybe.

Just breathing is harder than it sounds.

I’m a goal whore. Look how much breathing and nothing else I’ve done!

“Quiet, Mommy, I’m havin’ a day dream,” Laila said to me. I was driving. She wore a back-to-school motorcycle jacket kindly sent our way that had just arrived via UPS.

“I’m dreaming I’m on my motorcycle,” she said. “And I’ve just arrived at Target. I’m going to buy a toy now.”

“OK, sweetie. Dream on! Don’t let me disturb ya!”

It was an evening like any other.

Except we were going to the library. She was going to “read to dogs.”

We arrived and found one dog, named Charley; Charley’s minder, a man with silver hair and kind eyes; and a narrow, glass-walled room full of children.

That made Laila very nervous.

I’d told her we’d be attending “read to dogs,” not “read to a dog in front of an audience crammed into a tiny space.”

My heart sank a little because I’d really wanted her to give it a go, and now I wasn’t so sure she’d go through with it. We headed to the shelves full of ‘learning to read’ books.

“Amelia Bedelia?” I asked. The title made me nostalgic.

She started thumbing through reader after reader, shaking her head.

“No, not this one. No, not that one.”

Laila told me recently she didn’t like second grade, “because it was hard.” That broke my heart. She also told me she’s convinced everyone is staring at her and she’s afraid to ask questions.

I rocketed off a panicked e-mail to the school administrator. She’d fallen woefully behind in Grade 1, per the multi-colored bars and numbers of a standardized test. We arranged for her to see a reading specialist last year named Mrs. G., and under Mrs. G.’s tutelage and M&M rewards, Laila jumped up five reading levels, the bars and numbers informed us. Then the Title I funding ran out, and with it left Mrs. G and her M&Ms. Could we call a meeting? I wrote the administrator. Could we see if she’s falling behind again? Is she asking for help when she needs it? I messaged her teacher a similar panicky note on the app we parents use to tap out our stream of consciousness concerns and questions at literally any hour. Poor teachers.

Her teacher messaged back that Laila was keeping up well with everyone and also doing a good job asking for help.

We’ve had training sessions, Laila and I, working out how she should stop and ask a question if a teacher got too far ahead during instruction.

“You’ve got to speak up for yourself,” I told her. “Don’t worry about what other kids say or do.”

I’m often the idiot in the room asking the most obvious question. It’s taken my entire life to get used to it. To be brave enough to admit, time and time again – nope, I don’t get it. Why don’t you back up and explain that one more time.

“There is nothing wrong in asking for help. Don’t be afraid to ask for help,” I’ve told Laila again and again.

Do as I say, not as I do, I thought as I let that last piece of advice air, which was totally something my mother would have said. I’m comfortable demanding explanations I’m piss poor at asking for actual aid.

Laila thumbed through a good ten readers.  Indeed. Stalling. I picked the easiest level reader for her, because we had never done this before, so I didn’t want to make it too hard.

I wondered – is she struggling to read, or is she struggling to try knowing that she could mess it up at any moment, because she’s not great at it yet. So does she have a reading problem or a self-confidence problem? Or maybe she has both problems.

Either way I’m obviously responsible! I’m a parenting failure!

Not true, asshole who lives in my head, but it’s easy to go down that road.

Another easy road to travel is called: What are we doing wrong here?

Ha, don’t answer that.

I’m a journalist. Mark is an English teacher. Why can’t our daughter read well yet? BTW I was writing full sentences in kindergarten. OK, the same two sentences, over and over again. My mom kept my kindergarten journal. In it I wrote: “Is the TV on? Yes the TV is on,” roughly 45.8 times. I totally busted my mom.

The TV was so on!

Obvis I was watching Care Bears. Did parents freak out like this in the 80s? I’d actually like to know. As I recall, when the TV was off, my mother just sent us loose to run about the neighborhood while she went about her business. Sure, sometimes there were tasks to attend to, such as, but not limited to, piling us into the back of a station wagon, where we didn’t wear seatbelts or sit in car seats, and driving to the salon, where I received my quarterly bowl cut. It’s a look I like to call ‘The long bowl of ’84.’ And maybe on the way back home she’d crack a window and spark a cig, because, 1984.

I’m not looking for advice about Laila. Unless I ask for it.  Which I’m not. Unless someone can put me in touch with my now-deceased mother. I read to Laila every day. We practiced the sight word notecards all summer. I’m not getting her evaluated by the experts. She’s friggin’ 7.  The only thing I’m considering is getting her eyes checked, as children sometimes have trouble tracking words on the page due to vision problems that aren’t always super obvious, like weak eye muscles. Even though her teacher thinks she’s doing OK, I may call a meeting and see what’s what and how we can help without going Tiger mom on anyone’s ass.

Right. Back to the library.

The book Laila picked for reading to the dog called Charley was about Fancy Nancy’s sister, JoJo, who was just trying to do some magic tricks with different combination of sticks, towels and magic sayings, to the horror of her sister, Fancy Nancy, who was being a total hater. I never liked that Fancy Nancy anyway, JoJo!

We went through the book, Laila and I, in a corner of the library. I read a line, she read the same line. Then she practiced it on her own. But words like “Bippity Boppity,” “Magic,” etc. tripped her up.

As did the thought about reading to this dog Charley in front of a bunch of kids.

Laila hushed me if I dared speak in anything other than a conspiratorial whisper.

“I should have brought ‘Holiday Helper,'” she whispered, her s’s hissing through her adorably absent front teeth.

“Oh dear Lord Laila. You memorized that book. That wouldn’t be fair. Charley’s not going to care if you have to stop and sound out a word or ask for help.”

“ssssSHHHH MOMMY ssssSHHHHHH.”

We pitter pattered over to the little room where Charley sat by his kind-eyed minder who sat in a rocking chair.

Most of the kids had cleared out.

THANKFULLY.

The remaining  audience of three sat on a padded bench across from Charley and his minder, including a woman by herself with a ‘library regular’ vibe,  a grandmotherly type and girl who looked 9. I sat on the floor. A confident and husky child of about 10 finished up her tale and hopped along to her mother, satisfied.

It was Laila’s turn, said the man in the rocking chair.

She walked, sat down next to Charley, crossed her ankles and cracked open her reader.

I could tell she was nervous. That made me nervous. Her voice was tiny.

But as she started to read, I beamed.

When the first word stumped her, she looked up at me.

I told her it was OK to ask the man, so she did.

Here and there she had to stop and ask him to help her with a word.

And every time she got through a sentence all right, the dear man said something affirmative, like “Excellent.”

She cast a few smiles at the dog, Charley.

Her voice grew louder.

She got through the whole book.

We all clapped. Charley panted. She hopped off the bench and smiled. I gave Laila a hug.

“I want to do that again, mommy. But I was nervous! Did you take photo and video??”

“Well, just a picture,” I said. “I just wanted to watch you, just me.”

We went to check out her reader, and another one. A level up.

And I thought as we walked out the library doors and to the playground that I should aspire to be more like Charley.

Calm and quiet and satisfied, listening to the voice of a child who is learning to read.


 

 

 

Energy, it’s been awhile. I’d toootally forgotten what you look like.

I’ve finally adjusted to Wellbutrin after an initial 14 days of extreme ups and downs.

The vain me is relieved that a non-weight gaining stimulant appears to jive with my brain chemistry.

I’m way less hungry, which is different, because one of my nicknames is Snacks.

I usually gain five pounds after even looking at a damn piece of chocolate cake. Thus, I’ve been a serial MyFitnessPal user for years. I quit during my mini-meltdown /med transition phase these last few weeks. Now I’m back at it and get this – making sure I eat enough. WHO AM I?

I weaned totally off of the 25 mg of Zoloft I’d been taking to kill the Wellbutrin edge. The obnoxious SSRI withdrawl brain zaps are much less extreme and infrequent, almost gone. I’m not taking BuSpar, the anti -nxiety drug my doctor gave me, either, because the tight feeling I had in my chest disappeared. Since I have a new friend called energy, I began my exercise regimen this week after almost a month of not doing jack squat. I even, like, baked. I baked muffins for my kids. Then I baked a frittata. WHO AM I?

It’s alarming how good I feel. Not manic or invincible. Not robotic or snappish. I am calm and yet still able to feel a range of feels without any one getting out of hand. Yes, I felt annoyed at my children for moving like slugs when we were already late for school this morning. I deposited them, hussled a scoop, pulled an assist and scribbled a ‘splainer online on account of a disaster that is pulling resources from this region of the land and thus increasing the workload of those who write about what’s going on. And I felt glad to do it, because it’s nice to be even a little useful in the middle of a national disaster.  I felt gratitude that a friend gave Laila school dresses and that we got to chat for a few moments after school. I felt sad a few moments ago when I did a little meditative breathing exercise with Eli, who told me it feels bad for him to breathe. We kept breathing. He held my hand here in the dark. And he drifted off to sleep.  I felt so happy that I am his mommy, and with Mark and a very capable team of doctors who care for him, we will together get to the bottom of what hurts his lungs, and help him feel better. It is an honor, little one, to care for you.

And after I plunk these words out on my mobile whilst lying in the dark next to Eli, I’ll have to go pack some lunches, and de-gross the kitchen. A few weeks I’d have given up and gone to sleep, because a few weeks ago I was so tired I could hardly function. By evening? Fughettaboutit. Done. My body sent me some alarming signals and I finally listened. I decided to start tending to my mind in the way I tend to the needs of others. I don’t feel crushed by life today. Tired? Check. But I am also invigorated by the prospect of tomorrow.


Good night.

It is the worst storm Texas has seen in 50 years. So many hugs, Texas neighbor! I have friends in Houston who I know are Texas tough, like this guy:
otisthedogtexastough

I compiled a listing of ways to help after Hurricane Harvey for my news organization. I’m going to share it here, too. In the mean time, I’m going to check in with the local Cystic Fibrosis Foundation chapters to see if there are any Houston-area CF families in need!

Here are a few ways you can help:

Oklahoma organizations providing relief for Hurricane Harvey victims

Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief is accepting donations 

Texas organizations providing Harvey relief

General aid

Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, an initiative of Houston’s mayor being administered by the Greater Houston Community Foundation, is accepting donations. 

United Way of Greater Houston

To give to the United Way Flood Relief Fund, visit unitedwayhouston.org/flood or text UWFLOOD to 41444.

Food

Houston Food Bank

Galveston Food Bank

Food Bank of the Golden Crescent

Food Bank of Corpus Christi

Southeast Texas Food Bank

Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley

Brazos Valley Food Bank

Central Texas Food Bank

San Antonio Food Bank

Help for people with disabilities

Portlight Strategies helps those with disabilities find disaster relief and reports that its hotline has been overwhelmed.

The Texas Diaper Bank is accepting donations for incontinence supplies at its website.

Help for Texas pets

The Humane Society of the United States is accepting disaster relief donations. It also lists local shelters in need, like the Houston Humane Society.

The San Antonio Humane Society has created a disaster relief fund called Harvey’s Heroes for pets. The fund aims to offset expenses to help shelter pet evacuees and strays affected by Hurricane Harvey. 

Help for babies and children

The Texas Diaper Bank is accepting donations for diapers at this website.

National organizations providing relief

General aid

American Red Cross

To donate by phone or to get assistance with your donation, please contact us at 1-800-HELP NOW (1-800-435-7669).

 You can also text HARVEY to 90999 to donate $10.

To donate by check or to a specific cause, please download an online donation form, print and send with a check to:

American Red Cross 
PO Box 37839
Boone, IA 50037-0839

Catholic Relief Service

Church World Service

Direct Relief & Direct Relief Foundation

Episcopal Relief & Development

United Methodist Committee on Relief

Operation USA

Save the Children

Team Rubicon, military veterans helping in crisis.

World Vision

Food

Feeding America

Shelter

Habitat for Humanity International (National Office)

Be wary as hell about scammers

The national organizations on this list were vetted by CharityWatch.org, which reminds potential donors:

DONORS BEWARE
As with any charitable contribution, Americans wanting to help with disaster relief efforts should only give to legitimate charities with an established track record of helping people in need.

People need to be on guard concerning the surge of solicitations related to any highly publicized crisis. There will be fraudulent charity solicitations, some involving websites and email links attempting to steal your credit card information for identity theft or insert malware on your computer.

Social media will include many fake victims. Do not donate to unknown individuals that purport to need aid that post on Facebook, GoFundMe, Generosity by Indiegogo, etc. These may be fraudsters, and even if they are legitimate victims, they may receive an unfairly large amount of aid.

SEND A CHECK, NOT GOODS
The best way to help is by sending a check. Cash donations enable charities to buy the most needed types of food, medicine, clothing, shelter materials and other supplies. By buying relief products locally or regionally, charities can reduce shipping costs and more rapidly deliver assistance. Before sending any goods, first contact the charity to find out if they are appropriate and if it will be cost effective to distribute them. For example, after a tsunami in the Pacific, boxes of donated winter coats, scarves and fuzzy hats, completely useless items in tsunami-stricken nations with tropical climates, were sent to these nations.

CharityWatch identifies the following charities, which are providing relief to Hurricane Harvey victims, that receive an “A” or “B+” grade based on the portion of their budget going to program services and their fundraising efficiency. Contact the organizations below for information on specific relief operations now underway.

Laila has been begging me to make her a YouTube video for months now.

I finally did! We made Perler bead crafts. Why are those things so incredibly satisfying to fuse together? Now that we’ve started..we can’t stop.

Just a wee ulterior motive here: I’d like to try to practice reading and writing on cue cards..just one or two. My hope is to secretly help build her confidence in her abilities, and her own voice.

I love doin’ special little things with her here and there. Like, in mid-July, we went camping. To a folk festival. In the middle of a pasture. Did I mention mid-July? Oklahoma mid-July?

She’s so much fun. She is toothless, silly magic. And she is the only one in the household who can tell me which shoe looks better with which outfit.

Lailai you are one of a kind!

WTF

It’s Monday, Aug. 28. Just getting caught up? Here is the news you can use:

WTF is happening in the world

I went into hibernation mode this weekend. I missed a lot, like:

Hurricane Harvey unleashes on Houston

Catastrophic flooding is expected through Wednesday

Surreal drone footage

When disaster strikes, con artists move in

Don’t get scammed in the wake of this disaster. (Consumerist)

Tons of people are helping in Houston, including lots of Oklahomans, who are kinda good at disaster response

People are crying out for help on social media

A reporter stopped reporting to help save a man

WTF is happening on this blog

I started writing about my own mental health.

Here is my mental manifesto.
I landed in the ER with a panic attack.

BTW switching meds is no joke.

I’m feeling much better after two weeks on Wellbutrin that followed six years on Zoloft and a whole lot of running.

I’m nobody’s guru, but I’m going to keep writing about my own experiences.

I have heard from lots of readers who have had similar experiences. A few said they felt a lot more ‘normal’ now that I owned up to my depression and anxiety history!

And I say – let’s keep making mental health conversations normal. Let’s defeat the stigma.

It’s literally killing us.

If you are hyaving thoughts of suicide, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 800-273-TALK (8255).

If you have questions about mental illness, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness help line: 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or info@nami.org

The NAMI HelpLine can be reached Monday through Friday, 10 am–6 pm, ET.

Watching

Old Boy on Netflix. Woooooah.
oldboy

I’ve been working hard to avoid ‘Game of Thrones’ spoilers. They are. Literally. Everywhere. I’ve watched the first ep of the new season. It’s tough as I watch this one solo. Mark is not a fan!

Reading

agoodlaugh

Laila started a book club! We are half way through ‘Little House in the Big Woods’ with only a few days left to finish by our Sept. 1 deadline! aieee!

All was well, I was pumping out Little House memes, right up until the point Pa sang a racist song. WTF? Didn’t remember that from childhood.

I sent an SOS to the private FB group and got some good feedback. I’ll write later this week about how our club is handling old, offensive terms!

My lovely friend dropped off a copy of ‘The Glass Castle’ by Jeanette Walls! I’m re-reading it as my book club got ambitious and selected two titles!

App-ing

Last week I had to take a moment and get my mental health in order. I got so many positive notes, calls, messages, texts and reassurances that I am not alone. It really shored up my battered heart. Thanks, everyone.

One of my other lovely wonderful friends suggested the guided meditation app Headspace.
(For iPhone and Android)

headspace

Thus far I truly enjoy it, having tried out the three and six minute meditations. The pleasant British voice is a bonus. I was immediately suckered into the subscription service.

I’d Googled guided meditations but the YouTube meditation voices are too much. LIKE TOO MUCH. Like Laila and I couldn’t stop laughing at one and that was not super meditative.

I used to think meditation was just a buncha woo woo, but finding even a few minutes to breathe and take stock of my thoughts and feelings has become a vital part of my existence.

I don’t remember when I started meditation, but it was some point around the time my children began holding me hostage at bedtime until they fell asleep.

That’s when I breathe in and breathe out, and focus on my breath.

It also helped me view the hostage-taking as benefit, not an annoyance. I’m a sucker for bonus cuddles.

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