Chasing the Light of the Eclipse

mom and me

My mom passed away 3 days ago. So my thoughts may seem a bit jumbled. I am free flow writing and just capturing some raw emotions. I tried to edit briefly, but it is what it is.

The social norm would suggest that I should be very sad. But instead…a flood of other emotions are the reality. Like Relief. Confusion. Guilt. Mystery. And a yes sadness in recognizing her life has officially ended. Her anchor uprooted. And I have received so many beautiful sentiments and condolences which a greatly appreciate.

But this sadness is an unconventional and confusing sadness. I’ve already lived the sadness of a thousand little deaths all along the way. Sadness that she was not able to be what she wanted to be, what I and my brother needed her to be, what her grandchildren would have hoped her to be, what friends thought she should be.

My mother had schizophrenia, and honestly like 5 other labels that I didn’t bother remembering because in the end it didn’t matter. None of the doctors that used the fancy words were able to help her with any fancy methods on a long term basis anyway. She just had to endure it. A torturous life really in many ways. So many years lived in the shadows of darkness with momentarily lapses of reason and light here and there.

I have often said that living with someone with a severe mental illness is very much like living in the shadow of an eclipse. The person with the greatest need gets all the resources, efforts, support. Everyone else around them live in the dark and their needs are completely overshadowed.

Ironically…she died 1 day before the Super Blood Wolf Moon Eclipse. Upon further investigation – turns out she was born 2 days after a lunar eclipse. There are so many astounding analogies here – when I think about it.

Only those closest to us will even understand those analogies – and honestly – they are so shocking and horrifying I could not in good taste write about them here and now. But all the words in that title – Super. Blood. Wolf. Moon. Eclipse. Actually mean something and represent different, very hard memories in her life timeline. We’ll leave that right there. I have been working on a book that I may one day publish and finish and all those hard details may show up in there. Or they may not. Some things are better left forgotten.

One of the saddest memories was when she realized no one liked her “as is”…that she had to take all kinds of medication for people to even like her. We had the best talk in that moment. In fact, the rarity and authenticity of that moment caught me so off guard all I could do was acknowledge her sentiment and we cried together. What hell it must be to know the world does not accept you as is. It is strange that THAT is one my fondest memories of her. I realize now – it was because I was chasing the light. In that moment, the clouds and darkness opened up and I had a real, honest, brief moment with the authentic her. Something I craved my whole entire life. And it was gone in a flash.

If you are into photography at all, you know what I mean. When I am doing a nature photo shoot and needing direct light to make the subject really pop – it is like a waiting game of chasing the light, waiting for the light. You have to be extremely patient and be ready for that moment when the sun does appear. It especially true when trying to get a great macro shot of a dew drop or icicle. And on those cloudy days…you wait and wait…and wait. And you may only get a few moments of bright light and just when you start shooting like mad – the clouds cover over again. That is a lot like what life was like with mom. A long string of moments in the clouds and a brief glimpse of light. And if you are not ready for that light you may squander it.

This may be the very reason I was drawn to macro photography – the very symbolism of it is pretty amazing. For me – macro photography is all about finding the beauty in the ordinarily overlooked moments. Finding beauty in the chaos. The ordinary. Even the most unsuspecting places of all. People say I have a unique perspective and see the world in a different way. You bet I do. I’ve had to learn that as a survival technique and apparently it found it’s way out through actual photography.

So what I wish I could have said in that moment – I wish I could have been better prepared for that moment of light – was that the medication gave her a chance to be who she really was – not the other way around. She was witty and sometimes downright hysterical. She was very smart. And what some of the meds did was give her a chance to let the real her come out. What I wish I could have said was that the disease is NOT the real her. The darkness that takes over and used her like a puppet was not the real her. Just like any other disease…the failing kidney or heart is not the person…the medication gives the patient a chance to be somewhat normal. Not the other way around. I wish I had been ready for that moment and been able to say that to her.

And this is the take away for anyone reading this – and its huge. This is a hard concept, though it should not be. The actions of someone with mental illness is NOT who that person is. Those are symptoms of the disease! The person is literally being hijacked behind the foreign actions their chemically imbalanced brain is carrying out.

When a person has a seizure or a blood clot or any other terrible thing – we don’t just judge the person on that moment. We don’t just say “What a weirdo – look at them flopping around like a maniac”. I can’t even have a conversation with them. NO WAY, right!! Not in a million years! So don’t judge the mentally ill for moments they are not acting right.

The hard difference is that with mental illness it can come and go so sneakily and without warning that it is easy to confuse the illness with the person. When they are somewhat normal one moment and then hurl debilitating insults at you the very next – it is very hard to understand. And witnessing that as a child – it completely warped my sense of love and trust without me even knowing.
Often time you just don’t know where they end and where the disease begins. And the person can live years being mentally ill and not even know it. And by then they probably burned SO many bridges by being so destructive, belligerent, needy, confusing, infuriating and downright exhausting that you really don’t even care anymore.

I had a 10 year period of life where I had to distance myself from her – in order to survive and get my own head right – so I get it. During that time I had to sort out my own mental illness that I did not even know I was carrying around – this is what I mean by being eclipsed – living in the shadows. I suffered severe depression from years of living in those shadows and not addressing my own needs. Living in complete denial. Knowing something was off, but in comparison to her – I was pretty normal. Living in the darkness of that eclipse almost killed me. So I needed to create some boundaries and distance to even start to heal and be anything positive in the world and for my own kids.
Again – I liken this to an analogy to photography. It is about 9 degrees outside right now and we had an ice storm so I was out there trying to get some shots of the beauty of it. With the windchill it is about 11 below zero and my hands confirmed that. I could only handle having my hands exposed for about 2 minutes or less at time before they started freezing up to the point they couldn’t move. I was so caught up in what I was doing that the at I didn’t even notice my hands freezing up. They were nearly completely locked up by the time I recognized they were on the verge of frostbite.

This is also what it was like with mom. And take note of this as well – when dealing with the severely mentally ill – especially a close family member – you need to be careful of how much you expose yourself to the situation. You need to take cover sometimes. And there is no shame in it. You have to get them the help they need, and you need to get YOU the help you need.

You cannot change the situation. No more than I can change the weather. You cannot fix the person. All you can do is manage how you deal with it, handle it, and how much you expose yourself to it. How you take care of yourself through it as well. If I neglected my freezing hands long enough – there would have been long lasting consequences. Know when to put your hands in your pockets and take shelter.

And when that wind kicked it – it was much like those moments when the disease would take control of her and she would hurl the most debilitating of insults at me. Her words like icy negative 11 degree weather freezing up my heart and soul. Twisting things into something they should not be. Throwing icy daggers into my formative insecure psyche that left enormous holes and scars. I had to take cover. Shelter myself from the situation or I would have surely not survived it.

And then there is the guilt that you experience because you DID take shelter and set up boundaries. You feel guilty for not being there more…not doing more. The could haves, should haves. The beating yourself up. This is a game where there is no winning.

Honestly, it’s is very confusing and very hard to navigate, and if any of you out there have a relative with a serious mental illness (not just mild – I am talking serious) you know exactly what I am talking about. You are probably not on great terms with them yourself. Because they make it hard to love them. And even the moments they are acceptable – it is tempered with caution – as if handling a wild tiger that is giving you a hug. You may enjoy that brief moment immensely, but know that at any moment they could reach out and rip your heart out. And 9 out of 10 times they do.

She had windows of reason, windows of joy and laughter. They were great moments. Belly laughs. Those glimpses of light let you know she was still there. But at any given moment her mood and thoughts would be hijacked without notice. Literally the person you were just laughing with can give you a cold hard look and start yelling at you and belittling you with every fiber she had. Unsettling is an understatement. As a child it was completely life altering. Those were the times when it was hard to separate the disease from the person. Those were the times when, as a younger person, I mistakenly labeled her as a monster. I didn’t know any better.

I remember thinking sometimes that I wished those glimpses of light were not even there. Because it made it even harder to process and separate out. It made it harder to understand what healthy love looks like. What love even is. In fact, I went on and entered into many unhealthy relationships as a young adult as I tried to navigate through that and sort it out – which only added to more heart break. Those very glimpses of her kind and loveable character are what kept me coming back and setting myself up for more abuse. It set a terrible precedent.

My childhood was just a very different childhood. And all the while I was trying to pretend like everything was normal as school. Put on my mask to hide what – at the time I couldn’t even accurately describe or make sense of.
Life with mom – there were the episodes where she would slowly start getting sicker and sicker – which I would come to find out later was when she stopped taking her medications. And at these times she would be completely out of her mind. No rational thoughts. Incoherent ramblings, pacing floors, heavy breathing, erratic movements and nothing she said during these times made sense. These would end in long or short stays in the hospital.

Then there were the extreme times when She would have hallucinations about aliens coming in through electrical sockets, or Russians doing xrays through the floors upstairs – just complete nonsense, but as a child when you are forced to stay in the closet in the dark for hours to be kept safe from the aliens. As a child I kind of new her imagined things were not real, but it was still scary as hell.

And of course there were the very dramatic moments of attempted suicides. Some were overdoses. Others were graphic and too horrific to talk about here. But those are the moments that threw my brother and I – him probably even more so – into complete darkness. Total and complete eclipse.

But the majority of the times were like a death by a thousand tiny papercuts. Like she was there, but not really there. Life behind the clouds…in the fog. Partial eclipse. It was like she couldn’t filter or sort out important events from the mundane. She wasn’t aware or even capable to acknowledge and truly enjoy the special moments happening right in front of her that every mom should have the privilege of enjoying. Specifically I remember putting my wedding dress on for her for the first time – you know that moment you are hoping for – a gasp, an accolade of how beautiful you look. Unfortunately I never got that moment. She never got that moment. She just kept talking about something completely insignificant and barely even looked up. There was never even a break in the clouds. She missed it.

My older brother suffered the worst of it. For reasons I’ll never understand she had it out for him from day one. There was a lack of a bond…a noticeable tension, missed connection, more than an inconvenience, more like a nuisance or toleration. Contempt. What an awful burden to live under. To this day, he is the hardest working person I have ever known. Was it because he was a male? Did she have such contempt for men that it skewed her ability to love her own son? I’ll never know this answer. Those are scars he will bear for a lifetime. That is the dark side.

On the light side – and in lieu of it, or in spite of it – or maybe just because of who he is – he went on to become a great physicist. He overcame such odds and studied like a relentless madman to become one of the best in his field! Developing some of the most sought after lasers on the face of the planet. He tackles issues in an unconventional way. Approaches problems and finds solutions by seeing the problem in a different way than most scientists. In other words…sometimes he goes rogue. He finds a way. Even in the dark. He’s a bad ass.

As for me – she loved me in ways she couldn’t love him. It’s not something I was fully aware of as a child, but it is the clarity of adulthood. But because she did love me, she also couldn’t let go of me – even when she should have. Just because she loved me as best as she could in her own limited way – doesn’t mean she could nurture, provide, protect and guide me. Sadly, she ended up putting me in harm’s way with good but warped intentions. I suffered some unimaginable consequences just from the lack of awareness or ability to assess and protect. I was also the brunt of her episodic anger and sometimes hallucinations. Those are my scars to bear for a lifetime. That is the dark.

But on the flip side – the light side. I see things in unconventional ways as well. Where my brother has used it in science – I use it in art, music and photography. I am just now fully letting myself discover this.

So – light out of the darkness. And light in the light. I am not saying my mom was darkness. To be clear. Her disease was the darkness. And it held her captive for so many years. But now she is free of that! We are free of it!
Her struggle was real. It was a life long one. She endured incredible tragedy as a child herself – and to this day we wonder – did those event trigger her own disease? Or did the disease cause the tragedy and it simply carried on through the genetic bloodline? She witnessed brutal violence against her own mother that ended up taking her mothers life. I won’t go into more detail here either because that is a whole different story.

I am simply writing this mostly for me. Yes. To get it out. To tell a little about the very extreme childhood my brother and I endured. To open the curtains and let in the light on a situation that most everyone would like to keep hidden in the dark. And that doesn’t help anything! To pretend it never happened is actually more damaging than just acknowledging it. My mom’s life was a huge struggle bus! She fought her way through the entire time! She was a true wounded warrior.

So I am writing it for her too! To give some small insight to what hell she lived. The disease was relentless and pursued her always. It was like she was standing at the edge of a wild ocean getting pummeled with wave after wave. She kept getting back up only to get hit again, and again. And anyone standing with her at the time got hit with it again and again too.

I write this out of love. And pain. And the confusing space of where those two emotions meet. It is a very cloudy and dark place.

And I am writing this lastly for anyone else that may have experienced anything like this. With a relative of some kind. You are not alone. And there are more of you than you will believe. Because we all hide it. Pull those curtains, put on that mask. Pretend all is normal. Carry the weight of the world. Smile. “Oh I’m great, how are you?” we reply in hall ways and at water coolers.

I loved my mom. I hated the disease. And I will not be afraid to talk about it, fund it, support it and be the voice for it any longer.

There will be no service for my mother. She moved so frequently, and lived the last years of her life in somewhat seclusion – there is no need for it. So there is nowhere to send flowers or cards or anything. But if anyone reading this is moved and want to do something – you can make donations to one of several places in her memory.

Good Samaritan Behavioral Health in Dayton Ohio
Stoneridge at Woodbury Nursing home, Hampstead NC

And most importantly – if any of you reading this recognize your own need to get some support or help – please do not ever hesitate to do so. Mental illness is on the rise in both adults and children for multiple reasons. And open communication around the topic is increasingly important.

Nationwide Children’s of Columbus Ohio is building the largest behavioral health facility in the nation currently and launched the On Our Sleeves campaign. It is a much needed and bold move which I commend and am very thankful for and also an initiative very worthy of funding.

Start the conversation.

Address it head on.

Open the curtains.

Sweep the dirt from under the carpet.

Step into the light.

Change starts now.

Season of Silence

I used to have so much to say. And now when I sit down to blog it’s like I’m trying to force time with a long forgotten best friend, turned acquaintance – awkward, blank silence and all.

That is why I have blogged so infrequently lately. Sometimes it is self doubt – like I have something to write about, but then I’m like…ah – who really cares? Partly because the people that I think should be most supportive are the least supportive – in fact – sometimes the very opposite of supportive. Which breeds self doubt. Then I lean into that self doubt. And I talk myself right out of saying anything.

Sometimes I hesitate to write because I have offended in the past, so I am apprehensive to write for fear of pissing someone off. Because sometimes it’s not worth that drama. But yet – those same people that have been offended, don’t really support much of anything I do anyway, so why should I care? They sure as hell have not been there for me when I needed them the most.

But mostly – it’s just survival mode of moving in a billion different directions at once. Just not having the frame of mind to write. And when I do – it’s been dedicated to making feeble progress on a book I am trying to get published.

But the problem is I have like 5 books I want to publish and I sit down to write one and the other 4 start gnawing at my brain for attention too. Which one to feed?! Ugh. My writing support group calls that self sabotage. Indeed.

So – in circles I run. Most of my circles are ran around my kiddos. And there’s work. And there is the art business I am trying to build. THAT takes up a lot of time and effort.

So – I have just accepted this season of silence. I know one day I will pick this blog back up, dust it off…perhaps update the name to whatever is appropriate at the time.

Everything serves a purpose. And this blog had a huge importance years ago. It documented my journey from depression (unbeknownst to me at the time), to break down – which I now call break through, on to dealing and healing.

I basically threw up my entire soul throughout the years of this blog. The good, the bad, the ugly, the funny, the heartbreaking. The hard things some people needed to hear, and some people cringed over. Which in the end is fine. I’m not writing for everyone. I write for me. I can’t please everyone. I lived too much of my life trying to do that and damaged myself big time. So just like art – I will create what I like. What I want. If that resonates with anyone else – great. If it offends anyone else – move on.

So, I know I will return to this blog because I miss it. I miss writing for no other reason than to write. And letting the right people find at the right time when they need it. I believe the universe moves like that.

So thanks for being patient with my season of silence. I would much rather be silent and authentic then write for the sake of pleasing someone else or manufacturing forced content.

I’ll be back after my season of silence. I promise.

Force Fields

Force field leaf

So much noise.

That is how I feel about current society and government. So much noise and drama. Sometimes I just need to shut it out. I need a break, or like…I could use a force field to help deflect or absorb some of the chaos.

In the creek today I saw this leaf and the way the water flowed around it because of the rock below it – hit me hard. Whether you are a believe in a Christian God who is often referred to as a the Rock, or cornerstone, or foundation – or if you believe in other Gods – or none at all…there is always a common theme. A grounding point. A rock. A foundation. An Anchor.

Here in this photo, the rock is, well…literally a rock. The rock is causing the water to separate around it causing this beautiful and interesting halo effect. Just so happens this fantastic leaf is pinned to the rock. In this analogy – I am the leaf…or you are the leaf.

What I am trying to say is that if we are grounded, have a fulfilling foundational belief system beneath us – it is easier to let the noise flow right around us and yet not be directly involved or impacted.

Sometimes this may mean creating our own barriers of protection. This could be as simple as not reading EVERY news article on a particularly upsetting topic, turning your phone off for awhile…Or, it could be as hard as creating boundaries for toxic people in your life.

Either way – it is easier to do when you have some “rock”, guiding principles or foundational truths for doing so. Saying you are going to cut toxic people out of your life just because it sounds like a good idea doesn’t last long. It’s about as effective as saying you are going to lose 10 pounds next week. Words and even ideas don’t go far in and of themselves. They need a foundational rock. Without it – you are just a leaf in a creek getting tossed all about any direction in all the noise and turbulence. In fact – you yourself become the noise and turbulence.

However, saying you are going to create boundaries for the toxic people in your life BECAUSE you have a goal in mind, and you don’t have the time or energy to waste on the distractions and the negative effects that toxic people can have in order to reach your goals…THEN you have a chance at being successful. You can create a force field to the chaos because you have a foundational principle – a rock, that helps deflect the chaos so it flows around – not directly onto you.

And you don’t have to be rude about it. In fact, you should not be. You don’t have to destroy relationships…just create protective boundaries. Instead of letting toxic people, or toxic news and media penetrate your psyche and emotional well being – setting boundaries or force fields of protection can help limit the direct impact.

So find a good rock, attach yourself to it, and let physics do it’s work. Let the insanity flow all around you. It’s a beautiful thing. We need more of it. So chins up super heroes. Time to turn on your force fields.

The Moment of Tooth

I once read an article that talked about all the “last moments” that are lost – because we may not even know it is the last. I mean as parents we celebrate all the first moments. First time walking. First words.

But this article talked about the “last” moments, and it hit home like a ton of bricks because the truth is, we rarely even realize when those last moments are happening. As they grow and we celebrate those independent moments – like washing their hair all by themselves. But one day you sit back and mourn that moment passed you by and you didn’t even know it was the last time you would “get” to wash their hair – Ugh! That hurts!

Tonight we pass a milestone that I actually do know and realize will be a last – barring any terrible accident on a volley ball court or play ground. Tonight she slipped her last tooth under her pillow. Last visit from the tooth fairy. Last time she will make me nearly faint as she wiggles it all around before she bravely pulls it out herself. Like – when did she get so brave?!?

This is my baby. I have a teen that passed that moment by so long ago – that I honestly don’t remember her last tooth. See?! She’s on to bigger and better things like learning to man a 3,000 pound road sled and not wreck it. That’s exactly how it happens too. Focusing on the next big milestone after milestone and all those “last moments” can easily scurry right by you unannounced.

I’m not even sure which is worse…knowing something is your last, or letting it slip by you blissfully unaware. Because knowing this is the last tooth….I am sitting here writing this through ridiculous blurry, teary eyes. Geesh. If I realized when each last moment was happening – I would probably be walking around like a blubbering sobby incoherent mess. One big walking Hallmark channel movie mess.

So – here is to final visits from the tooth fairy. Cheers, and Tears.  I know some parents would rejoice at this moment. No more waking up in the middle of the night or worse yet – sliding it under the pillow in the morning after they are already awake because the tooth fairy forgot!! Oh, I can’t tell you how many times I had to pull the old “Oh here it is, you didn’t look hard enough!” act. Cause as they do grow and get older…so do we.

But tonight the tooth fairy did not forget. In fact, she left behind a fat $20 AND…FAIRY GLITTER! Which of course, she will be far more excited about than the money. Because she still adamantly believes in fairies. And so do I – because she keeps them so alive. Naively, I would love to believe there will never be a last day she believes in those.

Of course this makes we think back and wonder what else I have missed recently? What other “lasts” have I missed? I still get to pour the milk when it’s too heavy at least. I’m good for that. I still get to take hot things out of the oven. Ok…I’m still mommy.

Deep breath. Good cry. And carry on. In the end, it’s all just part of it. All we can do is take it all in. Hope we are doing a decent job at it. And learning to hold on as best as we can, as we hit these moments of truth and tooth.




If You Give a Mom a Moment

me and kiddos

Each summer my big girl makes a 5 or 6 week visit to her dad. On top of that, I share custody of my youngest so I get her every other week. So at times when they are both away, I am forced to take…a moment.

I know I am not alone in my situation – there are plenty of other parents that have to experience this. I used to get intensely sad and mope for days and even fall into a depression about it. But I have slowly been able to turn my perspective of void and sadness to joy and happiness.

So, what is the big turn around?

My girls and I really enjoy the If You Give a Mouse a Cookie series. We are always making up our own goofy versions. So here’s a nod to Laura Numeroff, the author, and a feeble attempt at a parody on it to try to explain how things turned around for me.

If You Give a Mom A Moment…

At first she will be sad. Saying good bye is hard. Chances are, she will cry. She will try not to cry in front of her child, but if she does, chances are, she will realize moping around and acting like a victim or martyr, borders on emotional manipulation and only robs everyone of happiness. If she wants her children to be strong, well-adjusted people – she will want to model that.

And if she is modeling healthy role-model behavior, chances are she will eventually find humility – She will have to accept that she alone, is not enough for her children. That her kids need their dad(and step mom if there is one, and many other relatives) in their lives to keep them stable, happy and confident. It takes a village. Really.

Once she is humbled, chances are, she will just want her children to be happy. She will realize that as long as her kids want to spend time with their dad and he wants to spend time with them, it is ALWAYS a positive and wonderful thing. So she will foster that relationship like crazy (regardless of her past and personal history with her ex. Because she will realize it is not all about her).

And chances are, if she sees how happy her kids are, it will change her perspective. She will realize there are much harder things people are dealing with, and that this is a very temporary time apart.

When she realizes this time apart is only temporary, chances are she will spring into action and want to take advantage of the fleeting moment.

She will want to deep clean, and even down-size STUFF!

And since she is cleaning and decluttering, chances are, she will sift through the mountain of randomness that inevitably collects in the open real estate of unused kitchen corners and dispose, dispose, dispose…and file the 3 things she actually needs to keep.

Since she cleaned up all that clutter, chances are she will want to get organized and figure out how to prevent that from happening again.

She will probably spend some time on pinterest searching really cool ways to organize stuff.

And since she is on pinterest, chances are, she will see images of women that appear to have it altogether and are enjoying life.

When she sees images of these women being carefree, she will remember a time when she was carefree.

It might remind her that the only person holding herself back from being carefree right now is her, and she will want to claim some quiet time herself.

She will probably sit still and do nothing for awhile. She will be reminded of a time before children where there was no one constantly bumping her, stepping on her toes (literally), poking her, sitting on her, and interrupting every 5 seconds.

And when she thinks about not being interrupted, chances are, she will want to spend some time with her spouse completing full sentences and thoughts and catching up with the person she fell in love with.

When she spends time with her spouse, she will probably talk about her dreams and hobbies. She will want to work on recording music she has written, work on books that need finished and published, sift through electronic pictures and maybe get some printed out. She might even want to paint, and experiment with new art forms.

Painting will remind her of wine and canvas nights and time with her own friends. Chances are, she will make a few dates with her friends and go out and have a blast, without needing to ensure everyone is safe, comfortable, and properly hydrated (and bug sprayed, or sun screened, or have enough snacks on hand, or needs a hair tie, or has to go potty or…)

And when she spends time with her friends, they will probably end up talking about their children. She will get to vent about life and parenthood, and then brag a little about her kids. Chances are, she will compare notes, and get some great advice.

And when she gets some great advice, it will probably make her reflect on what she is doing well as a mom, what she could do better, and take some time to read up on how to influence instead of nag. How to partner, not be nosy.

And while she is reflecting, chances are, she will probably miss her kiddos. She might even shed a few tears…

But this time they are not tears of pure sadness, but of completeness. And when she realizes how far she has come…chances are, she will want to have a moment.

Re-Defining Moments

reflective drop

Sometimes the moments that turn our world upside down…are the very moments that bring shining clarity.

Defining moments. Do you have one? Or several?

It’s hard to believe that my defining moment was over 5 and a half years ago. Time is a weird thing. Because it seems like these really big moments – moments that change everything, like a birth of a child, or a death of a loved one, a cancer diagnosis – are both like yesterday and a life time ago at the same time.

For me, it was the moment I gave up. I surrendered to my demons. Depression had won. I will spare the terrifying details, but I am incredibly lucky to have survived to tell about it.

I choose to write about this now and then for a few reasons. I don’t want to ever forget it, or take my life for granted. And I promised to find a way to make that terrible negative into an incredible positive…though at the time, I had no idea what that even meant or if it were even possible.

At the time it was termed a break down. But since the years have passed, it has turned into my break THROUGH. Break away. Break loose. Break free. Break ANYTHING but, down.

But no one had a way of knowing that. And it’s not a common thing. Most people that go through something like that don’t bounce back. If anything, they become a repeat statistic and a disabled victim of society.

So people steered clear and waited…holding their breath to see what might become of me. Heck. I was one of those people too. I had no idea if I had what it took to rise above and become a fully functioning person again. For months it was like walking on thin ice for sure.

But to their surprise…and even more to mine…I am kicking some break-through ass over here people! I mean can I get a witness? And this is not a bragging moment about how great I am. This is a bragging moment about how THANKFUL I am! I mean this could have easily gone south and be a very dark story – probably on a grave stone.

So what set me apart from the stats? How did I beat the odds of becoming a revolving door into the psyche ward of what I have termed “catch and release”?

In one simple and easy word…Perspective.

It sounds too damn easy, right? So easy, it’s elusive. A trick. Too good to be true.

But here is the thing. Changing your perspective is not as easy as it sounds. It’s the same reason addicts rarely can break their chains. Chemicals carve deep canyons of darkness into our brains that make it almost impossible to climb out of in order to create new paths, and carve new canyons of light.

Changing your perspective is not as easy as just making a quick rash decision or new year resolution. It requires intense, thoughtful, soul searching reflection. It requires active intention…followed by actual actions. And then repetitive, intentional, thoughtful actions. Then follow up to those actions, and so on. It’s actual work!

Actions reaching toward a defined goal. Just as if you were working out. This is like a work out for your brain, emotions and soul. And instead of a goal of getting your body fit and healthy…your goal is to get brain and emotions fit and healthy. Just like working out – you have to be committed and do it even on the days you don’t feel like it! (And physically working out doesn’t hurt either).

And people…NEVER, EVER, discount the possibility or need to take doctor prescribed medication. It is really, really foolish to think you don’t need it. It’s as foolish as a diabetic refusing their meds. And in time, you may or may not even need them…but if a medical professional recommends it…for God’s sake try it. Depression is a chemical imbalance. Take it from me…Depression cannot be beaten on prayers alone.

I equate medication to a catalyst that flings you towards your goal of getting healthy. No matter how hard I had tried to break free of my dark canyon, I couldn’t jump high enough without that damn medication. As much as I may hate to admit it…it was just the kick in the ass I needed.

Each day I took baby steps. I had no idea what to expect. I just knew I had to keep taking one little step at a time. It required getting out of my comfort zone. Letting go of the past. Cutting off destructive people in my life. And most of all…finding the beauty in the every day life that was all around me. Everything that I took for granted before, was now like a child like wonder.

I didn’t know at the time how pivotal that last point was going to be in my life. I had always been a nature nut, but I didn’t know it was going to change me or save my life.

In my quest to go out and find beauty right where I was, I ended up discovering a whole new world I didn’t know really existed – right under my nose…under my feet…all around.

Rebuilding myself was not easy. It honestly was like being reborn. Maybe that is why it all came together the way it did. I had become child like. As if I were breathing, walking and seeing things – all for the first time.

I started going out and looking at frost up close for the first time – with the stubborn curiosity of a child. And what I found was extraordinary! The sheer detail in one tiny flake of frost is incredibly fascinating and humbling. Then I started studying individual snowflakes. And in the spring it was all about the morning dew drops

on ordinary grass and weeds that transformed the yard into sparkling jewels and reflective drops.

And now…I find it everywhere. Beauty in nearly everything. That has spilled over into many other areas of my life. I am more patient, kind, and forgiving – but far, far from perfect, and I don’t get it right every time. My kids and husband will be the first to tell you, I am still have limits and can lose my mind now and then. And there are still people in my life that present ever growth building potential. : )

The goal has never been perfection anyway! And that should never be your goal for anything either! That only sets you up for failure and giving up.

The goal is just baby steps forward, every day, toward some kind of goal. That’s all I still continue to do now. I just update my goals from time to time to keep me reaching and growing. Even when I take a few steps backwards…I am still so much farther forward than I was almost 6 years ago.

Newsflash…that’s all any successful person is doing anyway! Taking baby steps forward and totally winging it! I was reminded of that when I watched Cast Away this weekend. Great movie, and there is a line in there where he says, “I just had to keep breathing, and keep going. One day at a time”.

Look. There is no road map to any of this. But know you are not alone in any of this as well. Nature Nut stuff may not be your thing, and that is ok. But find something. Find your inner nerd child/kid and run with it like your life depended on it.

Life is short. Life is unfair. Life is hard. All obvious clichés. But life is also full of crazy beauty. Find it.

I share a lot of the beauty I find now with others online. Sometimes people are just as amazed as I was at some of these sights. And that spurs me on to keep going and dig even deeper. It’s not just for myself now, but helping others find the beauty right where they are too.

What started out as one day at a time, one photo at a time, has become a real passion. I am not the best photographer by any means. I don’t go out thinking I’m going to get the greatest shot ever. I just have fun. In my mind, I’m just a kid with a camera on a scavenger hunt. Cause that’s just it – I never know what I might find. And 9 times out of 10 the best picture I get any given day is a shot I had not planned on getting.

Look me up on Instagram @findbeautywhereyouare and if you find some amazing beauty right where you are – #it to #findbeautywhereyouare

It’s my little movement and tribute to jumping out of my dark canyon into a new lighter, sillier path. It would be the best compliment ever and be one more baby step toward making that negative into something positive, and towards something much bigger than me.


Goodnight 13

Tonight I hugged my thirteen year old daughter goodnight. Tomorrow she will turn fourteen.

I found myself not wanting to let go of her. I just kept hugging her and hoping the moment wouldn’t ever have to end. I felt my eyes sting and burn trying to hold back tears, as years of memories flooded before me. Ooops…something in my eye there. Darn dust.

Mauldinfest 9-26-03 004 Mommy hugging riley Riley on merry go round Riley on mommys shoulder

We’ve been through so much together. She and I have made it through so many obstacles and she has always been right there by my side. Mostly because she had to (not much choice at those young ages to just pack up and move out). But also because those hard times have drawn us closer.

I have always carried guilt about her having to endure divorce. And not just once, but twice. One divorce from a good man (her dad) and one divorce from a bad man. Carelessness with the best of intentions.

Through the years of being a single mom, and a remarried mom, she and I have had to learn “new normals” again and again. And through it all…she surprises me with her silliness, good nature, and adaptability. She has always been able to roll with the punches.

But she has also bared the scars. Through the 2nd divorce we both learned how damaging broken promises can be. When someone pretends to be something they are not and everything you thought you knew suddenly becomes a huge lie – it breaks something in your soul.

Trust is hard to rebuild in a life that has been shattered by a million lies.

But somehow we managed to pick up the pieces and make something altogether beautiful. Like a mosaic glass work. Old broken pieces put back together in a new arrangement to reflect a whole new state of mind. Stronger than ever.

Over time, I am slowly letting go of guilt (most days) and learning to move beyond by using the past as lessons of what not to do. She will have to make her own choices obviously, but because of our experiences, we have had the opportunity to talk in length about character and the attributes of a good and bad person from first hand examples.

She has had her share of anger and still carries it. But I am hoping over time, the more I let it go, she will follow as well. We have had to learn the hard way that there are some bad apples out there. Being choosey is really important and to not ignore important warning signs, which applies to not just boys/men but girlfriends too.

When I look into her eyes…most times I see a scatterbrained teenager whose frontal brain lobe and rational thinking has been held hostage by a rapid deployment of rewiring and complex triggers that happens during adolescence. The all too typical teenager blank look or maybe even contempt or disgust…or total silliness to the point of irrational annoyance.

But sometimes I get a glimpse of that little chunky monkey she used to be with curly blond hair and a bright tiny toothed innocent grin that I pushed in swings for hours, chased around playgrounds and yards and spent hours upon hours giggling with and snuggling tight.

And then other times…I get a glimpse of the woman she is yet to be. A poised, spectacularly beautiful young woman with all the potential of the world at her fingertips. A young woman that can ride a horse like a graceful dream, has a soft spot for the elderly and some kind of old soul thing going on just beneath the surface.

Somehow these 3 dimensions of this child/teenager/adult are all wrapped into one amazing package that I consider my gift every day – good, bad or indifferent. That’s what life is I guess. A balance of getting through the tough crap and hanging on to those really great moments. And I am just so thankful to have been blessed with a kid like her to hold hands and get through it all together.

I get a few more years of her under my roof. I try not to take that for granted. Tonight is a bittersweet night. Tonight I say goodnight to 13.


Riley profile Riley sitting