Welcome to Fall!

fall

Get those fall decorations out! It’s that time of year again.

It’s time to slow down a little bit. I know there are still sports, school activities, and other commitments but, for some reason, the fact that it’s now fall just makes me take a deep breath and feel like I can slow down. Summer always makes me feel like I have to do as much as possible to take advantage of the season (can you tell I live in the Midwest?). Fall brings a sense of calmness with it.

Fall just makes me stop, take a deep breath, and embrace the end of summer. We have to enjoy this time before the onslaught of winter takes hold. These next couple of months are glorious! There are no expectations, just the simple enjoyment of weather, beautiful colors, fall sweaters and boots to wear, and fun activities like apple-picking. I can even turn my oven back on and start baking all things pumpkin!

Whatever you choose to do with these next couple of months, enjoy!

Happy First Day of Fall!

National Suicide Prevention Week

national_suicide_lifeline

It seems as if it was just a couple of months ago that I wrote an article about this; it’s been a year. It made me think about how much has changed over the past year…and how much hasn’t. In fact, I woke up early this morning and, for some reason, started thinking about a loss that I experienced several years ago now. I don’t know why; it wasn’t an anniversary or birthday or any of the normal things that would bring this up. Of course it made me sad thinking about it but, as I was thinking about everything, I also realized that it did more than that. It changed me. It changed who I was when it happened. I’m no longer the person that I used to be prior to my loss. I experienced such strong emotions and feelings that it really threw me for a long time. I honestly think it changed me as a person. I’m a bit more heavy-hearted than I used to be. I am a bit more hesitant in allowing my heart and emotions to be dealt another blow. At the time it happened,  I thought about it, agonized over it, cried about it, got angry about it. I did all the things that grieving people should do, but it certainly didn’t feel normal to me and I didn’t go back to the person that I used to be. And that’s the point.

Each one of us is unique and we each have our own minds and emotions. No two are alike so we really cannot understand what someone else is going through. We also change, so we need to adapt. Sometimes life is just too hard to manage on our own. Sometimes we need help. This is absolutely no different than needing help getting around when you have a broken leg. We have a problem and we need help. It’s really as simple as that.

All of us experience highs and lows. All of us have good things happen and bad things happen to us. It’s life and we have to deal with it. We need to each deal with it the right way FOR US. That’s the thing; there is no right and no wrong in treating illness. Everybody has to learn what works best for them in order to live their best life. It’s not fair for any one of us to judge anybody else by what they do to survive. We are not in their shoes; we do not know what’s going on in their life. What we can do, however, is encourage each other to be the best person that they are capable of being and to support each other in that goal.

This isn’t a technical article with statistics and facts and figures. There are (thankfully) plenty of sites to find that information and I will provide a few of them below. Suffice it to say there are a LOT of us that suffer from some type of mental health issue. It can be an independent diagnosis, it can be due to another illness, it can be temporary or long-term, and it can be mild, severe or anywhere in-between! Like any other illness, there are treatments designed to fit your specific circumstances.

Things can become overwhelming. Sometimes we need help to get us through. The most important things that we can do for each other are to learn about it, talk about it, and be there for each other. Awareness is key. Knowing the risk factors and being able to recognize them could help prevent the more than 40,000 deaths every year by suicide. Sometimes we’re capable of asking for or seeking the help that we need. Sometimes we’re not and we need somebody to do it for us. Be that person.

Learn to recognize these signs or symptoms:  (from National Institute of Mental Health)

  • Talking about wanting to die or wanting to kill themselves
  • Talking about feeling empty, hopeless, or having no reason to live
  • Making a plan or looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online, stockpiling pills, or buying a gun
  • Talking about great guilt or shame
  • Talking about feeling trapped or feeling that there are no solutions
  • Feeling unbearable pain (emotional pain or physical pain)
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Using alcohol or drugs more often
  • Acting anxious or agitated
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Changing eating and/or sleeping habits
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Taking great risks that could lead to death, such as driving extremely fast
  • Talking or thinking about death often
  • Displaying extreme mood swings, suddenly changing from very sad to very calm or happy
  • Giving away important possessions
  • Saying goodbye to friends and family
  • Putting affairs in order, making a will
What can you do to help someone at risk?
  1. Ask:“Are you thinking about killing yourself?” It’s not an easy question but studies show that asking at-risk individuals  if they are suicidal does not increase suicides or suicidal thoughts.
  2. Keep them safe: Reducing a suicidal person’s access to highly lethal items or places is an important part of suicide prevention. While this is not always easy, asking if the at-risk person has a plan and removing or disabling the lethal means can make a difference.
  3. Be there:Listen carefully and learn what the individual is thinking and feeling. Findings suggest acknowledging and talking about suicide may in fact reduce rather than increase  suicidal thoughts.
  4. Help them connect:Save the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s number in your phone so it’s there when you need it: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You can also help make a connection with a trusted individual like a family member, friend, spiritual advisor, or mental health professional.
  5. Stay Connected:Staying in touch after a crisis or after being discharged from care can make a difference. Studies have shown  the number of suicide deaths goes down when someone follows up with the at-risk person.

The bottom line is that we have to be there for each other, look out for each other, and take care of each other. That’s how it’s supposed to work. We all need help sometimes. I’d like to think we do this on a regular basis, but it’s particularly valuable when we need an extra hand to get through a difficult time.

I found this great post with some ideas on how we can do this here: (highly recommended read!) http://hellogiggles.com/lifestyle/health-fitness/small-things-help-someone-struggling-depression/

I’m fortunate to have people in my life that are supportive and do some of these things for me. I can say first-hand that it makes a significant difference on days that are more difficult. I hope that they know how much I appreciate them. It doesn’t take much effort to send a text or give somebody a quick call, but it can have a huge impact on their life. I try to do some of these same things for them, as well, just to let them know that I’m thinking of them and that I care about them. Please take a few minutes out of your day to reach out to somebody that needs it. Everybody wants and deserves to feel supported and cared for.

A Couple of Words on Texas

Like everybody else, I’ve been watching events unfold throughout Texas. The impact of the hurricane continues to affect the state in horrific ways. The pictures coming across our TV screens make me feel so helpless. I cannot begin to imagine the horror of having to endure what some of these people have, both the people being rescued and those rescuing them. I can’t imagine having to leave my home and my security, even having to leave behind basic essentials like medication, diapers and food for babies. Having to watch the water overtake your home and knowing that you have to leave it to stay safe is frightening. Having to venture out into the floodwaters to escape the rising water would be horrifying! You have no idea what will happen and you don’t know where that will lead.

God Bless those people and agencies that stepped in to both rescue people and to provide them with the basic needs of survival. Obviously those in positions of authority and service are out there and I know that we all sincerely appreciate them, but others have stepped up as well. To those individuals who offered up their own boats, their time, and their safety, you are incredible! To the people who have opened their homes, stores, and other venues for people to seek shelter, your hospitality and kindness is amazing.

I understand that over 5 million meals have been provided and over 30,000 people have been forced into shelters. This doesn’t even begin to include those that have been placed elsewhere, have left the area entirely, or were able to move other places with family. This nightmare is not yet over, either. The floodwaters continue to rise in different places throughout the state and will continue to affect many more thousands of people.

Despite all the devastation that we’re witnessing, the one resounding theme that we’re seeing is that the best of humanity is on display. We’re seeing people risking their own lives to save strangers’ lives. We’re seeing dozens of people lashing themselves together to rescue somebody. I’m watching elderly people being loaded into boats by men that are kind and considerate to them. I’m simply overwhelmed by the kindness of people that we’re seeing. I think, over the past several months, I’ve lost sight of the goodness that we’re capable of. It seems as if we’ve been exposed to the negative so frequently and in such large doses that we tend to forget how nice we can actually be.

As bad as this situation is, it has restored my faith in humanity. My hope is that this can be sustained. I know that the immediate urgency of this situation is going to turn into a long-term and ongoing operation. This isn’t going to end next week. People are going to be tired and first responders are going to have to get back to their own lives and situations that require their attention. At that point, tens of thousands of people are still going to need assistance. My wish is that there will still be people willing to help and that this show of humanity can be maintained over time. This is what we need to happen both in Texas and in our world. Now is the time to think about what we, as individuals, no matter where we are, can do to help out in times of need, both in Texas now and going forward. What kind of people do we want to be? What can we offer to improve the lives of those around us?

I know that all of us throughout the world are wishing the people of Texas all the best; that they remain safe and get through this as fast and as safely as possible. For those of us that cannot be there in person, we can each do whatever we’re able to do.

Sending all of our love and prayers. Be safe.

After Charlottesville

broken_heart
broken heart

I feel like I need to say something about all that’s happened over the past few days. I’ve tried extremely hard to be fair in writing about politics, even though I have very strong feelings. However, this has now exceeded my level of patience.

This post, though, is not just about politics, nor just about bigotry, hatred, or prejudice. This post is about my personal take on humanity. I can’t just sit here and not say anything. I’ve felt the words building up in my chest for months, watched the state of our country deteriorate and our faith in our government’s ability to do the right things erode. I’m outraged, embarrassed, and disgusted by where we seem to be headed as a country. There have been many disappointing decisions made over the months, but there seems to be such an underlying negative pervasiveness and tolerance of it with this administration that I’m genuinely worried for us for the first time in my life. I’ve been trying to convince myself that it will all get straightened out and that I’m overreacting, but I cannot let go of this feeling of foreboding.

I am going to say up front that I did not vote for Mr. Trump. He frightened me and disgusted me with his violence, his disdain for principles, and his propensity for lying, even when the truth would have been easier. These things signaled to me that he would not be good for the individual people we are nor as a country as a whole. To me, a president is responsible for standing up for ALL of us, for each one of us, individually, as well as a country. This past weekend demonstrated, beyond all doubt, that he is incapable of representing us as we deserve. Not only did he fail to denounce the actions in Charlottesville as they were happening, nor afterwards, in the harsh words that we deserved, but dug his heels in on the matter. People surrounding the president, people in both parties, people all across the country condemned him for his weak response and he stubbornly refused to say what the people were begging to hear. I believe we deserve better than this, but that’s my opinion and something I address on an individual level.

What I want to say about this weekend is much more important than just one president that won’t represent all people. First of all, I want to apologize to ALL people who have ever felt slighted, denied, treated unfairly or hated based upon their color, race, religion, age, gender, sex, lifestyle, etc. (basically, all of us). Obviously some are far more serious than others, but few of us are unaffected.  We can all say that we have a reason to feel like we have been stereotyped or treated differently just like we can all say that we, in turn, have made judgments against others based on various reasons. There are very few among us that can say, in all honesty, that they are without fault.

I think a lot of our inner beliefs come from various sources: history, family beliefs, environment, community, friends, opportunities, and individual experiences. However, how we behave, what we choose to learn, how we grow and expand our thinking and how we react to each other is completely within our own control. At what point do we accept personal responsibility for ourselves and not blame our behavior on something or someone else. At what point do we stop blaming other people for our own circumstances?

I’m going to qualify myself here so that you can understand my perspective. I’m a white woman, almost 60 years old. My experiences throughout life were both good and bad. Have I experienced things based on my gender, age, and/or race? Yep, although not nearly as significant as some others have. Sadly, most of us have and it is a part of our lives. There are varying levels of significance, but I’m writing from my experience and perspective. I will not let any of the things that I’ve experienced change who I am. Everybody has their own set of circumstances that make up who they are. It is my decision on how I react to incidents of bigotry, unfair treatment, or racism. Each of us has to react in the way that reflects the person that they want to be. Have I always said and done exactly the right thing myself? No, but I will say that I’ve grown, I’ve learned, and I always strive to be the best person that I can be. I’ve learned to be more vocal about the wrongs that I see, to stand up for what’s right. We all make mistakes; mistakes don’t define us. Our intent, our beliefs, our words and our actions make up who we are.

I can unequivocally say that I’m very sorry for all the horrible things that have happened throughout history. We all know the many people that were affected, from the beginning of time, by the hatred and violence of those that inflicted unforgivable acts. The current reality, however, is that we are not in a position to remedy any of these things. We cannot go back in time to set things right. We cannot make up for the injustices of so many acts that have been perpetrated throughout the decades, the centuries, to so many different groups of people. Our ancestors lived a different reality than we do. Our future generations are going to live a different reality than ours is. We cannot change the fact that these things happened, but we can make sure that it never happens again!

As bad as the circumstances surrounding this weekend were, there is hope in the swift and ferocious condemnation against these hate groups. It means that so many of us, across all races and religions, have grown, we’ve learned from the past and will not accept this type of hate. It’s up to ALL of us to continue this vigilance. THIS is our responsibility going forward. We cannot change the past but we can change the present and the future for ourselves, our children, and grandchildren. This is a defining moment and one that is important to every single one of us. We each need to take responsibility for our thoughts and actions every single moment of every single day.

I think it’s very unfortunate that we have a president and his administration that are incapable of leading us in this effort. I’m really sad that he is unable to soothe the American people, to reassure us that these types of things will not be tolerated or to condemn the specific people that were responsible for this. That can’t stop us, though. We cannot allow haters and bigots to win. We are a better people than that.

We, the individual people, are America. We are individually responsible for how our country will evolve. Not one of us can go back in time; we cannot change what’s happened before right this minute. We must, however, do a better job of being human beings. I’m so sad today that anybody in this world is forced to feel “less than” anybody else let alone to endure such hatred and violence as we’ve been witness to. I’m literally nauseous watching the new information coming through on a constant basis. My heart breaks for the people forced to endure hate or prejudice. It makes me ashamed as an American today, but it also makes me hopeful that maybe, just maybe, now will be the time of real change that we’re capable of. I’m hopeful that, even without the leadership that we deserve right now, we will be able to join together to defeat this threat.

Speed Up or Slow Down?

end_of_summer

Okay, so don’t get mad at me, but I have to tell you something.

I saw a few red and yellow leaves on my bushes and trees. I know it’s not fall (even if the 10-day forecast is 10-15 degrees cooler than it’s been). It’s too early for that. I actually saw them last week and tried to just ignore it. I thought it must be a fluke. I’m still waiting for summer to kick in! Once again, it seems that I missed summer entirely while waiting for it to get here.

I realize that we’re not into fall yet, but I also remember that it starts to get chilly a couple of weeks after school starts. I remember back-to-school shopping while it’s so hot outside and trying to convince the kids that they actually do need pants and warmer clothes. Now it’s getting colder sooner, it seems, and this is likely to happen within the next month.

Labor Day is only a few weeks away and that pretty much ends all of our summer-type activities. With that in mind, I decided to look at all of the things that I wanted to do this summer and, boy, was I disappointed! I didn’t get to a pool, I didn’t go to a summer concert, and I didn’t even get to a farmer’s market. To tell you the truth, I’m not sure exactly what I DID do but here I am and I need to decide what to do about it.

My first inclination is to look at my calendar and fill it up with all the things I haven’t yet done. Then, though, I decided to look back over the last two months. On most days of my appointment book, I have something written in. They may not all be things I wanted to do and they may not even have been important things, but there is something written on most days. What this tells me is that, even though I didn’t get to do the things I planned on, I had obviously done some other stuff. After looking at it, I realized that I don’t want to add to my already busy days by fitting in extra things I felt like I missed. There’s a reason I missed them; I was already busy!

I’ve decided, instead, to look at my next 4-6 weeks/weekends and decide where I can fit the top 3 things I wanted to do. I don’t need to be an overachiever here. I’m kind of satisfied with the level of activity I had, just not what I missed out on. I’m finding it much easier to make compromises now and I’m not feeling nearly as guilty as I used to when I don’t get things done. I can’t do it all anymore. Even if I could, it’s just not worth it.

I find that almost everybody I know is overbooked, over busy, and over stressed. Why add on to any of that? Take a look now and decide what’s most important to you over the next month. Do those things and let the rest of it go. Then, when fall does roll around, you can sit back and be happy with what you did this summer.

Then we’ll start on fall…and wine tours and apple picking and harvest fests…