Category Archives: important stuff

It’s a gift for you, really

I almost never do sponsored posts on this blog because I hate reading them on other people’s blogs so I only do it if it’s a product that I truly adore and think you’d love too.  I’ve written before about StoryWorth so if you’ve been around long enough you already know that I use it  and love it myself.  But if you’re new here or need a refresher, here you go.

StoryWorth is a wonderful company that will email you (or someone you love) an inspiring story prompt once a week for a year.  You (or your loved one) will just email your response back when you have time.  You can keep your stories private or share them with others.  And at the end of the year StoryWorth puts it all together as a memoir bound in a hardcover book.  It’s crazy easy and it makes an amazing gift to yourself or to others.  I used it on past Father’s Days and Mother’s Days and now I have two beautiful books filled with amazing stories that my parents loved sharing and that my sister and I and our kids loved reading.

Books from my mom and dad.

If you want to read some of their stories you can read a few of my dad’s here or my mom’s here.  I wish that I’d sent one to my grandfather before he died or my grandmother before her dementia got too bad, but I’m so lucky to have the stories my parents shared about their parents and that’s almost as good.  And this year I’m buying a subscription for Victor because his grandparents may not be around to tell the stories we loved hearing over and over but he is here…and he has those stories in his head that can still that can be recorded.  They are bloody and ridiculous and hilarious and sad and wonderful and contain more than a few unsolved mysteries that still haunt us, but it is not too late to preserve those stories.

If you’re looking for a great gift I cannot recommend StoryWorth enough and you don’t have to wait until it’s gifted to you.  You can use StoryWorth to write your own memoir.  Honestly, I got to go in and pick the questions sent to my parents every week and some of the prompts were so good that they inspired some of my own writing.

And right now if you click here you can get $10 off so it’s only $89 for one of the best books you will ever own.  (And yes, you can buy extra copies of the book for grandkids or other family members.  I’ve bought a ton of copies to share with family.)

It’s a lovely distraction when we’re all stuck at home, and another nice thing is that each week when your loved one sends in their response you’ll get a copy of their email so you can see what they’re writing about and ask them about it and suddenly you have something fun to talk about on your phone calls, which is really nice during this time when no one is really able to do anything worth talking about.

So if you want in just click here.  I honestly cannot recommend it enough, especially since you may think you have no good stories but then suddenly you’re reminded of the time your grandma dug up a corpse and took it home for Easter and then you realize that maybe you do have some stories after all.  You do.  I promise.

PS.  Tell the weird stories.  Let the skeletons in the closet come out.  Share your memories.  Even the hard ones are treasures, I promise.

This is a dangerous post to write.

Updated 4-24-17:  Holy crap, y’all.  I love you.  Not only did you listen but you gave me honest advice and reminded me how incredibly difficult but also how worthwhile it is to keep looking for the unique treatment that works for each person.  You also reminded me that I’m not alone in continuing to search for tools that will make my mental illness more manageable, and sometimes it’s enough to know that so many of us are fighting this battle together, even if it seems we’re doing it alone.  Here is my plan as of today:  I saw my doctor and this afternoon I had many vials of blood taken to rule out hormonal issues, deficiencies, etc.  If nothing physical turns up then I’ll try to get my insurance to cover TMS and see if it works.  From what I can see the overall verdict is that it depends on the person and that it’s either incredibly helpful when it works, or it doesn’t work at all, or sometimes it works for a while but not forever, which is sort of the exact same verdict I’ve had with every other medication and therapy I’ve ever tried, so I suppose I should be used to it at this point.  Nevertheless, thank you.  I will always feel broken but you continue to remind me that I am so not alone.  I’ll keep you posted.

Original post:

This is a dangerous post to write, mostly because I’m opening myself up to something that every person who deals with mental illness dreads…well-meaning advice from others.  But this is specific and I’d really like to hear from you.  Not about how I should “just cheer up” or “stop eating anything but air” or similar.  What I want to know is this…have you ever had Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) and if so, did it work for you?  My doctor has been recommending that I do it for years but I’ve always been worried about the side-effects.  It’s supposed to be a good option for people like me with major depressive disorder who have tried multiple antidepressants but still have long periods of depression.

I’m lucky because, as a writer, I can often work around the schedule my depression sets for me…sometimes working long days and nights full of inspiration and sometimes just surviving weeks where my mind is a fog and I can’t get out of bed.  I have a support system of family and of strangers-who-are-like-family around the world.  I could probably continue to live like this for the rest of my life, and I’m prepared to.  Although depression can be hell and I know that it lies and I could continue to live through the bad weeks waiting for the good to inevitably come back.

But what if TMS works?  It’s not as invasive as electroconvulsive therapy.  Some people my shrink has treated with it have been able to get completely off their meds, which is something I can’t even imagine. I’ve been on so many different medications, regimens, vitamins, compounds, injections, therapies, etc. and some were helpful and some weren’t and some were until they weren’t.  Some saved my life and others made it miserable.  That’s the thing about treating chronic illness…different things work for different people and the exhausting process of finding a cure for your symptoms usually never completely goes away.  So after this latest bout of depression I’ve been thinking more about trying TMS.  Victor is not a fan but he respects that it’s my decision ultimately.  I still need to research more and to make sure my insurance will cover at least some of it but I thought maybe one of my first steps should be to ask here.  Have you had it?  Did it work?  Was it worth it?

And if you haven’t and you just want to share something that actually did work in treating your mental illness feel free to.  I know that just medication and therapy aren’t enough.  Music, meditation, exercise, sun, vitamins, sleep…they all can make a difference.  If something in particular makes a difference for you, share.  (But if you tell me to stop taking meds and take up jogging I will find you and punch you in the junk with a cactus.  Just saying.)

PS. Turnabout is fair play, so here’s a small tool that I use when I’m feeling anxious.  It’s just a gif.  But whatever works, right?

Thanks.

Read me.

Yesterday I just hid away from the internet because Prince, but then I listened to Prince again with new ears when he said “Life is like a party, and parties weren’t meant to last.”  And it’s true.  Which is why we have to grasp at happiness and brilliance and life while it’s here, because if Prince taught me anything it’s that it’s later than you think so taste everything, and also that berets are always awesome.

Yesterday was also the day I walked out to my mailbox and found a book I’d been waiting for for years, Stephen Parolini’s Stolen Things.

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If you’ve ever heard me speak about the process of writing I always say how important it is to surround yourself with great writers who make you better than you are, and I’m lucky enough to have six amazing people who are always willing to listen and read and push me in ways that I couldn’t have found myself.  One of those people is Stephen Parolini, without whom my books would not have existed because he is an amazing sounding board and often inspired me to write things I never would have.  We all have Stephens in our lives, if we’re lucky.  People who understand the dark and the light.  People who push you to do more even when you’re not sure you can.  People who you might not recognize on the street because you know them almost entirely from the magic of the internet, but who understand you even when you don’t always understand yourself.  You probably won’t have heard of Stephen unless you’ve searched him out or had his work passed to you by a friend who instantly knew you had to see it.

This is my favorite of Stephen’s books, partly because of the beautiful writing and subject matter, but also because I’ve seen so many incarnations of this book as it came to fruition.  I’ve read it to Hailey when she was younger and she offered her own critiques (few) and enthusiastic responses (many) as we explored a strange and dark and magical world.  When she saw the final book in my hands she grabbed it and shouted “WE HELPED MAKE THIS” with such glee.  And we did.  In the same way that you and Stephen and everyone who touched me helped to write my books.  He’s a part of our community and worked for years to put this out and I’d love to see it do really well.  So well that everyone who ever rejected it would say “Oh. Well, shit.”  Not necessarily for him, because he deals with that stuff way better than I do, but because so many people have magnificent stories in them that never see print, and those that continue to push until their stories are heard need to be celebrated.

So.  First off, go buy this book.  Then leave a comment and I’ll choose a few to send gift cards so you can buy whichever book you think needs more recognition.  And one more thing.  If you’ve made something (A book.  A painting.  A store.  A child.  A blog.  Anything.) and you want more eyes on it or just to talk about it, leave it in the comments.  Or if you have a friend or idol who made something amazing that you think doesn’t get the recognition it deserves leave a link.  You might just find something you’ve been looking for all along.  And life is too short to miss out on those things.

This is my house.

The greatest gift in the world is to grant a kindness to another. The amazing thing though is that the aforementioned gift is one you give yourself. It may be a small thing. Leaving a flower for the tired woman at the coffee shop. Telling a stranger that they have such kind eyes. Listening happily to a story told by an elderly friend or relative who has told you the same story a million times. Nodding in solidarity even when you don’t completely understand. Letting a friend or a stranger yell hurtful things at you because you hope it will help them let go of a small part of that anger…that it will open up room in them for the greater things that they deserve.

This is the way the world goes. Small, mean acts affect the next person who in turn amplify that anger or sadness and take it out on others who suffer as well. Then small, kind acts of grace work their magic and pull the world back into balance. Those acts echo into the world. They reverberate long after we are gone. And sometimes? Sometimes they bounce back to us in unexpected ways.

I’ve been writing for years and it’s only in the last year that I’ve let myself feel bad about what I write. Well, not about what I write exactly. I write about my life. I write funny stories that I hope make people smile. I write books that I hope make others laugh loudly and inappropriately in airplanes. I write honestly about difficult things I’m haunted with, like depression or self-harm. And occasionally I veer off into strange waters where I don’t quite know if I’m the best person to say something, but I know that I’m the best person to say the things that I think. You sometimes get small glimpses of those things but in such light amounts you could be forgiven for missing them. If you look closely you probably know that I’m a feminist. That I’m a big supporter of gay rights.  That I don’t believe in church but do believe in God. That I believe racism is institutional and exists far deeper than we see. That I don’t deal well with authority. That I have eternal hope in goodness. That I am quick to anger and quicker to forgive and that I don’t believe in picking sides because the world is flexible and moving and ever changing. The only side I pick is the one with less assholes, but even that is fluid because people change. Sometimes the assholes are later the people who have come so far, and who we revere for their ability to change. Sometimes we find that our heroes were undercover assholes, hiding amongst us until they let down their guard. Sometimes the assholes are us. In fact, if you aren’t prepared to recognize that occasionally you will look back at your life and think, “Wow. That was a real dick move. What the shit, me?” then you are the most dangerous of all the assholes.

This is a long post but in my defense I’ve been very quiet for the last week while I sorted this out.  I do have a point and I’m coming to it.

In the time I’ve been writing I’ve had thousands of people send me emails or links or tweets asking if I would weigh in on something, or support their cause, or ask everyone I know to donate to their personal fund or charity. I’ve read other blog posts by friends who tell me if I don’t write about their personal beliefs then it means I don’t care. Then I remind myself that if someone would potentially not know where I stand if I’m not screaming it on my blog then perhaps they aren’t as good a friend as I thought. I’m asked to stand up for people being bullied. I’m asked to stand up for the other people who are being censored and being called bullies. I hear:

“How can you not go to our Gay Pride parade when you yourself are bisexual?”

“Today is International Suicide Awareness day. Why aren’t you promoting it?  Don’t you care?”

“You’ve spent time in wheelchairs and hospital beds from your autoimmune disease so why aren’t you promoting our walkathon for chronic pain awareness?”

“If you don’t publicly take a stand against racism on every platform you have then you are a racist.”

“If you don’t write about 9/11 every year the terrorist win”.

“If you don’t write a post explaining that most Muslims are peaceful and lovely then their blood will be on your hands if they are killed.”

“If you don’t write about my personal version Jesus Christ then you’re sentencing your readers to everlasting hell.”

“If you don’t promote my kickstarter about my journey to adopt 56 Chinese orphans then all orange kittens will spontaneously lose all their legs.”

These are all real things said to me in the last year, except for the last one which I suspect is probably just stuck in my spam filter.

Here’s the deal.  I just can’t. I can’t use this blog to tell you that testing makeup on animals is bad or that if we don’t reduce our carbon footprint our children will suffer the consequences. I don’t have the stamina or willpower to denounce every shitty thing in the world that I assume everyone else here already agrees with. I don’t have the strength to write about ISIS and kidnappings and poverty and children starving and bombs and other terrible things because I know I will become fixated and depressed and unable to function.  I know my limits and I know that without self-care I will fall into those dark holes of depression where I’m no help to anyone.

And I’m okay with that because I don’t have to tell you that Nazis are bad and mass murderers are fuckheads and that racism is bullshit and suicide should be avoided and rape is shitty and water is wet and cats will scratch you if given enough time. This is all common sense. If I have to say this out loud for you to get those things then you are in the wrong place. Mostly because I’m typing and so I can’t say anything out loud, but also because if you know me, you already know these things. We may disagree on the finer points. I may have a looser definition of what it means to be a feminist. I’m in the middle ground when it comes to gun control so if I ever decide I’m educated enough to have a salient point of view worth sharing out loud we may disagree. I suspect I view racism as being more of a problem than the average American (or average white Southerner at least) and occasionally I’ll say something about it and lose followers…both those who are angry that I believe racism is systemic and deep-seated, and those who agree but who are mad that I don’t say even more. And that’s okay. Sometimes they come back, later, with open minds and less fear or anger. Sometimes they are replaced by others who are here to laugh and smile at the ridiculousness that comes out of my head. Sometimes (mostly) it’s read and then forgotten. Just one tiny voice in a world that won’t shut up. In a world so busy speaking that it can’t hear.

I had a point and I’ve strayed from it a bit but this is it: I appreciate the links and suggestions and tweets and probably half the time my posts come from something one of you has sent me because you know me and you know what fuels me. I read what you’ve sent me and laugh or cry or learn. Sometimes I write about it.  Sometimes I keep it for myself.  Sometimes there isn’t a better way to say it so I’ll just retweet it, or forward it to others who I think might need it or be inspired to write more about it. But I will never tell those people that it is their responsibility to write about what I want to read. And that is the difference.

Please keep sending me links. Tweet things you think I’ll want to see. Email me your thoughts, or posts. Or share them here. But there are two things you should know: One– I almost never share fundraisers because if I do one then a million people will ask why I don’t share their equally valid fundraiser and then I’d suddenly turn from a writer to a very annoying PR person who only tweets fundraisers.  No one wants that.  And two: I will never write about something because someone else is trying to shame me into it. I have plenty of my own shame and guilt over here myself, thankyouverymuch, so I don’t need you dropping yours on me. Not only is it shitty, but it also makes me question everyone else writing about whatever that current event of the week actually thinks, and that’s not fair to anyone. Are they just writing what they think people want to hear? Are they pandering because it’s fucking easy as hell to say “I’M NOT FOR MURDERING GAY PEOPLE” and “CANCER IS NOT WHAT I LIKE”. Not only that, but if you aren’t saying something thought-worthy then you are adding to the roar that is the world and while it’s a wonderful thing to have the nation rise up as a whole against bullshit, it sometimes has the unintended action of  making it that much harder for people who DO have brilliant and amazing things to say to be heard. People have a limited attention span and if they spend their lunch hour picking through posts that say nothing new or personal because they are written solely out of fear of missing out on the topic du jour are going to miss the chance to read the people out there who have something unique and intriguing and personal and brilliant to say. Those posts that make you say, “YES. FUCKING EXACTLY. THIS IS WHAT I WAS TRYING TO SAY BUT I COULDNT FIND THE WORDS FOR IT.” They are the posts that make you say, “Oh. Oh, shit. I get it. I get it now and I didn’t before and now everything has changed.” The posts that are so beautifully written that you immediately link to them on the Facebook disagreement you were having with your great aunt Agnes and she reads it and says, “Hmm. Well I never thought about it that way. I guess I’ll have to think about it.”

Those brilliant posts exist. I hope I’ve written a few. Probably not nearly as many as I’d like but I’m limited in my areas of expertise. I get humor because that’s how I survive. I get family because I’ve been blessed to have a dysfunctionally functional group of people who challenge me and make me laugh. I get mental illness because I survive it. I fight it as a regular demon and I haven’t a choice but to become a savvy warrior because that’s how you live. We don’t always get to choose our causes. Sometimes our causes choose us.

There is another thing I write about on the regular and that is kindness. Because we can’t live without it. Because it keeps us afloat. Because it keeps us worthy of survival as a species. Because it helps me forgive people who demand that I use my voice for their words because if I don’t it means I’m unworthy or low or their enemy. Because it helps me remember that that kind of anger comes from pain or fear or desperation that no one should have to feel. And because that same kindness is what I depend on and hope for from them when they read this.

This is my house. You are welcome here. You are wanted. You are allowed to leave links of posts or articles you think this community would say “Oh, I needed that” to. You are welcome to talk and visit and make friends and to realize that each of us is flawed and human and (in the grand scheme of things) knows nothing. Because I’ve come to know that the only thing I really know is we could all do with a little more kindness. Both in giving and getting.

Be kind to one another. And more importantly, be kind to yourself.  You deserve it.

PS. This post scares me a little to post because I know a thousand of you will think “Shit.  She’s talking about me” but I can assure you that 127 different people have asked me to share their stuff within just the last 24 hours (not an exaggeration) so I’m really not paying attention to names, and also there is a tremendous difference between suggesting that I write about something and demanding I write about something.  Still,  I feel a bit bitchy, because in a way I realize I’m sort of saying, “Stop demanding that I join you in your brave and valiant crusade, you well-meaning and good people with absolutely wonderful causes which I wholeheartedly agree with you on” and that’s not what I want to say at all, but it’s the closest thing I can say other than this:  I can’t always sing your song with you.  I listen.  I share.  I think.  But if I’m always singing everyone else’s song then there’s no room for mine.  I have a song to sing.  A terrible one about why Jesus is a zombie and the time I found a severed boobie on my lawn.  A song about horrible things and about wonderful things and mostly silly things that make the day a bit brighter for those twisted enough to appreciate it, or those offended enough to be able to use it as a terrible example to others.  A song that sometimes is out of tune and seldom rhymes and is sung loudly in the dark and in whispers when I’m not quite myself.  A song that sometimes overlaps with yours as we find ourselves unexpectedly sharing a chorus we never knew we had in common.  A song that sometimes captures minds and hearts and changes the world in good and bad ways…but most importantly, a song that is uniquely mine.  One that’s given silence to reflect and write, and information to grow, and that changes as I change.  It’s the same song you sing.  But different.  And all of those songs are beautiful…even the discordant ones of our enemies that inspire us to work harder to prove them wrong in hopes that one day they’ll find themselves accidentally humming a strange tune they’ve picked up along the way…a tune of joy and kindness and love and equality and acceptance.  Or at least something by Prince.  That man is a bad-ass.

PPS.  It occurs to me that I talked about those posts and stories and essays and books that make us yell “YES!  THIS EXACTLY” and that those lovely things are the things that it would be nicest to hear over the roar of kleenex advertisements and selfies, so I’m going to share a few of the ones that hit me personally because maybe you need to see them too.  And maybe in the comments you can share your own. A book, a song, a post, a quote that makes you strong or anything that makes the world a better place…anything that you keep coming back to as a reminder that you’re not alone or as an anthem to keep you going when it’s hardest.  Share your song.  Because I want to hear it.  And maybe, one day, we’ll find ourselves singing along together and you will know it’s because I am with you wholeheartedly, and not just because it’s the easiest thing to sing.

Okay, here are a few posts that stick with me:

This one is fairly recent but I used it so often recently when in discussions with people who didn’t understand why what Rachel Dolezal did is not okay and why it has nothing to do with Caitlyn Jenner ~ From Awesomely Luvvie:  About Rachel Dolezal the Undercover Sista and Performing Blackness

Someone sent me this years ago and it stays with me every day.  I even stop people in the middle of my next book to tell them to read this first:  From Christine Miserandino: The Spoon Theory

Which of you sent me this originally?  I don’t know but when I read it I screamed “YES!  YES, THIS!”  Boggle the Owl on surviving depression.  Boggle the Owl on Anxiety.

Okay.  Your turn.  Share.  Give me something you think needs to be heard.  Something that breeds kindness and makes the world a better place.  Sing your song.  We’re listening.

Toilet Leprechauns: Probably the Pandora’s Box of our Generation. (I added the “probably” so they can’t sue me for libel.)

David Sedaris once wrote that he often asks people waiting for his autograph questions like, “If you saw a leprechaun on the toilet would you run away or know that he meant you no harm?” and now that question haunts me.

Personally, I’d be pretty sure that anyone standing on the toilet meant to harm me because why else is he waiting to jump me in the bathroom, but I think I’d still stay because when else are you going to get the opportunity to hang with a leprechaun? Even if it murdered you it would be awesome. Not for you, I guess, but for your descendants. “DEATH BY LEPRECHAUN” it would say on my death certificate. I’d star in our family legends for decades.

The problem is that I don’t actually know what death by leprechaun looks like, and you never see a leprechaun fingered for murder so I suspect no one would know the magnificent sacrifice I made. My guess is that leprechauns just make your death look like a heart attack. We’re probably spending all this reasearch money on heart disease when really we should be focusing on leprechaun prevention.

In fact, my grandmother might have died from leprechauns. They said she died from hepatitis but who’s to say she didn’t get that hepatitis from a leprechaun? Who knows where diseases come from? Flu, hantavirus, yellow fever, leprosy, anthrax…we might have gotten the whole lot from infected toilet leprechauns.

That’s probably why my mom always made me put toilet paper on the seat before sitting on a public toilet. Because you never know how many infectious leprechauns just came out of it.

I’d like to think David Sedaris and I would be friends. Or that he’d put a restraining order on me.

Either way, we’d have a real connection, and that’s all that matters.

PS. Spellcheck is trying to tell me that “leprechauns” isn’t even a real word.  Nice try, leprechauns.  I don’t know how you infiltrated spellcheck but I’m not falling for it, assholes.

Please talk to your children. *mild trigger warning*

Yesterday Hailey came home terrified because of a letter sent home to all the kids in her elementary school.  It was meant for the parents but of course the kids on the bus read it and talked about it and made it more so much scarier, as children do.  And it is scary.

According to what I’ve read, an unnamed elementary school in our district has been threatened with mass violence by anonymous emails from someone who identified themselves as a serial killer.  It’s most likely a hoax (as most of these things are) and the fact that the emailer claims that it will happen on Thursday might indicate that it’s a student wanting area schools to close so they can have a four-day-weekend.  (Fiesta Friday is a traditional school holiday in our area.)

Still, it’s unsettling.  A few weeks ago I had to pick up Hailey at school because she got sick right after a lock-down drill designed to show children how to hide and be silent in the event of a school attack.  In some schools they teach the children how to barricade doors and what they can throw at an attacker that might slow them down.  I’m glad that they have these drills, but I hate that it’s necessary to have them.

This week the FBI and the police department will continue the investigation.  The schools in Hailey’s district will look more closely at any safety issues and will shore up any weak areas of security and make the schools safer.  And hopefully this will all go away.  But this is why I’m writing about this:  Lots of times when schools get bomb threats or threats of violence it ends up being a student who will brag about it to their friends.  Please talk to your kids today.  Tell them how important it is to let you know if they hear something like this.  So many of us don’t think about asking our kids about this stuff because we just assume they’ll tell us, but so often kids laugh stuff like that off as a silly prank without realizing the trauma involved for everyone else.  There’s a tip line that you can call if you’ve heard anything about this recent threat.  (210) 225-TIPS.

As for me, I haven’t decided whether to keep Hailey home on Thursday.  I’ll see what develops, talk it over with her and make a decision then.

I wish I had a better way to end this.  I wish I didn’t have to write this.  I wish you didn’t have to read it.  I wish a lot of things.

UPDATED:  The police and FBI  haven’t been able to identify who sent the death threats so I talked to Hailey and she said she’d rather stay home on Thursday, which is a bit of a relief because I’d rather she was home too.  As one of my amazing readers pointed out, Thursday also happens to be Take Your Daughter To Work Day and so I’m going to spend the day showing her what it’s like being a real writer, but with less booze.  This means we’ll rewrite the same paragraph all morning, then eventually scream “I CAN’T DO THIS.  NO ONE CAN DO THIS.”  Then we’ll give up and watch Doctor Who and take pictures of the cats to distract us from a looming sense of failure.  Later we’ll wake up at 2am with the perfect idea of how to finish that chapter we’ve been struggling over and will feverishly write until it’s all out of our head and then we’ll fall asleep at our desk and wonder the next day why we’re always so exhausted.  And it will be awesome.  And terrible.  Just like work should be.