It ain’t always easy being grateful. Gratitude Experiment: Day 69

As I try to channel Chester Cheetah from the Cheetos commercials, I fully realize that I am truly a lucky person.  I have a wonderful family, a roof over my head and plenty of food on my table. Really, I should have nothing to complain about. But it’s all relative right?

When some days come to a close, I sigh and wonder what I am going to be grateful about when I blog.  And then I feel guilty for thinking that, because relatively speaking, depending on what you compare it to, I’ve got it made.  But where does that thinking end? And let’s face it, we all have our days.  Fortunately, I’m learning that it’s okay to be honest with myself.  And I’m grateful for that.

Today, I ran from point A to point B (and back to point B and then A again so that I could get work done in between), more times than I could count.  I didn’t feel like I got anything accomplished in as complete of a way as I would have liked. I continue to feel guilty about not spending enough time helping with my Mom and I feel like my kids are growing up so fast that I need to soak up every minute of it and teach them everything I can before they leave the nest. But days like today make me feel like I didn’t get to soak up any of it at all, because life got in the way.

Not to mention that tonight’s presidential debate just plain stressed me out.  As a conflict-avoider down deep, these debates cause me angst no matter the outcome.

Much more importantly, today I worried about my oldest son who I am convinced is still having a hard time emotionally since his concussion last spring which kicked his butt and changed his life, athletically speaking, and consequently, self esteem-wise.  I really think more research needs to be done about the link between concussions and depression, and everything in between.  I swear he is not the same kid, emotionally speaking, and it breaks my heart.  I’m trying everything I can think of and taking him to every kind of specialist I can think of, but my heart still knows he is far from himself. And this makes me sad, and tired on days like today.

On the flip side, my youngest son put on a heck of a show in his theater arts class at school this morning, and I was so very proud of him.   I think he is truly an actor down deep in that body with a face that is a clone of mine. And I can tell it makes him truly happy to make others laugh. This is what I am most grateful for today.

And the fact that my family, near and far, is safe and sound tonight.

I’m also grateful, for you, my loyal readers, and your patience with the ups and downs of my blogging catharsis.

Sleep tight.

16 pros and cons on your kid turning 16. Gratitude Experiment: Day 57

Good news: My oldest son is about to turn sixteen.

Bad news: This makes me feel a little old.

Good news: I will now be a car shuttle service for him much less often.

Bad news: The thought of paying for gas for another vehicle makes my stomach a little weak.

Good news: I am very lucky that my son is a great driver.

Bad news: Teenage boys are WAY more expensive to insure as young drivers than girls.  That seems a little sexist to me.

Good news: If we help him get a car we will have a huge carrot to work with behaviorally speaking.

Bad news: Whoever said girls were easier than girls as teenagers did not know my son.

Good news: My dad’s theory about teenagers having cars with the smallest back seats possible and the least room for passengers now sounds like a genius idea.

Bad news: Shopping for a car that will be reliable but won’t indulge your child is a tough balancing act.

Good news:  Craigslist rocks.

Bad news: It’s hard to know what to believe when it come to buying cars.  Suddenly CarFax isn’t so factual.

Good news: There are still a few people who sell their cars privately and who are very honest.

Bad news: Once he is driving I will have a new list of things to worry about.

Good news: My insurance agent said that the Dodge Caravan minivan is the cheapest car for us to insure him to drive.

Bad news: I’m afraid my son might endure bodily harm if he drove a Dodge Caravan minivan to school.

For all this perspective, I am grateful.

Reason to Think. Gratitude Experiment: Day 30

Today I learned very sad news about an old school friend who lost her son to suicide this morning. He was only 16. On the outside, this handsome young man seemed to be a kid that had absolutely everything going for him. My heart aches for their family and my stomach is weak at very the thought.

Though I do not know details about events leading up to this tragic event, it makes me want to stand on my little soap box for a bit about depression.

Depression is real. It exists. It is not made-up or imagined.  Clinical anxiety and depression are neurological disorders, and are due to an imbalance of chemicals, such as serotonin, in the brain.  It cannot be wished away.

Our society as a general rule does not take depression seriously and tends to paint it with the biased brush of weakness.  This is mainly because it is misunderstood. And when people don’t understand, they can often jump to conclusions, just like in politics or anything else. But depression can happen to anyone, big or tall, male or female, old or young, weak or strong.  It can happen for a short time or it can happen for a long time. There are many hereditary factors as well as external factors that can affect the odds of someone experiencing depression.

According to, as many as two thirds of people with depression do not realize that they have a treatable illness and do not seek treatment. And only 50% of those diagnosed with major depression receive any kind of treatment at all.  Until it is better understood by the public and even health providers, the stigma will continue to outweigh the benefits of diagnosis and treatment.

It is important to note that depression is very common in teenagers, as well as adults. Suicide, most often a result of depression, is the third leading cause of death among people aged 15 to 24 years old and the eighth leading reported cause of death in the United States.  Male teenagers are much more often successful at suicide attempts.  According to Wikipedia, American males between the ages of 20 and 24 have a suicide rate that is seven times higher than that of women.

For teenagers, changes in behavior, friend choices, academics and attitude must be more than noticed.  They must also be addressed head-on, with professional help if needed.

I must also note that therapy is very misunderstood by society.  Participating in psychotherapy is not a sign of weakness. Actually it is quite the opposite.  It requires a willingness to dig deep into self, and to understand complex patterns of thinking. It’s for those with the type of grit necessary to turn their own heavy handed mirror inward and accept themselves, flaws and all. And as a reward, students of therapy get to grow by leaps and bounds from the knowledge gained.

Today, while I am truly saddened for my friend and her family’s great loss and the sorrowful days ahead, I am thankful for the knowledge that depression is slowly becoming more understood by our society.

Back to school is a mixed bag. Gratitude experiment: day 6

Should I feel guilty for being grateful that school starts tomorrow? Everyone I have seen all month has lamented the end of summer.  My guilt is kind of a mute point since my mother was Catholic before she married my dad and 100% of her Catholic guilt was passed directly down to me.  If there is something to feel guilty about, I probably do.  So that’s settled.

On one hand, I am sad that summer flew by so quickly which means the kids are growing up far too fast.  And that our Florida trip was foiled by tropical storm Debbie.  And that we weren’t able to make our summer pilgrimage to Oklahoma to see family and the lake.  But on the other hand I am just plain relieved to get back to a regular schedule and routine.  And to get things back to some semblance of normal, whatever that is.

It has been a hectic and rough summer for our family.  Strike that – it has been an exhausting summer. Post concussion months for my oldest son were peppered with bad choices resulting from low self esteem and depression after being pulled from his sport in April and not released to play any sports all summer.  I’ve never seen him so down on himself  as these past months and felt so helpless at the same time.  The thought of it rattled in my head like a diesel engine many of these summer nights.

My younger son seemed to know it was best to take cover as the various storms erupted in our household these past few months, the poor guy.  I’m sure he’ll be in therapy over it when he is an adult.  Maybe we can get a family discount.  I wasn’t able to help out with my mom (who has Alzheimer’s in a big way) nearly as much as usual.  And my husband has had a less than fun summer at work.  All of this has helped fuel the idling diesel in my mind.

I have been the lifeguard of the group, throwing life preservers hither and yawn, only to quickly reel them back for relaunch.   But even as a weary lifeguard, I am starting to see past the rough waters.  I am grateful that these last couple of weeks have seemed more like our old life.  And that my oldest son’s sly smile is making a return, which sends a ripple effect of relief throughout the house.

So there you have it, I am ready for the close of summer and to move on to smoother sailing.  In fact, hot damn and hallelujah, let the school bell ring.

Cheerleading tryouts not required

I was a cheerleader in 5th grade.  And that’s because tryouts weren’t required that year.  Oh, and my friend’s mom was in charge.  Sad, but true.

My mother tried to help me understand before I tried out the next year (when there actually were tryouts and it was school-organized) that perhaps it wasn’t the sport for me. My sister and I always joked that it was amazing we turned out as positive, able and accomplished as we did despite our mother’s ability to pop a hole in any balloon filled with aspirations of challenging new heights we hoped to achieve.  Now I know she was just trying to protect us from getting our hopes up, but I have to slap myself when I catch  myself doing the same thing with my boys. Because most of the time I proved her wrong.

Nevertheless, she had a point. And I didn’t make cheerleader that year. At that point my legs were longer and skinnier than a baby giraffe and I had the grace of newborn foal.  And I couldn’t even pull off a cartwheel which was a beginner move for my agile, better proportioned cheering peers.

But perhaps that cheerleading experience from 5th grade, fictitious as it was, gave me good experience for adulthood as a woman.  Honestly I think cheerleading should be part of the job description to be a mom and a wife.  Even a sister, a friend and a daughter.

Today I was a cheerleader for my husband regarding his career. And a cheerleader for my son regarding his ability to make better choices.  Last week I was a cheerleader for my niece after a humiliating day as a second year med student new to hospital rotations. And yesterday for my friend who was applying for a job after a long professional hiatus.  And on many days I cheer my step dad on after his long days caring for my mother and her Alzheimer’s-addled brain.

I’m actually pretty good at cheerleading afterall.  My mother would be proud.

Thrown to the wolves by his mother

So thank goodness there are really nice moms out there. My faith in humanity is temporarily restored. My post-concussion former lacrosse playing son is now officially involved with his high school tennis team.  But he’s going in bruised and battered.

Once I realized his symptoms had ceased,  I researched and reached out to a very involved tennis Mom I knew from lacrosse.  Here’s the humanity part – she then took the time to talk to one of the main coaches about my son and his concussion situation and what a great athlete he is. In turn, that coach took the time to call me personally about getting him involved at this late date. This I am certainly not used to as it seems many high school coaches are not into parent conversations, to say the least.

After asking about his tennis background (he played team tennis a few summers back and was one of the fastest, though skinniest, kids in lacrosse), the coach suggested I bring him to the camp that was that very day in a few hours.  They had been running morning and afternoon training camps for two weeks.  Wow, I was thrilled, this was happening. He warned that these kids were pretty good but suggested my son ‘give it a shot’ and then come to the next day’s camps as well. It wasn’t too late.

Foreshadowing note:  these are the LAST two days of a two week intensive training camp. And my son’s only sport activity has been three private tennis sessions after a 4 month concussion sport hiatus from a lacrosse injury.

To my amazement, I talked my son into going.  We got there and my stomach began to sink.  These tennis kids looked beyond HARD CORE and I tried not to let the fear for my son’s very life show in my eyes before I left. I drove off afraid for his already fragile post-concussion ego.

At pickup, he was wrecked, both physically and mentally.  I felt horrible.  He felt he did not measure up to these kids’ skills and had no business playing tennis.  I think a few curse words were used, his head hung incredibly low, you get the point.  It was bad.  Fast forward a few hours –  I learned that the coach had failed to mention that the afternoon camps were for area CHAMPIONSHIP tennis players – some college aged.  These kids were lifers, had been playing since birth.  Some even had sponsors and everything. For real. What a great entry for my broken son.  I could not have felt worse.

Thank goodness the coach called that night (again, the humanity) to check on him and encouraged him to come to the less intense session the next morning.  The next day went beyond well (no comparison) and I now can see a glimmer of my son’s former swagger in his eyes, bruises and all.

Concussions be damned

We all have heard countless stories on the news about the scary “concussion.”  Heightened awareness has been great for all involved – and scary for me.

My son, a fifteen year old, got a concussion like no other last spring, on April 6, to be precise.  He got “slashed” in the neck with a lacrosse stick on the back of his neck, the one place he had no protection or pads (note: other player was kicked out of the game as this is a no-no).

Fast forward four months.  I am rescheduling probably the 18th appointment related to this concussion.  And we are several months past the episode.  The concussion has wreaked havoc not only for my son’s life, but for our whole family’s.

Few news stories mention the personality changes, the depression and the bad choices that can enter a successful athlete’s life when pulled from his sport.  His speed and agility on the field were a source of needed self esteem which was already touch and go as a freshman at a huge high school.  This was the tipping point we didn’t need.

My hopes are that more become aware – not only of the damage to the brain a concussion can cause – but also of these more silent symptoms, and how to treat them.