Mental Health Monday – Post Holidays

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As the holidays have wound down on the calendar, they may not have wound down in our persons and our homes. We need to take a moment, or several, and give ourselves time to rest. To breathe. To do nothing at all.

It’s hard to do nothing, isn’t it?

There are very few times I can recall when I set out to just sit and think of nothing that I was able to accomplish that. My mind wanders. It jumps and leaps around, making lists for everything under the sun.

It’s hard to turn that off.

I did manage it in the early days of covid. I’d set up my camp chair on my front lawn, bring my journal and my Kindle, and my prayer shawl. I’d sit in nature, and when I was finished with my readings and any note-taking, I’d just sit for awhile. I didn’t notice the time passing. In a couple of instances, I’d refocus and realize that hours had passed. I saw neighbors, I returned waves to kids passing by. I listened to the birds. I could hear the church bells from a couple of miles away. It was very peaceful, and it was its own reward.
I didn’t feel guilty about spending so much time in unconscious thought. I wasn’t allowed to go anywhere. There was also a he amount of stress and uncertainty hanging heavily in the air. I was surprised that I settled into quiet thought, but I did not feel guilty. I looked forward to the next time I’d sit out there. For days, even if I didn’t go out, I left my camp chair outside, not folding it up and putting it in the garage, so it would be ready when I was.

First thing about feeling guilty about taking care of your mental health is do not feel guilty. This is not as easy as it sounds. We are ingrained from a very young age to be there for others and to neglect ourselves. This is especially true of women, but men are not excluded from this.

For a long time in recent years, we were bombarded with self-care to the point that now there is a backlash with many saying that we are indulging ourselves and softening. None of this is true. Think back to times that you took care of yourself. Whether it was an extra hour of sleep, a cup of tea, reading a book, or simply just watching the flowers move in the breeze, these slow-downs help us and really do make us better at doing the work we need and want to do.

The few things that I’m going to try to do now that the holidays are over sound simple, but actually doing them takes an effort. Self-care is an effort, but it is well worth it.

1. Enjoy my Christmas tree. It is still up and I love looking at the lights. Whenever I come to my living room for the day, the first thing I do is turn on the Christmas tree.

2. Make lists. They helped me immensely through the worst of my depression and they are not only an important tool, I find them a great mental health tool.

3. Drink more tea.

4. Read more. I do read quite a lot, but I want to be able to tell myself to sit down, take out a book or my Kindle, and enjoy exploring new places and events through books.

5. Keep my dining room table cleaned so we can eat at it. This has always been a problem for us, and I’ve noticed things are much better when the phones are away, the television is off, and we are sitting together for that one meal. (This works for my family. If it doesn’t work for yours, that’s okay.)

Note: This was completed and ready for a last go over before my son came down with covid. So far, his symptoms are mild and he fluctuates from seeming fine to falling asleep on the couch. This has obviously changed our plans for the weekend and the coming week, with most things being cancelled despite all of us being vaccinated. With my oldest contracting covid last week (from work; my second son was exposed at school), my feelings on the intentionally unvaccinated will remain mute for the moment, but there are no guarantees that reticence will last. The point is we need to constantly readdress those things that just happen and reevaluate what our response to them will be. For my daughter who had her weekend plans cancelled through no fault of her own it’s McDonald’s. For me, it’s writing and Diet Coke. For the moment.

Mental Health Monday Lite

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It’s the beginning of the second full week of January and the best laid plans…

I got in my car thinking that I’d take my Starbucks card that I got for Christmas (from Santa) for a spin and get this post posted. It wasn’t until I pulled into the parking lot that I realized the draft was on my laptop and not on my Kindle.

This was a good reminder that not everything will work out the way I want it to; these include minor things (like a misplaced draft) and major things (like my oldest getting covid).

My planned Mental Health Monday will happen, whether that’s later today, later in the week, or next Monday. We’ll see.

I have decided to prioritize my mental health, although I’ve tried to do this in more recent years, it is an ongoing process. So far, I’ve set my schedule, I fixed the lights on the Christmas tree, I made a fantastic dinner last night (check out my instagram, recipe coming in a future post), spent my daughter’s birthday doing stuff with her including seeing Spider-Man: No Way Home (the third time for me and I’d see it again – really, do yourself a favor and see this movie) and having breakfast at our local crepe and coffee shop.

Think of someting that you can do for YOURSELF today, before you go to bed, before you settle in for the night. Is it reading a chapter in the book you’ve been putting off? Is it a cup of hot tea? Is it just sitting and doing nothing for fifteen minutes? You decide.

Admit It: This Country is Anti-Women

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Overturning Roe v Wade isn’t pro-life; it’s anti-women.

In addition to being an issue of the 14th Amendment, it is also a First Amendment issue as it violates religious freedom and unconstitutionally imposes what amounts to a “state sanctioned religion” on the rest of us. It violates the establishment clause and it attempts to control women’s choices and their economic independence as well as their basic human rights.

Count Me Out, October

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The last prompt for this season’s memoir writing class was Count Me Out. I have finally had enough inspiration to attempt to write something. I am, however afraid that it will only be a list of grievances, but October has been a shitshow, sometimes literally, so please bear with me.

It has been a long time since I’ve felt so overwhelmingly despaired. I’m not in an emergency depressive state, but I am at the point where I can’t actively wonder what’s next in fear that the powers that be will take that as a challenge.

My response?

Count me out.

We began the month with the first two days having my daughter home sick from school. By October 1st and 2nd, she was finishing a week at home despite being better and except for lacking a negative covid test (which came on Friday) could have gone back to school.

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World Mental Health Day

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Mental health care for all: let’s make it a reality.

Links to WHO’s World Mental Health Day.
(c)2021

This is one of those suggestions that is completely take what you need, leave what you don’t. Some things will work for you, some won’t. That’s okay. Each of these don’t always work for me every time, but they’re still good to look at when the need arises. Search through the tag for some ideas: Mental Health Monday

I’m going to have a very challenging week coming up, and I know I’m not the only one. A person I was very close to and loved dearly passed away suddenly. These are some of the tools I will be using in the coming days. I hope they can help you as well.

  • Sitting quietly in minimal light
  • Holding and working a worry stone or praying my rosary
  • Journaling
  • Arting – doodling, word art, art journaling
  • Tea and sweet smelling candles – they don’t always help but they don’t hurt
  • Cozying up with a blanket

Have a peaceful day and a peaceful week.

Until we see each other again.

Mental Health Monday – Back to School Edition

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For many places all across the country (and the world) it is back to school season. Some started at the very tail end of August and some of us began right after Labor Day. There is so much going on at this time of year – end of summer holidays, school days, fall weather and traditions, the Jewish Holidays, and of course, Christmas is a mere fourteen and a half weeks away. I just mentioned to my husband that between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day there are only four weekends for shopping! I’m sure that did nothing for his mental health!

Parents, teachers, and kids all have something going on in their heads that is taking control of their senses, their insecurities, theirs plans. Some things are insurmountable; at least they seem to be. Sometimes all we need is a little support, and sometimes just from ourselves.

We all have our little go-to’s to get through the day, the month, the school year, and I would love for you to share them in the comments below for the rest of us. We are a community, and we move forward by helping each other in our own little (big) ways.

Here are a few of mine:

  1. Every day is a new day. Don’t let yesterday beat you up. Forget it and move forward.
  2. At some point you realize that the supply list is a suggestion. Somethings can be substituted, especially if your family can’t afford an item. Speak to your teacher or school social worker. They are there to help you and not embarrass your child.
  3. Give your kids some time to unwind when they get home in the afternoon. There is something to be said for milk and cookies or an apple after school, including for your too cool teenagers. No one is too cool for milk and cookies. During this unwinding time you can ask non threatening questions like how was your day and do you have any homework. Save the pop psychology for dinner time – did you make any new friends, how did this thing go that you were worried about? A simple how was your day works also.
  4. This one is a tough one especially in our family: try not to have dinner too late in the evening. There are days that we’re eating dinner at 9pm and it is kind of rough for everyone. If dinner is that late, how late is bedtime? When is homework? Is there any downtime for television/family time? Sometimes you have no choice on the timing, but keep in mind the needed downtime, not only for your kids, but also for you.
  5. Be present. Whatever you’re doing in your day, if you’re home when your kids get home, be sure that you’re there for them 100% when they walk in the door. It won’t be for long – they’ll grow tired of you faster than you’ll grow tired of them and they’ll disapear into their rooms – for homework, video games, phone calls/texting with friends. For those of you not home, and there are many parents who are at work when their kids get off the bus, leave them notes, have a snack prepared and in the fridge or on the counter, call them from work (or have them call you) to check in on their day. You will hear them roll their eyes through the phone, but they will still appreciate it. Trust me.
  6. Keep your expectations in line. Be flexible. Things will not always go as planned. Work around it.

And screaming into your pillow is always a good technique.

We will all get through this time together, and we will be better for it.

Summer Rec Lists, Featuring President Barack Obama

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So, technically, President Obama isn’t a guest blogger here, but he has provided (through social media) the first two graphics of both his summer reading list and his playlist. It reminded me of some of the things I’ve been occupying my time with, and wanted to share with readers.

My current reading list includes:

  • Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin by Jill Lepore
  • 18 Tiny Deaths: The Untold Story of Frances Glessner Lee and the Invention of Modern Forensics by Bruce Goldfarb
  • A Stranger and You WElcomed Me: Homilies and Reflections for Cycle B by Jim Knipper, Richard Rohr, James Martin, Greg Boyle, and others
  • Dusk, Night, Dawn: On Revival and Courage by Anne Lamott

My Top 5 of Recently Read Books:

  1. Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson
  2. wow, no thank you. Essays by Samantha Irby
  3. Without Precedent: Chief Justice John Marshall and His Times by Joel Richard Paul
  4. Kill Switch: The Rise of the Modern Senate and teh Crippling of American Democracy by Adam Jentleson
  5. His Truth is Marching On: John Lewis and the Power of Hope by Jon Meacham

Next in line to Read:

Presidents of War: The Epic Story, from 1807 to Modern Times by Michael R. Beschloss

Spotify Curation So Far:

<——————— Newest Link can be found by scrolling down on the sidebar.

All other Spotify links (so far):

Pandemic Artifacts – Part II (of III)

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Pandemic Artifacts – Part I (of III)

Part II:

Community: Neighbors, neighborhood, rainbows, household helpers, tools, the murder of George Floyd and ensuing protests.

By the second third of the pandemic timeline, community became more important and more visible, sometimes as basic as are my neighbors wearing masks/having parties but beyond that as well.

There was more waving at each other as more people were home during the day. There were phone calls from my parish checking on our needs. The same from the kids’ schools about school meals and available wifi. Our area, and many others put rainbows up in their windows or on their lawns to be instagrammed or facebooked with area code rainbow hashtags, like a mini-scavenger hunt (hello GISH). One family in the neighborhood bought prisms and left them out, socially distanced for neighbors walking by to help themselves to. I sat outside in the front of my house reading, meditating, praying, watching the local world go by. I heard kids in strollers, on bikes, and nearby church bells ringing.

After the murder of George Floyd, I saw one or two Black Lives Matter signs in my very white, seemingly unaffected area, although it made me realize that no one is, nor should be, unaffected by the murder of a Black man by the police. The quarantine and lockdown enabled many to protest, and despite right wing complaints about social distancing, there was not much of an uptick in covid cases due to protesting as compared to political rallies held indiscriminately on the other side of the aisle.

I continued adding to my covid resource center, and my family cooked some of the recipes I was sharing. I attended church online and began to attend remote retreats, which I found both a distraction and a new way of prayer and contemplation. I wish I could say I wrote more; Maybe I did write more, at least here, and I’m proud of my work here. I tried to let the world flow around me and not put too many expectations on myself. I was home for my kids in a greater way than usual even though I’ve been home for my kids since they were born. This was the first year family didn’t ask when I was getting one or encourage me in that way of theirs to get a job. I already have several, thank you very much. We rediscovered our teamness. Looking forward to next school year in a few short months, I’m going to miss them when they return to school which we expect them to.

We were also able to go on vacation at the end of the summer. We remained in New York State since we were comfortable with the rules put in place by the state for covid precautions. I’m not sure how much longer my adult son will be willing to go along with us, and we’re enjoying time as an entire family.

The Photos:

Timeline, Part II.
(Pink = Summer, Orange = Fall)
(c)2021
4-6: Prism, orange peeler, In This House/BLM sign
(c)2021

Prism from neighbor

We belong to a neighborhood Facebook group, and at the beginning of the pandemic there were many posts offering suggestions for how to entertain the kids, especially the younger ones who weren’t in remote school. One of the fun, community activities we included ourselves in was the #Rainbow project. Houses and businesses began to put rainbows in their windows, on their garages, painted on pallets, flown on flags and banners, and included a hashtag of the area code with the word rainbow so those of us walking throughout the neighborhood could take pictures of all the rainbows we found, and post it online – on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, that sort of thing on social media.

My artifact came from one of our neighbors in the Facebook group. The family bought several prisms online and put them at the end of their driveway in a bucket with a rainbow flag. They posted on the Facebook that they were to be taken whenever folks walked by on their neighborhood romps, but of course, to please take only one per family. They went quick! We were lucky to be able to get one on her second round. When it’s held in the sunlight, it makes rainbow reflections on the walls, windows, and other surfaces. Just looking at the clear glass teardrop shape makes me smile and think of how lucky we are to be in the place that we live. Also, rainbows are hope and promises of better times.


Orange peeler

We all discovered our kitchens again. I was reminded very much of the nesting that went on after 9/11: we stayed home, kept our families together, simplified our lives, and more than ever before, we cooked. At least that’s what happened in our house, both after 9/11 and during lockdown. I’ve mentioned before about Chef Jose Andres’ Recipes for the People on Twitter. While we were on vacation, we had clementine oranges in our breakfast bags provided by the hotel and I became obsessed with having a delicious, juicy orange almost daily.

I bought this great little tool while we were in Buffalo from a five and dime store. I couldn’t figure out how it worked at first, but it was labeled as an orange peeler for sixty-nine cents. If I knew how much I would love this little gadget, I would have bought fifty of them! Well, maybe not fifty, but a dozen. I’ve already put this five and dime on my list to pick up some more the next time we go through Buffalo (hopefully this summer on the way to Canada). It was one of those things that I didn’t know I needed until I had it. I will never peel another orange without this perfectly constructed tool. So simple. So easy.


BLM sign

About the time in the summer that political signs went up, I saw this same sign on my neighbor’s lawn. I didn’t know this neighbor, but I stopped by anyway to ask about it, thinking she had gotten it locally. At first, I think she thought I was complaining about the inclusivity of the sign. She was happier that I liked it and wanted one of my own. She got hers from Amazon, and mine arrived about twenty-four hours later. I added the American flag, and we’ve added more flags for Memorial Day weekend and then buntings for 4th of July. We’ll leave this sign and one or two of the Stars & Stripes until fall clean-up.

The entire sign reads:

In this house, we believe:
Black Lives Matter
Women’s Rights are Human Rights
No Human is Illegal
Science is Real
Love is Love
Kindness is Everything.

This one sign really says it all. Really, what more is there to say?


Part III coming soon.

Pandemic Artifacts – Part I (of III)

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Sometimes, often, we need to look back at, as well as from the outside of circumstances to realize that there are themes that emerge, and the pandemic was no exception. The pandemic and subsequent lockdown gave us a unique opportunity (albeit at great cost) to look back at a year of new things and old ones, and to look inward.

We were inspired to do things but we were also inspired to slow down and do no things.

Recently, as lockdown, and at the same time, the school year came to a close, my daughter’s teacher gave the class a multi-dimensional project to look back on their pandemic and recognize some of the things that got them through the last year plus. The project and subsequent presentation included themes from memoir, historic timelines, artifacts, creative non-fiction, presentation, and art. Each component was unique and I was excited watching her accomplish each one and it gave me a perfect prompt for my next writing group. It went over very well with my friends, and as I wrote and read my submission, I began to notice themes.

Initially, I had chosen nine photos from across the year, and in laying them out to write about them, I saw that they unintentionally and neatly fell into three distinct sections:

  1. Keeping Safe: Hand-washing, lockdown, information, and isolation.
  2. Community: Neighbors, neighborhood, rainbows, household helpers, tools, the murder of George Floyd and ensuing protests.
  3. Looking Outward: spirituality, new things, and road trips.

The following three part series explores those themes and the significance of some of those pandemic artifacts for me, and hopefully you’ll think of the small or not-so-small things that got you through this unprecedented, uncharted pandemic year.

I created my own timeline (in retrospect) and divided it into three sections, beginning and ending with the first and third photo of each line of my original nine photos. The first third of the timeline and the original photo appear below. I would note that the sections are not evenly split; the first third has significantly more milestones than the other two in what seems like a much shorter time. In those beginning times, I think we were all so surprised by how quickly everything just stopped, even time it seemed.

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Inspire. Surprise.

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The only thing that should surprise us is that there are still some things that can surprise us.

Francois de La Rochefoucauld

The kids will be out of school soon. Things are winding down just as the world is winding back up. People are talking about the return of Broadway, In The Heights is in theatres, and I’m considering going…TO…A…THEATRE. (Practice for Black Widow, which I’ve been informed we WILL see in theatres in a few weeks.) Vacations are being planned, and we may actually see our cousins for Thanksgiving.

With all that taken into consideration, I decided to give myself a morning. Take a short drive and visit one of our local labyrinths. The temperature was a perfect seventy-six degrees.

The labyrinth itself is nestled in a quiet park on a quiet street in a sleepy Victorian former Methodist camp village. The roads are narrow and people drive a little too fast going from one end of town to the other. There is small parking area and the park is a field of grass with several trees that houses the birds and squirrels. It’s very Disney Princess-y.

My plan was to walk the labyrinth, pray parts of it, and sit on one of the benches for a few minutes in the quiet; give myself a little time and space before the summer heat makes that less possible.

When I arrived I could see from a distance that something was slightly different. Some of the rocks that form the labyrinth looked odd, larger, shinier; they really stood out from a distance. The closer I got, the more my eyes widened with surprise at what I found. Much of the labyrinth’s rocks had been replaced, repositioned, new soil beneath them, and some of the rocks making the path had been painted with a variety of things – a Scripture verse, a saying, a bumper sticker sounding Love Wins, all matter of animals and insects, Celtic knots, flowers, and symbols. One rock even had a photograph of two men attached to it. There was a pinwheel and new, bursting with color potted plants.

I walked through, marveling at the changes, at the brightness of the painted rocks, and I took several pictures. Once I reached the center of the labyrinth, I stepped out and spent ten minutes on the bench facing the labyrinth (even though my eyes were closed most of the time) letting myself attempt centering prayer with rocks for my mind’s focus.

There were still a few more left to rejuvenate and I look forward to returning in a couple of weeks to find what other surprises are in store.


The Labyrinth that is Full of Surprises. One.
(c)2021
The Labyrinth that is Full of Surprises. Two.
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The Labyrinth that is Full of Surprises. Three.
(c)2021