June: School’s Out: Reflection

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School’s Out, but the Learning Continues

My daughter’s already got a list going for the summer activities she wants to complete. Most of it is based on past years and I’m sure some will coordinate with her Snapchat and soon to be Instagram, but that’s okay. She has a soon to be instagram, but that’s okay. She has a good eye. For now, she wants to be a fashion designer, but photography is good in almost any field; I use it for my writing.

Starting next week, school’s ot, but the learning goes on. Everything is a teachable moment, from organizing the clutter coming home from school lockers and desks to cooking and gardening.

Yesterday, I gave my two younger kids a homework assignment. Before June 21st, give me a list of five things you want to do this summer. Three of them must be free. Then add a sixth item with a suggestion of where you might want to take vacation this summer. No airplanes, car trip only, and this is not a guarantee of having a vacation.

Once I get their list, I’ll have them research their vacation item and create a budget.

In addition to that, we also will continue to have our Movie Day each week, two or three taste testings, art and journaling, bicycle rides, tending the yard, and a local history lesson.

What are some of the ways you’re still learning this summer?

Depression Lies

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​[Warning: Mentions of suicide and depression.]

I’ve been struggling to write this for several days now, and it’s kept me from my regular postings that I’d planned for last week. The truth is this topic has been on my mind ever since I was shocked by a text from my sister telling me about Robin Williams’ death. His was one of the no, you can’t be serious exclamations and that despite my MSNBC hiatus at the time, I immediately turned on cable news to find out the latest.

I wouldn’t say that I was a true fan of Kate Spade or Anthony Bourdain, although I knew at some point I’d introduce them to my children. My daughter loves designing her own outfits, has made pocketbooks out of t-shirts, and has her own wonderful style. My son, while not keen on cooking as a chore, he does love to try new foods, and made a chicken stir-fry with ramen as well as helping his sister with her vision of chicken alfredo.

For myself, I didn’t pay close attention to their careers, even though Anthony Bourdain gave me the knowledge to avoid restaurants on a Monday night, and when not to order certain foods. That stood out in my mind, no time more so than when I was eating out on a Monday night, whispering to my husband, we really shouldn’t be here today. It was less admonishment, and more asserting my knowledge as Jeopardy contestant.

As someone with clinical depression who continues to take medication and see a therapist, I am always struck with the equivalent of an emotional lightning bolt when someone loses their battle with depression. There but for the grace of G-d, and all that.

The first thing that people who have no understanding of depression say is Kate and Anthony have children. How could they do that to their children? Why didn’t they think of their children? When I was deep in suicidal thoughts, I thought deeply of my children. I thought about what they could do with my life insurance money. I thought that they’d be happier without my mood swings and lethargy. Even today, I try to make up for the moments lost with my daughter as a very young child because of the interference of the depression. At the time, the only thing that kept me here was the thought that they wouldn’t have the money to replace the one car we had.

But it was still a struggle.

For anyone who reads me here, I liken my depression to a recovery process. Kind of like twelve steps, but twelve steps in different orders, and directions, and each series of twelve steps is interrupted by other steps that no one tells you about until you trip over them, and then one day you wake up, and get to start again, but you don’t realize it until you’ve already completed two steps that didn’t need to be completed or that needed to wait until after this new step, oh, and by the way, have I showered today?

There were dozens of news reports and articles detailing what not to say to someone with depression as well as an equal number of what to say to someone with depression. Be ready when they reach out. Reach out if they don’t. Don’t be too pushy, but don’t be too complacent. Don’t talk about how their death will affect you, but tell them how much they mean to you. Don’t tell them to feel better, don’t give them advice, don’t ask what you can do to help, but do all of these things. You’ll know what to do.

Well, guess what?

You won’t know what to do.

I live with depression, and I don’t know what to do for others.

Like many of you, I posted the Suicide Prevention Hotline number and a variety of websites and chat lines, and I hope that whoever needs them will use them. As pollyannaish as those memes and graphics saying how much you are loved, and if you’re looking for a sign not to kill yourself, this is it, sound, they actually worked for me in that moment when I saw them. They were a sign, that I needed, and heeded, and appreciated. So I continue to post them as well.

It’s easy to think if this celebrity or that celebrity that has seemingly everything going their way can’t handle it, how can I? Well, you can because your low moments are different from theirs. They may have looked at you and thought what a great life that person has. Perspective is something that we all need, but we all see different things from our side of the fence.

I have my religion and my writing. I have my mantra – it will be okay. I have Julian of Norwich and Mary Magdalene, LIn-Manuel Miranda, Misha Collins, and others that reach out in their own public ways and isnpire me, mostly to simply take a deep breath, and then take another, and try again. Take one step and then another.

You have yours.

Share them here in the comments. You never know when someone is looking for another coping tool, and yours may be the one they need.

Before I go, I will leave you with something that writer/actor Wil Wheaton says about depression: Depression lies. Whatever it’s telling you is a lie. Don’t listen.

So, come into the light, just for a moment, and see things differently. Talk to a friend. Talk to a chat line. Talk to a professional. They are here to help.

I’m here to help as well.

Suicide Prevention Resources

May: Reflection

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​Domestic violence awareness month happens in October. Maybe that’s because it’s getting closer to the holidays, and that’s a prime time for tempers to flare, control to be lost, and violence to erupt. Domestic violence impacts 1 in 3 women. That is a huge number of victims. In addition, there is a double standard when it comes to defending one’s self against domestic violence: women are more likely to go to jail for defending themselves than men are for the initial attack. Men murder their partner, and they go to jail for maybe a few years. Women killing their partners in self-defense after years of abuse will often get sentenced into the decades.

This isn’t about statistics, though.

About now, some of you may be wondering, if domestic violence awareness month is in October, why am I bringing this up in May. A week and a day ago was the seventh anniversary of my friend’s murder by her ex. She was murdered while washing out a tea kettle in the bathroom. One of her roommates was also killed. I am sad and embarrassed to say that I was in the ranks of being a victim-blamer, and I take every May to reevaluate her situation, realize how little I was able to see from my vantage point, and promise to do better when I see things in the future.

I made assumptions based on the little I knew, not realizing that there was an iceberg hidden that I was only seeing a very small, tiny bit of. That tiny bit gave me a false sense of security as well as superiority. Hubris.

It took me a long time to come to grips with my part as something of an enabler by dismissing what I was hearing as nonsense; by ignoring the hairs standing up on the back of my neck. I’ve prayed. I’ve journaled. I, along with other friends, did an anniversary/memorial tea tasting meditation ceremony (not sure how else to describe it.) It brought me closer to my friend and closer to closure for myself.

Leaving an abusive situation is not as simple as walking out of the door. There are emotional factors. There are economic factors. The one thing I learned is that it’s easy to judge someone from the outside. It’s easy to know the “right” call to make when you’re not the one who has to make it.

I wasn’t close enough to the situation to have stopped her murder, but I could have been less judgmental. I could have been more patient with her idiosyncrasies that in hindsight made sense even if they didn’t at the time. I could have been more supportive.

If you are, or someone you know is living in an abusive situation, ask what you can do to help. Offer options and solutions. Don’t tell the person what they “should” be doing or what you would be doing differently if you were in that situation.

The number to call for help is the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233

This is a tree I used to sit across from in my car and think about my friend. I just sat and stared at this nearly daily. It belongs to the church I now attend, so I see it fairly regularly. It both gives me sadness and peace. (c)2018


World Free Press Day

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​Today is World Free Press Day. Many of us know that included in the First Amendment is our sacred freedom of the press, but because this document is two hundred thirty-one years old we don’t always give it the respect and attention it deserves. In fact, a free press in the United States is something that i think many of us take for granted. We assume that if we need to know it, CNN or MSNBC or The Washington Post, etc. will let us know in big twenty point headlines and short, pithy, decible-breaking sound bites.

For Halloween in 2016, I dressed as a journalist with a notebook, 1940s hat, and press pass. I quoted Thomas Jefferson. I got a few nods and nice costumes, but it wasn’t just a cosplay or costume. I had been watching the 2016 election for more than a year, and what was happening from the Trump campaign was was distressing to me.

I can’t have been the only one to see what was happening in this country, but I felt as though I was screaming into the void.

After two years of this Administration’s trampling of journalists and the press, they’ve erased mention of a free press in the Department of Justice’s internal manual. This country was founded on basic tenets, none more basic than the First Amendment, and a free press to keep the government accountable.

Now, Trump’s Justice Department was chipping away at those basic tenets with a sledgehammer.

There are journalists around the world, trying to get the truth out, who are kidnapped, tortured, and killed. We need to shine a light on this epidemic, and the United States needs to go back to leading the way for the press to be free.

The Committee to Protect Journalists is one organization who shines the light and keeps the rest of us aware of what’s happening around the world.

Press Freedom is under threat – press release

Press Freedom is under threat – Mission Report. This includes a link to download the full report. I urge you to read it.

Free the Press: 2018 Campaign to Free Imprisoned Journalists:

Reflections on Living an Interfaith Life

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​​We’re more than halfway through Passover, and everyone is tired of matzo. Can’t we have pizza for dinner? Dinner rolls with our chicken? Pasta? Pleeeeeease. 

We have always been an interfaith family. We didn’t attend religious services but we observed and celebrated all of the major holidays of both Catholicism and Judaism. That was how I was raised Jewish – following the traditions, participating in the observances, eating the holiday food. We’ve always had a Christmas tree in my married life. We are so blended that when I converted to Catholicism, my daughter assumed that my husband was the Jewish one since we’re both faiths and I was Catholic.

People blend their interfaith families in a myriad of ways. For me, I try to find a way to blend without overshadowing or ignoring either. I also don’t usually like to combine them. For example, I don’t like Jewish related ornaments on Christmas trees. I think that keeping the holiday traditions distinctive is better for our kids to appreciate both equally. We still celebrate Chanukah on Christmas if it falls that way. We will light the Chanukah candles and decorate the tree on the same day if timing demands it.

If we were spending Easter with my mother-in-law, I would not object to the kids eating bread or her special Peeps bunny cake. They deserved their special time with their grandmother during her special holiday.

I dread looking at the calendar to see when Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur fall because my son’s birthday is in October and there’s a chance I will have to choose between fasting and praying and celebrating my son’s birthday. (My son wins every time. One thing about both the Jewish and Catholic faiths is that family is a priority.)

This year, Passover began right in the middle of the Triduum. From Holy Thursday through Easter, I spend about 11 and a half  hours at church between the prayer services, parish dinner, masses, and the Easter Vigil. It is exhausting, but I love it. Right before that, my son was in the hospital, and our oven wasn’t working.

I did not even mention Passover until after Easter dinner*. Yes, we missed the first three nights, but Monday morning, bright and early, we were a bread free house. I realize it’s not kosher, but it’s kosher style, and they still get the dietary restrictions as well as the stories and the celebration of freedom from Egyptian slavery. They also love latkes, which I make more during the abundance of potatoes for Passover than for Chanukah. This year I made fried chicken tenders using crushed matzo in place of the bread crumbs. I had never done that before and it was well received. I believe we have a new tradition.

After the huge windstorm we had yesterday, we’ve had no power since about 12:30am, and won’t be getting it back until later tonight, or so I’m told. That means we will probably need to eat out, which means I probably won’t restrict their food choices. I can always make the matzo lasagna tomorrow night. Obviously, grocery shopping is also postponed.

The most important aspect of sharing a house with multiple religions is respect. Our two faiths are equal in importance and in worth. They are valued with the same respect and reverence. My time at church is important to me, and my family understands and accepts that. My time making latkes is also valuable and important to me.

We light Yartzeit candles for my parents and now for my mother-in-law, who wasn’t Jewish. I know she wouldn’t mind. We also have mass said for her.

I would love to hear from any readers who juggle this very issue of interfaith or multi-faith within your families. I think we do a good job, but it’s good to give acknowledgment to others who are doing a good job as well as getting ideas on other things we can do differently or better.

I hope your Easter is a blessed one and Chag Sameach for your Passover.

What other holidays do you celebrate (they don’t necessarily have to be at this time of the year)?

[*My husband jiggled the heating element for the oven, and so we were able to have turkey dinner for Easter.]

Sundays in Lent – Easter – The Resurrection of the Lord

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Today’s Readings:

Acts 10:34a, 37-43

Psalms 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23

Col 3:1-4

Gospel: Mark 16:1-7

Since I’ve joined the church, even before my baptism, I have only attended one Easter Day mass. It was the year before I took my sacraments, and I remember it was crowded and there was bright sunlight streaming in through the skylight, and the women were wearing the brightest, most springy colors I could ever imagine. I feel like I wore my own bright pink shirt. Since then, last night included, I have attended the Easter Vigil. It is a bit more solemn and dark. It is literally dark. It doesn’t begin until 8pm with the blessing of the Easter fire from Saturday morning, and the lighting of the Paschal candle. From that, the entire church is lit up with candlelight and the Paschal candle lights all of the individual candles. It is really quite beautiful and moving as we move from utter darkness (Good Friday) to the brightest light (that of the Resurrection). 

On Saturday evening, after darkness has fallen, the Paschal candle is brought inside with the chant of The Light of Christ followed by the Easter proclamation. Then seven readings and responsorial psalms, an epistle, gospel and homily and we’re ready for the renewal of baptismal vows, bringing our candidates into full communion with the church and finishing with the hymn Jesus Christ is Risen Today. Alleluia!

I come home and it’s Easter.

We do an egg hunt. Our children are twelve, thirteen, and twenty-one, and they still enjoy gathering the eggs and finding the baskets the Bunny left them. We baste a turkey, mash potatoes, and casserole green beans. For all of its significance, it is a much quieter affair, a smaller, more internal celebration. We’ll read and eat some candy. We’ll clear the table for dinner. This year, I have a small, lovely vase of flowers to add as our centerpiece.

More than anything, on this, a most sacred day is spending the day with our family, as a family.

How do you celebrate as a family? Do you continue any of the traditions you did as a child in your parents’ house?

[Beginning next Sunday, I will continue this devotional, Sundays in Lent as a Sundays in Easter with a devotional posting each Sunday through Pentecost. I hope you’ll continue to follow along, and are enjoying reading and participating with it as much as I’m enjoying writing it.]