Mental Health Monday – A First Person Account of Depression

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This is Zach Beauchamp’s first person account of his suicidal depression He wrote it for Vox in June of 2018. A lo of what he sys is familiar to me, but we still walked different paths as each of us with depression does. There are so many similarities, but there are also so many differences. This is how we help each other, learn from each other, and keep moving forward.

I Had Suicidal Depression – Zach Beauchamp

Are Libraries Still Essential?

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Libraries are the thin red line between civilization and barbarism. – Neil Gaiman


I originally saved the Vox link, thinking that this was a fluff piece; a ridiculous headline that they easily debunked in the article. I hadn’t realized that someone had actually written in favor of getting rid of libraries in favor of Amazon bookstores/coffee shops.

I need to preface this by saying that I happen to love bookstore-slash-coffee shops. Whenever my family goes to Barnes & Noble, I find a comfortable space in the cafe and read or write. I frequently (before Howard Schultz began running for President) went to Starbucks with the specific intention to get something to eat and drink and to write. There is a comic book store that is also a coffee shop in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania that is on my list of places to visit. I love bookstores and coffee shops, together or apart.

However, I don’t confuse them with libraries. Libraries have a whole different feel to them. They also have a different necessity to them. In fact, I’ve just come from my local library. I meet a group of people there once a month for a writing group. We’ve been getting together for about seven years, although they had been meeting prior to my joining them. I woujldn’t have met them if not for the memoir workshop that I began to attend, which not only gave me a wonderful learning environment but was also one of the important things that led me out of the darkness of my depression.

I returned two of my daughter’s books that she had finished reading, and I collected the forms to file my taxes.

In summer, I bring my kids for special programs as well as their summer reading program that includes prizes and a special celebration at the end of the summer. My older son attended a Harry Potter evening in costume and my younger kids met therapy dogs and learned some cooking techniques during two separate events. We’ve attended Olympics activities and Halloween parades. All of these activities were either free or for a nominal activity – one or two dollars.

I almost always see people using the computers, checking their email, searching for jobs, and whatever else they’re doing that they can’t do at home, either because they don’t have access to the internet or because it isn’t safe to (domestic abuse victims and the homeless).

There are several daily newspapers and hundreds of magazine subscriptions.

On my Kindle, I will often have the maximum loan of four library books. I am currently reading Timothy Egan’s The Immortal Irishman. I can hold books and sign up for programs through my Kindle.

Libraries often have local art exhibits, both from local artists working in several different mediums and school kids showing off their artistic talents from art class in school in all grade levels.

I’ve attended concerts and lectures, and will be attending a storytelling event on the first of March.

Last year, one local library had a comic book convention with activities, free items, and displays both to see and/or for sale.

I remember being a kid growing up in NYC and having the bookmobile come. What a special day that always was.

Every community needs a library.

If you don’t believe me, listen to Neil Gaiman; or to librarians.]

What was your favorite thing to do at your local library?

What was your favorite book?​

16/52 – Ezra Klein

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I first saw Ezra Klein giving analysis on MSNBC. I knew that seeing him on screen that I would be in for an insightful discussion of that day’s headline news. I have always found him honest and engaging; able to get to the heart of the matter, and show depth to both (or more) sides of an issue.

When he formed his new website, Vox, I followed. I have never been disappointed. They are both opinionated and educatonal. Their opinions are clearly laid out as are their explanations of the complicated facts and news of the day.

He, and his team, have a way of taking a huge issue and breaking it down into bite-sized, easier to understand pieces. He and Vox use whatever media isw at their disposal from videos and charts to photos and humor.

Ezra Klein is a great example of what it is to be a journalist in today’s media world.

With this year’s uproar over fake news and the President’s disregard for the profession of journalism and the journalist, it is more important than ever to have reliable news sources. Ezra Klein is a reliable news source.

Check him out on Facebook and on the Vox website.

First Week of Lent

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Why Do People Fast for Lent? (a view from Vox)

As the first full week of Lent comes to a close, I thought I would talk about some of the difficulty I’ve been having during this year’s time of reflection. It really has been a struggle to find what I want to make of this Lenten season.

On Sunday last, I finally decided, after four days that I would give up bread for Lent. Not all bread products, but the delicious, soft, warm, fluffy bread. Then on Monday at my friend’s funeral reception, I ate a roll. It was not unintentional. I wanted the roll, and I took one. I probably would have had two, but since I knew that I had succumbed I didn’t want to compound my misstep. I do plan on going to confession on Saturday, and I plan on abstaining from bread for the rest of Lent.

I could not decide on what would be a meaningful fast. Everything seemed hollow and superficial. I thought of the other items I’d given up for Lent in the past: diet Coke, ice cream, and McDonald’s breakfast burritos. For some reason, I feel like chocolate should also be on that list, but I don’t recall actually giving it up. Perhaps it was on the list of options in the past.

Should I give up all three?

No, that would be crazy, and near nigh impossible. The abstention is supposed to be thoughtful and somewhat difficult, but I don’t think it’s supposed to be impossible.

I finally decided on bread for a few reasons:

1. I eat way too much bread. [But it’s sooooo good.]

2. My doctor wants me to eliminate bread and sugar and empty calories from my diet. I did this for three months last year and I lost almost thirty pounds. Then, I got lazy, gained it all back, and then some, and I feel much more crappy.

3. Bread would be not impossilbe, but it would also be challenging, and the benefit at the end of forty days would be both physical and spiritual.

So, bread it is.

I am also adding to my Lenten “diet”.

1. I’m returning to the 9am daily mass when I don’t have a prior commitment. On the other two days, I’m planning tea and meditation and/or prayer.

2. I’m keeping a Lenten journal.

3. I’m speaking out, but trying to do so in a more diplomatic way.

4. I’m finding me, and being me more often.

5. Prayer, fast, alms. I’m thinking more about the particulars of Lent, and how to carry Lent throughout my year.

I am also reading Not By Bread Alone. It is a reflection book very much like the Advent one I liked so much.

I am going to try and cook one meal a week. I have been poorly disposed to cooking for quite a while now. Some of it is depression, and some of it is that I haven’t done it in so long, it feels weird to start again.

I have many retreats/workshops, mainly at the Dominican Retreat Center that give me so much spiritually and through fellowship with others.

I’m less self-conscious about discussing my differences with many of the Catholics I know. I talk about growing up Jewish, which not everyone knows, but it really relates to who I am today, and how I approach my Catholicism. I talk about my feminism without as much embarrassment as I used to have. I defend Hillary Clinton and the Democrats, diplomatically. I embrace my allyship of LGBT, especially youth and trans people who need more allies. I accept and embrace my thoughts and beliefs on reproductive rights, even where it diverges from doctrine.

As a funny way to end these thoughts of Lent, as a Jewish person, and yes, I still consider myself to be Jewish as much as I’m Catholic, I find it funny the dietary rules of Lent as compared to Yom Kippur. During the twenty-four hours of Yom Kippur, our fast was no food or drink, and typically most adults would spend the entire day in temple in prayer. I would only take water with my medicine and I only ate when I was pregnant. But Lent…you only fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and you abstain from meat on those days as well as all of the Fridays in Lent. But only if you are under 59. And a Catholic fast is one normal sized meal, but as many as two small meals with no in between meal snacking. I think water is acceptable throughout the day. This seems so easy to my Jewish mind.

I also know that it’s the thought that counts, so while I am partaking in these fasts and abstentions, I am reading and reflecting, meditating and contemplating, and drawing closer to G-d without all the hub-bub of food getting in the way.

Lent is a slow down to discern what is important, and to set goals for the rest of the year after the celebration of Easter.

This is only the beginning of the time in the desert, but it is not a trudge, but a slow pace to get to the other side better than before, and the first steps have been taken.

May your fast be easy.