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Monthly Archives: November 2014

Beautiful Christmas – Before You Start Decorating

I took Belle to doggie daycare for half a day yesterday and took advantage of the time to start decorating our house for Christmas. I got five trees up, including the 20 foot foyer tree; not lit or decorated– but they are up– and that’s a start!

IMG_5462I want to share some of my experiences and some tips on how to make the most out of your Christmas decorating in a few posts over the coming weeks. I know it’s not Thanksgiving yet and even if you don’t plan on starting until then; it’s not too early to shop or at least begin thinking about what you want to do this season.

Whether this is your first time decorating or you consider yourself an old pro, I hope you find some ideas that will help you make the most out of your holiday decorating.

Before You Start

Especially if you are new to decorating, or looking to expand your efforts this year, here are some things you really should consider first:

  • Budget. What’s your budget? Are you recycling old decorations or purchasing new for the first time? How can you save money?
  • Storage. Where are you going to store all your decorations after the holidays?
  • Time. How much time do you have to decorate AND take it all down?
  • Size. How can you make the most of what you have? Is there such a thing as too much?
  • Design. Do you have a vision in mind? Don’t know exactly where to start?

So, those are the five big things you should decide before anything else. You should consider these points in that order too. It’s great to have ideas first– but if you don’t ultimately follow these steps, you could find yourself coming up short down the line.

IMG_5434Budget. If you have an unlimited budget then you can skip this step. Most of us are trying to make the most of what we have; and believe me, it’s easy to go way beyond what you intended to spend if you’re not careful. Something that may start out as a simple idea can snowball. Before you know it, you’re either out of money or over extended.

Example 1– Trees need a lot of decorations and lights. The bigger the tree, the more you need. I always find if I think I need 6 strings of lights– I end up needing 8 or else I’m taking them all off and stringing them back on the tree again. At least with the ornaments, you can re-space them if you run out. I’m not saying you can’t have a simple, elegant tree. I’m saying that it’s so easy to start and then find yourself needing much more than you anticipated.

Example 2– Garland and swags. Yes, you can measure the areas you want to hang garland and swags and you can get a pretty good idea of what you need. Don’t be surprised though, if you don’t anticipate the extra you’ll need depending on how you drape it. I reuse whenever possible but garland doesn’t last forever. I’ve also noticed you can’t always find suitable garlands readily available form season to season. Prices have also doubled and even quadrupled in some stores this year.

Three ways to save money are: 1) Start early and watch for sales. 2) Don’t forget to check dollar and discount stores! You’d be surprised at what you can find. 3) Maybe go simpler this year and then make the most of the clearance sales after Christmas for next year.

If you wait too long, most of the good stuff will be gone. Don’t expect to find the shelves are still full after Thanksgiving. Trendy items and single color lights (even red or green) tend to sell out early.

A good rule of thumb is: What ever you expect to spend… double it. What ever you can afford to spend, cut it in half and start there as your budget amount.

IMG_5348Storage. Many people make the mistake of not considering what they are going to do with their decorations when they come down. You may not have room to store a large artificial tree and all the trimmings. You may have to go with a smaller, compact option. Another alternative is to use a live tree but that might not fit in your budget year after year. Know how much space you can afford to dedicate to storing your decorations before you buy– unless you expect to throw out or donate them when they come down.

Storage space isn’t so much an issue for me, the organization of it all has been a huge challenge. This past year, I actually took the time to separate out my decorations in containers and label them with the contents. This helps so much when you start to decorate the following year. Don’t skip the labeling part– You may think you’ll remember what’s in that box on the top closet shelf and a year later– your memory is gone. I label the top and at least one side of each container and make sure I store them with the label side out.

Proper storage does take a little extra time but not as much as you might think. It definitely save you time later on.

WARNING: I know it may seem obvious…. Don’t store items that can freeze or melt in an non-climate controlled area like the attic or an unheated garage. Candles and snow globes might not look the same when you open them the following year.

One more thing– when you take your tree down: It may not seem important at the time to separate out your ornaments (if you use sets of things) but do it. When you open the box the following year, you’ll be glad you did.

IMG_5224Time. Last year was the first year I wasn’t still decorating Christmas Eve. Biting off more than I can chew is an art I have mastered and a bad habit to break. I highly recommend starting early if you plan on a lot of decorating and think you might run into a time crunch. Procrastinating can also create a holiday stress load you don’t need.

Same as with your budgeting: Whatever time you think it will take, double it. Whatever time you have available, cut your time expectations in half. Start there and if you complete everything, you can always add more later.

We used to host the same group for Thanksgiving and Christmas and Michael always preferred that Christmas wasn’t up for both holidays. This created a big time crunch because of the amount of decorating I do every year. Some years I waited and some I started early depending on what the schedule looked like. My preference is to have everything up by Thanksgiving so the time before Christmas is open for holiday fun.

By all means, allow yourself enough time to enjoy decorating! For me, it’s one of my favorite parts of the holiday season.

Don’t forget, you have to take it all down! This is my least favorite part. It takes time. You may want to leave it all up a few extra weeks to enjoy, run out of time– and then find you’re still taking it down before Easter. Yes, that’s happened to me.

Size. This directly relates to the other four considerations. How big do you want to go? How much room do you have for storage? How much can you afford to spend? How much time is it going to take?

I love a fully decorated house, inside and out. But simple and elegant or warm and homey is great too. Know and stick to your limits!

IMG_5242Design. Here’s a chance to show off a little of your personality. Your ideas and creativity here, are your only guide. I highly recommend considering 1) colors and themes and 2) whether your design will vary from room to room or encompass the whole house. Make sure, what ever you decide, compliments the everyday design of your living space. Complimentary or contrasting colors and be very effective. Using one or two primary colors can also give a very elegant and designed feel to your decorating.

I love Christmas decorations so much, I’d be hard pressed to say I’ve seen a really ugly, tree, house or room. Christmas is the one time that I think its perfectly acceptable to be completely gaudy if you want to… It’s really your choice.

Christmas decorations can completely transform a space either good or bad. A tree that’s too big can make a room unlivable and hard to navigate. One that’s too small can look dwarfed. To compensate here, especially if storage is an issue: consider using a tabletop tree as room accent as opposed to a 4 foot tree stuck in a corner or behind the couch.

Colored lights are great — keep in mind you might not want blue or purple lights next year. White is classic, multicolored lights can be more casual and whimsical.

Last year, for the first time in many years, I used the inexpensive glass ball ornaments (that have been around for ever) on several trees. By limiting them to a few colors, (gold and white, silver and white, etc.) and using a couple different sizes; I was surprised at how really beautiful they looked. It’s a very cost effective way to decorate, you can use them in groupings and arrangements as well, and if you have to get rid of them because you can’t store them– they are cheap to replace.

I also love a traditional family ornament tree. Not only is it totally unique to your family but the sentimental value is priceless. That can be included in other decorating elements in your house as well. Saved treasures from your children’s, or your childhood, can be used for a warm, sentimental touch.

IMG_1244Go For It!

I hope this helps some of you in getting the wheels turning! I’d love to hear from you and have you share your own thoughts and ideas. I’ll be posting more though the season. If you’re new to my blog, check out the archives from last November and December for some easy ideas and suggestions.

Happy Decorating!

 

So You Think You Can Drive!?!

Bad_DriverI hate driving.

No, I hate other people driving.

Does anyone take a driving test anymore?

I’m that person that screams when they drive. I swear, I can’t even drive around the block without some idiot pissing me off.

So, I’ve decided I need to pitch my idea for a new TV show to the networks. So You Think You Can Drive is sure to be the next big thing.

It’s another reality-competition show BUT no gets eliminated each week. Instead, competing drivers will square-off in a difficult, new challenge in each episode and be ranked based on their performance.

The catch is…. they’re really competing for the title of World’s Worst Driver.

eatingwhiledrivingThe challenges will include some pretty daunting tasks. Like– driving the speed limit. Using a turn signal. Driving the right direction on a one-way street. My favorite is, of course, the most difficult… Driving one full mile without texting, talking on the phone, eating, putting on make up or — and this is the most challenging…. reaching down to feel around for that thing that just fell on the floor.

I think it will be an epic hit!

driving-is-not-for-youOf course all the stereotypes will be represented: Old lady that never drives over 10 mph, Drunk guy, Texting teen, Revoked license guy, Girl that’s always late for work, Bus driver on a controlled substance, Clueless singing preppie, Woman with too many kids in the car, I break at every street sign person and I break for wind man.

The show will be interactive, so viewers can tweet live comments on air, most of which will have to be censored; mirroring what they’d be saying if they were following the competitors on the open road.

I think viewers will vote too. The winner will have their car crushed by one of those big compactors, their license revoked by a real (retired) police officer and they’ll get a permanent tattoo on their forehead (preferably with a rusty needle) of World’s Worst Driver.

It will be bigger than Honey Boo Boo….

That is, before the child molester-thing.

 

Here Comes Lord Dudley

IMG_8216

Meet Lord Dudley

A week ago we were blessed with a new addition to our family. Dudley is an AKC English Bulldog, fawn and white, weighing just over 17 pounds. He’s 9 weeks old now and a cuddly teddy bear. So far, he gets along wonderfully with our other furry kids, although Collins (our cat) has pretty much kept his distance.

Lord Dudley loves to explore. He loves to romp through the leaves and crawl under things.

Dudley and Belle. It's hard to get these two to stop playing long enough to get a clear picture.

Dudley and Belle. It’s hard to get these two to stop playing long enough to get a clear picture.

His new sister, Belle, couldn’t be happier to have a new playmate. The two of them are constantly wrestling around— which is especially funny as Belle is growing by leaps and bounds. Belle loves to stand over him like an umbrella.

Cash prefers to sniff and lick Dudley’s ears… a lot.

His name has two Broadway connections, the main one being an obscure reference from the musical Mame. The second is from the musical, Something’s Afoot.

Though I doubt, Dudley will be appearing on stage anytime soon, he is certainly a little show off. In less than a week he’s stolen everyone’s hearts.

Cash watching over his new brother, Dudley.

Cash watching over his new brother, Dudley.

Just a baby.

Just a baby.

Nap time for Dudley.

Nap time for Dudley.

Dudley the explorer taking a break.

Dudley the explorer taking a break.

 

Why I Grocery Shop At 3 AM: A Nightmare

It’s 3:00 AM, no traffic and I pull into the empty parking lot. I park up front in the first spot close to the door. I approach the door that glides open, revealing a clean, quiet shopping metropolis just waiting for me. I nod, or say Good Morning, to the familiar faces of employees, busily stocking shelves and taking inventory as I move quickly through aisle after uncrowded aisle gathering the items on my list. Something in the produce department not on the shelf? No problem. There’s someone there, willing to get it for me from the back. The only other shopper in the store– and I swear, he’s there every time I go at this hour– is an older gentleman using one of those electric mobility scooters. I go to self check out, scan my items as a friendly cashier rushes over to assist and engage in a little small talk as they help bag my items. Then I’m done. This is the only way to shop!

I do most of my shopping at a local super store chain (grocery and department store combined) in the early morning hours and I love it! It’s a quiet, quick and efficient use of my time. I can do a full grocery shop and browser through the other departments (and always the pet aisles) in about an hour.

This particular chain has a great phone app that allows me to clip manufacturer coupons, store coupons and incentives AND form a shopping list for a quick and easy shopping experience. Store coupons (or sales) and manufacturer coupons are stackable for additional savings. If for some reason the coupon or discount doesn’t come up at the register, there’s always someone there to quickly correct it, no questions asked.

My receipt shows me my total combined savings over regular retail prices– and so far this year, I’ve saved over $2,800! I love this place.

That is, I love this place at 3:00 AM.

1a11b-shopping-cart-grocery-store-retail-consumerYesterday, I went at 11:30 AM. What was I thinking? The store was crowded with typical shoppers that have no concern or awareness of anyone but themselves. Kids are screaming, wandering shoppers leave their carts blocking aisles; and I have to wait for the two retired gentlemen to wake up from their conversation about how bad the Bears are this year and move out of the way.

Oh yeah, the reason I had to go at this normal hour was two fold: There were two, one day-only coupons I wanted to use; and I needed to have a quick adjustment done on my eye glasses at the little in-house vision center. (If only they were open at 3 AM!)

I got my glasses fixed at the front of the store and headed into the chaos. Swerving, dodging and taking detours, I navigated my way around the myriad of confused shoppers blocking my path.

The special coupons I had were for 40% off a men’s outerwear and an accessory item. I wanted to get Michael a new heavy duty coat for work and for shoveling snow at home. I found a good Dickies brand coat under a sign that said Men’s Outerwear and 20% off. Perfect. The discounts would stack and I would get the $80 coat for about $38. I also picked up a pair of gloves, already 30% off, plus the extra 40% off.

Avoiding the crowded aisles, I headed to the back perimeter aisle to head over to the pet department. As I was passing through, I found some pet toys on final clearance, 90% off. As I was picking out a few, I happened to glance to my right. In the distance, coming towards me down the aisle was my 3 AM friend on his scooter. )Why was he here now?) Seconds after I spotted him, a woman on her cell phone crashed her cart into the side of his scooter. He wasn’t hurt but I’d bet he was a sailor in his youth, if you get my drift.

ab31038.jpgI was nearly done with my shopping and headed to pick up my fridge and freezer items, not yet too annoyed by all the people– I reach the dairy section to find: No whole milk. How does a store that size have no whole milk? They barely had any 2% milk, either but I refuse to buy that anyway. (Sugar is added to 2% milk to replace the fat, actually making it less healthy for you!)

So then, I move through the meat section, which apparently, at noon is a social gathering spot; reach the produce section to find the bagged, chopped salad shelves empty too. This really wasn’t going well.

I headed toward the registers to check out and in the center aisle where they display sale merchandise, I found the large jars of peanut butter on sale for $1.49 if you bought eight. Well, eight is a lot but it has a long shelf life; and we go through a lot of it with the dogs. Sell by date was October 2016, so in the cart it went. Shopping done– just had to pay.

I’m not sure if any of this is annoying or amusing enough for anyone to continue reading–BUT– it took me 45 minutes just to check out!

45 minutes to check out in an empty, self-scan checkout lane!

Why?

Well since you asked….

The peanut butter was really on sale for $4.99 not $1.49. I had to go get the sign to show them their mistake… They gave it to me for the lower price… but it took almost 15 minutes just to change the price in the computer, for me to get it at the posted price. Then the register wouldn’t give me the extra 40% off on the coat because it was work wear not just outerwear that they claim was excluded– but not listed on the app coupon OR the text message, I’d received. This was what got me in the store at that ungodly hour. I made them take it off my tally, I wasn’t paying that much. (The guy that had gotten in line behind me was sighing loudly and cussing under his breath at this point.) Then the gloves? Same thing. Only they couldn’t claim a reason why I wasn’t entitled to the discount, so that took even longer to figure out. The original attendant had just gone on break… and the replacement didn’t know how to do price adjustments. Suddenly, every self checkout was at a stand still because every one needed assistance. I was never more relieved to finally get out of a store in my life!

This is exactly why I try to only shop off hours or online as much as possible.

That would be the end of the story… except– stupid me, I forgot eggs. When I got home and started to make meatloaf, I discovered we were completely out of eggs. You can’t make meatloaf without them.

So— I was forced to drive to the nearby grocery– that I hate with a passion– just to get eggs. (I won’t name any names but the store’s a real gem.) And yes, it took me almost a half hour just to buy a carton of eggs.

The End.

 

P.S. — The meatloaf was delicious! <wink>

 

The Best Things In Life Are Free

From the time we are children, it is drilled into our head that nothing in life is free. Everything has a price. You get what you pay for and vice versa. This is supposed to to teach us appreciation for things, as well as the importance of hard work (to get what we want) and success. If you want something bad enough, you’ll work for it. While this is true, it also places so much emphasis on material things and status that I think many people miss the really best things.

Ask yourself: what’s your favorite thing in the world? Most of the time, the things we come up with are free.

tumblr_le0u2dl7fP1qdbbywo1_500Reading a book, sleeping in late on the weekend, a walk on the beach, hugs or affection from children or pets….. these are things I think of and hear most often. Sure, you may have to buy the book, sleeping in may come with a sacrifice of time, if you don’t live near a beach– you have to get there, and children and pets are expensive to care for. That’s not the real point. When you look at it that way, you buy into a negative world view.

I find the things I appreciate the most; and are the most memorable to me, may be what you’d consider residuals.

I hate even using that word because depending on your comprehension of it, it may sound like I’m trivializing it.

Take going on a vacation, for example. Michael and I have found we really like to travel and have dream destinations and vacations we’d like to take in the future. Well, that’s certainly not free, you may be saying to yourself; but after it’s said and done, what was the best part of the vacation? What do you remember the most?

Yes, you probably remember: I went here, I went there; I did this, I saw that– What was really the most memorable part? Was it the plane ticket or hotel? Was it really the location or what you did? For me, I remember the planning and anticipation, and no matter how great or how bad the actual trip is; the very best part of it is time and connection Michael and I have. The experience is great but it’s the shared experience that’s the most memorable.

When the vacation is over, I always hate going back to the routine because then I feel this big disconnect… I crave that time together experiencing new things, connecting and not being easily distracted from the daily routine of life. I go through Michael withdrawal.

free-sign-797711Our dogs have always had a good life but we really try to make it even better. Since we got Belle, our daily routine has changed, less time in front of the TV and more play time with Belle. Since I get so much time with her during the day, Michael usually plays with her while I’m writing or spending time with the boys. I’ll come down for awhile too and we play with her together. You can’t buy that quality time. Those are memories you don’t forget.

I love my quiet time too. An early morning cup of coffee before anyone else is up; feels so good and helps me start the day right. That’s free.

Those unexpected expressions of love from companions, children, pets and friends are also priceless and free.

Belle can be a real handful–  then out of the blue, she calms down and crawls in my lap or licks my face. Free and priceless.

A friend messages on Facebook, calls or stops by unexpectedly— free and priceless too.

There are so many things to appreciate and cherish. The residual effects of life can be the most rewarding.

Sometimes we just have to stop, look and listen.

 

The best things….the free things are right there under our noses.

 

 

Just A Housewife

Let’s flashback to the old days…

She’s just a housewife,

A wife and mother.

She has the easiest job in the world.

Cooking, cleaning and playing with the children all day,

What an honorable and easy life!

o-CLEAN-HOME-facebook I can still remember when most families survived on one income. The fathers went to work and mothers stayed at home with the children. A family was two parents, a dog and 2.5 kids.

I remember when it all started to change and women were belittled if they still chose to have a career and raise a family. They were called selfish.

I remember when families started to struggle to survive and it became more necessary for both parents to work, just to financially keep their heads above water.

I remember when there was an increase in single parent families and the mom (in most cases) or dad had to be both the bread winner and the sole parent.

I remember when the terms stay at home dad and stay at home mom came into popularity. They called these parents lucky, lazy or unmotivated.

It’s funny how public perceptions change in a matter of a few years. It’s sad how judgmental we are as a society.

Just a housewife. Think about it.

I know there are some people at there that totally know what I’m talking about. Others, probably have no comprehension.

man-cleaningI realized, myself, when we got our boxer puppy Belle just how difficult it must have been for my own mom to take care of the house, the shopping, and us all at the same time.  With the new one in our house, the whole schedule changed. Cooking and cleaning and house projects had to revolve around Belle. Children, two or four-legged, need attention, structured activities and protection. Turn your back for a moment and anything can happen.

My Mom was a teacher when my sister and I were small. We had a babysitter whose house we went to when my Mom went to teach. When my brother was born, my Mom took a break from being a career girl and became a stay at home Mom for a few years.

As we got a little older and started helping out doing chores, my Mom returned to work full time. I never stopped to think how much help we really were to my parents by doing those simple, regular chores. I never appreciated how stressful it could be. I also never appreciated how time consuming and difficult it must have been running a house and raising three kids. So for that, I say a heartfelt, Thank You! — I get it now.

There aren’t too many housewives around anymore. Those that are, I salute you. You are the least appreciated– unpaid, full-time employees in existence.

 

November Writing Challenge Update #1 and Blog Milestones

writingI am participating in National November Writing Month and the challenge is to write every single day. National Writing Month was created as a way to challenge writers to complete a project, to network, and to publicize their work.

I’m actually participating on two levels,  attempting to write a blog post every day and writing a complete novel in a month.

The Novel:

Working title: Muse Me

At the end of October, I asked for at least 30 people to help by each submitting a person, place and thing that I have to include in my novel.

So far I’ve written 16,929 words!

Since I’m writing free form and using the submitted words for inspiration, the storyline is still taking shape. Sometimes I feel like I’m on a rambling road and sometimes I find clear moments that will definitely define the structure of my finished draft. Not too much I’m ready to say right now except that it is a mystery of sorts and primarily takes place in Georgia.

bloggingThe Blog Challenge

Nine days into November and I’ve written a new post every day. Right on Track! The more I write, the more the ideas keep flowing. Some posts take several days to write with research and finding my particular angle on the topic. I usually have several posts going at once.

For more information about National November Writing Month, see NaNoWriMo for writing a novel; and NaBloPoMo for the blogging challenge.

Blog Milestones

Friday I hit a milestone for this blog hitting over 15,000 views!

My blog has been viewed in 122 countries around the world!

I’m nearing my 150th blog post and I’m currently in a record run (for me) with new blog posts for 12 consecutive days.

I hope you enjoy what you find here. Comments are always welcome and encouraging!

Let me know what you think!

Dreaming of the Open Gate

The Dream

It’s a typical day. Seems pretty ordinary. I’m outside and walk around the corner of the house to see our front gate standing wide open. A momentary panic suddenly washes over me and I rush into action. Where are the dogs? Did they get out? Where they stolen? Who left the gate open and why? Must find the dogs!

Dreams Road SignThen I usually wake up.

Sometimes, I’ve been so startled, I sit up abruptly in bed. I check and the babies are sleeping soundly. I usually can’t go back to sleep and I get up. Not so much because the dream rattled me but more just because I’m fully awake.

The dream has many variations. Usually it’s the front gate but some times it’s the back one. The seasons in my dream may be different but not necessarily the current one. Sometimes its even the house door standing open and I’m worried the cat got out. (Collins is an indoor cat but has gotten out on several occasions.)

We all have reoccurring dreams that haunt us, don’t we?

Does it mean what seems most obvious?

Yes, I can be overprotective of my kids. Yes, sometimes we find our gate is standing open. I don’t have the dream regularly, months can go by sometimes. I’ve had variations of this dream for at least ten years, when Cash and Roxie were just puppies.

The dream always stops with me discovering the gate, thinking I’ve got to close it and wanting to check on the babies. They never actually get out in the dream and I never actually close it in the dream.

I had this dream Friday when I was napping with the babies. That morning, the front gate was standing wide open in real life. This time in the dream though, it was the back gate– it wasn’t just open, it was like someone had driven through it destroying it completely. A new variation.

So I know what triggered the dream– but does it mean something deeper?

I researched online, more than a dozen dream interpretation sites; all saying pretty much the same thing. I couldn’t find anything specific (dogs getting out, etc.) beyond focusing on open gates in dreams.

Dream1In dreams, an open gate is interpreted to represent a transition, a change, or a new chapter. It could be a change in awareness or level of maturity; a passage from one phase of life, or from one situation to another. A closed gate symbolizes ones inability to overcome or not ready to move on. Gates represent obstacles in life. If you walk through then you are moving on, if you close it or it is closed, you aren’t ready or maybe you are afraid you aren’t prepared for what’s to come.

To relate this to my life– when I first had this dream, I was working in a job that while rewarding in many ways; was limiting my professional growth and creativity. Now, as I continue my search for the right job, I know that I don’t want to be in the same situation again. Interviews have not yielded a job offer. I’ve toyed with ideas of some options but nothing has presented itself as the right thing yet.

So if I was to interpret the crashed gate, I’d have to say it might mean there’s no turning back. I’ve evolved beyond the past and I’m ready for something bigger.

But what exactly?

It’s something to ponder, for sure.

Or, maybe it’s just what it is at face value:

A Dad’s fear, protecting his furry children.

 

Being Human: A Life Without _____ Is A Life Not Lived

Cloud 1It’s hard to believe it’s getting close to a year and a half since I parted ways with my job.

It’s been quite a roller coaster. I’ve had a lot of changes to get used to, a lot of decisions to make; and most of all, I’ve had to get reacquainted with parts of me I’d forgotten, locked up or ignored.

There have been a lot of feelings going on in my head and it’s not always easy.

It’s called being human.

I’m about as human as they come. I could never be accused of being a robot. I tend to wear my passion for whatever I’m doing, on my sleeve; and as a result, I may come off a little intense and dramatic.

Out in the real world it is expected that you behave with a certain amount of coldness. Sometimes you’ll hear it referred to as: professionalism and decorum. This requires you to bottle things up and not be completely honest. That lack of honesty, my friends, is one of the biggest failures in our society’s increasing isolation. Real communication is becoming obsolete.

Time and time again, I have watched people sit completely stone-faced and not express themselves– when I know they have definite opinions or feelings on the matter. It’s really hard to watch. How do you interact with that? I know, I’ve tried it– how should I say it… in the name of civility… and I usually fail miserably.

One of the biggest realizations I’ve had to face is that the feelings and responses to the things around us aren’t always going to be considered appropriate. We have to be okay with that. I think of all the people that medicate just to avoid feeling and I never want to be in that place.

We can try to ignore and avoid our feelings… even feel guilty about them but then how much are we really living? How much are we really experiencing life? It’s not always necessary to express all our feelings to other people but we at least need to acknowledge them ourselves. Appropriate or not, our feelings are real— if only to us. The people with whom we engage have those feelings too. Everyone deals with things differently… the important thing is that they are dealt with and not ignored.

It’s far too easy to become numb and go through the motions of living.

It can happen for a number of reasons:

  • We’re too busy, obsessed or focused on one thing; ignoring, or refusing to deal with everything else,
  • Afraid to become emotionally involved; of being used or hurt,
  • Lack of self confidence and feelings of inadequacy; fear of being judged,
  • Expectations of professional demeanor, void of expression; always holding your cards close,
  • Purely for self preservation; protecting your self, job, relationships or image,

When we allow ourselves to fall into any of these patterns, we start living a life without. We alienate ourselves and our selves. We may find the temporary protection we need to get through any given situation but if this becomes the way we deal with every day life, something is missing. We can become lost.

op7Tn.jpgBeing human is thinking, feeling and expressing through our experiences.

Life is joy, celebration and happiness— anger, heartbreak and tears. It’s connecting and sharing those feelings with others that make us human.

It’s important to feel things.

It’s important to express things.

It’s most important that we not lose who we are in the daily routine of survival.

Take away these human traits and what do you have left?

A big blank. A life without.

 

Suicide: Grappling With the Unimaginable

Four years ago the world lost a beautiful, creative, brilliant young girl who touched and forever changed my life.

Her senior year in high school, as the student assistant director, she’d been an important driving force behind our spring musical’s success and such an incredible help to me. She set a new standard for how effective, given the opportunity, student leadership at our school could be.

I saw her only twice after she graduated. We kept in touch online and she seemed to be doing well in college but then suddenly she was gone.

The death of Robin Williams brought back all the pain and grief I experienced back then.

I’ve felt the need to write about this for quite some time; particularly in the past week. (Her birthday.) Knowing the right words to say is another story.

Grappling with the unimaginable.

Insight_Melissa_Grieving-AngelAs a writer, I want to tell stories to share with readers about topics and events that have had an impact on my life. As a writer, it’s extremely difficult not to romanticize, in an effort to engage an audience.

I don’t want to romanticize this topic.

The fact is, suicide is not a solution. All it does is magnifies the pain and sadness, transferring it on to other people.

In 2011, someone in the United States died by suicide every 13 minutes.

It was the 10th leading cause of death with 39,518 reported suicides in the U.S. According to the World Heath Organization, there are over 800,000 deaths by suicide, globally, each year.

i found a list published by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention that they have asked all media and writers on the topic to share:

DO:

  • DO include links to treatment services, warning signs, and suicide hotline (1-800-273-TALK (8255).
  • DO include stories of hope.
  • DO monitor comment sections to identify hurtful statements, or people expressing suicidal thoughts.
  • DO contact an expert on suicide to get the facts.
  • DO report suicide as a health issue.

AVOID:

  • AVOID showing videos or photos of the method or location used.
  • AVOID framing suicide in terms of success: do not say committed suicide; do not say suicide attempts are successful or failed. Instead say died by suicide.
  • AVOID romanticizing the death.
  • AVOID describing suicide rates as skyrocketing, or as an epidemic, or other strong terms.
  • AVOID publishing text from a suicide note.
  • AVOID quoting police or first responders.
  • AVOID describing a suicide as inexplicable or without warning.

I realized after reading this list, that telling my story really wouldn’t really help anyone. If anything, I could risk trivializing or making an antidote out of a tragic event.

stages-of-griefFor the survivors of suicide, the long lasting effects can leave them immobilized. Grief, depression, helplessness, anger and guilt are often experienced and difficult to overcome.

Do you know what I really hate? I hate the stigma attached to the following terms: mental illness, mental disorder and mental health.

There is a common accepted belief that you are either normal or mentally ill. I find this extremely offense and inaccurate.

What is normal? In all of humanity, no two people are, or have ever been, exactly alike. So how can we define anyone society as normal?

Not only do we all look, think and feel differently; we also experience different sets of circumstances and react to them differently.

Normal tends to insinuate that there are people that are superior and mentally more healthy than others. It creates a stigma against people that live within any extremes. The need to define or classify us all leads some people to feel marked, separate and extremely alone.

Grappling with suicide: trying to understand or accept, is a long. difficult journey. Searching for answers that don’t exist is incomprehensible.

Here is a list of resources that might be helpful for understanding and coping with suicide and depression: