May is Mental Health Awareness Month

Good Morning! Here’s my Monday Morning Blog!

Happy Monday!

Being a author who writes about teen issues, I’m wondering how our teens are doing through this unprecedented time. I see stories about how some kids are working through the changes and being as resilient as they can be. But what about the kids that aren’t? The ones that aren’t doing well with the stay at home orders? Aren’t learning as well at home without the day to day interaction with their friends? Those kids may not reach out and remain quiet. Are we checking in with them and asking them how they feel?

Since 1949, Mental Health America and affiliates have observed May as being Health Month. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) website, each year millions of Americans face the reality of living with a mental illness.

There are many messages popping up on social media with resources to help us. The CDC currently has a public Service Announcement which pops up when you search for mental health awareness on Google.

Be Kind to Your Mind:
Tips to cope with stress during COVID-19

PAUSE – Breathe and notice how you feel

TAKE BREAKS – from COVID-19 content

MAKE TIME – to sleep and exercise

REACH OUT – and stay connected

SEEK HELP – If overwhelmed or unsafe

During the quarantine and stay at home orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are isolating alone, have major changes to their daily routines that are leading to feelings of helplessness, or are just scared they are going to get the virus. The stress created by this has affected everyone’s mental health, but the tips listed above are good ones to be aware of even when we aren’t involved in a full-blown pandemic. In my research on the topic, I have found a couple of resources for you, your teen, or someone you may care about to look into. Remember, we are all in this together.

“You are Not Alone”
Everyone faces challenges in life that will affect their mental health. Mental Health America states 1 in 5 people will experience mental illness during their lifetime. NAMI joined with the national movement to raise awareness about mental health with their “You are Not Alone” campaign which focuses on the power of connection for those affected by mental illness. Collectively, we can make a positive impact on the millions of people who are struggling and feeling particularly alone given the current situation of social isolation and physical distancing. They are asking the public to share their experiences with mental health conditions at NAMI.org/YourStory. They want to share the lived experience of others to provide a means for people who are struggling to relate to and find comfort in. They also have a NAMI COVID-19 resource guide available in English and Spanish, just follow this link NAMI COVID-19 Resources.

Tools 2 Thrive
Mental Health America’s 2020 theme is Tools to Thrive. They have a 2020 Mental Health Tool Kit that you can download from their website that provides practical tools that we can all use to help improve our mental health regardless of what we are currently dealing with. This year’s tool kit offers printable handouts on topics like Owning Your Feelings, Finding the Positive, Creating Healthy Routines, and others. There are also marketing materials that may be helpful for teachers or community leaders, but may also help families educating from home with some reminders or materials to discuss with their kids. Here is a link to their site Tools 2 Thrive. When requesting the Tool Kit, it will ask for title and organization. If schooling your kids from home, I would enter parent as your title and homeschool or remote learning as your organization.

For as much as we may not like some of the effects of social media and online gaming for our kids and teens, I think it is a saving grace we have it for our kids to stay in touch with each other. It also helps for families and friends to stay in touch during this strange time in our history. Be sure to use the technology to reach out to family members you haven’t heard from in a while. Let your kids have play dates and zoom meetings to just be themselves with their friends online. But, be sure to keep an eye out and ear open to make sure they are doing it safely. We all need to embrace some of the changes that are happening right now on how we interact with one another. But the interaction doesn’t have to and shouldn’t stop.

Lime Green ribbons signify Mental Health Awareness. Be sure to promote awareness by wearing a ribbon or wearing a lime green shirt. Remember to reach out if you are feeling lonely, scared or overwhelmed. We are all in this together.


Happy Mother’s Day!

I hope you all found ways to celebrate with your moms, grandmothers, wives, etc. yesterday. Some of us have moms in heaven that we recognize with flowers and prayers. The traditional ways of taking mom to brunch or meeting up for dinner at her favorite spot aren’t going to be an option this year. Let me know what creative ways you came up with to show mom that she is special in the comments below.

Have a great week!

Happy Mother’s Day 2017

Happy Mother’s Day!

If you follow me on Facebook, you saw a post that I did in memory of my mom. She passed away nine years ago from breast cancer. Ever since then, Mother’s Day has been a different day than what Hallmark will portray on TV.

When I think about it, each Mother’s Day since then has been a different day for me. The first couple of years, I participated in the Susan B Koman Race for the Cure 5K walk in memory of her. My mom was a private person and didn’t advertise she had the disease. I see the survivors out there and feel the electricity and comradery of people who are dealing with the disease, either as a survivor or as a family member in the support role. It is very inspiring, but for me it was also a big reminder that it is the reason why she is gone.

And other years, I just go about what a normal Sunday would look like. Errands, projects, relaxing, and getting ready for Monday. But she always comes to mind and I feel a little pang in my heart. It is Mother’s Day and I don’t get to have the day with my mom, the way that others do. A friend of mine posted on Facebook yesterday that she was thinking of the women without mom’s on Mother’s Day. She said she was going to give her mom and extra hug, knowing how lucky she is to have her here with her. That made me smile. If your mom is with you in your life, appreciate it. Things really do change once they are gone. Not just for Mother’s Day, but for many other events that a daughter needs her mom for.

So, what do I do? Every year since she passed away, I buy a single rose. The tradition started when I would pick up a pink rose from a local flower shop after completing Race for the Cure. Then I make a trip to the cemetery (about a mile from my house) and spend some time just sitting there with her. It is a little different Hallmark moment than I imagined it would be. But, it is my Mother’s Day.

My mom loved to garden. The featured picture for this post is not a rose, but lilacs. We had two big bushes in our back yard growing up. In the spring, my mom always had bunches of them in the house. I love that scent. When they start blooming in the spring, it reminds me of my childhood home and my mom. It is one of the many good things about being with her that I hang onto in my heart. And it makes me smile.

May Holidays continued

When I posted Monday’s blog about Mother’s Day I noticed that we had two weeks in a row with holidays. Whether they are national holidays or Hallmark holidays, it made me wonder what the weekend of May 14th and 15th could hold this year. I looked at a calendar and saw that the 21st is Armed Forces Day and the 30th is the Monday of Memorial Day weekend, but no big things were posted for this weekend. So, I decided to continue my search elsewhere.

When I typed holidays on May 15th into Google, it came up with some days that were declared to be on May 15th like Stepmother’s Day and National Chocolate Chip Day. As important as those days are, it just wasn’t what I was looking for to be the topic for this week’s blog. So, I looked at birthdays that fell on May 15th and I found one that interested me, an author. It was Laura Hillebrand, the author of the book Seabiscuit: An American Legend.

Not only am I intrigued by authors, but since the 142nd running of the Kentucky Derby is in our recent history, it seemed appropriate to write about her and the horse that she based her book on. According to Wikipedia, Seabiscuit was a champion thoroughbred. He was foaled (born) in Lexington, KY on May 23, 1933. The mare (mom) was Swing On and the sire (dad) was Hard Tack. Seabiscuit was a smaller than most thoroughbreds with his height only being 5’2, ironically as tall as me.

Since he wasn’t living up to his racing potential at Wheatley Stable in Paris, KY, he was purchased by Charles Howard for a bargain. Howard left the horse in the hands of two men, whose job it was to make him into a better race horse. His trainer, Tom Smith, and the jockey Red Pollard, worked with him and brought him out of his shell.

He raced during the Depression as kind of an underdog and became a hero to the people at a time when people needed one. Due to the beating triple crown winner, War Admiral, at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, he became the American Horse of the Year in 1938. After coming back from a ligament injury, he won the La Jolla Handicap at Santa Anita in 1940. He retired after that as horse racing’s all time money winner.

Sea Sovereign, one of the horses that Seabiscuit was a sire to, did some horse racing and was in a movie about his Dad with Shirley Temple called The Story of Seabiscuit in 1949. He took the role of this father in this fictionalized account about his life.

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Being an author myself, I’m intrigued with the writing journeys of other authors. It was fun to find Laura Hillebrand  through such a random series of things. The fact she had written a book I enjoyed made it even better.

Her book was published in 2001 and was adapted into a feature film in 2003. I remember going to the theater to see it with my Godson. I really enjoyed it.

But, I was sad to find out she suffers from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. She was diagnosed in 1987 while she attended college. According to an interview by Monica Hesse, a Washington Post Staff Writer on  November 28, 2010, Hillebrand says that she copes with her disease by detaching herself completely from any aspirations she would have for her own life.

According to Biography.com,  she loved to ride horses as a teenager. She was even considering the idea of pursuing a career as a jockey. Her interest in horses and history led her to write articles about horseracing and have them published in magazines. She did most of this writing while she was staying with her future husband in Chicago, where  he was doing grad work at the University of Chicago. While she was doing research for these articles, she came across the information about Seabiscuit. It was an unlikely story of a less than perfect horse finding huge success on the track. The perfect story idea for a book. This became the theme of what would become one of her best selling novels.

Unfortunately, when the book Seabiscuit was released, she had a relapse from her disease. From that point on, she was unable to leave her house or even meet with many people.

Aaron Gell from Elle.com did an interview with Laura on December 2, 2010 and asked her about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Here’s what she had to say about her writing process,

“I climb into these stories because I don’t want to be here,” she says, “I don’t want to be in this body and I don’t want to be in this place, so I’m on that raft. It takes a while to get my concentration to that level, and then I lose all track of time.”

Using research and writing as an escape is how she copes with her disease and still continue to write. I know that I run to my writing to escape real life sometimes. Joining the story with characters that I’ve created.

I was intrigued by her because I loved her book. Then when I learned more about her, I was even more intrigued with who she is and how she was able to write. By looking at her website, you wouldn’t know that she suffers from a disease with no cure that keeps her at home quite a bit of the time. As a reader, all we see is the end product. We don’t see the blood, sweat and tears that went into making that book. As an author myself, I read books from a different angle. I’ve been honing my craft for many years and am finally on the cusp of publishing my first book. But, after blogging about Laura Hillebrand, now I have another thing to keep in mind when I’m reading. What is the author overcoming to bring their writing and their story to the public? Is it a physical illness? An emotional journey? Or maybe trying to make it happen with life being a constant interrupt?

Even though I didn’t have a specific holiday to write about, the research for this week’s blog took me on a little different, but fun, writing journey.

 

Happy Mother’s Day 2016

Last week I wrote about May Day. This week the topic is Mother’s Day which we celebrated yesterday. I wonder how often it happens that May Day falls on a Sunday too? I suppose that would be a good question for Google, huh? O.k. I loooked it up, 12 times since 1910.

Mother’s Day is a day filled with mixed feelings for me. My Mom passed away eight years ago from breast cancer. I remember my first Mother’ Day without her. I was walking through Hallmark a couple of weeks before and I saw the Mother’s Day cards.  I started bawling in the store, knowing that I wouldn’t be purchasing one this year. My first reality check that she was really gone.

Since my Mom wasn’t in her final resting place yet, after walking in the Susan B. Koman Mother’s Day 5K walk for Breast Cancer, I went to a Japanese Peace Garden where her and I had gone many times together. My mom always loved nature and was a natural at gardening. So, as I walked through the garden, many things reminded me of her. The featured image of the waterfall was a picture from that day.

For Mother’s Day the following year, I did the Mother’s Day Susan B. Koman walk again with many breast cancer survivors and families that have lost loved ones to this disease. Afterwards, I went to Bachman’s to buy a single pink rose to lay on her grave. It was a little crazy to be there on Mother’s Day with all of the last minute shoppers who needed to get flowers for their Moms. But I knew it is what I wanted to do. I went to the cemetery, laid the rose on her grave and sat and talked with her for a while. It was a sad but very peaceful feeling being with her. My second reality check that she was really gone.

Many people celebrate Mother’s Day without their moms. What I have learned about the day is even when you think you aren’t going to be emotional about it, those feelings sneak up on me. My love for her wells up in my heart and tears fill my eyes. She is my angel in the sky.

There are many times in my life I wish my Mom was here for now. To be able to just pick up the phone and call her would mean the world to me. There are many life questions I never got a chance to ask her because I thought she would always be here. Or that she would always be here to seek advice about those day-to-day things a daughter would ask her Mom. For example, let’s talk about gardening. I really could use her help on raising plants. She was the one in our family with green thumb. I have a couple of plants that came into my home from her memorial service. They are philodendrons and I think  my Mom’s spirit is living strong in, since they grow and flourish. Then every year I buy some flower bulbs to plant and grow from scratch in her honor and as an experiment to see if I can do it. This year it is Begonias and Fresia. We’ll see how they do, or if they will need Mom’s intervention.

We spent this Mother’s Day having brunch with Sam’s family. It was nice to be together with the kids, Sam’s nieces, sister and of course his Mom and Dad. It helped to fill in some of the missing pieces of my Mom not being here. After feeling very emotional all day, Sam and I went to her grave last night just before sunset. I told her that I love her, thanked her for being my Mom and for always being the angel on my shoulder.

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After my Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, I made a point of getting a mammogram every year to make sure that if I did have breast cancer, we could catch it early and have a chance at treating it. Every year at that appointment, I get a reminder of my Mom’s passing when I fill out the medical information form. They ask for my family history of breast cancer. There is a box by one of the questions that I have to check the yes box and fill in the fact that my Mom had the disease and passed away from it.

Mourning is a process and writing has been a big part of mine. I’ve been using it to express my feelings and to get my creative flow. Writing has helped me sort through my feelings and journaling has played a major role in my process. It gives me a way to get my real feelings out and communicate with my Mom in spirit. The creative writing helps to keep my mind moving forward with something that I love to do. And to help me to not miss her as much as I do sometimes.

I started my serious creative writing with a short story about a Memorial Day weekend trip I made to Duluth, Minnesota in 1994. Duluth is one of my favorite places. Last spring I worked on a lot of writing ideas between visits to places and hiking with my family. I love being there with the Northern Minnesota feel and the view of the harbor.

Just like the Japanese Peace Garden, Duluth is another place I can go to feel calm and reflect. Being there usually helps me to make more progress in my writing and finding myself. I know my mom would be happy about where I have been able to take my writing to. Writing a weekly blog, a few short stories here and there, and having a middle grade manuscript edited for publication are all big steps to making dreams of mine come true.

I miss my mom a lot. I wish she could be here to share all of the things that are going on in my life with me. I think of her a lot as I write. It makes me smile. I think about how she would be reacting to all of this, and I see her smiling too.

Happy Mother’s Day!

G is for Gladiolus

My Mom was the gardener in our family. I have some plants by my deck door that are from my Mom’s memorial service seven years ago. They are all green plants and must be pretty hearty, since they are not only still living, but thriving very well, even with me not being the best at gardening. Looking at them right now and they make me smile. I’d like to think that my Mom’s influence from heaven is part of the reason they are doing so well.

I decided that I would try to grow some flowers in the flower box on my deck. So I went to the local dollar store to see what they might have. Wound up buying some gladiolus corms. Some flowers have bulbs, some have corms and some have seeds. I’ve learned that corms have a shell on the outside and flesh on the inside (kind of like a potato). I planted six of them. Two of them are well on their way, one not too far behind and one just starting to peek through the dirt. It will be fun to see what color blooms the plants will produce.

Did you know that Gladiolus was the word that Frank Neuhauser spelled correctly to win the first National Spelling Bee in 1925. It is the flower that commemorates the fortieth wedding anniversary and is also the flower for the month of August.

Wishing all of the Mothers out there a Happy Mothers Day. I miss my Mom very much and this day can be a tough one for me. I used to walk the Susan B. Komen 5K to find the support from others who have also been affected  by breast cancer. For the last couple of years, I’ve just made a point to bring flowers to her grave and spend some time with her there. I remember many Mother’s Days with her having lunch and shopping for flowers for her garden, maybe that is why I felt the need to plant some of my own.