Category Archives: Family

I’m Thankful For My Family

A happy family is but an earlier heaven. ~ George Bernard Shaw

I'm thankful for the hugs.

I’m thankful for the comfort.

I'm thankful for the wiggles.

I’m thankful for the wiggles.

I'm thankful for the hugs.

I’m thankful for the hugs.

I'm thankful for the giggles.

I’m thankful for the silliness.

I'm thankful for the smooches.

I’m thankful for the smooches.

I'm thankful for the time we have together.

I’m thankful for the time we have together.

These fantastic pictures (the pretty versions, before I added nasty black bars across all our faces) were taken by the talented Britt Olsen-Ecker, of Britt Olsen-Ecker Photography. If you’re in the greater Baltimore/DC area, you would do well to hire her for your family portraits (and actor’s headshots — she did mine, and they are GORGEOUS) before she gets crazy famous and you can’t afford her any more. Seriously. Do it.

My Mind Is My Battlefield

This is as true in everyday life as it is in battle: we are given one life and the decision is ours whether to wait for circumstances to make up our mind, or whether to act, and in acting, to live. ~ Omar N. Bradley

Depression is an issue that has been getting a great deal of press lately, particularly in the parenting community. The Parenting Magazine article Xanax Makes Me A Better Mom shows just how pervasive and controversial this issue is: according to the article, parents are more than twice as likely as non-parents to experience depression, and the comments section illustrates just exactly how harsh and judgmental people can be about it — whether you’re taking pills or not, whether you’re in therapy or not, as soon as you use the word ‘depression’ someone stands ready to condemn you for something.

I’ve been depressed for my entire life. When I was 24, I first heard the word dysthymia: chronic, mild depression that lasts for years. It was a diagnosis which has made me view my entire dry, pessimistic personality as suspect. I’ve suffered repeated bouts of double depression as well — dysthymia paired with an episode of major depression. It makes for a thick psychiatric folder and a lifelong struggle to feel even the most basic joys.

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

I took medications (many, many medications) for five years. I’ve been in therapy with psychiatrists, psychologists, clinical social workers, and counselors for eleven. I’ve used all the conventional methods to treat depression, from SSRIs to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. I know what works for me and what doesn’t.

Last summer, I went once more into a deep depression. Years of therapy had given me tools that helped me to deal with my dysthymia, and I had been functioning quite well without drugs for years. The scary thing about this depression, beyond the fact that my own mind was once more threatening my life and happiness, is that this time I’m a mom.

I have a son. I have to raise this child. I have to get up early every morning, put his needs before my own, and provide him with a safe, healthy environment. More than that, I have to teach him how to live in the world. How can I do that, if I’m mired in pain? How can I teach him to love life if I’m thinking of taking my own?

Baby face_edited-1

My son, just by existing, has raised the stakes on my healing process. I MUST GET BETTER. For his sake, for my sake, for the sakes of all the people with whom I come into contact. I cannot refuse to do the things that I have to do to get better, not out of fear or shame or any other emotion that may weigh me down.

A recent article by The Bearded Iris was titled “We Are Only As Sick As Our Secrets”. It’s a saying which is common theme in therapy. Being open about our pain, about the reasons behind our pain, alleviates that pain. It allows us to live more fully in our skins and to have more honest relationships with people. Though it may be hard and frightening, talking about our inner fears, hurts, and suppressed angers is a necessary part of healing.

Though it’s hard, I’ve been working to come to grips with my past — to expose my pain to fresh air and sunlight. Therapy has taught me a great deal about myself, about the things that made me the way I am, and about what I need to do to become the kind of person that I want to be.

When it becomes too hard, when it hurts too much and I face too much judgment and condemnation from my loved ones (who would be very happy to see me medicate the pain away, in spite of the fact that I know that drugs are only a superficial panacea for me), I think of my little son.

I think of him at seventy, or eighty, or ninety. I think of him telling his grandchildren about his life, and that of his parents. I think of him telling them about me.

If I give up, if I choose not to do the hard work of grappling with my pain, his story will be one of his own pain. It will be a story of feeling disconnected from his mother, of watching her shrivel into herself until she was completely unable to function. It may be a story of losing her altogether, and the terrible toll that had on the rest of his young life. I can’t bear to think of that.

If I don’t give up, if I do what needs to be done to face my demons and stand up for my own mental health, I can hope that his story will be one of pride and admiration. It will be a story of a strong, courageous woman who did not let life, stigma, condemnation, or her own mind keep her down. A woman who fought for what she loved and who raised him with the courage to do the same.

That’s the story I want to leave my son with. That’s the woman, the mother, that I want to be.

So the fight continues.


If you find yourself relating to me a little too closely, or you know someone who would, there’s lots of help available. Please don’t suffer in silence. Seek help. A basic Google search for “depression help” turns up an unbelievable 240,000,000 results. You owe it to yourself, and even more importantly to your children, to get treatment.

Let’s make sure that all our children have truly inspiring stories to tell of us.

Bitty Baby Bucket List

A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions. ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

I’ve been reading a lot lately about bucket lists — lists of things that you want to do before you kick the bucket. Seems like different people have different thoughts about them, running all the way from “Yay! Somebody give me a checklist!” to “Ugh! How bourgeois.” I think I fall somewhere in the middle. Yeah, it’s a little trendy right now, and it’s pretty unlikely that making a list is really going to help you to live your life to the fullest. But I like the idea of having goals, and even more importantly, I reallyreallyreally like to make lists.

I don’t want to make a regular bucket list, though. Making a list of all the things that I want to do before I die seems pretty intimidating — after all, it would be about fifty gazillion items long and would include complete nonsense like, “Fly like Peter Pan”, “Tame a unicorn”, and “Fit into those jeans from college”. So I’m going to make my list a bit more limited. At least for right now, I’ll keep it to ten (realistic) things that I want to do with Sausage before he grows up and no longer wants to do things with me.

In no particular order:

1.  Go to a petting zoo. I remember how simultaneously exciting and terrifying a petting zoo could be when I was little. I remember being warned that “Geese can be nasty” while having a handful of seeds for them thrust into my little hands. I want Sausage to have the tactile memory of a goat licking between his fingers.

Still a little bit terrifying. You know, in a good way. (Photo courtesy of stock.xchng)

Still a little bit terrifying. You know, in a good way. (Photo courtesy of stock.xchng)

2. Go puddle stomping. There is no joy quite like getting soaked from jumping in puddles during a summer rain. The times when you don’t worry about your clothes, wear ratty old sneakers, and go out there and see who can make the biggest splash. I think that’s one of the greatest joys of childhood. And I honestly wouldn’t say no to a good puddle stompin’ session even now.

3. Go tent camping. Complete with a campfire (Loving Husband can light a fire with one match and no lighter fluid — it’s one of his many skills), one-pot meals seasoned with dirt, and s’mores. I draw the line at peeing behind a tree, though — I’ve done it, it sucks, and I have nothing to prove, dammit. I’ll leave that experience to Sausage and his Daddy.

4. Visit caverns. I did this as a kid, and again as an adult, and it just never stops being cool. I don’t care how touristy it is, it’s still awesome to go down into a hole and see amazing rock formations. And then when they turn out the lights? Yes.

I'll have to get past my tendency to see penises everywhere, though. Yeesh. (Photo courtesy of stock.xchng)

I’ll have to get past my tendency to see penises everywhere, though. Yeesh. (Photo courtesy of stock.xchng)

5. Teach him to dance. I don’t mean ballroom dancing, although if he’s into it I’ll gladly teach Sausage a bit of swing. I mean that I want to teach him to appreciate moving his body, and not to be afraid of it, the way so many sad-sack white dudes are.

6. Go up in a hot air balloon. Okay, this one is also for me. I’ve never been, and I want to go. Having Sausage along would be my excuse.

Q: What do Scotsmen have under their kilts? A: A burning sensation, and a basket. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Q: What do Scotsmen have under their kilts? A: A burning sensation, and a basket. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

7. Eat bugs. I just hope my kid is adventuresome enough to put a chocolate covered cricket in his mouth. I’m not going to encourage him to eat what he finds in the backyard, though. Gourmet insects only.

8. Read all the Harry Potter books aloud. Loving Husband and I did this before Sausage came along, and it was great. We’d do a chapter or two before bed every night. It seems like a pretty terrific thing to do as a family. After that, if it sticks, we can move on to other books. “A Tale Of Two Cities”, maybe?

Hopefully he'll be less bored than these poor kids look. ("Family Portrait of a Boy and his two Sisters admiring a Sketch Book", François Flameng)

Hopefully he’ll be less bored than these poor kids look. (“Family Portrait of a Boy and his two Sisters admiring a Sketch Book”, François Flameng)

9. Bake things. My little brother and I used to sit in front of the oven and watch cookies rise. We were boring children. But still, an awful lot of family memories seem to be tied up in the making and eating of cookies, and pies, and cakes, and … crap, now I’m hungry.

10. Discover his most deeply held wish, and make it happen. Obviously, we can’t afford to fulfill every one of Sausage’s dreams, and we don’t want him to grow up expecting everyone to bend over backwards to make his wishes come to fruition. But if we find that he loves horses more than anything? We can manage horseback riding lessons. He wants to be an astronaut, and he can’t get his head out of the stars? Space camp could be a possibility. He loves movies? A trip to Universal Studios, maybe. I want him to have one shining memory of getting EXACTLY what he wanted — one time when he felt that all his dreams were coming true. Because what is childhood without the conviction that your dreams can come true?

This face deserves all the smiles I can give it.

This face deserves all the smiles I can give it.

What are some of the wonderful things you’ve done or intend to do with your kids? I’d love to hear your ideas! (No, really. Please comment? I’ll love you forever!)