Wednesday, June 20, 2018

my life in a soundbite

“You just swore! In church! To the youth pastor!”

And this, Ladies and Gentleman, is the story of my life.

Friday, June 15, 2018

A thank you before we return to our regularly scheduled ridiculousness

Thank you. Thank you for reading and for sharing and for being a part of this silly blog that I love so much. Thank you for all of your kind and understanding words on my last post. I told my therapist this week that I feel like I've turned a corner, one that I wasn't sure I'd ever see, and I have to believe that a big part of that was finally writing and publishing the words. After my dad died, I pretty strongly resisted using the word "suicide." If I did tell people what happened, it was accompanied by a long explanation about why his death was different from a "regular suicide" (whatever that is) and for people that I didn't tell, I called it an accident. I was angry that I didn't get the more socially acceptable experience of losing my parent to a heart attack or cancer. OMG. I sound like such a jerk when I say that out loud. I'm a shrink and I had so many feelings about losing someone to mental health and then having a hard time managing that. 

As soon as I published it, the feeling of holding back the dam went away. I slept better and I stopped flipping out for no reason (or at least not as often or as dramatically.) I've told friends what happened, without giving all the shocking or explanatory details.  I've been cursing Kubler-Ross and her stupid stages of grief for months, but damn. She might be on to something. The circumstances around his death meant that there wasn't much room for denial, but good lord I made up for it in anger. I'm not entirely not angry, but it is SO much better. I don't fear for people's safety and I haven't gone off on a stranger in weeks. I think C is breathing a bit easier as well. 

I don't love therapy. Every week I try to talk myself out of going. I love being a shrink because I get to be the listener. It doesn't come naturally to me to spend an hour talking about myself and scratching below sarcasm and gallows humor. But man, it's helped a lot. Sometimes it's the space to have feelings, where I don't have to mitigate them because my kids are around or I need to go to the grocery store or whatever it is. Sometimes it's to sit and talk through some benign issue that I can't figure out because decisions can be hard these days. And my going has made it easier for the kids too. Eli asked if he could start therapy and we've found him an amazing therapist that really seems to speak his language. 

As I'm heading into Father's Day weekend, I think I'm going to be okay. For anyone out there that's lost their dad, or who is struggling for other reasons, I think we're going to be okay. I'm trying to intentionally send out love and kindness into the world, so please know that I'm rooting for us all. 

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Thursday, June 7, 2018

Thoughts on suicide

Two days ago the news broke that Kate Spade had killed herself. Since then, I’ve been flooded with people online and in person talking about how “I guess money can’t buy happiness” and “you never know how people are really feeling” and “she hid her pain so well.” News reports are suggesting marital problems, identity issues, depression. And all of those things might be true. But here’s the thing. They might not be either. I think that we, even professionals in the field, have this idea that people who commit suicide live in a deep pit of sadness. That they are long-suffering, lonely, and despondent. We plead for them to “reach out” and ask for help. We advertise the hotlines and our kitchen tables, where there’s always a warm cup of tea and a friendly ear. Again, those things are great and I would never argue that there aren’t millions of people who have been helped by the suicide hotlines and caring loved ones. On the other hand though, sometimes suicidal people aren’t sad or lonely. Sometimes love and friendship aren’t the cure.

Four months ago, my father died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He wasn’t sad or lonely. For the month before his death he had been stressed out about his job and his finances. He hadn’t been sleeping. He wasn’t long suffering and he wasn’t alone. He had been seeing a therapist and a physician, who prescribed him a medication to try to help him sleep. He was with his wife nearly 24 hours a day. He’d been in regular contact with all of us. From what I can piece together though, in the days before he died he lost touch with reality and started to believe things that weren’t true or logical. Sleep deprivation can cause psychosis and it seems like he started to get paranoid beyond reasoning.
He had access to help lines. He was seeing a therapist. All of us were in contact with him and he knew how much we loved him. He was invested in his family and his grandkids. In clinical terms, he was “future oriented.” He didn’t write eloquent notes or give away his belongings. We had NO idea that this was something he was capable of, to the point that when the police informed me of what had happened (via Facetime, thank you technology), my first response was “Are you sure?”

My dad was a writer. Not an author, but he wrote things down and he kept them. After he died I went through thousands of pieces of paper. After death there is no privacy. Most of it was mundane, but some of it was difficult to read. My father was human, no doubt. But even in those personal pages that he never intended to be seen by anyone else, there was no sadness, no desperation. No evidence of a slow-burning depression that none of us noticed.

I think what I’m trying to say is this. We need to continue to encourage people to be kind. To love each other and to reach out to each other. Suicide hotlines are an incredible resource for a lot of people. Our country still has work to do on de-stigmatizing mental illness. But we also need to acknowledge that sometimes, those things wouldn’t have helped. Kate Spade’s family and friends may be just as shocked as we were that this happened, and the suggestion that a cup of tea or the help line phone number could have prevented this tragedy minimizes the devastation that they’re going through. It suggests that had they been better, more loving, more attentive, this might have ended differently.

If you are feeling suicidal, please do reach out. Tell someone. And if they don’t listen, tell someone else. Call 1-800-273-8255. My dad, ironically now, always said that suicide was a permanent solution to a temporary problem and that it causes so much more pain then it resolves. If you feel like your loved one is in danger, do something. Reach out. Reach out again. Talk to them. Tell them you love them. Call 911. But know too that sometimes you can’t see it coming. If you know someone who has lost a loved one to suicide, and you probably do, please be conscious that well-intentioned Facebook memes suggesting cups of tea or hotlines may be helpful, but they may also implicitly suggest that the friends and family didn’t do enough or that they could have done more.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Love the one you're with?

In typical Chiconky Family fashion, we bought the first house we looked at (we looked at others, but we bought the first one.) With a 7 year old, a 4 year old, and a 6 month old, plus an elderly dog who took up almost no space or energy, the huge yard and two living rooms seemed perfect. Perfect enough that I could overlook the lack of a garage or realistic closet. It even had a mother-in-law suite for my parents, should they decide to move in with us. Fast forward five years and all of my people have gotten exponentially bigger, as has their stuff. We said goodbye to one low-key dog and brought home the two hellbeasts. Eli's sweet tiny room now is more Lilliputian than cozy. Sydney is losing her everloving mind trying to share a room with her sister. And damnit. I'm tired of having to purge my closets on a monthly basis because I don't have space for more than six pairs of pants. We currently have THREE IKEA dressers lined up in a row in our bedroom to try to compensate for the lack of a grown-up  closet. Our Christmas decorations reside under the couch in the playroom, which means that they are constantly getting pulled out, even in the heat of summer. I'm really, really tired of re-packing stockings.

The house has other issues. The only thing I didn't want in our house hunt was a galley kitchen, so of course it has a galley kitchen. The entry way is weird and results in this awkward waltz whenever you try to let anyone in. The biggest bedroom we have is 12 x 12. I have to share a bathroom with my entire family and they're  all bigger and smellier than they used to be. And there's no fucking garage, which means that anytime we're working on a project (which is always) C's tools are EVERYWHERE. Namely my kitchen table. *
Our weird entryway. Syd for scale. 

And that's not even bringing in to the equation the shitshow that is my neighbors. I'm 99% certain they're running a 24/hour (or really just middle of the night) mechanic's shop in the driveway. Shit you not, they have a tow truck drop off a car in the middle of the night at least once a week. Yesterday I had to help push a woman's car off my front lawn because she doesn't have reverse and "thought she could make it."

BUT. Our mortgage is stupidly affordable and we aren't the greatest with a tight budget. We refinished the original floors ourselves, with a baby strapped to my back. Our sweet next door neighbors love us. They let us have free access to their pool. Our yard is awesome and we've put a lot of work into it. Houses are expensive. Moving sucks monkey ass. And it hasn't gone unnoticed by me that I tend to deal with hard feelings (i.e. my dad died and it still sucks) by making large life choices or getting tattoos. And I don't have a good tattoo idea right now.

In black and white, it does seem like moving is not the most irrational idea I've had this week. Both C and I are certain that this is not our "grow old" house. So then, why is it so hard to actually set the pieces in motion? I've drafted a casual, test the waters e-mail to our realtor three times but never push send. Similarly though, I haven't called the contractor I found to ask about remodeling the kitchen.

I need someone to come adult for me. Do we stay? Or do we move into a bigger, better, more expensive house now that we're wiser and less impulsive (HA!)?

*I know. This is the epitome of first world problems.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Memorial Day (two days late)

OMG. Last Friday feels like a lifetime ago. But I'm really trying to be better about writing regularly, and the further I get behind, the harder it is to catch up.

The long weekend started on Friday afternoon as I loaded up our Girl Scout troop to spend the night at the zoo. It was as awesome and as awful as you'd imagine (in hindsight, it really was amazing though.) The girls ranged in age from 5-9. We got to the zoo after dinner and set to work setting up the enormous tent I found in our camping gear, but failed to check to see if there were instructions. Luckily between the three adults, we figured it out! Then we were allowed to wander the zoo as the sun set. It was SO COOL but I was a little sorry that I read Fierce Kingdom. We got to see a lot of animals that either aren't out during the day, or are out and super boring. Red pandas, BTW, are adorable when they're moving around. We also got to see fornicating turtles, apologies to anyone whose daughter came home talking about the Great Wrestling Lake Turtle. That's not a real thing. I panicked and the girls were too short to see the sign I pretended to read. One girl asked if she could sleep outside, so she and I hijacked the rainflap of the tent to sleep under the stars, lulled to sleep by the sweet din of the flamingos and the occasional lion's roar.
Literally the only time she was anywhere near me

The next day, after we got home from camping, Syd and Averson had to hustle to get ready for a Mad Hatter Tea Party. I excused myself from attending because honestly, I was not in a kind or friendly mood. Luckily my friend lives next door so I snuck over to her house to bitch about my life for a minute. I heart friends who will let you sit at their kitchen counter and be petulant about your life.

Recovery mode

Sunday our friends had a barbecue to introduce their new neighbors. I made the most amazing Mexican Street Corn Pasta Salad, so amazing that I documented the process on my Instastory which required me to learn how to do Instastory. So of course, C gave it to Sydney to carry in and she dropped it all over the driveway of my friend's house. Nothing says, "Thanks for the invite!" like covering your friend's concrete with mayonnaise coated pasta.  I salvaged half the bowl and totally insisted on eating it. I also made S'mores bars, which are amazing and I always forget about them when I'm in the mood to make cookies. I ran out of chocolate chips so I added a crushed up Milk Chocolate with Sea Salt bar that I had and it was a wise choice. Gee, I don't know why Weight Watchers isn't working for me? 

We left the party at a responsible hour since we knew we were getting up at 4:30 so that all THREE of our scouts (Averson became a Daisy last week too) could go to the local cemetery to erect flags. We started doing this with Eli a few years ago and have added in the girls as they became scouts. Its seriously one of my favorite community things that we do, and that's saying a lot considering that it's at 5:00am, often cold, and full of kids that aren't mine. I find it to be a really great way to impress on the kids what the day is about, and they get to work as a team to make this huge impact on our little town. Each of the flags is donated by a family and many were actually laid on the caskets of veterans and fallen soldiers. I was looking for a name to point out to my two Girl Scouts, and as luck would have it the only one that was labeled belonged to a female veteran. Ms. Edna Taft, thank you for your service.

Post flag donuts

We followed that with breakfast out with our friends, a nap, and then we spent the afternoon as guests at a super ritzy club pool. There are no pictures because I was too busy enjoying the water slide and the alcoholic sparkling waters I recently discovered (but not at the same time).

And because I'm already late, I'm going to include Tuesday too, which was otherwise unremarkable except that it was the opening performance of Eli's class play, Aladdin, in which he had the lead! He did an amazing job and it was so cool to see him up there. I was more than a little concerned after he told me that he had 22 pages of dialogue to memorize, but he totally did it, and even helped some of the other kids with their lines. Maybe he'll join the drama club in middle school (which is next. year. OMG.)

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

In other news

I started writing for this awesome group dedicated to helping moms and parents connect. You guys know how I love my village, so my first article is all about the friends you need to keep you sane. Check it out here

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Sunrise, Sunset

Averson's last day of preschool was on Friday, and it was about the cutest thing ever. This one loves school so much. She is really pissed that summer is so long because she can't wait to start kindergarten. I finally got her to calm down when I promised her that I'd try to teach her to read over the summer so that she can hit the ground running in August.

She wore her very favorite dress and her fancy high heels we won't let her wear to school. When I went to take this "Look how much I've grown" picture I realized that she was wearing the same dress she wore to the first day of school. Guess she hasn't grown that much...

I thought I'd be sad to see her graduate. I kept telling myself, "This is my very last preschool graduation!" trying to will the sentimentality to the surface. But really, I'm in a place where I'm loving the ease of having bigger kids. Averson learned to tie her shoes last week (in about three seconds). Next year, all three of my kids will be in school full-time. I have loved this preschool and I adore the teachers, but I wasn't sobbing on our way out.