It is Well, and yet Not

I held a sobbing child in my arms last night for the first time in a very long time.  I held her close and just let the tears go, with salty bitterness and nose running all down my shoulder.   There were no soothing words to comfort, no back patting to help calm.  Hold her.  That’s all I could do.  I held her until she loosed her grip and let go.  I held her hands in mine, and kissed them.  I took her face close to mine and kissed it.  I whispered “I love you” in her ear.

The beautiful, distraught child was mine.  She will be 18 exactly 13  days from now. She stands an inch-and-a-half taller than me, but in her Doc Martens it is near to 3 inches.  And last night she was my little girl who needed her Momma all over again.  I sat next to her as she, as we, her Dad and I too, attended a funeral.

This was an unexpected funeral, and a tragic one at that, as many tend to be. The service was for a 17 year-old high school Junior who died by her own hand.  Vivi was a friend of SugarBug’s from church.  Being close in age they went through many of the same church programs together starting in the nursery as infants. They have known each other their whole lives but didn’t develop a friendship until both were in high school youth group together.  It was there they bonded over similar music tastes, distaste for conventional trendy fashion and a love for Jesus.

I’ve known Vivi and her parents just as long.  I worked in the church nursery as a Supervisor in charge of one of the rooms when she was born.  Her dad was SonnyBoy’s guitar teacher for a short time.  Her mother and I connected through women’s ministry, and various other ways we had volunteered over the years.

Our girls had another connection: depression.

There are few things in this world I truly hate, and by “hate” I mean I wish it never existed anywhere, anytime in this world.   And I HATE depression.  It is a sinister quiet little devil of a thing.  People who suffer with it look like nothing is wrong with them, at least most of the time.  And those fighting it aren’t always immediately aware when it is getting worse.  Outsiders don’t always realize that something has changed with the person caught in its grip. Sometimes the depressed don’t see it right away either — and they are the ones living with it.  It moves slowly, so slowly that it can be weeks or months before it is recognized as having taken hold.

And sometimes it moves at lightning speed.

Maybe that’s what happened with Vivi, that lightning speed onslaught of darkness.  Only she knows, and she isn’t here to tell us.

I can’t blame her — at least I don’t want to blame her — for taking her own life.  The whispers of self-loathing telling me the world would be a better place, that I would be in a better place, that no one would really miss me all that much, to ‘go ahead, do it’ have been all too familiar. LIES!  Those are all lies.

I want to scream at the top of my lungs. Cursing won’t do any good, and it won’t change anything, and it won’t make me feel any better.  It never does.  Blaming her parents is the absolute wrong thing to do.  Vivi’s dad made sure to have Pastor tell the attendees of the service that no one loved his girl as much or as fiercely as her mother did.

I love my girl fiercely, too.  I am afraid that she has heard those terrible whispered lies in the quiet recesses of her mind.  I am afraid.  And I hate being afraid.  I don’t think she is in any real danger of self-harm. But …I know this age and stage in life makes her extremely vulnerable.  I am  certain she struggles to see beyond being 19 or 20 years old. Anything much past that is just.so.old.

I want her to not just grow up, but grow old.  At Vivi’s funeral our Youth Ministry director said she always thought Vivi would grow up to be one of the coolest adults: independent, artistic, poetic, unfettered by the norms that keep adults so ‘adult.’  I could see that.  And sadly we none of us will get a chance to actually see that.

The night before the funeral during the visitation time Vivi’s mom took my girl in her arms, remembered her by name, and held her tight.  They clung to each other — my daughter in grief, the grieving mother in relief that her child was remembered by a friend. She told my girl how much hers had loved her, how she looked forward to seeing her at youth group, how she loved and admired SugarBug for being SugarBug, and doing it so boldly.

So my sweet girl, continue to go boldly into adulthood.  No matter how old you get you will always have my shoulder to cry on. And make Vivi proud by being one of the coolest adults on the planet, and love Jesus the whole while.

  1. When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
    When sorrows like sea billows roll;
    Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
    It is well, it is well with my soul.

    • Refrain:
      It is well with my soul,
      It is well, it is well with my soul.
  2. Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
    Let this blest assurance control,
    That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
    And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
  3. My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—
    My sin, not in part but the whole,
    Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
    Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
  4. For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
    If Jordan above me shall roll,
    No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
    Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
  5. But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
    The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
    Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
    Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!
  6. And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
    The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
    The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
    Even so, it is well with my soul.

It is Well with My Soul, Horatio G Spafford, 1873

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Learn something about yourself: Volunteer

This week a world renown “radically open art competition” opened for its 7th year in my hometown. This isn’t going to be a critique on art, the art on display or the competition. I know what I like, what draws my eye and spurs my senses and invokes a reaction — good and/or bad. I don’t know enough about art to try critique it; but be highly critical, oh yes. This is about something else entirely.

Over the last months and year I have re-learned something about myself: I like to volunteer. I like to be a Volunteer.  ArtPrize needs hundreds of volunteers. This is also the time of year my body decides it wants to start hibernation mode with the shorter daylight hours and cooler temperatures. I signed up because I think volunteering is fun (yes, really!) and to force myself to get up, moving and out of the house for something I can’t put off.  I worked three 3-hour shifts this week with several more planned over the next two weeks.

One of the better parts of volunteering for a large-scale event like this is there are many different areas in which to get involved.  This also means it provides a lot of opportunities to people watch, and even talk to some of the people you see.

Yesterday I had the privilege of hosting a drop-in art studio — open to all ages, not just children — in a building which had been a display venue the last six years. This year it, and the most popular outdoor space did not have any art entries — at all. There was a man working as a greeter and disability awareness advocate in the same lobby. During a lull for both of us he wheeled himself over to introduce himself. He was David.  We began talking about ArtPrize, and some of the comments he had been getting from people.  He spoke with much passion about how disappointed he (and many others) were that there wasn’t art in this building, in the outdoor space next door, or in the river — all of which have had something on display all 6 years prior. He was clearly irritated at this oversight, or lack of participation and the disappointment it was creating. And the confusion!  Oh, the confusion!

I don’t recall exactly what I said to him. I did mention I was glad there wasn’t anything outdoors next door as it was one of the only places people would come to see any art and not go explore many other venues at all. I told him I had overheard someone, who I presumed worked in the building, say that a renovation project was planned, and said I guessed the building owners didn’t want to have construction dust and debris become a problem for any of the art or artists. We parted shortly after this brief chat and I didn’t give our conversation another thought.

David came back over to me just before he was set to leave. I thought he was going to say a friendly good-bye and be on his way. He did not.  He apologized. Apologized! I was instantly confused, as he had not offended me, or been impolite or rude in any way.  He wanted be make sure things were “okay between us” before he left. In my stunned disbelief I don’t remember how he put it, but it was to the effect of being sorry about his opinion he expressed earlier.

It wasn’t necessary to apologize for speaking his opinion, and I told him so. Going on, I said that I was not offended in any way.

He has a right to his opinion, and people may not always agree with it, but that’s what makes it an opinion.  I am not easily offended when someone shares their opinion.  What does that say of me, and more importantly, of so many others he has interacted with?

Indeed, what does that say of our society when one man can not safely express his thoughts and feelings without fear of backlash or retaliation? I told David I try to avoid controversial debate, in social media in particular, as it usually devolves into someone calling others names. I’m sorry but you’ve completely invalidated your entire argument as soon as the middle school version of you stepped out and called me Stupid. Actually, I’m not sorry.  If that’s the only and final argument you have to a debate then I know I’ve won.

Carry on, David, with your opinions.  Let’s hope we can relearn civil discourse before it’s too late.

When life hands you lemons…

The old adage “when life hands you lemons, make lemonade” sucks, especially when the lemon squirts you in the eye.

I had a job that I really liked, and was actually pretty good at — until today. “Had” being the optimal word. I got sacked, down-sized, budget-cut, let go.  All lemonade-y words for “fired.” I have to confess I was not perfect and had a couple of polite reminders from my supervisors about protocol, do’s and don’ts but nothing that I would think could put my job in jeopardy and most of us get those when starting something completely new.  The budget for my division has been under strict scrutiny since the end of a campaign in early January which began in early November.  The company devoted thousands of man-hours to this and it will not result in profitable revenue in the end.  As a result all employees’ time sheets were being watched for any overages.  Two weeks ago I put in 30 minutes of extra time, and last week 15 minutes extra wrapping up some details. I got a call today saying with the budget as tight as it is these two events have put me past the “she’s doing okay”  into “Danger!” and that was that.

I could stand and scream about the injustice and unfairness of it all.  But I’m really just too dumbfounded and numb to react; and a little bit mad.  I really loved working with and for this company.  I really was good at what I did.

Part of me wants to curl up in a corner and cry, feeling sorry for my pathetic self and ponder the answer-less question “What’s wrong with me?” The cheerfully optimistic lemonade makers would immediately chime in with nothing. The lemon-in-the-eye squeezers are full of self-doubt and condemnation. I’m waffling somewhere between the two tonight.

My husband suggested I take the time to write the next great American novel. Bless his heart.

Thanksgiving deception and surprises

I found out, today, my older sister and three of her four kids have packed up what they can fit into a one-way rental car and moved to Fresno — today. It seems this has been arranged for a little while and yet certain persons were forbidden to mention this at Thanksgiving dinner. I’m not quite sure what to make of this yet: the secrecy, forbidding revelations, what will happen with the youngest two who are still in high school. This will be their fourth school and fourth move in four years.

Too much to absorb to fully process this right now. ((sigh))

That is all, and enough.

What do You Make of This?

Allergan, the company that turned an obscure muscle paralyzer for eyelid spasms, Botox, into a blockbuster wrinkle smoother, hopes to perform cosmetic alchemy yet again. At the end of the month, the company plans to introduce Latisse, the first federally approved prescription drug for ______.

You answered: burning fat

Sorry! The correct answer is growing longer eyelashes

~~~ ~~~ ~~~

This was on the New York Times quiz-of-the-day on Facebook today.  I can’t believe that someone somewhere really thinks it necessary to have an Rx medication for growing longer eyelashes!

Who needs this?! Ponder that a moment….. ummm…. no one.

Of all the things a pharmaceutical company could spend billions of dollars researching, why on earth LONGER EYELASHES! Botox wasn’t created as a wrinkle reducer, but that’s one of its alternate uses, which is really good for sales and helps recoup research costs.  Now if this drug was created to treat hair re-growth for Alopecea patients, and longer-than-before eyelashes came as a bonus for them, well that’s fabulous!

As if the world doesn’t see Americans as self-involved, elitist pricks already, this shall surely add to that opinion. Of course, this will feed the self-involved vanity for women– and a few men I’m sure– worldwide, but that won’t matter in the world of public opinion.

While we’re still absorbing this astonishing news, let’s add this little head shaker:  think about where the money came from for this desperately needed new drug.  If the US government spent any of my hard-earned tax payer money on this project, someone in Washington DC needs to be recalled and lobbyist definitely need more control and oversight.  If all the money came from Allergan’s own deep pockets then I’ll un-ruff my feathers a little, but we still end up paying for it somehow or other in higher retail prices for other products sold by and through them, or their parent- or sister-company.

There was a time when medications were developed to actually prevent, treat and cure physical ailments.  Now we develop them to prevent, treat and cure our perceived genetic flaws. Steroids for your eyelashes, what’s next: steroids for non-public hair? puhleeze.