Category Archives: parenting

Life got better. From Suicidal Ideation to Scholastic Art Award for Photography.

The information and photography in this post is shared with permission from Preston Blackburne. It is our hope to continue to spread the message that Life Gets Better. 

Yesterday, I watched my 16 year-old son, Preston, accept his Scholastic Art Award, a Silver Key, that he won for his photo “Into the Digital Age.” The ceremony was held in the Pickney Hall on the campus at Central Oregon Community College in a large auditorium with several hundred people. He stood amongst his schoolmates, while his photography teacher and mentor, Mr. Fox, handed out each award. I struggled to hold back tears. No one knows Preston’s story like I do…

In the fall of his freshman year, he fell into the black hole of a “severe depressive episode”. I learned of how broken he was when he exhibited dangerous behavior and admitted to suicidal ideation that required immediate emergency intervention. He spent several days at our local hospital on a one-to-one psych hold, waiting for an inpatient room to become available in Portland, 4 hours away. Fortunately, time has allowed some of the painful details to fade and the memories are no longer so vivid. I do recall that I kept telling him how much I loved him and I wasn’t upset with him. There was no judgement from me and frankly I was proud of him for being brave enough to save his own life. All of a sudden parts of my own dark, depressed past shifted into place and I knew what to say, when to shut up and how to make the hard decisions to get him the help he needed.

His psychiatrist is an incredible man. Previously, I was personally resistant to using medications for depression and anxiety. During our decision making progress about which modalities to use for Preston, Dr C made a great analogy. He said to me, “If someone is drowning, do you just hand them a life-jacket and hope for the best? Or, do you give them the life-jacket, throw them a life-ring, call the Coast Guard and others with expertise to help?” Obviously the latter. He started medication, which has been modified as the crisis episode passed, that he still has chosen to continue to take. The mundane details of his inpatient hospital stays, he had two of them, aren’t important. Just believe me when I say I’ve seen this kid at his lowest points. One noteworthy moment is when he came out to me as bisexual. I said “So?” It was such a nonissue for me. I want my kids to know love and I don’t care what parts their partner has. I honestly could NOT care less. Despite all the emotions Preston was experiencing, he slowly began to believe, with some testing, that I do love him unconditionally.

At the end of Thanksgiving weekend in 2013, he showed again that he was in crisis and when we met with Dr C on Monday morning, Preston asked to go to residential treatment. That isn’t something you say “No” to. It was overwhelming and took a lot of work to arrange but we did just that and he had to wait, as an inpatient, for the bed to become available. Going to the Children’s Farm Home run by Trillium Family Services in Albany was what Preston needed. I drove the several hundred miles at least twice a week, once to visit and once to participate in family therapy. Through this process, I learned what expectations I had set and behavior that I had shown, that was damaging to Preston’s spirit. I took responsibility. I apologized. I committed to changing. (Other people in his life were unable to take less ownership of their negative contributions and those relationships have suffered.) I rarely yell now and I’ve changed my expectations about school success. Preston knows that we expect him to go to school every day, do his best by completing assignments. We no longer press about getting a specific letter grade. Instead, we encourage him to develop good behaviors and habits that will help him be successful in life.

He has really embraced the life he is building for himself. Preston has a diverse group of friends and shows them the same love and acceptance that I showed him. As a family, we have moved away from concerning ourselves with the gender binary and often have open discussions about the LGBTQ community. Life is open and honest and Preston knows he can show us all of himself. I’ve told him time and time again that I am not scared of his truth. I will be here for him no matter what.

Due to his hospital stays, he ended up without credit for the first semester of his freshman year. It was a difficult hole to dig out of, but within the last two weeks, he has completed the last credit recovery classes and is caught up!!!!

As Preston has grown into his own person, he has started sharing his artistic talent with the world. His artful expression that gets the most energy is his photography. He has some incredible photos that you can see on his website gallery!photos/c1zeq . It’s a work-in-progress, but his site shows he is getting his feet wet.

He has some incredible photography mentors that include, but are not limited to; Doug H., Brian Z., and An V. With the encouragement of his photography teacher, Mr. Fox, he entered three photos into the Scholastic Art and Writing Contest for 2016. There were 300,000 entrants nationwide in grades 7-12. His photo, shown here, won a Silver Key. The accomplishment of winning a Silver is admirable in it’s own right. However, when you know where this young man has come from, overcoming the obstacle of major depression and suicidal ideation, it means even more. Just two short years ago, at this time, he was just going back to school after missing 2.5 months of school. Preston was able to go into a grocery store and get our shopping done, without having to rush back to the car in a panic. He’d only just started sleeping in his own bed, alone in his own room. Life gets better. Fast forward to yesterday, he wove through the crowd in the gallery, with his girlfriend of 15 months, to see his own photo hanging on the wall with the rest of the Silver Key, Gold Key and Honorable Mention winners. He was relaxed and seemed 100% comfortable in his own skin. As he told me, artists can dress the way they want so he was wearing jeans and one of his two Millenium Falcon t-shirts. His best accessory was his easy smile. I tried really hard not to be all mushy and cry. I failed. As I sat in the college auditorium, with his younger brother, Logan and my parents down the row, I felt overwhelmed by the feeling that he had ARRIVED! Life has gotten better.

I know that thinking “what if?”, is usually a useless past time. However, I can’t help but thinking what Preston, and the rest of the world, would have missed out on, if he hadn’t made the commitment to save his own life. Regardless of my decisions, which medical providers or facilities he went to, his success at life is because of the pain he walked through, that he faced and dealt with.

I’m so grateful that he has shared his talent and made his photography publicly available. I share his story so that other hurting people can have hope that life gets better.IMG_7715.JPG

“Into the Digital Age.” Photo by Preston Blackburne, Age 16, Scholastic Art Silver Key Award Winner 2106.

This is not goodbye, Ron!

Last night I took one of my all time favorite photos. It’s this one.

Ron and Preston

Ron and Preston

Sure, these are both handsome fellas. The one on the right is my older son, Preston. The one on the left is, Ron, the youth leader from our church in Bend. He and his family are moving to Portland where they have been given the opportunity to grow and reach more people. They will take their ripples to a larger pond and I know they will build an amazing life there. It does make me sad to see both Ron and his wife, Erin leave our church. Never have I seen two people with easier smiles, open hearts and radical acceptance of everyone. To fully understand the magnitude of the above photo, let me back up.

As some of you may know, if you’d read earlier blog posts, Preston experienced an emotional crisis in October of 2013. He had a major depressive episode with suicidal thoughts. A mix of genetics, environmental and situational pressures are likely what let to him feeling so hopeless. He was hospitalized at our local, small hospital. I winged it. One of the most important things I did during that stay was to call our church and get in touch with Pastor Chris, our main pastor, and Pastor Ron. They are both affable men with different interests and speaking styles. They compliment each other and are incredible people. During Preston’s hospitalization he was on a one-to-one hold in the peds unit. That is, a CNA sat at his door with eyes on him the entire time, unless he had to go to the bathroom. I spent a great deal of time with Preston while he was there. Sleeping at the hospital so he wouldn’t be alone and so I could complete his paperwork if a bed in Portland became available. I was stressed, to say the least. I had chosen to limit Preston’s visitors so that he encountered those who would be supportive and not say the wrong thing. This met his parents and the the pastoral staff who both have experience with depressed people. I’d met Ron before I rallied him to Preston’s cause and thought highly of him. My own social anxiety makes it difficult to initiate relationships with people, even platonic church friendships, so I hadn’t spend much time talking to him. However, I knew he was an answer to my prayers that week. From this man I felt no judgement. He didn’t assume that I had done something to Preston to lead to his hospitalization. After visiting with him in the little lobby on the 5th floor, I knew he was on Preston’s team. I’ve always been cautious about allowing adults direct, unsupervised access to my children. (Yes, I’m paranoid from too many years of TV and books.) I felt completely confident about letting Ron venture into Preston’s room, and sit with him, offer counsel or just hang out. I am proud of Preston for not shutting Ron out. He didn’t pour his heart out to Ron, but over a few rounds of Blokus, a quiet trust began to form. Due to the geographical constraints of where we live, there aren’t nearly as many people in Preston’s village as there could have been. In Ron, quality has made up for quantity. As a mother, to know that Preston has an another God-loving man in his life to lean on, I feel peace. It doesn’t hurt that Ron had ink, great fashion, and loves music. 🙂

We didn’t do a good job of taking advantage of all Ron had to offer while he lived here. Our schedule never quite worked out for the Bend Youth Collective, which I regret. Both Preston and I intend, however, for Preston to get to continue to be mentored by Ron while Ron is living in Portland. Preston spends a fair amount of time there while he visits his dad. None of us are willing to let the distance get in the way of a warm friendship that started in a stark hospital room, in the darkest days of a beautiful life.

As I write this post, I’m listening to my favorite song about goodbye. It’s by the Sidewalk Prophets called “This Is Not Goodbye.” The lyrics are as follows.

I can see it in your eyes that you are restless
The time has come for you to leave
It’s so hard to let you go but in this life I know
You have to be who you were made to be

As you step out on the road I’ll say a prayer
So that in my heart you always will be there

This is not goodbye
I know we’ll meet again
So let your life begin
‘Cause this is not goodbye
It’s just “I love you” to take with you
Until you’re home again

The stirring in your soul has left you wondering
Should you stay or turn around
Well, just remember that your dreams they are a promise
That you were made to change the world
So don’t let fear stop you now ‘cause

This is not goodbye
I know we’ll meet again
So let your life begin
‘Cause this is not goodbye
It’s just “I love you” to take with you
Until you’re home again

I know the brightest star above
Was created by the One who loved
More than we’ll ever know
To guide you when you’re lost

What started as a still, small voice
Is raging now and your only choice
Is to follow who you are
So follow who you are ‘cause

This is not goodbye
I know we’ll meet again

This is not goodbye
I know we’ll meet again
So let your life begin
‘Cause this is not goodbye
It’s just “I love you” to take with you
Until you’re home again

Dear Lord, Thank you for bringing Ron into our lives at just the right moment. Please remind him of all the amazing work he has done, if he ever has doubts. We will continue to lift him up as he does your work with his hands. Keep him safe. I know that you have plans for him, to prosper and to have a hope and a future. Amen.

“May their faith in You, renew.”

At the moment, and for the last 30 minutes or so, I’ve been overwhelmed by emotions. I’ve laughed, cried and felt so full with Love and Light, I could burst. It’s been a challenging few days. Work is busy and I stumbled into bed on Friday night painful and exhausted, just sure I’d have to lay low all weekend to regroup. I prayed as the night wound to a close that I was grateful for the energy I do have. Living this new life of positivity is so much better than being cynical and expecting defeat. We’ve had another rash of challenges with our teenager about being dishonest about homework, not completing work, blah blah blah. It’s frustrating for him and us and it’s only 5 days until his next therapy appointment where we can talk as a family and get some ideas. In the meantime, we have dialed back some privileges and I’m supervising the homework. While I’m supervising the homework, I’ve cruised FB to keep myself entertained.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve seen the same event post from my dear friend, Leo, show up on my news feed. Leo is one of the truest, most genuine people I have ever known. We’ve known each other a long time. If I recall correctly, my mom encouraged to get to know Leo. (At that time, Leo was living as a woman, following the gender of his body parts, rather than his own identity.) I remember being 19 and very isolated from many of my friends because I was pregnant with Preston. This did not stop Leo from getting close to me. Leo has ALWAYS championed the cause of the lost, lonely and down-trodden. Before we knew if Preston was a boy or girl, we decided rather than call my unborn baby, it, we called the baby, Peabo. This still cracks me up. Unfortunately, many of the other people in my church community were unable to see past the pregnant teenager and see a lonely young woman who needed support. My family did a great job of rallying around me, and my mom has let me know that every unmarried, pregnant young woman who came after me, has been outwardly loved and supported. I’m sure it was the trail my parents would have chosen for me to blaze, but I was strong enough to do it and it was part of my journey. Leo has remained part of the church I attended as a young person and they have done an amazing job of accepting his transition from female to male. I am SO proud of the whole church. My parents still worship there. These two people that taught me to love anyone, no matter what, walk that walk, literally. When some people reach the age of 70, they begin to slow down. Not my mom and dad. One of the photos of my parents that evoke the most emotion from me, is the one that shows them walking in the Portland Pride Event, with Leo and other church members. To be able to show THAT photo to my bisexual teenage son and remind him that those are HIS grandparents, made me so proud of them. There may be some things growing up that they did that I didn’t like, but their teaching me to love everyone, prepared me for Preston’s coming out. I can’t even put into words how much it meant to me that Leo was still part of Preston’s village after all of these years. I couldn’t ask for a better role model for him. To Love God and share that Love is an incredible thing to be known for. Despite only seeing each other at church when I’ve gone home for major holidays, we’ve not seen each other, except for our connections FB. Today, Leo posted an AMAZING picture of him, radiating joy and love, at the Portland Pride Event. He also shared the Event Invite for a special service at my old church in Beaverton, tomorrow night. It is a service that outwardly acknowledges and welcomes, all members of the LGBT community. I’ve seen the invite before but just couldn’t figure out how I would make it work to drive 400 miles roundtrip and likely not be home before 12:30 am, before needing to work that day. However, this time, when I saw the invite I was struck with the feeling that I couldn’t NOT go. I was overwhelmed with KNOWING we were meant to be there. So, tomorrow, Preston and I will go back to the church where he was baptized, and worship and celebrate with old and new faces.

We even plan to be there early to sing in the pick up choir. I’ve watched the song we are going to sing, “For All The Children,” on a YouTube video, several times today. I’ve cried every single time. My favorite part of this song written by David Lohman are these lyrics; “Oh, we pray for all the young lives cut short by fear and shame, so afraid of who they are and whom they love. May the message now be banished that Your love in for the few, may their faith in You, renew.”

I don’t know how to get through to Preston about homework and lying and all that crap. I do know how to show up for him, and stand beside him and share God’s Love and Light with him. Tomorrow night it will be in one of those familiar pews, in a place from my past, with people who share the joy of the hope with a future together, hand in hand in hand in hand and hand.

My favorite Bible verse in this “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, ” plans to prosper and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11.

With love and more love, Rebecca

Love your children, no matter who they are.

I try to stay away from commenting on stories that have already gotten lots of attention in the press. It’s my goal to come up with new things to say that are coming from my place of wisdom, from my experiences. Daily, I work to avoid judging others. This post that has been bouncing around in my head for a few days has taken me on an introspective roller coaster ride. Sometimes I imagine that the people around me can tell when I am wrestling with being consumed by the desire to write. To me, it’s obvious in my ability to concentrate, or not. The main thought/opinion that I want to convey in this post is an idea I’ve already posted on Face Book and shared with friends.

When I say my children can be anything they want to be when they grow up, I mean that. For those of you are parents, let’s sit here and think for a minute what that should really mean. It’s an age old wish for parents that their child follow their dreams to the career/vocation of their choice. Those careers have changed over the years. Looking back, for women that meant teaching or nurses. For men, they were encouraged to be everything else, except those things. My parents were great about never telling me there were any limits on what I could become someday. In my formative years, that phrase about being anything we wanted to be, seemed to be strictly about occupation. Well, folks, those days are over.

My older son, for years and years, had talked about wanting to fly planes for the Navy. His path in life seemed pointed in that direction. Early on in his initial hospitalization, we realized that his previous career choice was unlikely. It was disappointing and he may still fly plans commercially. During this time of opening up and sharing himself with us, Preston disclosed that he was bisexual. To be honest, I think I know when and where but I have no idea what he said. It wasn’t a momentous occasion or some fancy speech worth memorizing. Now, over a little year later, I do remember thinking “So what?”. The only reason it had much significance at the time was that I felt it was a factor in his suicidal ideation and self harm. We laughed in the car this morning, when I told him that I wanted to write this post, that it was so not a thing! He hasn’t shared with me what he expected that I might say or if he thought I would reject him. I didn’t and that’s what mattered. It was easy for me to tell him I loved him no matter what, because it is true. I would die before making my children believe that they can’t be anything they want to be. (I’m not saying sexual orientation is a choice.) This is true for sexuality, gender, religious beliefs or practices or political preferences. I believe in God and Jesus and their love. This love, shining through me, means I can love anyone and everyone.

Here is the part where I deviate from my typical format and comment on current events. I do not know Leelah Alcorn’s parents but I have heard that they were unable or unwilling to accept their child who was born male, for who she was. I’ve also heard that they believe in God. I have a very hard time relating to them or understanding why they made their child’s life about them and were so selfish as to deny their child a life lived on her own terms. We are made in His imgaae so I rest assured that God loves and accepts all genders (forget the damn binary), sexual orientations, skin colors, cultures and creeds. It is time that we set tradition and old-school patterns aside. We owe this generation unconditional love.

Despite the fact that I was not upset or disappointed about Preston being bisexual, I didn’t have a guidebook for what to say or do, so I winged it. I made sure that he knew that I loved him, and his people, with no judgement. We joked about guys (Lenny Kravitz) that we both find attractive. I spent time with him. Rather than make him come out to the extended family, I spread the news with the example that “This is not a thing. Don’t make it a thing. We love Preston and we expect you to do the same. Whatever your personal feelings on bisexuality, keep it to yourself or you don’t get access to Preston.” We found the local PFLAG group which just so happens to meet in our church building. 🙂 Since I had no exposure what so ever to the bisexual community, I read online as much as I could. We learned about the myths and the actual statistics that refute them. Our church had a booth at last summer’s Bend Pride Event and Preston and I were there all day to meet and greet people. PEOPLE. Not gays, lesbians, queers, bisexuals but PEOPLE!!! It was a great afternoon and I could tell that Preston was happy to be surrounded by a large number of people that accept him. He proudly purchased an HRC shirt that says “Love Conquers Hate”, a pin with the bisexual flag pin and a few rainbow bracelets. I show up for him and will stand by him anywhere he wants to go. It was very moving to be included and bond that day. As the newness wore off and we settled in to our new, improved, mentally healthier life, Preston began to really be himself and wear his own skin proudly. He went with a group of friends to homecoming but his “date” was a nice young man he goes to school with. (Bless his heart, his parents don’t know he is gay and he has been recently rejected by the only family member that does know.) He has participated in the GSA at his school but his attendance is less consistent now that he hangs out with his girlfriend. I look back on the time we’ve spent together where Preston could be his authentic self and I shudder to think that a close-minded parent could have missed out on all those treasured memories. I don’t know how much of his concern about coming out to us had to do with his suicidal ideation but I know part of it did. How would he have ever improved emotionally if I would have put him down that day or walked away from him while he sat in a hospital room? This happens to children every day. The people they rely on for love and safety, say hateful words that burn a scar onto their child’s soul. The rejection and pain they cause may not be overcome and lead to the tragedy, such as with Leelah Alcorn, that they cannot see continuing to life and end their own life, long before they had the chance to live it.

My plea is that all parents everywhere would love their children unconditionally. Listen with open minds and speak with kind words of acceptance. If you hate homosexuality and think it’s an abomination, tough shit! Suck it up and hide that hatred from your child. We cannot control anyone’s actions in this world but our own. We can choose to show love and acceptance and provide a safe haven in the darkness.

My prayers are for all the families out there who are struggling, be it the children and/or the parents. May God show people what is truly important and unburden hearts.

If you are alone and need someone to love and accept you for who you are, I will. Love and hugs, Rebecca

Wishing you a Happy New Year!

Wishing you a Happy New Year while in my recliner, wearing a fuzzy pink bathrobe and fuzzy, pink pig slipper socks. I don’t want you to get the wrong idea…I was dressed, went to work, came back home because of a sick kiddo, busted out several hours of chores in my kitchen and this is my reward to myself. Comfy, cozy attire with my kiddo and pets nearby. This is bliss for me, a mellow time at home, with my loved ones and my computer. My new favorite playlist on iTunes is comprised of the songs from the soundtrack of Guardians of the Galaxy. They are what I, at age 36, consider older songs. I especially enjoy “Spirit in the Sky” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” but they are all great songs. However, I find it a little hard to write while singing.

Wow. My last post was way back on December 18th. That seems like a very long time ago. Since then we’ve had lots of great family time. It was awesome to have Preston home this year, sitting next to me on Christmas Eve service at church. It was hilarious. He and I both wanted to sit next to my husband to listen to him sing the harmonies with the all the Christmas songs, so we kept playing music chairs. We were all completely engaged in service. Although I received many great presents this Christmas, that moment where my entire family was mentally healthy and experiencing happiness together, was incredible.

Now that the Christmas season is behind us for this year, there is talk of the new year and for many people that involves New Year’s Eve celebrations and New Year Resolutions. I prefer the quiet passing of one year to the next. We stay home as a family and spend time together and this year, we were all asleep by 9:30pm. To be honest, I’d rather stay on a “regular” sleep schedule and have time for introspection.

I spent part of New Year’s Eve thinking back to the challenges that myself as an individual and my family have faced. Mid-January was the hardest challenge I’d faced. While Preston had already spend 4 weeks in residential treatment, he still could have benefitted from more time when his insurance decided they were done paying. Even though he still had thoughts of suicide and self-harm, it was my turn to provide the 24- hour-a-day-supervision and emotional support and stability and provide a safe environment. What had been performed by a team of trained professionals, fell squarely on my soldiers. While I was thrilled to have him within arms reach, I was terrified and overwhelmed. Preston had done a lot of work in the 7 weeks he had been gone but was still a fragile, anxious, depressed and overwhelmed teenager. Having him home with his needs meant that my husband and I lived in a state of alertness that pumped our bodies with adrenaline and cortisol, that made me feel like I was hunkered down in a foxhole. I worked to learn Preston’s cues, use the right lingo, be available, appear confident and make decisions for him about outpatient appointments and follow-up and chaperone him nearly every minute of the day. The transition home was a long one. For awhile, he slept in my king-sized bed so I was close by and there for him. We talked each other to sleep, listened to music or read. When he was ready to go back to his own room, his choice, I slept on the floor in his room so I was available. Our whole family learned to live life at a different pace. On more than one occasion, I lost hope, couldn’t see the forrest for the trees and wailed in despair. I’ve never felt as broken as I did when Preston was broken. Parenting is always a large responsibility but when you are responsible for keeping a resourceful 14 year-old from self harm, it reaches a different level of critical living. Life was far from normal. My husband and I would grab a few minutes to talk to each other in hushed tones but quickly returned to the boys. We hadn’t found a book that was a very good guide for what we were tying to navigate. While Preston was sad/depressed/anxious, he still remained polite and respectful, which appears rare from many of the descriptions I’ve read about teenagers who experience a mental health crisis. If we said, you need to stay in this room, right there in that chair until I come back from the bedroom, he listened. The most worrisome times for me were if I tried to take a shower, I would be in a state of sheer panic the entire time that something would happen. This time of high intensity existing didn’t last long. Within weeks, we’d learned new patterns for communicating and behaving that helped Preston to feel loved unconditionally and safe. Asking ” Are you ok?” stopped happening and we asked for a check-in or directly “Are you safe?”. It’s really easy to lie and say yes to “Are you ok?”. I am pretty sure that Preston eventually learned that is NOTHING he can say or do that would make us stop loving him. I think he knows that we love him unconditionally and will be here for him in his life, no matter what. I keep showing up. That is what matters. I talk about the hard things. I am honest in all things. I model a strong faith and a commitment to continue to learn to love myself and improve myself so that I can be there for my family.

I choose not to have New Year’s resolutions. I embrace learning new ways of processing life, of showing love and living gratitude and peace no matter what day, month or moment it is. During some of the more challenging times of this holiday season, I slipped into old habits and forgot to do Heart Math. I suffered for it. Instead of feeling energized and hopeful, I became worn and depressed. I did somethings in a mindful and skillful way but in other things I fell far short of the mark. When I realized where I was heading, I made a determined effort to improve my situation by improving myself; coping, attitude, behavior and gratitude. It looks like I need more visual reminders of ways to live an emotionally healthy, positive life so I’m collecting Bible verses, internet tidbits, Pinterest slides and other positive, encouraging words. I will continue to use the Heart Math tools with heart focus and heart focused breathing. I also intend to share my positive attitude with others and spread less negativity when times are tough. Those may sound like resolutions, but I don’t care for the pressure that comes with resolutions. I give myself permission to fail one hundred times and one hundred and one times I will try to get it right. We do the best we can with what we know at the time. When we know better, we do better.

I can and will be looking past myself and my family to the needs of those around me, while maintaining my boundaries and not over committing to anything.

I wish for you a day, a month, a year, a lifetime of emotional wellness, peace and happiness.

Love and hugs, Rebecca

Happy Thanksgiving, happy way of life.

Lately, my posts have had a recurring theme, finding freedom from stress, regret, remorse, depression and anxiety, instead I’m living my life as a grateful being. It’s really amazing. Today was my first major holiday since I attended the Heart Math class and learned the tools they taught. Typically, I would be very concerned with the meal, planning meals sometimes weeks in advance and making numerous trips to the grocery store. This year, my husband bought a white-meat-only-turkey. It only had breasts and the legs and wings had been cut off. I could NOT fathom this deviation from the tradition of a whole turkey with lots for left overs. I do recall that when he told me he had an idea about this new, weird, turkey, that I told him it was blasphemy. (What he didn’t tell me at the time we were “discussing” his idea that he had ALREADY bought it and it was at our home.) After he told me that he had purchased the fresh turkey and had it at our house, I said that we wouldn’t need to get the right turkey. I agreed that we could try the one he got. For such a control freak as I am about food and special meals, this was a really big deal. I made lots of jokes about the turkey and most people I talked to about said turkey, also found it strange. Instead of listing recipes and their ingredients and demanding that we needed all the stuff long beforehand, I gave the list to AJ and he went on Wednesday night after work. I am learning that I don’t have to do everything and being a martyr is b*llshit and does NOT suit me.

In addition to wanting to make Thanksgiving dinner, I knew that after work on Wednesday, I would need to drive 170 miles to my parents house where our younger son had spent 5 nights so I could drive him 200 miles home on Thanksgiving day. There was no anxiety or paranoia about getting all of those things accomplished. I did not overplan or obsess about checking the road conditions. It was enough for me that I know the road really well and have my winter tires on my fun & comfy car. This is like a whole new life for me! If someone would have told me that this would be me and my behavior, I never would have believed them. I made it to my parent’s house before 9pm and was relaxed and happy when I arrived, despite having worked 9 hours and driven 3.5. I had great snacks and sang a lot along the way. I kept checking in with myself to see if I was really as stress free and comfortable as I was. It was so strange. Typically, under those conditions, I would have a neck or head ache, maybe a gurgling stomach or be angry about the inconvenience of such a drive. Believe it or not, I enjoyed myself. Knowing that I was going to fetch my son who was really looking forward to seeing me, was a treat. I drive long distances with two comfort items. One, my One Touch snuggle pillow, tucked underneath my left arm and the two, Sniffy, a soft piece of fabric draped over my right shoulder. I’d be lost without my music. Living and driving much of the time in a rural area, I’m thrilled to have my satellite radio. Now that my self reflection doesn’t include berating myself, feeling guilty or being angry, I am almost giddy after these check-ins with myself. Some of these check-ins I share with you here on my blog and others are just for me.

Logan and I left Beaverton before 7 am this morning and made it home by 1030. I was looking forward to being home and getting on with the day so we kept on the road, only stopping for gas and make great time. AJ had gone to the grocery store as promised and had gotten the items needed for the menu I had planned to go with the weird turkey. I think I had been home about 15 minutes we had discovered that our turkey roasting pan was undiscoverable. AJ looked everywhere. I had mild panic at this point. When I stopped rambling on about it, I had a great idea. I asked AJ to ask our neighbor/family member, Owl, if he had a roaster and if he’d like to come to dinner. Fortunately, he did have an electric roaster that had belonged to AJ’s grandmother that we had given him. We didn’t think we would ever roast anything small enough to use the pan! Not only did Owl have the roaster, he did NOT have an invite anywhere for Thanksgiving. (This made me realize I was a JERK for not inviting him sooner.) An electric roaster saved the day. The turkey injector broke but I found a way around that. AJ and I had great teamwork and ironically, the only thing that didn’t turn out well was BOXED STUFFING!!! That makes me want to laugh my ass off. Hey, I am the chick that burned Jell-O once upon a time so it’s not that big of a surprise. The turkey was amazing and we will have plenty of leftovers.

Is there a point to this post? I think so. I think my point is that I’m not standing in my way anymore. I’m not carrying around anger and fear and letting them live in my body as depression and anxiety. Learning the Heart Math tools and then getting out of my own way to let it work for me, is the single biggest thing I have ever done for myself and my family. I’m not saying I was a pathetic loser, but this positive impact is huge and will have long and far reaching effects for my children. I can finally model the behavior of what I want for them. Telling them “don’t be like me” is ridiculous. Showing them how to not be like the me I was, is vital.

This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for my God, health, family, friends and the many luxuries in my life, including this blog and the opportunity to connect with others. May God Bless you, today and always. Happy Thankful life…Rebecca

Hey…HEY! The children are away and I’m not worried.

(Disclaimer: This hasn’t been proofread. I’m tired.)

The first 35 years and 11 months of my life, I perfected worrying. I was so good at it that my body learned to pour on the adrenaline with relatively little external provocation. From the September of 2012 until September of 2014, our family went through some very difficult times. Well, really the tough times improved in April/May of 2014 but it took me 4 – 5 months to start to unwind and stop living in fear. This post isn’t about all the sh*t that went down. Just believe me when I say I had plenty to worry about. The scale of worry went from sheer terror involving life-saving to the underlying hum of worry that was constantly present with a buzz that never went away. Even my nerve endings seemed fragile. I didn’t suffer without trying to curb the crazy. I see a mental health nurse practitioner that helped manage my severely disordered sleep and anxiety with medications. (Can’t tolerate SSRI’s. I have horrible side effects.) However, in addition to the medication I take for sleep, she prescribed a beta blocker to slow my heart rate, chop my adrenaline response down to side and thus, rid me of panic attacks. I’ve seen her at various intervals for therapy. Right now, I’m seeing her weekly. In looking back at the past few years, I know that I would have had to have a “Sageview (local psych unit) vacation” without her help. I did plenty of work, too. Don’t get me wrong that I am touting her as my hero. I’m not. Despite her intervention, I was still worrying and experiencing daily anxiety. That’s not happening anymore and it’s a new way of life for me. I mentioned a few posts ago that I had attended a Heart Math class that taught me about coherence and transforming stress. It explained positive emotions, negative emotions, cortisol and DHEA levels. I love the science but now, I love my life. I can’t say that I felt the hand of God reach down and shake me, but He sure got my attention. Since I’ve embraced the concept that I am going to be gratitude and have lived this new life with the intention of being grateful, several toxic things have left my life. Worry and resentment are two the toxic things that are gone. As the days pass by, I find that this new me is enjoying herself. I am happy and this person feels more like me than the person I was. If I want to be angry, resentful and anxious, I have to concentrate on conjuring those emotions. If I’m going to expend the energy, I might as well do relaxation techniques instead. I have more space in my brain now for other things. My focus and recall are better. I have more patience to offer, even to myself. I decided that I wasn’t going to beat myself about who I was and how I behaved before. It’s in the past and none of it has anything new to say. Rather than bash myself, I’d rather offer encouragement for who I am becoming and where I am going.

My children are the dearest people in the world to me. For years, Preston has gone to his dad’s house and I have made myself suffer. Every holiday that wasn’t mine, I’d be upset about him being gone. I would worry that something would happen while out of my reach. My frustration and anger and resentment and disappointment would overshadow everyone’s holiday. Well that’s just crap and I’m not doing it anymore. I am thrilled beyond measure that Preston is on this Earth to celebrate any holiday, I don’t care where he is. I can love him just as much from 200 miles away. The biggest gift that I can give him is the peace of mind knowing that I am just fine at home, doing my thing and I’ll be happy to see him when he gets back. It was the strangest feeling to drive him to the mid-way point on Saturday and not feel down or damned or depressed. We sang along to the iPod, some Christmas carols and songs and other songs that we enjoyed. Since little brother was riding along to hitch a ride to Grandma and Grandpa’s, we also listened to his audiobook. Even though I was driving to Detroit Lake over the snowy, mountain pass, it was an enjoyable ride. Logan was more relaxed about going away from home for a few days than I have ever seen him. (He’s had a few pouty moments since he got there but homesickness happens.) I wasn’t anxious when we talked to Preston’s dad. I found it much easier to be polite to him. We gathered up all their junk from my car, put it in his truck, they gave and got hugs and were on their way. It was amazing. I watched them drive away without a single negative thought. I turned up the radio and went on my way. I recall being grateful for my winter tires, iTunes, satellite radio and a fun, comfy car to cruise home in. I didn’t ruminate about them leaving or count the days until they will be back. I’m here for them if they want to text or talk but I’m going on with living my positive life until they are home. They don’t expect me to be sad because they are away.

I’m so blessed to be changing my life at 36 and not counting my regrets at 56 or 86. My biggest struggle now seems to be making sense of these positive emotions and expressing myself clearly. I was a Negative Nellie or Toxic Tess for so long, living a joy-filled life will take some getting used to. I pray that those who knew me, or think they know me, can allow me the room to be different. Already my boss has made assumptions about things I’ve said or done, while truly not understanding or appreciating my motivation and how I’m changing. I will remind myself that everyone is fighting a battle I know nothing about, and I don’t need to bash them over the head with my own quest for freedom. Thanks for being patient with my quirky post. It’s time for bed.

Love and hugs, Rebecca