… from the bungalow


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Lost Hope: On Reaching Out

On December 3, 2015, Scott Weiland, lead singer of the band Stone Temple Pilots, was found dead, apparently due to cardiac arrest. Weiland has been publicly open about his struggles with addiction, which one could assume led to heart issues down the road. But I’m not here to talk about the perils and pitfalls of addiction or the pity and compassion we should demonstrate toward those who struggle with it. In fact, I wasn’t going to write about it at all until I read the piece written by his ex-wife and the mother of his two children, Mary Forsberg Weiland, published by Rolling Stone on December 7. This is what struck me:

December 3rd, 2015, is not the day Scott Wieland died…
What [our children] truly lost on December 3rd was hope.

She went on to describe how Weiland had “replaced” his family and estranged himself from them. Now, we could all conjecture about how he must have struggled with his demons, felt guilt/shame about the divorce, etc. Whatever his reasons, no matter the explanations and underlying motivations, regardless of how valid those may be, the reality is, he was gone. This is not a judgment; Glob knows I’m in no place to cast stones. I’m just coming from a mindset of working with what is.

Personal demons, drugs, depression? These things can make it functionally impossible for someone to reach out for help or change their behavior. If there’s one thing I hate about western society, it’s the notion of independence. We are mostly tribal–not independent–beings. It’s to be expected in a culture in which dependence is synonymous with weakness that we’d shy away from reaching out to others. This goes both ways: asking for help or giving it. To me, the worse evil is to not reach out to someone you know is struggling; they may not see it. Yes, you might offend the person, but you know what? Being offended is way preferable to leaving your kids without a father and without hope.

Because here’s the thing about people who need help but get angry when you offer it: Continue reading


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Are You There, Mom? It’s Me, Your Son

Hi, friends! I’ve missed you. Writing anything at this point feels a bit moot, but we’ll give it a go.

Two years ago was my first Thanksgiving without my mom, and it kind of sucked. I didn’t even spend it with family. I spent it working on what would be a 23-page comprehensive literature review (for my first grad class! Ugh!), then eating at a friend’s house. Last year was spent with grandparents and relatives, along with my father-in-law right after we lost my mother-in-law. Not exactly conducive to the warm fuzzies. So, I’m working on regaining that sense of nostalgia and warmth that used to make Thanksgiving my favorite holiday. I spoke with my therapist last weekend about how to do this. My assignment is to write to my mom; it might help me lift some of the weight from my shoulders. I thought about this as I got ready for work this morning. As serendipity (synchronicity) would have it, a guest post I wrote for The Monster in Your Closet (three years ago!) popped up, right on cue, to get me started. Ready?

Dear Mom:

I miss you. Sometimes I think you’re here with me, but I don’t dare ask or hope. I don’t think I could handle the realization that you’re just … gone. It’s easier to keep it in a perpetual state of “I wonder,” you know? Like suspecting there’s something medically wrong with you, but never going to the doctor for fear they’ll confirm the worst. But when my therapist appeared to get a chill down the back of her neck and mentioned green bean casserole, I got hopeful. Pesky hope.

I’ll be honest. When you decided you didn’t want to be placed on a ventilator–and subsequently stopped breathing and died in your sleep–it made me angry. I mean, I’m glad the transition was relatively peaceful for you, but it gutted me. I couldn’t get there in time. I know you never wanted to cause me pain, but you did. Maybe you were OK with not living anymore, but I wasn’t. And maybe your family needing you wasn’t worth the high cost of living with a degenerative disease. I wish it had been. Still, I get it. Given your situation, I honestly can’t say if I would do anything differently.

But, Mom, life without you has been really f*cking hard. (Sorry. I know you hate the F-word.) Every time I think about you, I see a void. When I’m stressed and want to call you? Void. When I visit relatives? Void. Whenever Dad visits, I see a void: big and obvious and standing right there next to him where you used to be.

Where you’re supposed to be.

It’s gotten so I avoid visiting or even talking to family members. I can’t tell if the loss of you is getting easier because I’m accepting it or because I’m ignoring it.

The thing is, you’re more than a void, and my memories of you demand to be honored as such. More than dishonoring you, I’m choking off any potential joy I could be reveling in having been raised by you. So, hey, let’s go back, OK?

Remember when you read Ramona and Beezus to us at bedtime? Or Grimms’ Fairy Tales? Or The Five Chinese Brothers? Remember when you bought me my The Fall Guy lunch box? The bologna, American cheese, and Miracle Whip sandwiches you packed for me that stuck to the roof of my mouth? Remember the time I turned on the vacuum cleaner while you were holding the cat and she freaked out and clawed you up and you were bleeding all over yourself? How you were so calm and kind in telling me, “It’s OK; it wasn’t your fault”? Remember how you stayed up half the (all?) night to make that vampire Halloween costume so I could wear it to school the next morning and I was too shy/self-conscious to wear it? How you were disappointed, maybe even ticked off, but still validated my feelings and reassured me in my worry and guilt?

Remember when you saved my life?

I’m not angry at you, Mom. I’m angry at the disease that took you from me. The decision you made not to go on a ventilator was yours to make. I may still be angry about it, but that doesn’t mean I disapprove, necessarily.

I’m reclaiming Thanksgiving, Mom. It can still be my favorite holiday, I’m sure of it. I think I just need to remember you for You, not for the void you left behind. Instead of avoiding memories this week, I’m going to actively engage family in reminiscing. That’s the plan. I might even bake a green bean casserole.

I miss you. Sometimes I think you’re here with me. Let’s hope.

Love,

Your Son

This Thanksgiving, will you join me and love up the people you love? Tell them how thankful you are to have them in your life. Tell the ones you’ve lost how much they mean to you, too. And if this post resonated with you, please share. Maybe it will resonate with someone you know.

Thanks for letting me share.

Love and light,

sig 76


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Everything is Awesome: A St. Baldrick’s Team

Two years ago, the words of a grieving-yet-surviving mother had moved me to shave my head for a good cause: to stand in solidarity with children with cancer and to raise funds to support the research to conquer it. One year ago, we cheered others on as they did the same. I even made a little slideshow to remind folks that hair grows back; people don’t.

This year, I continue to cheer for others and share in their joy. I didn’t feel comfortable asking for any donations after readers had been so generous in helping my family with funeral costs after my mom passed. (And I totally still owe you guys a blog post for that! Guilt!) However, my lovely wife and step-son are going under the clippers this year!

LucasIn a short interview with Mary Tyler Mom, Lucas  (The Boy) stated, “I have lots of curly hair and I’m shaving it because I don’t really care about my hair. It makes me happy to shave it because I’m raising money. I think it’s important. I’m raising money for kids cancer and the money goes to St. Baldrick’s to help kids with cancer.”

As a dad, I’m hoping he’ll see that even small humans can make a big difference. Help him make that difference. A donation of even $3 (the cost of a small latte), $4 (a Lego minifig), or $5 (a crappy value “meal”) will go a long way. Well, I hope it will. He is only seven.

Thank you. Love you.

Chris


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2014 Donna Day: On loss, regret, and taking action

I’ve missed a lot of opportunities. I have regrets. When my mom’s health was declining after her ALS diagnosis, I thought I’d have plenty of time to see her, to talk to her, to ask her about her best and worst parenting moments. I was wrong. I missed out on so much. That’s something I’ll feel continuously for the rest of my life.

On her birthday this year (February 13, 2014), I had this to say:

You know what really sucks? That the gentlest, most caring person I’ve ever known shouldn’t get to celebrate her 57th birthday. That her husband shouldn’t get to shower her with flowers and gifts, or her children and grandchildren call her or take her out for breakfast. That she shouldn’t get to hear for another year, another day, that she means the world to some people. To me.

“Yeah, it feels like the world has grown cold now that you’ve gone away.”

Although she would say she had no regrets about how and when any of us kids were conceived, I know she regretted a lot about her life. She was trapped, chained, and held captive by her own lack of self-worth. She never finished college and was consistently paid less than she was worth in non-fulfilling jobs. I like to think that, had it not been for her crippling self-consciousness and abysmal self-esteem, my mom would have been a singer/dancer.

I like to imagine her as carefree, moving her limbs expressively with the wind, singing like no one was listening. Really, I think that’s the kind of life she wanted for her kids and grandkids. Before she died, she said that she wanted Lee Ann Womack’s “I Hope You Dance” played at her funeral. That was her farewell message to her grandchildren.

Since then, I’ve felt so weak and checked out of life more times than I can count. I’ve wanted to leave, just quit living. But then sometimes, out of nowhere, I’ll hear “Brave” by Sara Bareilles, and it’s like my mom is there, telling me to keep living and thriving. It’s not how she lived her own life, yet I feel like it’s what she wanted for me. I’m not brave, though. I want to build a nest and bury myself in it until I forget, until I’m forgotten.

But that’s not what my mom wanted for me. She’d want me to be brave, to speak up, to be an advocate and a champion, to be the empathetic, strong yet sensitive human being she helped create. She’d want me to speak up.

I will not miss this opportunity. I almost didn’t do anything for 2014 Donna Day. By now, you’re probably wondering what this post has to do with Donna at all. Continue reading

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Stop Saying “That’s So Gay!” — Six Microaggressions That Hurt

Psychology Benefits Society

Sad Asian teenage boy

By Kevin L. Nadal, PhD (Associate Professor of Psychology, John Jay
College of Criminal Justice – City University of New York)

When I was a little kid, I used to hear my brothers, cousins, and friends say things like “That’s so gay!” on a pretty regular basis. I would usually laugh along, hoping with all my might that they didn’t know my secret.  My parents and other adults in my life would tell me things like “Boys don’t cry” or “Be a man!” which essentially was their way of telling me that being emotional was forbidden or a sign of weakness.

When I was a teenager, there were a few boys at my high school who ridiculed me, almost everyday. When I walked by them in the halls, they called me a “faggot” or screamed my name in a flamboyant tone.  I learned to walk by without…

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Some thoughts on the R-word and what you can do

The R-Word

Today I read an article on The Good Men Project titled “I Challenged a Famous Ethicist… And Changed His Mind.” As I left my comment on the post thanking Kari Wagner-Peck for taking a stance against the R-word, I wondered if I should mention that I also have a son with an intellectual disability.

Why even consider it? Would it lend credibility to my comment? Worse, would it diminish the sincerity of my gratitude because her actions indirectly benefit me and my son? I opted to leave it out in favor of brevity.

But it left me wondering… If I didn’t have The Little Professor, would I care about the R-word so much?

I’d like to believe that I’d take a stance against it even if I didn’t have a personal stake in it. It takes character to stand up for others even when there’s no obvious personal investment. The thing is, there’s always personal investment when the well-being of others is involved. We’re all connected.

Is this an altruistic stance? Technically speaking.

Is it self-serving? To an extent, sure.

Is it the right thing to do? Absolutely.

What You Can Do

Spread the Word to End the Word is a collaborative effort between Special Olympics and Best Buddies to “raise the consciousness of society about the dehumanizing and hurtful effects of the R-word and encourage people to pledge to stop using the R-word” (Murphy & Schatz, 2013). If you choose to do so, you may pledge your support as I did.

Peace, love, and understanding.


Chris

Reference

Murphy, M. & Schatz, H. (2013). Spread the Word to End the Word Fact Sheet. Retrieved from http://www.r-word.org/r-word-resources.aspx/



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Start small: you need only to love

“If I represent this, then I must represent that, and if I represent that, I need to follow the train of logic that supports this, that, and the other thing. And oh my glob, I’m just going to have to include every aspect of human knowledge of all time just to do this the right way and be taken seriously!”

Wanting to leave your mark on the world can feel like an overwhelming responsibility. Here’s what I’m realizing:

Your contribution to the world doesn't have to be grandiose, and it doesn't have to be perfect. It needs only to be loving.

If you’re a perfectionist or easily overwhelmed, I hope this provides some sense of ease for you. Let go of the idea that you have to do more of something, learn more about everythingor wait for anything.

Stop waiting and start living.

Love,
Chris