The horse's pasture to the East...

Saturday, December 16, 2017


I've been watching and reading the articles on sexual harassment, assault and rape in the work place for the past several weeks, like most everyone else. (I know. Can you believe I chose that as my opening image? Talk about a metaphor!) It's a melt down that had to happen sooner or later. When sexual advances are part of the work environment with anyone, you've crossed a line in the sand. It's just not acceptable behavior. It's unprofessional and it's embarrassing. And if the person is in a position of power and is using it to manipulate you or hurt you, it's obscene.  But like the middle of aisle person that I am, I can also see how easily you can become an enabler to behaviors that do not belong in your work place.

So let's discuss how to say an effective and definitive NO. It's really all about personal boundaries. No doubt this is going to be a complicated situation while everything is hashed out with clear descriptions of what exactly harassment and assault is.  I'm not going to try to define every possible scenario. But I do want to share some techniques for understanding the possibilities before you walk in to a situation that compromises your safety or even your dignity. 

Your boss says, "Let's meet later over dinner, in my hotel room, to finalize this." Your reply is, " No, thank you. I would prefer we meet in the restaurant (cafe, lounge, library, or whatever local, public place is available.) " You DO NOT have to give an explanation why. Be specific, pleasant and polite, professional. 

Your co-worker says, " Meet me in my office after hours. We need to discuss 'so and so'." You should ask another co-worker to stay with you. If you can't find anyone who can do that, you say," No. I'm not comfortable doing that. Let's talk now. " It doesn't matter where you are or who you're with, you have the right to stand your ground with a well stated NO. You do not need to give any other explanations. This goes for men and women, people. Set yourself up for success by not walking in to any possible compromising situation.

You're trying out for a part in a play or movie. It isn't unusual for trials to be held in hotel rooms. Movie directors and studios travel all the time, searching for new talent, a certain type of face or personality for a part. Go with a friend or agent. If you show up and there's only one person in the room, leave. There isn't a legitimate movie or play (musical, dance review, whatever the event is) who is going to meet with you alone. There's always a panel. Assess the room from the hallway and leave if there is no one else present. It isn't worth the part no matter who the person is waiting for you in that room.

You show up for a job interview. It's the same scenario. If the job applications and interviews are being held before or after hours, there should be more than one person present to interview you or at least a secretary just outside the door. Dress professionally and if some kind of question is asked or behavior requested that makes you uncomfortable, say " I'm not comfortable with this line of questioning. " or " No, I will not do that. " And then say, "Thank you for your time. " and get up and leave. Better yet, if the behavior is openly offensive, get up and leave without explanation or discussion and report it immediately to the people outside the door. Let the others sitting in the room, waiting for their interviews, know exactly what happened. Ask that the secretary be present while the interview is being conducted, especially if that inner voice of yours is giving you a red flag.

Good fences make good neighbors. My Grandad used to say that to me when I was a kid. He was talking in terms of farm land, crops and livestock. But it's applicable to most situations too. Set boundaries. Be firm inside yourself about how to make your fences easy to understand. Practice your 'NO' before you walk in to any situation. 

One of the systems that I use with my horses uses the metaphor, for describing how to apply pressure while learning how to communicate with your horse, " Hair, skin, muscle, bone." It describes the four phases of pressure. You always want to start with 'hair', the lightest phase (which changes from horse to horse, depending on how sensitive they are) to express your wishes. It's the same with humans. Set your emotional, mental and physical boundaries (fences) before your appointment or encounter. Be polite but firm. Make no excuses. You don't have to apologize for being clear about what you will or will not do.

Let's say you're already in a situation and the person with you is making advances. LEAVE. And if they're between you and the door, use your phone. If it's moving faster than that, pick up a lamp, a framed picture, a chair, your shoe (especially if you're wearing heels), and make noise. Hit the walls, break windows, yell, scream, hit the other person. Kick, bite, scratch. Hit them in the groin or grab it and pinch and twist as hard as you can. Bite them on the neck right where the artery is. BITE as hard as you can. Poke their eye out. Don't just touch, poke it and even pull it out. Bite their ear off. Yeah, nasty ideas, but extremely effective. Grab a finger and bend it back until it snaps. Stomp on their instep. Break their knee with a chair. Hit them in the head with anything you can get ahold of. Pull their hair out. AND NEVER STOP SCREAMING. I promise you, the other people in the hotel will hear you. Hotel security will show up. They don't want their rooms trashed or people getting hurt.

Better yet, keep track of your surroundings. Avoid alleys, especially at night. If you love to run for exercise, go out while the sun is up. If that isn't possible, go out with a friend. If that isn't possible, get a big dog. If that isn't possible, join a gym. It's like driving defensively. Set yourself up for success and safety by choosing to be aware and prepared. 

Sometimes things are just going to happen. Several years ago I was out riding my bike. I had several different routes that I took for exercise or just to get from one destination to another. It was a beautiful afternoon. Kids were out playing in their yards, people were working on their lawns or gardens. A jeep with four guys in it came up beside me and hit me, knocking me off my bike on purpose. I flew off, falling in to a ditch and rolling. My bike was hit by the jeep and the front wheel crushed. They drove on making obscene gestures and yelling things that made it clear they hit me on purpose. 

I had road rash down one side and lost one of my shoes and was completely rattled. But adrenalin hit hard and I was up and running before my fall was complete. I don't remember where it came from but I picked up a rock and lobbed it at them as they went around the corner, hitting the door and denting it. Probably not the smartest thing to do but there were children around. I'm a Mom before I am anything else. I go in to "lion" mode pretty quickly under those kinds of circumstances. 

People were very nice. They helped me to sit down while they called for help, brought an ice pack to put on the egg sized lump forming on my head. (That was when I started wearing a helmet for bike riding and horse back riding.) I and some of the people who saw it were able to give enough of a description including the dent on the door, to police and the people who did that to me were arrested and charges were filed against them. One of the boys in the jeep (and all of them were laughing and participating) had wealthy parents who wanted to "settle" with me. I refused. It didn't matter who was driving or who reached out and hit me. It mattered that all of them were part of it and I or someone else could have been seriously hurt. 

The point to this story is that I had chosen my route ahead of time. I knew the neighborhoods, was out during the day. I was still knocked off and hurt but there were also consequences to their actions too. And there were people near by who stepped up right away to help. I know that not all of you are in places where that is possible, but you can still be aware of your surroundings. You can take self defense classes. And you can do your best to set yourself up for safety by paying attention instead of walking around with your forehead stuck to a smart phone. 

That's a Locust tree. From a distance they're handsome in the landscape. They have a nice shape, are very useful, lovely colors and pretty leaves. The wood is strong and they grow easily. But when you get up close, beware the thorns. Be like a Locust tree. Be strong, be pretty, grace your surroundings, do your job  but defend yourself and understand how to use your "thorns". Set your boundaries. Use your voice to say an easily understood, " No. " And remember that you set the terms and locations for any interactions, especially in your place of employment. I've been fired for setting my boundaries, along with four other women in the office. I went home angry and worried but I also left with my head high and aware of the fact that my dignity was intact and my territory was secure. And I found my way to being an entrepreneur too. And my employees were all treated with kindness. They liked working with me because their dignity was supported at the end of the day. They went home with decent wages knowing they could spend their time with their families, focused on them in a positive way.

Good fences really do make good neighbors. 

I am, ever yours, Nancy ... wishing that no one ever had to deal with creeps. Set your boundaries!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017


I love Christmas and the Winter holidays. They're like a catalog of memories for me ; all the years of little boys and working so hard I lost weight while everyone else gained. I knew they would be small for an eye blink. I wanted them to have big meals, stockings full of silly things, excitement and waking up too early. And, I admit, I wanted it for me too. Being a Mom was a life goal for me. 

I was psyched and frightened at the same time. Things changed very quickly for us when my sons were babies. The support system of relatives were gone in an eye blink and John and I were on our own except for short visits from his Mom a couple of times a year. 

I did my Mr. Greenjeans thing and put my thinking cap on and got it done. I never complained about having my children. Once they were here they were my focus and we all made our leap together.

And here I am, all these years later, the slightly odd 'Cat Lady' plus two dogs, three horses and one donkey. I've threatened John with filling my Old MacDonald's song up with more too. I have 1 donkey, 2 dogs, 3 horses, 4 cats (plus one feral cat who shows up ever so often, hungry). I need to fill up the rest of the numbers to 10 but not this year. Goats, chickens, ducks ... the list has endless possibilities. But for now I'll be happy with the ten I do have. But I digress. Christmas...I was talking about holidays.

Years ago, on our first Christmas together, we decided to use ornaments that were either gifts, antiques or handmade. That makes our tree a bit eclectic. Over the years we've found ornaments at auctions that have someone else's history attached to them (see the green one in the background?). I've found them at garage sales, and art fairs. More than half of them are hand made. And I know where they all came from too, who made them and when they gave them to us. 

I love the slightly tattered edges, the dust from other Christmas trees and the old paper I save from year to year to wrap them in. It's like unwrapping last year and the year before and the year before that every single item. Sometimes John helps me. Most of the time it's just me, telling the stories to whatever four legged is sitting there, watching.

Sometimes I regret not buying more from an artist when I find them. They rarely come back to the same art fair. And I wish I'd brought more from the years we lived in Germany too. Those were our pre baby days when we had only the suitcases and backpacks to carry what we took home with us. 

This year I brought home a star for the top of the tree made by a local artist. I have one other piece of hers and hope to add more next year. See those tiny angels on the branches, surrounding the star? Those are from Germany. They're 45 years old and carefully wrapped in tissue every year, put in a container and labeled so I won't loose them. They always go at the top of the tree. And I knew my sons were close to leaving home when they were the ones who put them up there for me too. 

The felt Ornies came from a friend in Tennessee who makes and sells ornaments to help support her rescue. The leather and beads star is from a sidewalk sale, years ago. It was blistering hot and I had decided to go home. I walked around a corner and there they were, six of them. I bought them for $2 each when they had been $20 at Christmas. I felt like a million bucks, getting on my bicycle and riding home with those ornaments in my backpack. It was worth the sweaty ride too. The little dog was given to me by a friend who had gone to India the year before. 

The glass angel was from a friend who is gone from this world now and so is the hand painted glass sky ornament. The bead and wire mermaid I made while I told a story to my boys on Christmas eve, way back when they still believed in magic. I wove her together along with a story that became the beginning of a Round Robin story that we've kept going for forty years now. I can't wait to include my grandchildren in the story! And Apple? Made by my friend with the rescue. She had been following my posts about living with a goofy puppy who ate everything except the sofa and she even chewed a corner on that too! She is immortalized in felt on a Christmas tree. This is her third year on the tree and she had to carry it around for a while before I could put it up. She's very proud of her 'portrait'.

I suppose this is just blither to most of you who are still reading this, but it's an important part of what I think Christmas is about. (The felt tree I made when I was pregnant with my oldest son, the bulb hanging above it is one he made for me. The bird is from a friend who traveled to Mexico and brought it back and the funny Picasso-esk horse is from another artist I've known for years. She worked with me while she took a sabbatical when her husband was dying. It's a portrait of Lucky. ) 

I don't belong to any one religion. I was raised in four extremely diverse religions and discovered early on that people are all the same. It doesn't matter what group they belong to. They all just want to take care of their families and homes, help when people need it and live peacefully. It's that last word that is important. PEACE-fully. 95% of us aren't interested in destroying or killing. I honestly think that if people only had the chance to travel and meet others from the countries and religions around the world, wars would come to an end.

My favorite daydream/wish/prayer is a huge meal where every continent and country is represented at the table. Each family brings a dish they fix for holidays and shares it. It would be a giant pot luck where we all sat under the stars at long tables, passing dishes and trying to understand each other, teaching each other to say simple things like, 'I love you.' in the other's language. We would share pictures of our children and grandchildren, parents and grandparents. Afterwards there would be a bon fire where all of us took turns adding to a Round Robin story that never ended so they could take it home to their friends and towns, villages and neighborhoods.

I see the world as a huge tapestry of endless circles, knit together through our willingness to be there, holding space for each other. We all have stories and, if you pay attention, they all meet each other at the edges, over lapping. Life is a never ending Round Robin that started with stardust and brought us here, right now.

I know this is rhapsodizing, mushy and over the top. But so is Christmas and all of the other holidays that come with the Winter Solstice. I wish you all a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa and winter holidays filled with the people you love, too much good food and Round Robin stories that are told every year with new embellishments.

I am, ever yours, Nancy, smiling and remembering, hoping and wishing, sending you love from OZ!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017


Insomnia. Nearly everyone has dealt with it at some time in their life. It robs you of your energy and stamina, takes your days and tries to make them in to your nights. On an average night, 30 to 40 million Americans have difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or wake earlier than they would like and cannot get back to sleep. These are the major symptoms of insomnia, the most common category of sleep disorders. Although many people with insomnia may accept their symptoms as a part of life, poor quality sleep takes a toll. Studies show that people with insomnia are more likely to become clinically depressed, suffer from poor concentration, and have accidents. (A direct quote from a website titled HEALTHY SLEEP)

I have had something called Chronic Insomnia for years. I've tried meditation, extra exercise, no TV, no caffein, no meat in my diet, watching my weight, not watching my weight, laughing and crying, professional counselors, consultations with MD's, PHD's. I tried to console myself that, according to articles in major publications, I was in an elite group of highly intelligent, creative people who did not need as much sleep. (Bunk!)

The truth is I would rather not be in that so called 'elite' group. When I sleep well, at least eight hours straight through, I am an entirely different person. I stay focused, achieve more, laugh, think more creatively, work at a higher level. 

When I don't sleep I'm cranky, listless, cry at the oddest times, loose my place on whatever project I'm working on. I forget things and give up rather than seeing the failures as an opportunity to learn and do it better the second time around. And I am envious, deeply so, of family members (two legged and four) who simply lay down and sleep when they need to. 

Being up by myself is hard, lonely work. The world is quiet and here I am, again, angry and frustrated and so tired it hurts. I follow all of the rules. I get up, go sit somewhere else and meditate, read, breath and stretch, try to turn it around and see it as an opportunity to have extra time to myself. I go to bed at the same time, get up at the same time and avoid naps. And so on and so on and scooby, dooby, do on. And I miss sleep again the next night. It goes on like that until I make the decision not to drive anywhere because I'm afraid my ability to be safe is jeopardized. I don't want to be responsible for hurting someone else because of my lack of rest and sleep. 

My work as an artist, a story teller, a horse woman, and even partner to my husband suffers for my lack of sleep. I just can't think! There's a good reason that sleep depravation is an acknowledged form of torture. And it's worse when I begin to think I'm doing it to myself. I can do my best to override that idea by thinking it through, but sometimes I'm so tired emotions take over and I convince myself I'm a failure. It isn't logical thinking because I truly can not think clearly when I'm that tired. And getting caught in that negative loop does nothing but make it worse. It's like those crazy turkeys you see chasing each other around and around and around a tree. I'm one of the turkeys and the others have the names of "failure" and "frustration" with a few others joining; "exhaustion" and "anger". And around we go, trying to catch up with each other in a never ending parade that makes no sense.

And then I read an article about light. There are enumerable websites and articles on sleep or lack there of. I love the Google Gods for this. I read and read and began to experiment with light. I'm an artist. I'm hyper sensitive to color and light, have synesthesia (I hear colors . A 'bad' color will even make my teeth hurt. ) and poor lighting makes my eyes hurt. Gives me an advantage as a designer or artist and a disadvantage in a world full of bright light at night. 

For a while buying good lightbulbs was problematic. Here in the States it was illegal to buy or sell incandescent bulbs. The only thing available was ugly fluorescent light bulbs. It was either a searing blue, sickly green or yellow green or an irritating pink. I tried scarves over the light shades, painting the light shades, anything I could think of to make the flickering, ugly lights easier to live with. Nothing worked. Of course I spent more time on the internet trying to find solutions. That meant I was looking at the essentially blue colors that come from a computer screen. I was making it worse. 

The blue light from the gadgets, ugly flickering lights from the bulbs, were keeping me up. It was interrupting my natural circadian rhythms. Movies, as much as I love them for an escape, were adding to it. And reading wasn't helping either. I needed light to read. 

What I really needed was the natural, golden light that comes from the sunset and fire, to relax by at night. 

And I needed the bright, natural clear blue light that begins the day. I needed to go back a few hundred years to a time more suited to my circadian rhythms. Since I couldn't go back in time, I went to the local big box store and started hunting for amber colored lights. 

I found them too! There are amber colored LED lights being produced in response to the horrible colors of the so called energy saving fluorescents. LED's are pricey, about $8 per bulb. I worked with my budget and began to buy them two at a time on each paycheck. We've now replaced every bulb in the top part of the house except in my bathroom. That's the one I'll work on next. I'm using candles in the bathroom. Just between you and me, it's not a bad option for people of a certain age. It softens your face, giving you a better image in the mirror to look at. 

It's working too. It's taken about three weeks but I'm now averaging almost seven hours of sleep a night rather than the barely three I was dealing with. (That's an average. Means I had several nights of no sleep or only an hour or two every week!) I'm writing again, setting up a schedule to begin work/play with my horses again, painting, and re-entering the world too. I'd isolated myself as the insomnia got worse. 

Here's a list of the things that DID work :

1. No electronics after 7 PM. I do not look at a computer, iPad, or smart phone. I also dim the phone to sepia at sunset. I turn the pings and dings off and repower electronics in a room other than my bedroom.

2. My bedroom is for sleep, period. There is no desk. I no longer sit there and draw or journal at night. If I can't sleep I get up and go to another room until I'm yawning and sleepy again. And I sleep with the windows open unless it's really cold (like below 20 F) or super hot and humid (above 75 F). 

3. There is no clock in the bedroom. The blue light was keeping me awake. Yes, I'm that sensitive to blue light. And I don't want to know about the time either. Our world runs on schedules, schedules, schedules. Enough with the keeping track of time, at least at night.

4. We keep the house set at 63 F during the winter months. I usually turn the heat off during the day and open doors and windows. I also spend as many hours as possible outside in the fresh air, at least three every day of the year. A good part of the time we let the temperature drop below 60F in the house at night. We all sleep when it's cool. Cold is even better.

5. Noise is a tough one to control. We have teenagers living next door who have loud vehicles, an ATV without a muffler, loud talking and laughter. I turn on a small fan to try to give a 'white noise' to balance it out. And sometimes I complain, but that's never very effective. I love the natural night sounds. They relax me. I think it's safe to say I'm a country person, not a city person. The sounds of traffic, people, sirens, confusion is bothersome. I'm going to do my best to stay in the country. But there are ear plugs that will help. I can't tell you if they're comfortable because I've never tried them. 

And a purring kitten sleeping next to me. Best comfort sound there is, purring. And a sweet smelling puppy. (All of my animals keep that designation even when they go grey and need help getting on to and off the bed).

We still have no TV, a huge relief. And I sometimes go for days without reading the news also. I stay away from loud, slam bang shoot em up monster type movies and I put a stop to the texting stuff early in the evening too. I don't eat meat, stay away from caffein except for my Chai early in the morning. Meditation and self forgiveness is a huge part of my life. If I'm raggedy because I didn't wash my hair or wore the same pair of jeans from the day before, I let it go. If my house is not as neat as I usually want it to be, I let it go. I don't buy stuff. It's just stuff. If I want something I go through the process of looking at it, filling out the order forms and then I put the catalog to the side and let it be for a week. I usually find out I didn't really need it. It was just stuff. 

Am I sleeping? Better than I have in years.

 Oh...sugar. I'm still not using sugar. I bought some to make a pecan pie for Thanksgiving, ate a piece and jittered out of my skin for hours. No sugar is definitely part of this too.

Try the amber colored LED bulbs and turn off the electronics. Use good candles to eat by. If you absolutely have to work, get some good amber lensed blue blocker eye glasses. They're next on my list so I can wear them if we go out in the evening or visit a friend's house. I love this new rested me! If anyone asks about the glasses I'll smile and be enigmatic about it. I am an artist after all. Might as well use that status.

I am, ever yours, Nancy, sleeping again and smiling because I want to, not because I have to

Monday, September 25, 2017


This Summer, just a week after I wrote the previous post about suicide, a young friend of mine died after checking in to a motel room. (No gender, age, name or location will be used in this article. ) They died in a way that made the autopsy inconclusive, leaving behind friends and family who were completely devastated. 

I don't know why I felt compelled to write the article on seeking help, but I do think there is a reason . I think that we all are connected in some way, that what we do and how we choose to deal with our lives and the inevitable problems and pain that are part of being aware and human, do affect the world and especially the people close to us. 

In this case addiction was a long term problem in the life of this person. There are addictive tendencies in my family too. I have, over the years , attended Al-Anon and Narc-Anon meetings for family members while I tried to understand what sends a good person down the road of self medicating and , eventually, self destruction. 

Those were good places to go for commiseration but not for the basic understanding I was seeking. I took a minor in Psychology while at University, and worked for a program in the Psychology department while trying to learn more about the unexplained need to alter yourself mentally and physically. 

I learned about various kinds of trauma, events that trigger emotional and physical reactions years later. I went through years of therapy, went to group therapy, and even interviewed neurologists, psychiatrists and psychologists while working on a program combining equine and art therapy. 

In the end, when yet another young friend died while under the influence of drugs and alcohol (there have been four very close to me, all from good families who's parents worked hard and loved them) and a whole section of my family who lived in chaos and went to prison, are convicted felons (three of them) and my response was the same each time. WHY? Why would anyone want to hide inside a drug or bottle? WHY? How could they waste even one opportunity to learn, to fail and get up, move forward and try again? 

I've studied brain injuries and trauma, psychosis, genetics, and the long term effects of poor nutrition, use of addictive drugs and alcohol, lack of exercise, lack of sleep on the human body while I try to untangle a complicated problem that was never really mine to solve. I know that it's always the person who injures their self repeatedly who has to answer that one word question. WHY? It really is up to them to ask it in the first place and then take the first frightening steps to change a terrible pattern. They need to find out HOW to help their body, mind and soul recover and stay in the game longer. 

I absolutely know that. I've participated in interventions before. Mostly an intervention is exposing the bald truth and waiting for the denial and blame to come at the person who opens the rabbit's hole and makes people look down it. No one wants to hear the truth, at least not initially. Denial is a form of self preservation. None of us wants to hear that we've become enablers or addicted. Admitting to either of those positions or conditions makes us vulnerable. We end up being exposed. Others will see our ugly under belly, the failures, weakness. Society has a tendency to denigrate the addict and the enabler. Historically people like that have been cast out of families, villages and towns because they endanger others as well as using precious resources that are needed to keep people alive through the winter and spring while waiting for food sources to become available. 

I don't have any definitive answers. There are experts who've researched at a deeper level than I have who can give you more insight. For me? I'm still reeling from the loss of another young friend to years of self abuse. I'm still loosing sleep, crying when the light is a certain color or I hear a song that makes me think of my friend. And the question will always be unanswered for me ; WHY? There is no solution. They're gone and there is no do over, no more chances to try, no way to answer that one word question. Their circle is completed.

I am going to listen more to the inner voice that tells me to write about a subject that isn't usually talked about here. It was a warning that I did not heed and I am sorry for that. And I will call people I love just to hear their voices, to ask how their day is going. The old Girl Scout in me will keep working at being kind, helpful, respect others and offer a hand up when they fall. And I will do my best with what I have where I am and try to complete the project, reach the goal. 

I have no doubt that I will continue to make mistakes, bump in to people, create messes and fail on a regular basis. But I'm also going to keep loving myself and the people around me enough to apologize where it is warranted, to understand the value of boundaries and to celebrate the chance to try again; to learn, laugh about it and go on from there. Life is a never ending chance to explore, to become, to grow, change, and to find creative solutions. 

“You will lose someone you can’t live without,and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.” 
― Anne Lamott

I am, ever yours, Nancy, smiling and remembering, and questioning...

PS. And there will be flowers planted to celebrate the life of a friend who brought me great joy! 

Thursday, June 29, 2017

SUICIDE IN A CHILD'S WORLD and Ideas on How to Help

I've noticed a disturbing trend in the news, stories about suicide and self destructive behaviors in children and teenagers. Aligned with those articles I'm seeing stories about bullying, cyber bullying and destructive social behaviors. 

I need to stop here for a moment and tell you that I am not a health care professional. I'm a Mom and Grandmother with no certifications. This post is just opinion on my part . I am not a republican or democrat and I have no official religious affiliation. 

I'm also a conservative person when it comes to family, children and the animals and land I live on. They are always my first priority by choice. I love without reserve and freely choose to spend my life with them as my focus. 

We're only half way through 2017 and I've read more accounts of children and teens hurting themselves as a response to what they perceive as pressure in their lives than I want to count. 

This set of statistics comes from the Parent Resource Center, Jason Foundation:

  • Suicide is the SECOND leading cause of death for ages 10-24. (2015 CDC WISQARS)
  • Suicide is the SECOND leading cause of death for college-age youth and ages 12-18. (2015 CDC WISQARS)
  • More teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease, COMBINED.
  • Each day in our nation, there are an average of over 5,240 attempts by young people grades 7-12.

It's an epidemic. It scares the h#ll out of me! I've been thinking about what I've learned this past several weeks while I read about this. It's keeping me up at night. I can not imagine the unmitigated pain the families of these children go through. It's horrible enough when your child is injured or ill, even more so if you loose them. There is no nightmare more complete than loosing a child. But knowing that your child could see no other alternative than death as a solution to the problems they have in front of them would devastate the whole family. 

This isn't a post to discuss the unrelenting pain of loosing a child. It is a list of some of the ideas I have, things that I would do my best to use if my children were still in that age group. You're going to get the point of view of a mid twentieth century person here. And I still think these ideas are relevant too.

1. No smart phones at all for your child. Buy them a simple flip phone that does one thing only ; make telephone calls. No texting, no internet access, no cameras in a phone at all. When they are eighteen, they can earn their own money, buy their own smart phone and set up their own account with the company of their choice. Smart phones should be a device for adults only.

Why? Children need an opportunity to retreat from the world when they need to, a safe place where no one can ping them with calls, photos, text. They need a safe place they can rest without that constant social pressure .

They need time to learn how to use their imagination, to form their own identity and view of the world. They get enough pressure from peers, teachers, relatives and parents without making it a possible non stop interaction. 

We're geared, biologically, to want to fit in. Even the most introverted of us need to feel like we belong somewhere. But I think we need to do this at a slower more natural pace, one that matches our own inner bio rhythms. Learning how to be an individual is hard work. Every step we take away from our parent(s) and family should be supported by the adults, with care. When you add in the hyper accelerated world of technology and the internet, it's easy to overwhelm a child. They are not tiny adults. They're brand new individuals who have no life experience to give them perspective. 

2. Limited access to computers and iPads with supervision at all times. Computers and iPads and tablets with connections to the internet should be used with parental controls in place. If your child needs to do some research on a subject and write a paper, help them to access resources on the internet. Better yet, take them to the library and make it fun! There are Summer reading programs at nearly every library.

Teach them about how to use the resource centers at libraries; how to find books on whatever subject they are interested in. Sit down and read to them. If you can't afford to buy books, GO TO THE LIBRARY. It's FREE! 

There's no doubt that computers are going to be a part of their world. Barring unforeseen circumstances, they will need to have those skills to navigate a fast paced school and work environment. But, again, build those skills slowly. It's more important to exercise their bodies and minds with imagination. Let them grow in to the world of communication and technology. 

3. Buy them a pet. A child needs to have a companion that loves and needs them unconditionally. They need a dog, a cat, a bird, gerbil, hamster or even fish aquarium to care for. It builds compassion and a work ethic that is focused on caring for another individual.

Teach them how to feed, walk, clean and groom their "buddy". It can be a donkey, horse, goat, chickens. But I especially love cats and dogs. They run to greet them at the door when they come home. They love them because they're there. They don't care about any of the social pressures or issues (i.e.. school grades, sports, weight, fashion, physical appearance or any of the other categories that other's use to judge us by). They love with no other reason than just needing you. It's the finest form of unconditional love.

If you can't have an animal where you live, find the time to volunteer at a shelter or nearby farm. Or keep your child's pet at a relative's house (cool reason to go see Grandparents or Aunts and Uncles!). 

I genuinely think that animals reconnect us to our environment and help to open up those parts of us that make us empathetic. 

4. Spend time with them. I know you're thinking, " I'm working two jobs." or " I'm in school full time and working. " or " I'm a professional. I need to be there for my (students, patients, colleagues, etc)" There's no doubt you are going to be stretched thin. But they have a tiny space of time in your life, and theirs, to be children. They absolutely NEED, at a visceral level, that time with you. It's where they begin to learn how to love and be loved, how to work together with others, how to interact with the world. You are their guide posts in to a massive population and an ever faster world. Without you there to provide the security and support, how will they know how to navigate through life? 

Children need to have someone who listens to them, taking the time to let them find their way to the point, without judgement. You are the person they need to bounce ideas off of. And you are the one they come home to when the world outside their doors is pushing in ways they haven't learned to cope with on their own. 

Play games together (cards, board games, or even baseball and soccer, hide and seek). And don't hold back and let them win all the time either. Playing games is a safe place to learn how to loose and to change your plans to deal with those possibilities the next time around. They teach you how to strategize, to think creatively. Go on hikes, ride bicycles, swim, or volunteer to clean up a neighbor's yard. But do it together. Let the house cleaning go or do it after they go to sleep. Cook simpler meals so you have more time with them. Better yet, have them help . 

5. Give them chores to do and a very simple timeline. This part should be kept easy but consistent. Breakfast and dinner at the table at a certain time. You all sit down together. When you get up, you say " Excuse me please. " and take your dishes to the counter. 

Going to bed should be as close to the same time every evening as possible. There are always exceptions (i.e.. holidays and visitors, watching a special movie on Saturday night, catching fireflies in the Summer time) But for the most part, make it the same and make it later as they get older so you can eventually make it their own responsibility. It's a simple framework, a border, that gives their life consistency. You'd be surprised how much that builds good habits later in their lives, provides the security we all need to fall back on. 

Simple chores could be making the bed or stripping sheets and taking them to the laundry room. Pick up your toys at the end of the day. Parents help with this. It really is fun when you turn it in to another game. And show them how to sweep the floor, clean the bathroom. Get them their own small tools and make it fun. Small rewards for a job well done such as ice cream cones on Sunday or making cookies that evening. Even a hug and " This looks great honey. Thank you! You're the best helper ever. " will make a huge difference to a child. It's a nice way to build self esteem. 

6. Start a garden with them. It doesn't have to be elaborate. Even if all you have room for is one pot with a flower or herb or one tomato plant, you've given them an opportunity to take responsibility for growing and caring for something. It's all kinds of fun to watch a seedling grow from a seed. It's magic! and if it doesn't work, you have a reason to solve a problem. Why didn't it grow? Is the light, the soil, the amount of water, pruning? When you plant something you reconnect to the Earth. Putting your hands in to soil is an act of love and caring on a different level. It brings microbiology in to your child's life. They learn about insects, birds, rabbits and raccoons, fences, containers, turtles. The list is endless. Keep it easy and simple. You do the work in a the large garden(s). Give them their own little corner or pot. Let it be theirs to experiment with. 

By now you've figured out that what I'm suggesting here is to spend time with them, focused on them. I'm not talking about scheduled play dates, dancing and piano lessons. Those can be there too. It's time just for them without judgement or criticism. Be there to listen, to support, and to let them go when it's time. And if something gets broken, help them clean it up or even to fix it. If they get skinned knees or elbows, sprained ankles or a chipped tooth, help them to care for it. Give them hugs and then set them back up on their feet and smile. Let them know it's OK to get it wrong. Gives them the chance to learn how to do it better the next time. 

There's no doubt that along the way they are going to resist having the technology taken away. " You're the meanest Mom (Dad) ever! All of my friends get to do this. Why can't I? You just don't understand! ". There will be slammed doors and grumbling. Sometimes you may have to deal with a temper tantrum. Stand your ground. Do your best not to get angry. Let them know there are rules . It's another one of those Zen things. Be as balanced as you can.

It's the little things that count. All of those 1,2,3's build up and form a foundation of trust and love over time. Being a parent isn't a democracy. It's an extremely benevolent dictatorship that evolves in to a peer relationship in adulthood. If they know you're there when the going gets tough (and you've been there. You already know it is going to be like that sooner or later.), they will be more likely to ask for help or to understand that peer pressure does not always have to be adhered to. They will have already begun the process of learning it's OK to be different, to be a stand out, to be themselves.


And just in case you or your child is in serious trouble, here's a hot line number to call. Use it! Reach out for help. I promise you, there are people there who will gladly help. 

Please, keep reaching out for the help you need. As a parent or guardian or as a teen or child in troubles, there are people who know how to be there for you. I promise! Never give up. Every single one of us is important. We all have a role to fill, someone who needs us. 

Call 1-800-273-8255
Available 24 hours everyday

Call 800-273-8255
Text 273TALK to 839863

The above is a crisis listing center especially for teen issues. 

Monday, June 26, 2017

SOME WORDS BARE REPEATING (and some awesome Willow pictures!)

Truth. Art. Revolution. Gardens. Love. Anger. Laughter. Pain. Life. Family. Hope. Trust. Try. Dance. Sing. Paint. Dogs. Kittens. Age. Fear. Time. Read. Study. Search. Weed. Focus. Horses. Prioritize. Lonely. Cry. Overwhelmed. Truth. Chocolate. Politics. Donkeys. Religion. Deceit. Tree. Earth. Skin. Finite. Time. Love. Hope. Try.

Some words bare repeating. 

I am exhausted. It isn't pain or fear or aging or even the process of feeling the world move on without me that makes me tired. It's deceit, lies, innuendo, greed and the never ending search for power at the expense of others that wears me out. 

We have this opportunity that no other generation before us has had. We can all keep a journal here, on the internet, of our own history. Even people who have no computer or smart phone, pad or even personal connection to Wifi can start a Blog. We can go to the library and use a computer there or, for the price of a cup of coffee and a dollar, buy time at an internet cafe. 

If one of us is illiterate, there are Vlog's and Soundclouds, live streaming to Facebook, Youtube, and so on and so on and scooby dooby do on. And it was available to us a good twenty years ago too. We can use chat rooms, upload photos to the ICloud and Dropbox. 

So WHY aren't we learning from our past? WHY do we repeat the same patterns over and over again? 

John told me that I should start a website titled : "THE WORLD ACCORDING TO ME and you'de be smart to listen!" I am opinionated. We all are but some of us are more out spoken about it than others. My pattern is that I have a tendency to observe from the middle for a long time before I say anything. I watch, listen, think, collate ideas, change my mind, and think some more. I do some research, make some truly silly mistakes, do my best to make changes and make more mistakes. But in the process of riding that line, I learn. And I do change. 

I'd like to think I go forward. 

If it's on the Internet, it must be so ... right? Nope. Anyone can write anything and, if they have just a wee bit tech savvy, make it look official. The world has become a chess board and most of us are pawns. So why do we play the same old games? Is it change we're afraid of? 

Here's the deal. All of us have to pay the piper sooner or later. There's a ticket that comes due. It's the price of admission. If you're alive, you are finite. You will die. So why do any of us keep repeating the same patterns over and over? Why WAR? Why lies? Why spend time, precious finite time, on the fruitless pursuit of power and wealth? You can't take it with you. It's true! YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU. 

Don't get me wrong. It's nice to have pretty things. But things can't talk to you, or hug you. Things won't rub your feet when you have an ache and they won't hold you when you're afraid. And things could care less whether you're there looking at them or using them or displaying them or hoarding them. 

I just don't get it. Why blow up cities? Why is one religion better than another and WHY do we think we need to kill to prove it? Why are there bombs? Why lie to cover up the mistakes we make? All you have to do is change. And be honest. Honest would be nice. So would polite. Polite would be very nice. And diplomacy, an open mind, kindness and caring enough to do what you can to help. 

I drove in to town to run some errands, stopped at a store. While I was there I saw a young, exhausted parent start to loose it with her two kids. She slapped the toddler out of frustration. I didn't think about it. I stepped in and offered to help. She wanted to slap me too. I was interfering.

It wasn't overt abuse. It was a pattern she had learned from an exhausted parent some time in her past. Ever 'hear' your Mom (or Dad's) voice come out of your mouth and say the same thing to your child you remember her saying to you? Patterns. We carry our patterns with us ; chaos, patience, anger, compassion, love, fear, pain, hope, confidence, and here we go again. It's another list. So WHY can't we learn from our past? 

I'm going to make a wild guess here. Patterns are a kind of framework. They give us structure in an unpredictable world. Even when those patterns are negative, we seek them out, fall back in to them because better the devil you know than the devil you don't. I know. Basic Psychology 101. But when do we learn from the self destructive patterns and make a change? Heck, when do we begin to recognize the positive patterns and use them to reshape our expectations? 

This post has taken on a pattern too, hasn't it? I'm going in a circle, coming back to the same questions. And if I say I wish the negatives would stop, someone else will say you need the dark to define the light. It's a Zen thing. 

I think maybe I'll just go beat my head on a fence post for a while because I just don't get it. Or maybe I'll go plant some more flowers, some more seeds. If they don't come up this year, they'll germinate next year and bring some unexpected beauty. 

And laugh... Laughter is good when it isn't at someone else's expense. Yup. Laugh...make a change.