Monday, June 30, 2014

I walked the avenue 'til my legs felt like stone. I heard the voices of friends vanished and gone...

We rock(y)!
We didn't quite walk until dawn, but we did walk from 7:30 pm until 3:30 am; I think you'll agree that 16.4 miles is naught to sneeze at.

I left DC at 11:45 on Saturday morning with plenty of time to spare and arrived in Philly 4 hours and 30 minutes later in an absolute swivet. Must get to the team picture on time! Must register! Decorate my luminaria! Must must must! Panic!

Also, whenever I drive I hate people and think they're stupid and annoying and it did occur to me as I was cursing humanity that I was driving up to walk all night to save lives.

Is that ironic, Alanis?

Sooo, I suppose a number of you know that part of 495 around Wilmington just fell off the map?

I vaguely remember seeing something about it, as I was abruptly forced off of 495 and onto some little side roads on the outskirts (or maybe inskirts, I don't know) of Wilmington. My GPS, however, didn't know, and thus kept insisting that I make a U-turn to get back on 495 and what am I an imbecile?

And thus it was that I did the same try-to-use-nonexistent-495 loop TWICE because nothing ever looks familiar to me unless I've driven it 72 times and my GPS, while Australian and charming, is apparently as uninformed as I am.

There was much sweating and swearing and gnashing of teeth in my car.

Anyway, I arrived and lovely Jane and her family helped me and I got it all done and Jane and family fed me lovely things and poured me a glass of red bubbly and drove me to the walk and everything was fine.
All pinkified and ready to walk, on Jane's beautiful little street.
I'd had my shirt sent to her house to make sure I got it in time. Can I tell you how much I love it? I love it. Though I wanted an entirely pink outfit, I decided last minute to forgo the neon pink sneaks because they weren't cushiony enough. And by mile eight, I was so glad I did.
There were roughly 2,000 people young and old, civilian and military.

One of the speakers, a young man, said that his mother had taken her life in March 2009 - just a few months before my dad. And until this spring, his family never told anyone how she died. They were afraid they would be judged. They were afraid she would be.

He said basically that they were afraid people would think that his mother was selfish and weak, when really, the opposite was true. She was loving and strong. She was suffering from depression; she was ill.

His family carried the burden of that secret for five years. I know the crushing weight of family secrets. I can't imagine having to keep that one.

After the opening ceremony, I found my wonderful friend Joy, who I met at last year's event, and actually, hadn't seen in person since. We are Facebook friends, and we exchanged Christmas cards, and she was in my T25 group. She is one of my heart people, so really, she and her partner are stuck with me for life.

Joy shared her group of friends who were also walking, and a solo walker she invited to join us. She has a number of friends in Philly, as does her friend Dianne, who lives there. So we had this awesome  group of humans and dogs meeting us at various points throughout the route.
And about 1:30 am, a family of friends showed up with ice cream treats. Magical.
We had to get a picture with the Hugs Here girl from last year! Apparently she's now a celebrity. Adorable and lovely.
Speaking of love, LOVE Philadelphia! I do. I really do.

It's such interesting, intense experience, to walk forward into the night, into the truly pitch black wee hours, with a large group of strangers with whom you have this incredibly intimate connection. It is comforting and terrible to have the hardest thing in your life in common with so many others.

I carried with me names given to me by friends, and names of people that I know could use my thoughts and my hopes for the best. I don't know if this is helpful, but I believe good intentions and hopefully energy improve the world in some way, great or small.

This year's walk was emotionally easier and physically harder than last. I don't know if it's because I am one year older and all the tired all the time, or if it was because I had the stress of the drive and then the walk. But by mile 16, I was so very happy it was almost done.
I loved my pink outfit more than I can tell you. And an added benefit turned out to be how easy it was to find me in a crowd. We'd separated once we got to the museum, and Joy took this picture of the luminaria. Aaaand there turns out to be a bright pink figure in the heart.
I must admit that I didn't wait to see the dawn, or for the closing ceremony. My friends were going home to sleep, and I myself was painfully exhausted. At 4:00 am, I crawled through Jane's door, and into the bed they'd made for me.

It was a long dark night, made lighter by great company and a sense of purpose.

I'm so grateful to everyone who donated to my walk, and to everyone who encouraged me. I feel lucky. You all have been a tremendous source of support and energy to me through some tough situations and years, and I thank you.

As a friend of Nick's, who donated and gave some details from his own life, said, "The walk out of darkness takes a long time."

Saturday, June 28, 2014

And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing, when you look at the sky at night…

If any of you have lost a loved one to suicide or have a loved one who struggles, or you struggle yourself, and you would like me to carry a name with me on my walk tonight, it would be my privilege.

I'm walking for my dad, for my uncle, and for a number of other people I hold in my heart, both gone and with us. And I'm also walking for people that friends and blog readers have loved and lost, or worry about.

You can leave a comment or email me at lemongloria @ gmail .com.

Big hugs and lots of love,


Monday, June 16, 2014

Please help me choose a design!

Hi friends!

So you know I am going on this little overnight walk in just under two weeks. And I got this idea that maybe I would create a shirt just for the occasion.

I chose this photo, which I think says so many things about my dad and my childhood. Which, in case you're wondering, had a lot of joyful moments. And I had a brother I used to laugh and play with as well. I like that he is in the picture.

Dad could play by ear, and he played beautifully. We always had a piano, and when I was growing up, he played all the time.
Originally, I was just going to put the photo on a shirt. I've chosen CustomInk, mainly because a neighbor works for the company and I like him and from what I know, it seems like the kind of company I like to support.

1. Just the picture. On fuchsia, because it's a color I love and one my dad did as well.
But then Nick thought that was kind of stark and a little proportionally odd.

2. So then I decided to put two pictures on. The original at the top, and a fragmented one below. You know, symbolism and all.

And then! Then this very kind friend of Nick's, who I only knew in person for an awesome weekend in Maine but consider a friend as well, surprised me by sending me his ideas for shirt designs.

3. Love:

4. Dad:

5. Here's both of his options on fuchsia:
What do you think?

Thursday, June 12, 2014

More of the same and some different and kind of not so focused and, well, yah

The night that we learned that my dad was dead, my mom walked out into the back yard and turned on the hose. She stood in the same spot, watering and smoking cigarettes, until about 4 am.

She did this night after night. A group of friends came to town to stay, to offer support and love to us, and to take care of her and help prepare for the memorial service.

Lou called me up and said, "I'm afraid Betty is going to flood the basement."

She just stood there watering and smoking. Night after night turned into week after week turned into month after month.

She didn't flood the basement, although I'm pretty sure that was a miracle.

Sometimes I'd sleep over there, and I'd ask her to come in and she'd say she'd be right in. And then an hour later I'd say I wanted to go to bed and could she please come in and she'd say yes yes. And then more time would pass and she'd just be having one more cigarette and eventually I would either have a screaming fit or I'd go to bed. As I was pregnant and not sleeping well, I'd invariably wake up at some horrible hour and the lights would still be on out back, and there she'd be, hose and cigarettes. And then, then I'd get really upset.

When she slept, my mom slept on top of her covers for months. She wouldn't get in bed. She didn't want to go to sleep.

When I tell you it was a terrible time it is such a laughable understatement. I don't say this to garner pity. I just look back and marvel at how brutally hellish that whole period was.

And I think about how I censored in that time, I think out of habit. I couldn't sleep, and I asked my OB for something to help me sleep. I said, "My dad just died and I can't sleep."

Why didn't I say, "My dad just killed himself and my world is fucking falling apart and what I really want to do is drink three bottles of wine but I'm too responsible to do that so give me some fucking pregnancy-safe chemicals to help me out here!"? Why didn't I grab him by his white lab coat lapels and say that?

Is it because I was raised to be fine? I cannot even remember at this point.

He gave me Ambien - the same drug I so cavalierly took from that guy on the plane to Paris all those years ago. No refill.

He gave me 10 of them. I used them very sparingly.

In retrospect, I'd kind of like to kick him in the shins for a variety of reasons, but I do need to remind myself that I actually did quite like him at some point. Like when he noticed my (head) hair cut.

And what is my point? I'm not sure.

One of the things this Out of Darkness walk does is immerse me in suicide. I don't think this is positive. I don't know if I will do this again, I really don't.

Nick says it's important, and that in this process I've done a lot of positive things. A number of people have confided in me - people who have been touched by suicide but, like me, were raised not to talk about it. And of course there's the fundraising aspect. The money goes to a good place.

But it keeps me thinking about it, even more than I already do.

I'm ready to head up to Philly and to have the same kind of amazing experience I did last year. I'm excited to see people I connected with last year and to meet new people. I'm ready to be overwhelmed by emotion.

But I'm also ready for it to be over. Sometimes it's just too much suicide.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Suicide and other conversation killers (Oh, hahaha!)

In just under two weeks, on the last weekend of June, I will head up to Philly to walk all night in the Out of the Darkness walk, which raises funds for suicide prevention.

I have my shirt from last year's walk, and I wear it like any other T-shirt. I talk about my dad's death by suicide. I talk about depression, about mental illness.

There is a group of parents I hang out with on the playground after school, and last week one of them asked me about my shirt. I'd mentioned my dad to him, and he said, "I was just reading your shirt. I think you said your dad..."

I could tell he felt awkward, and so I sat down and talked to him about my walk and about my dad. And I told him that it's something people feel uncomfortable talking about, and it is everywhere. And one of my goals in talking about it so openly is to make people feel like they can talk about it. I want to get rid of the stigma, and stamp out the shame associated with it.

You know what? His uncle died by suicide when he was a teenager. He saw his uncle's last breath. Which would be terribly traumatic for anyone, of any age.

These are unusual conversations for the sidelines of a playground, to be sure. But we weren't sitting there weeping. We were simply talking about something we both have experience with.

I suppose we could've been swapping lasagna recipes or movie preferences. I mean, it was a more intense conversation than that, but there we were, two parents, talking about something we turn out to have in common.

I'm sorry we have it in common, just as I'm sorry it is something I turn out to have in common with some of my neighbors. With a number of readers of my blog, from whom I have gotten private emails. With a million people I do not know.

It's a relief to say it out loud and let it go. Secrets like suicide are hard to keep. They gnaw at you from the inside. They weigh you down like stones in your pockets.

Which, by the way, is how Virginia Woolf died. She put stones in her pockets and walked into the river and drowned.

It's not something I can imagine doing. I think drowning would be my last choice, if I had to make one.

I've had a couple shrinks ask me if I've thought about suicide, and the answer is always yes, because how could I not have thought about it? And then they ask how often and I say most days and then they get all alarmed (in their non-reactive shrinky ways) and I have to clarify that I think about my dad and I think about suicide.

This last shrink, who I ditched because going to see him made me anxious and I felt judged and who the fuck needs to add any anxiety or judgement to their lives when going to see someone for medication to make them feel less anxious? asked me about it every time I saw him.

So I wanted to say, and finally did say some version of, "Seriously seriously seriously? Do you think that as the daughter of someone who attempted suicide repeatedly over 30 years I wouldn't think about it?" I think about his why. I think about his methods. I think about so many aspects of it and whether in the end it really was a relief for him. I think it was.

Not that I would recommend it to anyone because, well, because one you are dead and two, you leave such human wreckage in your wake when you do that.

So I have these conversations because I start these conversations and I am open to listening and I am virtually unshockable at this point. I am not saying we need to run around with I'VE LOST SOMEONE TO SUICIDE tattooed on our foreheads.

But what I'd like is for it to be OK to talk about. For mental illness be in the Cancer category as opposed to the Prison or Pedophilia categories.

And I guess that's about all I've got to say about that. For now.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Six things I have learned being a mother

1. All diaper rash products are not the same.

If in the dark you reach for the Aquaphor but mistakenly open the jar of Extra-strength Desitin and swipe it on your lips, you can tell the difference immediately.

2. Time is arbitrary. 

"OK kiddos, we're going to leave in five minutes. You have FIVE more minutes to play. OK?"

"Nooo! I wanna staaaay!"

"We can! We can stay for FIVE more minutes!"

"How about THREE?"

3. Colors and styles of clothing are not worth fighting about.

Until Jordan's teacher told us that she didn't care if her kids wore the uniform, we had a daily fight. Jordan would sob about plain white shirts - "There's nothing on it! No decoration!" And he hates green. Hates with the hatred of a thousand blazing suns.

So then I started trying to talk him into outfits I like. Sometimes our tastes coincided, sometimes not. Then I realized I was struggling for nothing. Does it really matter? No.

You want to wear your pajama shirt all day? Fine with me.

This makes it easier to enforce the "you have to wear pants outside the house" rule.

4. Sprinkles make all food magical.

"Look! Your waffles and yogurt look like a circus!"

"I don't know if I'd put that on brocc...oh, what the hell. Hey! Your broccoli looks like a circus!"

5. My kids are the cutest things I have ever seen. Every day. Over and over.

That's all I have to say about that.

6. Children know how to spin things.

"Jordan, I love holding your hand."

"I have nice warm hands."

"You do! You and Daddy always have the warmest hands! It's so great!"

"Do you like holding my hands more or Daddy's hands more?"

"I love holding both of your hands."

"Yeah.  But Daddy farts a lot."

Monday, June 02, 2014

They come runnin' just as fast as they can 'Cause every girl crazy 'bout a sharp dressed man.

If you see Nick during the week he will most likely be wearing a suit and tie, or maybe khakis and a blazer. He'll have on nice conservative shoes. Odds are he'll be wearing cufflinks.

On weekends, however, he often looks like he got dressed from the rag barrel. He keeps tee shirts until the holes get too big for decency. But for his webbed belt with some kind of logo, you'd never know he was preppy.

But really, he spends part of almost every weekend doing something on the house. He'd just ruin nice clothes if he wore them.

He can do wiring and plumbing and all kinds of power-tooly things. Last weekend he drilled boards into the cement walls of the garage and then screwed hooks into them to hang stuff.

I mention it, of course, because this kind of thing impresses the shit out of me. Even more than the caulk.

Anyway, when he leaves the house, he tends to wear the same thing he was wearing to fix stuff. He just doesn't give it any thought.

He has this one pair of shorts that were new when he used them to paint the house. He immediately got dark red paint splotches on the front.

So I started referring to them as his period shorts.

Which I almost immediately regretted, because not long after that we went to a wedding where we knew nobody but the bride and groom. And we'd been seated at our table for approximately 13 minutes when Nick for some reason felt moved to talk about painting the house and how he has this pair of work shorts that Lisa refers to as his menstruation shorts.

And instead of looking at him, the interlocutor, everyone at the table immediately fixed their gaze on me.

All I could do was nod and say, "This is awkward."


He was out with the kids a couple weekends ago and India said she had to poop and she wasn't wearing a diaper, so he picked her up and grabbed Jordan's hand and rushed towards a  nearby fire station. (He said they always have clean bathrooms. Who knew?)

Anyway, Nick said that a couple of the firemen saw them hurrying to the station and came forward and said, "What's wrong? Who's hurt?"

"Hurt? We were just hoping to use your bathroom."

One of them pointed to his shorts. "Who's bleeding?"

Uh huh.