Catching Fireflies

finding magic along the way

Monday Morning Pick-Me-Up

Let’s face it. Mondays are rough. The end of the freedom that came with the weekend, the start of a long week, the return to work. To help ease you into your week, I would like to share a little something that made me smile.

This is one of those videos that will only play on YouTube. Please click the link to see it there. Made me chuckle! :)

Feeling the book blahs…

While my book has been away at the editor’s for a first pass, I have been focusing on my day job and finishing up my certification class. I have the next week off to study for my upcoming certification board exam and work on edits which are due to arrive back to me on Monday.

This morning I found myself perusing and purchasing yet more books on writing, promotion, and self publishing. Since I already own more than I will ever read, it is a sure sign that the past four weeks away from my book project have made me a bit squirrelly.

When I start to think too much about it, I get overwhelmed and freaked out and forget the whole baby step attitude that has brought me this far.

Baby steps, baby steps, baby steps…

Will be repeating this to myself in a continuous internal monologue as I approach the next six months. Edit here, format there, write a description, learn about createspace, file for copyright , etc. One step at a time.

Must remember that I have come farther along my writer’s journey in the last six months with baby steps than I have in the last 30 years.

Mesmerized by English Wolves

I was mesmerized by English wolves at a very young age. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken (1924-2004) was one of my first encounters with orphans, a condition that is prevalent in children’s literature. I think when the parents are removed from the plot, there are so many possibilities. :) I was sucked in by the evil of the of Mrs. Brisket’s orphanage and swept away by the almost Victorian feel of the story.

I went on to read other books by Ms. Aiken. The rest of the Wolves series was of utmost interest – The Whispering Mountain, Black Hearts in Battersea, Nightbirds on Nantucket, The Stolen Lake, The Cuckoo Tree, Dido and Pa, Is Underground, Cold Shoulder Road, Midwinter Nightingale, and The Witch of Clatteringshaws all grace my bookshelves even now that I am in my 40s. I also love Midnight Is a Place, The Cockatrice Boys, and Ms. Aiken’s story collections, A Necklace of Raindrops, The Kingdom Under the Sea and Other Stories, and The Last Slice of Rainbow and Other Stories. (I have linked to her author page at amazon in case you are interested in finding any of these treasures for your own library.)

Even with this large collection of her work on my shelves, I was a bit surprised to learn how prolific she was – over 100 books! As someone embarking on the publishing journey for my very first novel, my brain stutters over the list of books this writer has written!

Joan Aiken was born to a family of writers. Her father was the American Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Conrad Aiken. Her brother and sister were both writer – John Aiken and Jane Aiken Hodge. She was home-schooled until she was 12, and finished her first full-length novel by age 16. (Boy do I feel like I am late to the show! :) ) She supported her family after the death of her husband by finding work as a copy editor for Argosy magazine. After The Wolves of Willoughby Chase was published in 1962, she was able to write fulltime.

Ms. Aiken wrote for children, teens and adults. She wrote modern novels as well as the more Victorian feeling Wolves series. She loved to write fantasy and ghost stories as well. If you have never experienced this fabulous author’s work, run, do not walk, to your nearest book store and procure a copy of Wolves. You will not be sorry. You will be charmed, scared, and seriously attached!

Monday Morning Pick-Me-Up

Let’s face it – Mondays are rough. The end of the weekend, the start of a long week. And with the death of Robin Williams last week, it seemed a lot longer…

In tribute to the man who always made me laugh.

From one of the best shows ever to air!

Behind the Brightest Smiles

It is a gloomy morning as I write this. Rain clouds as far as you can see. Soggy shoes and a gray outlook. This fits my mood perfectly.

Robin Williams died this week. His apparent suicide and long battle with depression are plastered all over the news. People are talking about how sad it is, how selfish it is, and gosh what a surprise. Who would have ever guessed that behind the man who made so many people laugh, there was such darkness?

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As I walked into work the morning after his death, I passed a few small groups of people, huddled and whispering about him. As though they knew him. As though they should have been able to see his pain through his well-developed public personae. And I found myself wondering. If they looked at me right at that moment, someone face to face, someone like them, would they know? Would they really be able to see what so many people who really know me never do?

I doubt it.

And if they thought they caught a glimpse, a winking of something not quite right behind my smile, would they care? Would they want to get involved? Would they have the right words, the magic formula that would make it all ok?

I doubt it.

I have suffered from clinical depression and general anxiety disorder since my early 20’s. And like many who suffer from these brain diseases, I learned early on to conceal my depression behind a smile. It was too difficult to answer the simplest question – what is wrong? I don’t know what’s wrong and I don’t know what caused it – hormones, heredity, seasonal changes, weather, chemicals in my food. But I know it is real and I know it has proven to be a powerful force.

See, depression is an insidious enemy. Depression doesn’t need a bad day, financial or emotional set back, or illness to come a-calling. Depression loves to drag you down in its clawed hands when everything seems to be going well in your life. It takes the joy, the zest, the hope and buries it deep where you can no longer find it.

It took me a long time to work up the courage to admit to myself and my husband that my depression had gone beyond what I could handle on my own. My doctor prescribed an antidepressant and I actually carried the prescription around for a month before showing it to my husband. I felt like such a failure. Why couldn’t I just be happy? I remember standing in the drug store staring at a bottle of St. John’s Wart and trying to talk myself into at least trying it. The mere thought of giving in and taking something, even something natural, brought me to tears. It felt like I was giving up.

I know that doesn’t make a lot of sense to anyone who has not suffered from this disease. But I was torn between the societal stigma of depression equals weakness and the fear that I would take antidepressants and they wouldn’t work. What if nothing worked? What if I never felt better? Is this as good as it will ever be?

Thank God, my husband supported me and urged me to try the prescription. My doctor also recommended a wonderful therapist who I have been working with for years. I have seen brighter days and know there are more ahead. But that is the thing about depression. You can’t just talk about it, pop a pill and have it go away. It is always there, under the surface, and it still rears its ugly head.

As comedian Kevin Breel says in his TEDxYouth talk, “Depression isn’t chicken pox. You don’t beat it once and then it’s gone forever. It’s something you live with. It’s something you live in. It’s the roommate you can’t kick out. It’s the voice you can’t ignore and the feelings you can’t seem to escape, and the scariest part is, the scariest part is that after a while, you become numb to it. It becomes normal to you.”

My husband knows that when I get to the point where I tell him I am in a bad place, that it must be bad indeed. I have come to this bad place again – not as bad as some, but definitely darker than others. I know that if I put one foot in front of the other, check things off my to-do list one by one, take some deep breaths and hold on, it will pass. I am counting on that. I know that I can do little things to help rid my mind of this darkness – I can meditate, exercise, eat right, rest, do things I enjoy – in other words, fake it til I make it.

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Society has labeled the depressed as weak. But what people who have normal brain chemicals do not realize is that you have to be strong to battle depression and live a normal life. You have to get out of bed, feed and clothe yourself, succeed at work, support your family and friends. You have to pick yourself up again and again all day long when all you really want to do is curl up in a ball and cry.

I am sure that Robin Williams had whatever therapies he needed. I am sure he took his meds, and saw his therapist and tried anything he could to stop feeling bad. But this illness, especially wrapped up in his Bipolar Disorder and addictions, was too much for him to handle any longer. He was exhausted from a long battle and he finally laid himself to rest.

It breaks my heart that his laughter has died. I feel as though we have lost a comrade in this battle. And as I read each article and tweet and tribute, I take a deep breath and say to myself, there but for the grace of God go I. I have never reached that ledge where I thought of suicide and I am so grateful for this. I used to vehemently declare that suicide was a coward’s way out. But since being diagnosed and treated for depression and anxiety, I have come to understand that for many it is simply a response to being exhausted from the struggle.

As Sally Brampton wrote in her memoir Shoot the Damn Dog: A Memoir Of Depression, “Killing oneself is, anyway, a misnomer. We don’t kill ourselves. We are simply defeated by the long, hard struggle to stay alive. When somebody dies after a long illness, people are apt to say, with a note of approval, ‘He fought so hard.’ And they are inclined to think, about a suicide, that no fight was involved, that somebody simply gave up. This is quite wrong.”

Let’s all remember this.

Robin Williams did not commit suicide because he was selfish or because he did drugs. He lost his battle with his illness.It is no different than if he had lost his battle with cancer.

She goes on to write, “Imagine saying to somebody that you have a life-threatening illness, such as cancer, and being told to pull yourself together or get over it. Imagine being terribly ill and too afraid to tell anyone lest it destroys your career. Imagine being admitted to hospital because you are too ill to function and being too ashamed to tell anyone, because it is a psychiatric hospital. Imagine telling someone that you have recently been discharged and watching them turn away, in embarrassment or disgust or fear. Comparisons are odious. stigmatizing an illness is more odious still.”

That is what society does with mental illness. That is why millions of people who suffer from depression are too ashamed or afraid to ask for help. The only way that this will change is for people to talk about it. Let it out in the open. Shine a little light on our own darkness.

As comedian, Harvey Fierstein tweeted after learning of Robin Williams’ death, “Please, people, do not f— with depression. It’s merciless. All it wants is to get you in a room alone and kill you. Take care of yourself.”

careandconcernSlide

If you or someone you know suffers from depression or has thoughts of suicide, please get help.

National Depression & Suicide Prevention Hotline 800-273-8255 http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
International suicide hotline listings
Families for Depression Awareness
Depression and BiPolar Support Alliance

Previous posts about depression:

Welcome to the Pit

Being Beige and True Kodak Moments

Fake It Til You Make It?

Voice Lessons

 

Captain my Captain

Cheryl Fassett:

My head is spinning still over the news. When people die from cancer or another disease that attacks the body, people say, “they were so brave,” “they fought so hard, but the disease finally won.” Depression and Bipolar disorder are also life threatening diseases. But because of the stigma our society places on them, no one wants to talk about it. They are not signs of weakness and people who suffer from them and other brain disorders need to be allowed to talk about them without fear of ridicule. Robin Williams had a life-threatening disease that finally won.
Well fought, Robin Williams. Well fought. Rest now in the arms of angels.

Originally posted on Tea and Cakes:

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Monday Monring Pick-me-up

Let’s face it. Mondays are rough. The end of the freedom that came with the weekend, the start of a long week, the return to work. To help ease you into your week, I would like to share a little something that made me smile.

This makes me sad that so few people even slowed down to listen to such beautiful music. I would like to think that I would have just been late for work that day. :)

Learning to Blume Where We are Planted

I couldn’t continue discussing kid lit without talking about Judy Blume. I don’t know anyone my age that did not read her growing up – especially girls. She had a knack of talking about some tough topics with humor and compassion. And she had a way of making me want to be her main characters.

Judy Blume was born in 1938. She has sold in excess of 80 million novels for teens, tackling racism, bullying, masturbation, sex, divorce, menstruation, you name it! She has won over 90 literary awards. Despite this, her work has been censored and has been noted as one of the most frequently challenged authors by the American Library Association. Five of her books are on the top 100 most frequently challenged books list.

The first four books of Ms. Blume’s that I read were probably Blubber, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great, and of course, the controversial Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret. Deenie was a favorite, as well, and Forever was probably my first real romance! As we got older, I remember the excitement of sneaking peeks at the adult book, Wifey- a book that my mom would have definitely said I was not ready for! :)

Ms. Blume has been very outspoken about censorship over the years. There is an article on her website where she talks about someone calling her a communist over the phone in reference to her having written Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. Anyone who read this book, even when they were much younger, will be hard-pressed to recall any communist leanings in the writing. It dealt with religion and menstruation.

I completely agree with Ms. Blume when she says that censorship grows out of fear and fear is contagious. It isn’t just sex and language that parents worry about, but anything different from them. The taboos range from Satanism to Paganism, sexual experience to sexual orientation, drugs and alcohol to simply missing curfew, racism to politics.

I recently read an article that offensive racial slang terms in Mark Twain’s classic books are being written out of new editions. This really makes me mad. I don’t personally use or condone the slang terms in question. But, if a person doesn’t like a slang term that was perfectly reflective of not only the time it was written (late 1800s) and the time it was trying to convey, they shouldn’t read the book. But to have classic literature rewritten to appease the censors is just wrong.

When a group of fearful people get up in arms about a book, it usually makes me want to read it more. I guess I have always been that way. Hence, my sneaking chapters from Wifey when I was way too young to really understand it. Still, it really frosts me to hear people banning books in this day and age. It reflects a close-mindedness that does nothing but instill fear and bigotry in children.

When I see pictures and videos on the news of people actually burning books, I feel a shiver a fear run down my spine. I ask myself, who the book police are and who they truly represent. And then I wonder what comes next.

If a banned book is truly kept out of the hands of children – a challenge if the kids are anything like I was – then the kids will never get the opportunity to learn about lives that are different from their own. Schools have historically been quick to allow this form of censorship at the slightest whisper of controversy. I have read recent articles where schools are teaching that the Holocaust was fictitious. (That really pisses me off!) If that is happening in history class, I can only imagine that any books, fiction or nonfiction, about that time and place in history are soon to be banished from the libraries and hands of the children. How can we expect kids to know history, to learn from the mistakes of our history, and to make sure to not repeat those mistakes when we ban books?

I have read many banned books over the years, and feel I am richer for it. Even Harry Potter with his incredible fan base came under fire. How can we possibly allow our kids to read about witchcraft!? In the case of Judy Blume, reality was feared; with Harry Potter, the fear was fantasy. In either case, I am sure the arguments come from uninformed people who have never actually read the books they rally to ban. As far as I am concerned, banned books and censorship is a direct attack on our Constitutional right to free speech. Worse than that it is a direct attack on humanity and it is both the reader who will never be given the choice and the writer who will question and doubt everything they put into words that suffer.

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