Sunday, December 13, 2015

Give Your Gift

I had a bit of a meltdown this weekend.  And it wasn't the meltdown you might expect from the mother of a large family in the middle of December.

No, I wasn't stressed about shopping expeditions, elf-on-the-shelf exploits, baking marathons, or those endless Pinterest Christmas bucket lists, each complete with a scripture, song, craft, recipe, activity and service project for every day of December.

I was stressed about making our family's celebration more Christ-centered.  

It's easy enough to minimize the world's influence at Christmastime, especially if you were raised right--and I was.  We're pretty low-key about presents, decorations, and activities.  We pare down to the basics so we can be financially, emotionally and physically healthy enough to actually enjoy the celebrations we have together.   

But if you're a mom who's trying hard to raise children up to the Lord, it can be really hard to feel like you're doing enough at Christmas.  

Every time President Monson takes the stand, I am inspired by his encouragement to reach out and bless others.  He is a walking example of the power of service, and especially this time of year, I long to do more.  I hear stories of other mothers who have beautiful family Christmas traditions centered on service and on Jesus Christ, and I think, what's wrong with me?

There are homeless people who need coats.  There are lonely people to visit on every street in town. There are people grieving the loss of loved ones to be hugged.  There are soup pantry shelves to be stocked.  

What is wrong with me, that I can't get my act together honor the Savior by serving his children?

It is strange that all the well-intentioned and truly wise advice to us moms about slowing down and enjoying the true meaning of Christmas can actually make us feel worse if we're not careful.  

Our Savior was the only perfect mortal to walk the earth, and he came to bring light.  He came to lift burdens, not add to them.  Are we mothers allowing Satan to twist the joyful celebration of Christ's grace into a series of hoops to jump through?  Even if we have avoided the common traps and trappings of commercialization and frenzied celebration--we can still miss the mark if we're focused on what we're not doing.  Whether we're comparing our Christmas decor or our Christmas devotions to what the neighbors have done--comparison hurts.  

But today the Savior opened my eyes a little bit, and I was allowed to see that I am not failing Christmas.  I am giving the gifts that are mine to give.  

They are small.  And I've given them for so many years in a row, that I've come to feel that they don't even really count.  But they are my gifts.  And these gifts I give to others are really my gifts to the Savior.

Today I smiled big at a young friend walking into the church, and I felt the Lord's approbation.  It's something I do all the time when I see someone who might be discouraged.  It's small, but it counts. Today I bore my testimony of the Savior to twenty kids.  It's something I do most weeks of the year, so it wasn't scary.  Today I took my kids caroling at a rehabilitation center.  It's something my parents did with me, so it comes very easily and it's something I enjoy. 

I wonder how many other moms out there struggle to feel they're doing enough at Christmas?  What if we all just enjoyed what we already do?

Some of us have the gift of baking treats for neighbors.  Some of us have the gift of helping with toy drives.  Some of us have the gift of quietly lifting and serving those who are struggling.  Some of us have the gift of smiles and jokes for the discouraged.  Some of us have the gift of snuggling with kiddos and watching Christmas movies.  Some of us have the gift of sending beautiful Christmas with heartfelt notes of love and testimony.

There are enough meaningful, joyful, uplifting, testimony-building, Christ-centered traditions out there to drive any godly woman out of her mind if she tries to do even a fraction of them.  We must reach for something better.  We must reach for the gifts that are ours to give, and give them in full confidence that the Savior receives them in the spirit we give them.  

When we give our whole hearts to Him, it is always enough.  So don't give someone else's gift.  Give your gift.

(Special thanks to TJ for the graphic.  Special thanks to Georgia for the deep thoughts.  And special thanks to them both for always being willing to listen to me cry.  I feel much better now.)

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Teaching From Rest

I have the haziest memory of this book being prescribed to me by a loving friend, months ago. Now I don't even remember who it was that recommended it, (THANK YOU, anonymous friend) but thankfully the title of the book kicked around in my skull for long enough that I was able to find it when I needed it.  

I finally read it this week and wish so much that I had read it my very first year of home schooling.  It is inspired and powerful and it has brought me a great deal of hope and joy already.

I consider myself really good at simplifying, so a lot of the practical elements of this book were refreshers for me.  But at the core of Sarah's writing is one of the most honest and relatable discourses on grace I've ever read.  

"Rest" is the place between anxiety and neglect.  Sarah teaches that we all tend toward one side or another of rest most of the time.  Sometimes we even swing back and forth.  I spend most of my time on the anxious side.  But when we can still the pendulum on our trust in the Savior we are truly at rest.  

"After all, our job is not to be successful--success itself is entirely beside the point.  It's faithfulness that He wants.  God is good!  He isn't going to let us pour out our hearts for our children only to be left choking on the dust of our mistakes...The heart of this book is about remembering what our true task really is and then throwing ourselves in completely. Giving our all.  The raising of children, the teaching of truth, the sharing of life, the nourishing of imagination, the cultivating of wisdom: These are all his anyway; we are merely His servants." 
Oh, it is liberating to remember who we are and whose we are, and to remember that we are only helpers in God's great work.  It frees me up to enjoy the work more and worry over it less.  

"You are where you are (which is likely to be exactly where God wants you).  So work hard every day.  Value academic work because nurturing the intellect is part of what makes us fully human, but don't elevate it beyond its place.  There are relationships to cultivate, books to read, oceans to swim in, forts to build, toilets to scrub, bills to pay, paintings to create, dinners to make.  This is why we homeschool--because we want to engage in a full-to-bursting life."

 "Lavish" is a word Sarah uses over and over to describe the way a home school mother teaches, loves, and listens.  I have been working this week on loving lavishly in my home.  It is slow, satisfying work.  I love thinking about what a great privilege it is for me to be with the people I love all day every day.  Who gets that?  When I am miserly with my time and my love, my work is tedious and discouraging.  But this week, I've had a few magical moments of gratitude--of living truly in the moment.  I want to love lavishly every day of my life.

And one last, lovely thought from this book that I will treasure: a woman who embraces her unique strengths and teaching style is a woman who enjoys her work, and a woman who enjoys her work has a happy family.  I have often tried to do another woman's version of home school. It is unnatural, stressful, and no fun for me or the kids.  But when I think about the things that I absolutely love and do those with the kids, we have a great time.  So the schedule includes necessaries like math and spelling--yes--but it also honors my love of reading and conversation with a 45-minute chunk for studying the classics together.  And that bright spot of teaching from my strength makes all the other hard work worth it.  

There is simply too much beautiful, simple wisdom bound up in this surprisingly thin volume--you've got to read it for yourself.  Or buy it for that wonderful woman on your list who could use a little rest.    You can find more of Sarah's thinking at

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Today my wonderful mom shared with me a prompting she had to spend this week praying only with messages of gratitude. This sounded like just what the doctor ordered for me, too.  So I'm going to challenge myself not to ask anything of the Lord this week, but only to give thanks.  I am excited for how this will shift my focus and fill me with the pure peace that gratitude brings.  

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Why I Home School

Last week Naomi asked if she could go to public school, and it kind of broke my heart.

I shouldn't have let it get to me so much, but I spend so much time questioning my ability to do this thing right--that I took it as a vote of no-confidence.  Eliza, too, has been talking now and then about how nice it would be to go to school with her friends.  And this job is just hard enough that I spend a little time fantasizing about it myself.

I keep thinking about the local charter school with its progressive philosophy on education, its no-homework policy, and its great teachers with real lesson plans and beautifully decorated learning environments.  I think, maybe I'm not good enough to do this.  Maybe home school is just too hard for the likes of me.  Maybe I should give up this dream while these kids still stand a chance.

Eliza found me crying in my room, and she blew me away with kindness and wisdom.  She pragmatically identified a major fallacy in my thinking: that when she and the other kids fantasize about public school, they are not thinking the way I think.  They're not dreaming about academic glory; they're thinking that it would be one big happy play date with friends.  She also pointed out that Naomi has made huge strides since we took her out of public school, and kindly told me that she thought I was doing a great job teaching.

How fitting and slightly ironic that it was Eliza who came to my rescue that day.  Eliza, who can see every one of my flaws.  Eliza, who can sense that she would be a huge success socially at intermediate school. But really, her highly thoughtful nature qualified her perfectly to help me.  She may be perfectly aware that I have failings, but she's also highly attuned to my strengths.  And I'd like to think that her beautifully rational mind, her critical thinking skills, and especially her deep compassion have been in some way developed and enhanced because of our decision to teach her at home.

And you know, she's right.  We've done great things here.  And all the well-trained, amazing teachers in the world can't replace me if this is what God has planned for our family.  And He has.

Naomi and I had a talk the next day, and I told her that she's staying home for the time being, because I know in my heart that it's the best place for her.  I reminded her that she kind of hated public school, and that she kept asking me to home school her.  I told her that if she wants more time with friends, she has at least six within walking distance.  And I told her that she has intermediate school band to look forward to.

Keeping public school or the charter school up my sleeve in case of emergencies served me well for the first few years.  But the more time goes on, the more I feel that back door is letting in a chill of self-doubt.  And while I don't require of God a twenty-year plan--even if he tried, I'm not a good listener--yet He has given me my marching orders for this year.  And I want to feel more settled.  I want to feel that I'm in the right place, doing the right thing.

So this is my quest this year.  To see more purpose, more blessings, and more long-term joy coming out of this little home school experiment.  And to close the back door.  I won't lock it, but I want to feel warm here, so it needs to close.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Sun Touch Plus Giveaway Winner!

Dear friends, thanks so much for sharing my posts on beating depression without meds.  It has been a joy to write them and especially to see them getting out there where they can do some good--thanks to you!

I am so grateful for NatureBright for generously donating a brand new Sun Touch Plus for this giveaway.  It felt wonderful to have their vote of confidence in this venture.  I hope very much that you'll all go out and buy one, if your name isn't...

Lindsey Morris!

Congrats, Lindsey!  I hope the lamp makes your winter brighter in more ways than one!  And again, a thousand thanks to the rest of you for reading and sharing.  It means the world to me.  

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Beating Depression in Six Simple Steps: Connect!

This is the last of my series on beating depression without meds!  Thank you for reading, and especially for sharing these posts.  If you still haven't had a chance, please enter my contest by sharing on Facebook and Pinterest, and then letting me know in the comments.  Each share is worth one entry--so if you share all seven articles, you'll be entered fourteen times.   At 9 PM MST on November 8, I will randomly choose the name of one lucky reader for the grand prize: a NatureBright Sun Touch Plus therapy lamp!

It was December 2013, and I was in a state of near-catatonic depression--which is natural for me during the chaos of the holidays.  Parties every night.  Parties all night.  I was so sick and tired of going places all the time, I texted my sister "WHY do people have to plan parties all the time?"

But duty called me to the home school co-op dinner and talent show, where my little class of girls were to perform a few songs we'd learned.  And so, despite a deep longing for my couch and a good book, to the party I went.  TJ jokingly made me the name tag below, and despite my best efforts to pretend I was at home on the couch with a book, I found myself being drawn into a wonderful conversation with the family across the table from me.  Stupid people.  Why do they have to be so interesting?  I'm sitting here being miserable, just let me be miserable.

Over the years, even before reading The Depression Cure, TJ has picked up on the fact that I never want to leave the house when I'm depressed, but that I really should.  I beg.  I plead.  I promise.  And like the wonderful man he is, he reminds me that I always enjoy it and he makes me go.  And, darn it, against my will I always find myself feeling better at the end of the evening than I did at the beginning.  

So it wasn't a huge surprise to find that one of Stephen Ilardi's six steps is get connected socially. Depression and isolation are almost synonymous in the American songbook.  (Cue All by Myself by Celine Dion.)  And we reserve total isolation for the worst criminal offenders in the country.  Human beings simply aren't meant to be alone.

Even a cursory glance at native peoples of the past and present will tell you that we evolved socially.  We hunted, ate, slept, worked, and played together.  But now we do most of our daily activities alone.  This isolation is a by-product of our affluent American society.  As Dr. Ilardi points out, we're willing to sever family ties and move across the country for that high-paying job.  We sacrifice time with family and friends to work longer hours to earn more money. And then we spend that money to buy a bigger house, meaning that even at home with our family--we're alone.

Once again, we find ourselves in a vicious cycle of depression.  Just like any other sickness, depression prompts victims to stay home, focus on healing, and minimize risk to others; how many times have you told yourself you were doing others a favor by keeping yourself and your negativity at home?  But where withdrawal may help fight the common cold, it actually exacerbates depression.  And so we find ourselves feeling worse and even less fit to socialize.  

Luckily for me, I am a part of a strong family and church organization.  Opportunities for social interaction come way more often than my introverted self might prefer.  But some of you might not be so lucky.  Here are some ways to reach out.  I know it can be terrifying, but take a look.

Join up and show up-  Join the city bowling league.  The community choir.  The soup kitchen brigade.  Being involved in something you love will not only provide opportunities to connect with others--it will lift your spirits just to be doing something.  Remember last week? Overcoming rumination is often as simple as getting out and doing something.  Also, being involved in the care of others--even just a pet--can give you a great surge of hope and perspective.  Dr. Illardi highly recommends church because it offers a common purpose and a great deal of love and support from those around you.  Many people refer to others in their congregation as their "church family."  And family is the gold standard for care in times of trouble.

Open up--  Maybe you already have good friends and family members, but you're just not as close as you used to be.  It's common for depression patients to find their most important relationships flagging.  But these relationships can be our greatest sources of help in healing, so it's worth every effort.  Reach out to those closest to you, share your struggle with depression, and educate them on how they can help you stick to your 6 steps.  An excellent suggestion from the book is to pick one or two friends to watch over you, let them know that your condition makes it hard to reach out, and ask them to do the reaching.  If they haven't heard from you in awhile, they should be one showing up on the doorstep with Cafe Rio and a listening ear.  Or gelatto would be fine.  Are you getting all this, St. George friends?  ;)

Be tough and just do it--  When you are faced with the decision of whether or not to reach out, do it.  Perhaps it's going to that pottery class for the first time.  Maybe it's going to a womens' social at church.  Maybe it's calling your mom and letting her chat you out of the dumps. Force yourself to take that step you need to take.  It won't feel like it did in college, when friends were fun.  It will feel hard.  But it gets easier the moment you walk out the door.  And I speak from experience when I say, it'll always make you better.  But it starts by forcing yourself.  Just think of it as medicine that needs to be taken if you want to feel better.  Be a good girl and just take your medicine.

I am full of gratitude for the many friends and family members--especially my rock of a husband--who've loved me through my illness.  Whenever I express my extreme indebtedness they always tell me they are happy to help.  I don't know where they get all their strength for carrying, but I have never.  Ever.  Been sent away empty when I approached a loved one in my time of need.  You have such angels in your life, who are just waiting for the chance to help. Let them help.  They want to and they can.

This is the last of my posts on beating depression without meds, based heavily on Stephen S. Ilardi's The Depression Cure: The 6-Step Program to Beating Depression Without Drugs.  I highly recommend you read the whole book to learn how best to implement this revolutionary program.  

And just so you know...I'm not getting anything from NatureBright or from the publishers of The Depression Cure.  I just get a kick out of helping others beat depression.  Somehow it makes what I go through worthwhile.  Almost.  ;)

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Dad Will be so Proud!

One thing that's tough about home schooling is getting TJ involved.  We do almost all our school work in the morning, and by the time we're sitting around the dinner table, the kids can't answer the question: "what did you learn today?"  TJ finally got tired of their bored and boring answers and stopped asking altogether.

But we want him to be involved, because when he gets excited about their work, so do they.  For instance, Isaiah (4) has been gradually getting less and less excited about the half hour of work I do with him each day.  But yesterday when he did his work without complaining, I jumped at the chance to get some positive reinforcement going.  I emailed TJ about it and asked if he'd make a big deal about it later, which he did when he got home.  And since then Isaiah's been stoked about the great things he's learning.  

Another thing that disrupts the Daddy-schoolwork connection is my dislike for stuff on the fridge. I'm a minimalist, so I love clear counters and zero clutter.  But even a freak like me can concede that this folder on the side of our fridge is visible enough to catch TJ's attention without being obnoxious.

See?  The only thing obnoxious about this room is the windows, which I gave up on long ago.

TJ doesn't check the folder every day, or even every week.  But when he has a minute and the kids are around, he goes through page by page and gives them the recognition they crave so much.  And somehow this little ritual carries through to every day of home school.  The kids look forward to sharing their success with TJ.  And when they're discouraged or even just lazy, a reminder that he's excited to see their progress is usually all the impetus they need.  

It's so easy to forget as a home school mom that you're not alone in what you do.  Your husband provides for the family so that you can focus your best efforts on nurturing the children, but his influence doesn't have to stop there.  Especially if you have boys, but even if you don't, the more Dad is involved in the education of our children, the better they will do.  And the more interest he shows in their daily comings and goings, the closer they feel to him and the more likely they are to live a happy life.  It's a win, win, win.  

Hooray for irreplaceable fathers!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

A Friend Loveth at All Times

Have you been ponderizing?  This is the scripture I've been thinking about this week, and wow, did I have opportunities to think about it.  A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.

I thought about it Monday, when Cassie brought me her van to use for a week while TJ worked on ours.  

I thought about it Tuesday, when I just couldn't stop crying, and I called in some prayers from Georgia.

I thought about it Wednesday, when I counted up the friends and neighbors who've come and spent time under our van with TJ this week, struggling to get the old beast running again.  Dave, Chuck, Dennis, Shane and others all showed up at least once throughout the week.  They loaned us vehicles. They got us parts for cheap and helped us put them on.  Sometimes Chuck was knocking on my door asking when TJ would be home from work so he could help.

I thought about it Thursday, when Rachel gave me a ride to choir.

I thought about it Friday, when Kimberly told me that she wants to give me her old car.  She's been praying to know whom the Lord would have her pass it on to, since she doesn't need it anymore, and she wants us to have it.

I thought about it Saturday, when TJ's parents, visiting for a few days to look at real estate in the area, did so much housework that I kept hoping they wouldn't find a place and have to move in with us.

And I thought about it today, when John's jokes about our horrible primary program practice made me laugh enough that I decided not to cry.  Just kidding, it was no more horrible than any other year. And in a week it'll all be over.  But commiserating with fellow Primary workers makes it a little less like torture.

A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.   

Sometimes the world seems so full of kindness that I can't even wrap my heart around it.  It's as if I can't even feel the full measure of gratitude because I know in my heart that I don't have that much kindness to give--and a part of me refuses to acknowledge how very deeply I stand in the debt of others.

A friend loveth when he sees you stuck under a 2001 Toyota Sienna.  And a brother will pray for you even if you're not willing to go into all the gory details.  

Lord, please grow my heart to absorb all this kindness, and please give me the greatness of heart to be willing to pay it forward in thine own good time.

Beating Depression in Six Simple Steps: Stop Thinking

This is the sixth of my seven posts on beating depression without meds.  Share any one of my posts in this series on Pinterest and Facebook, and then let me know you've done so by commenting here on the blog.  Each share is worth one entry, so if you share each of the seven articles on both sites, you'll be entered fourteen times.  On November 8, I will draw the name of one lucky reader out of a hat for the grand prize: a NatureBright Sun Touch Plus therapy lamp!

I'm afraid that I'm going to lose you here, but stay with me.  I'm about to tell you to think positive. I know, I know.  I feel like a traitor even writing it, because when people who've never experienced major depression tell me to think positive, I have to bite my tongue.  Otherwise I'll say something snarky about them thinking their way out of heart disease, diabetes, or cancer.

So I know.  This might look like a pep talk you've heard before, but please keep reading.  

Last winter I was really struggling with depression, and because I knew a spiritual lift would do me good, I headed for the temple to do an endowment session.  This meant getting up early so I could be done by the time TJ had to leave for work, but I knew it'd pay off for me.  Only, it didn't.  By the end of the session, I was so distressed that I was crying.  One sweet matron at the front of the room noticed me and was concerned, but luckily I escaped at the end of the session without a Q&A.

What went wrong?

Well, my body was in the endowment session, but because of the quiet and even introspective nature of that ordinance, I had allowed my mind to be totally absent.  Basically I spent the whole hour and a half ruminating on my failures, my fears, my disappointments, and my heartaches.  And that's enough to bring anyone to the brink.

Is rumination playing a big part in your daily battle with depression?  For better or worse, it is.  

A cow ruminates when partially digested material from one of her six stomachs comes back up for more chewing.  It's gross.  But that's the same word we use to describe how we mentally "chew" on something over and over.  This can be gross for our emotional health.  

Don't believe it?  Download the app at and you'll begin to see that you have opportunities to ruminate all the livelong day--and that your mood corresponds almost directly to what you're thinking.  

There is a great table in Dr. Stephen Ilardi's The Depression Cure that I need you to see:

Think about how little of your attention is commanded by a lot of things you do every day.  If you work construction.  If you work retail.  If you are the mother of small children.  And even if your job is very mentally stimulating, the temptation to ruminate in the car, in the shower, in bed, and even while watching TV or "reading" can be huge.  If you charted your rumination in a day and your corresponding mood during that time, what would your results look like?  The fact is that the more mentally engaged we are with what we are doing--or in spiritual-speak, how well we "live in the moment"--can have a huge impact in our emotional health.  

Like a lot of other mental health concepts, this one operates on a spiral.  Dr. Ilardi explains that our mind's filing system is based on emotion, so when we're feeling low, our mind starts pulling all the files marked with a frowny face and replaying them for us.  So helpful.  It's like, "I remember the last time I felt this terrible, was when I had that huge fight with Mom.  Almost as bad as when the baby was in the hospital for ten days.  Which reminds me, I only have ten days to get ready for Cindy's baby shower and I just know it's going to be a huge failure.  Just like always."  Thanks, brain.  Now I feel even worse.

The trick with this spiral is to push back enough that you're headed up the spiral instead of down. And the key here is to monitor your thoughts.  Know when your brain has too much down-time and act to engage it in what you're doing.  In the shower, focus on how wonderful the hot water feels, how great your new shower gel smells, and how much better your showtunes sound in the great acoustics of the bathroom.  In the car, focus on talking to your kids about their day, or even pop in a book on CD and start learning a new language.  Engagement in what you're doing is optimal, but even diversion can save you here.  I am a huge fan of podcasts.  And speaking of podcasts, you MUST listen to this fabulous TED Radio Hour about happiness.  There are four parts, so make sure you get all of them.  And if you've been hiding under a rock for the last two years, listen to this song as well. It never fails to lift my mood. 

So you see where I'm going, here?  Instead of letting your mind drift along with the current of your emotions, captain your ship upstream to something worth thinking about.  If you have the gospel library app you can listen to fifteen minutes of general conference every time you put on your makeup.  I have been doing this a lot lately.  It takes so little effort and it gives me such a lift.  

And if you go to the temple, pay attention to what's going on.  I've heard it makes a big difference.  :)

This is the sixth of seven posts on beating depression without meds, based heavily on Stephen S. Ilardi's The Depression Cure: The 6-Step Program to Beating Depression Without Drugs.  I highly recommend you read the whole book to learn how best to implement this revolutionary program.  Come back next week to learn how socializing can help you beat depression!

And just so you know...I'm not getting anything from NatureBright or from the publishers of The Depression Cure.  I just get a kick out of helping others beat depression.  Somehow it makes what I go through worthwhile.  Almost.  ;)

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Beating Depression in Six Simple Steps: Sleep

This is the fifth of my seven posts on beating depression without meds.  Share any one of my posts in this series on Pinterest or Facebook, and then let me know you've done so by commenting here on the blog.  Each share is worth one entry, so if you share each of the seven articles on both sites, you'll be entered fourteen times.  On November 8, I will draw the name of one lucky reader out of a hat for the grand prize: a NatureBright Sun Touch Plus therapy lamp!

It's no secret that a lack of sleep can cause depression.  Ask any new mom how she's feeling, and right after she tells you what a joyful time it is, she might just burst into tears.  If you've ever gone through a period of sleep deprivation or if you've suffered from a sleep disorder you know it's true: lack of sleep messes with your mind.

The link between depression and sleep disorders is cyclical: loose too much sleep and you may start to feel depressed; feelings of fatigue and worthlessness make us less likely to get up on time, exercise, eat right and take our vitamins; the resulting poor health can make it even harder to sleep.

Breaking the cycle can be tough, but it's oh-so-worth it.  And the good news is, the other five steps in this program can really help--especially the sun lamp and the exercise.  The sun lamp gets your circadian rhythms synced up so that you're awake during the day and sleepy at night.  And exercise can significantly improve sleep patterns.

In his book, The Depression Cure: The 6-Step Program to Beat Depression Without Drugs Dr. Ilardi shares some great tips for sleeping better at night.  Here they are, with my commentary:

1.  Use the bed only for sleeping. This doesn't mean you need to kick your spouse out of bed.  ;) Actually there is a study showing that sex can help you sleep better--but that's the only exception to the rule.  This means that the more time we spend awake in bed, the weaker the associative link our brain has between bed and sleep.  So if you're in the habit of reading in bed, your brain won't do that great Pavlovian thing it's supposed to do when your head hits the pillow.  Read in the living room, then go to bed when you're sleepy, and then if you can't sleep after about fifteen minutes, get up and do some more reading.  This will help you program your brain to shut down as soon as you lie down.

2.  Get up at the same time every day.  This one can be brutal if you feel you're getting your best sleep right when you're "supposed" to be getting up.  And the temptation to catch up on sleep on weekends can be huge if you're sleep deprived.  But science is clear here.  Discipline yourself.  Use an alarm clock and especially use your sun lamp first thing when you wake up!  After just a few days, you'll find it easy to get up on time...and especially, go to sleep on time.

3.  Avoid napping.  Again, it's counterintuitive to give up sleep if you're dying for it.  But when you really think about it, you're lying awake at night because your body thinks  you've had enough.  Full disclosure, I nap most days of the week, but I always do it before three pm and always less than forty-five minutes.  And during bouts of insomnia, I start skipping naps until things are normal again.

4.  Avoid bright light at night.  Remember we're trying to condition the brain here, so this is one more trick.  Dim the lights before bedtime, make sure you don't have hall lights or night lights through the night, even wear a sleeping mask if you have to.

5.  Avoid caffeine and other simulants.  There are times when I love being a Mormon girl.  This is one of them.

6.  Avoid alcohol at night.  Ditto.

7.  Keep the same bedtime every night.   I struggle to be consistent here, so I can't tell you from personal experience how well it works.  But our body is a programmable clock.  So it makes sense that what we habitually do, is what our body will expect and go for.

8.  Turn down your thermostat at night.  Dr. Ilardi sites studies that we do sleep better when temperatures are just about five degrees cooler than we like it during the day.  We started doing this early in our marriage and it's been wonderful.  There's nothing like snuggling under the covers when it's just chilly enough to need covers.

9.  Avoid taking your problems to bed with you.  This one has been huge for me.  I almost always hop on the computer after the kids are in bed and try to get a little work done, but it's important to turn it off about an hour before bed and start to unwind and disconnect.  After that, it's mindless activities only, such as reading a novel or taking a shower.  If there are still things bothering my mind when we turn in, I tell TJ about them and let him convince me that everything is going to be okay.  Making a conscious effort to shelve your troubles before you go to bed helps you avoid worrying through the night.

10.  Don't try to fall asleep.  I first struggled with insomnia when I was a teen, right around the same time I got my first Indiglo watch.  I could look at it right before I drifted off, and anytime I was awake during the night I could figure out how much sleep I was missing and worry about it.  This turned out to be terrible for my sleep patterns.  After struggling with insomnia into my twenties, I decided to ditch the clock--which by this time had morphed into a night stand alarm clock.  Every night I set the alarm and then turned the face down.  It took self-control through the night not to check the time over and over, but I soon found myself sleeping better.  Don't psyche yourself out about sleep.  The more we stress about it, the less we'll be able to sleep well--so let it go.  If you're not sleeping, get up and read until you feel tired.  If you never do feel tired again until morning, be strong and get up anyway.  The second night after a sleepless one usually goes better if you can avoid the temptation the sleep in or nap.

Are you starting to see how the six steps of this program tie together?  You'll find that hard work in one area will have a ripple effect on the other ones, making it easier to use them all.  Sleep researcher Nancy Hamilton is quoted in The Depression Cure as saying of falling asleep, "All it takes is a tired body and a quiet mind."

Sweet dreams, my friends!

This is the fifth of seven posts on beating depression without meds, based heavily on Stephen S. Ilardi's The Depression Cure: The 6-Step Program to Beating Depression Without Drugs.  I highly recommend you read the whole book to learn how best to implement this revolutionary program. Come back next week and learn how to combat depression by avoiding rumination.  

And just so you know... I'm not getting anything from NatureBright or from the publishers of The Depression Cure.  I just get a kick out of helping others beat depression.  Somehow it makes what I go through worthwhile.  Almost.  ;)

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Beating Depression in Six Simple Steps: Omega-3s

This is the fourth of my seven posts on beating depression without meds.  Share any one of my posts in this series on Pinterest or Facebook, and then let me know you've done so by commenting here on the blog.  Each share is worth one entry, so if you share each of the seven articles on both sites, you'll be entered fourteen times.  On November 8, I will draw the name of one lucky reader out of a hat for the grand prize: a NatureBright Sun Touch Plus therapy lamp!

If you could change your state of mind just by adding a dietary supplement, would you do it? Out of of the six steps outlined in Stephen Ilardi's The Depression Cure, the fish oil component is admittedly the least sexy.  But it's probably the easiest step, and, according the author, might even be the most powerful.

The media hype surrounding Omega-3s has mostly died down, leaving us with one more member of the nutritional pantheon to ignore/feel guilty about--but maybe it's worth remembering, after all. There are two big links between a lack of Omega-3s and depression:  1. Dopamine and serotonin production flag when we don't have a high enough intake of Omega-3s--and this compromises our neurons' ability to transmit and receive messages.  Basically, the brain is made of fat, and a lack of the right kind of fatty acids can cause it to misfire, which causes depression.  2.  A lack of Omega-3s can lead to rampant inflammation, which also is a contributor to depression.

If you hate the idea of swallowing a fish capsule every day, think hard about the alternatives.  You could actually eat fish, which is what our amazingly healthy Japanese friends do.  Two or three servings a day will do the trick.  But make sure it's farm-raised so you don't get a side dish of mercury and other post-industrialist byproducts.  And then there are plant-based oil capsules that work; however the only ones that contain the recommended amounts of DHA and EPA are not only crazy expensive, but they're formulated from algae.  So I don't know if that's going to help you get around the gross factor.

Best to just buck up and swallow that yellow goodness, my friends.  Here's how to start:
  • Find a supplement that contains 1000 mg of EPA and 500 mg of DHA.
  • Make sure it's "molecularly distilled" or "pharmaceutical grade."  This will save you from the chemicals ingested by fish in the wild and also from the chance that the manufacturers are giving you rancid oil.  Gross!
  • You might have the occasional fishy burp.  Never fear!  Keep the pills in the freezer, and the delay in digestion should solve that problem.
It sounds so hard, but it's really so easy.  Way, way easier than slogging through your day at less than full capacity.  Pretend you are your own beloved child and make yourself take your vitamins.  You deserve to feel well.

This is fourth of seven posts on beating depression without meds, based heavily on Stephen S. Ilardi's The Depression Cure: The 6-Step Program to Beating Depression Without Drugs.  I highly recommend you read the whole book to learn how best to implement this revolutionary program.  Come back next week and learn how important sleep is to our mental health.

And just so you know...I'm not getting anything from NatureBright or from the publishers of The Depression Cure.  I just get a kick out of helping others beat depression.  Somehow it makes what I go through worthwhile.  Almost.  :)

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Maybe They're Here for You: Hope for Home School Mamas

I suffer from clinical depression.  I home school my kids.  And before you go on, I need you to know that I'm what you'd call "high-functioning," which means I can fool most people into thinking everything's fine.  Even the kids don't usually notice my terrible days.  So don't worry, the kids are fine.  But I'm starting to see that the Adversary wants me to believe that it's a weakness to our family.

Two weeks ago, I had a really terrible day of home-schooling, and not really because anything in particular was going wrong.  I was just in terrible shape, mentally.

There are a few demons who like to buzz around my head when I'm tired, depressed or just weak, and they say the same things over and over.  "You're failing as a mom.  You're failing as a teacher.  Your kids would be better off in public school, just because they'd be away from you."  I bat at them half-heartedly, pushing through lessons, through power struggles with saucy tweens, through technology challenges, through messy rooms and undone laundry, and knowing that if I can hang on long enough, I can go to bed.

I'm not going to lie.  Depression and home school are unlikely and poorly-suited bedfellows.  When I'm really underwater, the people who love me most remind me that I can always send the kids back to public school.  If it provided me with a less stressful lifestyle, it might just help me stay mentally healthy more of the time.

Next year, my youngest will be old enough for kindergarten, and this brings my questions to the surface like nothing else could: is this really, really, really the very best thing for the kids?  Because, if not, I can see myself liking very much to spend six hours a day blissfully alone.  I see myself getting the groceries bought, the house cleaned, the budget balanced, and even having time to take a shower before they get home.  I see me staying on top of things that, lately, have been relegated to "Squeeze-it-in-Someday-Soon-I-Hope" list--like buying church clothes.  Ezra has been in need of church pants for at least three months, and finding the time to go with him to the store baffles me every week.  I see myself reading.  I see myself writing.  I see myself finally finishing my college degree.  I see myself finally getting good at yoga.  And I'm not gonna lie, I see myself eating a lot of food with gluten, eggs, and dairy.  So yes, I'd gain weight pretty quick.

This vision of complete introverted bliss tempts me.  The nasty mom-guilt torments me.  And some days I question why I'm even doing home school.  Maybe I should have sent them to public school this year, I think. Maybe it's too late for them and they'll suffer all their lives because their mother had delusions of grandeur. Maybe I'm wrong for home school and home school is wrong for me.

So, back to my story, it was a day to be endured.  I was batting at the demons, pushing for bedtime, and thinking, I'm not doing these kids any good at all.

And the Spirit said, "maybe you're not here for them.  Maybe they're here for you."

I felt free for the first time in many, many days.  And I saw my amazing kids more clearly than ever. God created them to be a joy to me, and they truly, truly are.  They are smart.  They are funny. They are compassionate.  They are wise.

What would my daily life be like if they weren't here with me?  Who would hug and kiss me when I felt hopeless inside?  And really, why would I even get out of bed on those hard days?  The love I have for these kids motivates me to fight my depression, to fight my demons.  I might not even try if they weren't here to try for.

Our culture talks a lot about the challenges of parenting, about the pain of parenting, about the stress of parenting.  And if you home school your kids, just get ready for all the pats on the back you get for being such a perfect parent.  You really start to believe that you are the most saintly martyr in the world for giving up so much for the sake of your children.

And it's true.  I've made sacrifices for these kids.  All moms do.  But I've fallen too often into the trap of believing that it's my job to provide them with happiness.  And forget about the fact that the weight of such responsibility is too heavy for any mortal shoulders, and that Christ himself is the giver of all good things--I have forgotten that my kids are here for me just as much as I am here for them.

I had a bit of a meltdown today, and the kids surrounded me with hugs, kisses, and offers of help with my work.  I hate being in that position--I really want to be the strong one for them, to be a good example of strength and courage.  But really, why?  In a world of entitlement and narcissism, my kids stand a chance a good chance of growing up with some compassion.

God knew what He was doing when He called me to this work, weak and mortal as I am.  In fact, maybe the calling was extended before this life even began--to the kids.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Beating Depression in Six Simple Steps: Exercise

This is the third of my seven posts on beating depression without meds.  Share any one of my posts in this series on Pinterest or Facebook, and then let me know you've done so by commenting here on the blog.  Each share is worth one entry, so if you share each of the seven articles on both sites, you'll be entered fourteen times.  On November 8, I will draw the name of one lucky reader out of a hat for the grand prize: a NatureBright Sun Touch Plus therapy lamp!

You knew it was going to come up, right?  Because everyone from Dr. Phil to Dr. Who is recommending we exercise more.  Well, I'm sure you're not surprised that exercise is on the list of things that can prevent and even reverse depression.  I do have a surprise for you, though.  Just a little bit of exercise each week can make a huge difference here.  And that's good news for folks like me who would rather not exercise.  Ever.

It's an ongoing joke with all my siblings that we only run if we're being chased by a bear.  That's why I really really need this bumper sticker.

But even though I don't run, and I've never participated in organized sports, I do move my body voluntarily sometimes.  I love yoga.  I love biking.  I love hiking.  And those three things are enough to help me beat depression most of the time.  Just like my brother Spencer says,
  "Get your body moving, and your brain will catch up."

It's a little mind-blowing to imagine that pharmaceuticals costing our economy billions of dollars to design, produce and market can so easily be replaced and even surpassed.  But it's true: according to The Depression Cure and dozens of studies backing it up, moderate exercise just three times a week shows better results than anti-depressant medications.  Dr. Ilardi cites one such study of 156 depressed patients, all sadly out of shape, half of whom were prescribed exercise, and the other half Zoloft.  The exercise required was almost laughable: they took a brisk half-hour walk three times a week.  At first the treatments showed about equal amounts of improvement, but at about ten months, those who were exercising were "much more likely than those taking Zoloft to remain depression-free."  Dr. Ilardi continues:
Over a dozen clinical trials now show that exercise can effectively treat depression... [because] exercise actually changes the brain.  Like an antidepressant medication, it increases the activity of important brain chemicals like serotonin and dopamine.  It also stimulates the brain's release of a key growth hormone (BDNF), which in turn helps reverse the toxic, brain-damaging effects of depression.  It even sharpens memory and concentration, and helps us think more clearly.  Simply put, exercise is medicine--one that effects the brain more powerfully than any drug.
I can't tell you how happy I was to find that I could make a powerful impact on my mental health just by exercising an hour and a half a week.  I began to see that opportunities to squeeze in half-hour chunks of exercise were relatively easy to find.  Twice a week I hop on my bike for a half-hour spin, and once a week, I attend an hour-long yoga class--thus becoming an athletic overachiever by one half hour.  And for a certified couch potato, I have to say to my fellow loungers--I feel better physically, too.  My back and my tricky wrist don't hurt anymore, and I sleep better at night. Exercise is better for your mind and for your body--who knew, right?  :)

So I've convinced you it's worth a shot, yes?  Here are some basic steps for getting started:
  • Choose an activity: your target heart rate should be between 60%-90% of the maximum heart rate for your age.  Check out an online chart if you want to be precise, but basically you want to be breathing a little harder and sweating--but not feeling like you want to die.  Which is why I don't run.  It should be something you already enjoy or something that sounds fun to you.  I also recommend it be something that won't require a total overhaul of your budget or finances--this way it'll be easy to start and stick to.  However, if a little money is required for the plan you really love, I encourage you to go for it.  After all, what wouldn't you give up to feel well again?  The sacrifice will pay off quickly and for a long time.  The bike TJ surprised me with almost ten years ago still blesses my life in a big way.
  • Make a plan and get loved ones to help: ideally, you want to break up your ninety minutes of exercise throughout the week.  I like to bike early and late in the week, with my yoga class right in the middle. Get your family and friends on board here.  TJ knows how much better I feel when I go, so he totally supports me in this.  Even when I'm tempted to be lazy, he pushes me out the door.  But since he makes dinner on my yoga night, I am pretty motivated to get out of the way and let him do his thing.
  • Make it fun: If you must run, at least do it with friends.  (Okay, last jab at runners, I promise. The truth is you make me feel super-insecure because you're awesome.)  But really, we all know that we're more likely to roll out of bed and head for the gym if we know someone we love is expecting us there.  Join forces.  It'll bless your life and theirs.  Also, it should go without saying that you shouldn't plan on an activity that bores you--but depression patients are gluttons for punishment and we often make plans that sound terrible even to us.  Think hard about what would fun for you and do that.  And don't forget that integrating a sense of purpose will make it more fun and fulfilling, too.  Gardening will give you sunshine and fresh air in the bargain, and you'll be crossing off stuff on your to-do list.
Friends, I hope you'll remember this little article when the going gets tough for you.  Exercise is often touted as a cure-all--and that's because it really is one--but don't let it become white noise for you. While it takes years for you to enjoy the fact that you're not dying of heart disease, exercising today will help you feel happier today.  Go out and try it, and take along someone you love.

This is the third of seven posts on beating depression without meds, based heavily on Stephen S. Ilardi's The Depression Cure: The 6-Step Program to Beating Depression Without Drugs.  I highly recommend you read the whole book to learn how best to implement this revolutionary treatment program.  Come back next week and learn how incorporating Omega-3s into your diet can help you win this battle.

And just so you know...I'm not getting anything from NatureBright or from the publishers of The Depression Cure.  I just get a kick out of helping others beat depression.  Somehow it makes what I go through worthwhile.  Almost.  :)

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Beating Depression in Six Simple Steps: Light Therapy

This is the second of seven posts on beating depression without meds.  Share any one of my posts in this series on Pinterest or Facebook, and then let me know you've done so by commenting here on the blog.  Each share is worth one entry, so if you share each of the seven articles on both sites, you'll be entered fourteen times.  On November 8 I will draw the name of one lucky reader out of a hat for the grand prize: a NatureBright Sun Touch Plus therapy lamp!  

Who here remembers that '90s TV show, "Northern Exposure?"  Well, to be honest, I don't remember much of it either, because mom usually made us go to bed too early.  But the one episode I can recall centers on an Alaskan villager diagnosed with seasonal depression who is prescribed a light visor.  He goes around wearing it all the time and ends up so chipper that his friends decide he's overdosing--and they take it away.   My highly pragmatic mother (she of the early bedtimes) thought this was ludicrous.  "When was the last time you heard of someone getting too much sunshine," she asked.  "No way can you overdose on a light visor."  And as usual, mom was right.

Depression exists on a spectrum that ranges from the persistent (and sometimes even dangerous) symptoms of major depression, all the way down to the euphemistically labeled "winter blues," which about 20% of Americans report experiencing.  Wherever you or your loved one falls on this scale, the six steps Stephenen Ilardi outlines in The Depression Cure can improve matters.  We'll start with the light therapy, which consists of a vitamin D supplement as well as adequate exposure to bright light.

Why Light Therapy?
Light therapy is probably the most important element of our six steps to sufferers of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), because it goes to the heart of the problem: our brains and bodies need sunlight in order to function properly, and we don't get much of it in the winter.  Long story short: optical exposure to the kind of bright light produced on a cloudless, sunny day stimulates serotonin production, which increases feelings of well-being. Feeling better increases our likelihood of reaching out in social settings, which also increases feelings of well-being--and yes, social interaction is one of our six steps.  Light therapy also helps combat insomnia, a common symptom of SAD, and guess what--proper sleep is another of our six steps.  As you'll see in future posts, these steps are tightly interwoven so that they look less like steps and more like lifestyle.

A few years back, I had read The Depression Cure and was convinced that a light box would help me, but I just couldn't bring myself to pony up the $80 or more to get one.  After all, could it really make a big enough difference to justify the cost?  I dithered about it for a few months, and that's when my hero of a husband came in, surpising me with a NatureBright Sun Touch Plus for Christmas.

The effects were almost immediate, and honestly, they continue to be immediate.  The light box has become my first line of defense against depression, seasonal and otherwise.  Every time I feel myself sliding, I know I need to be more consistent about using it--and I always feel better within forty-eight hours of starting to use it again.

The light box is also phenomenal for sorting out circuaidian rhythms, which program our bodies to feel sleepy or awake at certain times.  Anytime I'm struggling with insomnia, or even when I want to start waking up earlier in the day--I start using the lamp first thing every morning.  I feel more awake all day; and then I sleep better at night, too.

Where Do I Start?
First you need to decide whether you even need a light box, because some people are able to get all the light they need just by being outside.  30 minutes of bright light is optimal, but keep in mind that we're talking about the bright light you get outside on a sunny, cloudless day.  The angle of the light is also important.  If you have ever visted St. George, Utah, you would say--with most of my family and friends--that I really shouldn't need a light box.  It never gets terribly cold, and it's sunny most days of the year.  But during the winter, taking time to be outside when the sun is high enough and bright enough can be a real challenge.  I love the convenience and consistency of the light box.

So assuming it's tough for you to get out in the winter, your first step is to get your hands on a good light box.  If you're still not convinced that it will help, see if you can borrow one.  And keep in mind that most sellers offer a money-back guarantee.  If you don't start feeling significantly better, you can always send it back.

Dr. Ilardi recommends a light box that emits at least 10,000 lux, positioned slightly above the head. Start with a half hour of exposure each morning, and then move down to fifteen minutes as you start feeling better.

During spells of terrible depression when even getting out of bed seems impossible, I put the light box right on the night stand.  Then all I have to do is turn it on and I'm on my way to feeling better. I'm doing pretty well mentally right now--so I have enough stamina to make it out of bed and all the way into the kitchen, where I have this setup:

(This is a great opportunity to get scripture study done first thing in the morning, too.) 

Also, don't forget your vitamin D supplement.  Depending on your doctor's recommendations, start at 2,000 IU of D3, and go up from there.

Christmas is Coming
Maybe you're just positive that a loved one needs one of these--and you're equally positive that they'll never buy it for themselves.  My dear friend's story is a lot like mine.  She wanted one, but her sick little mind told her that it might not be worth the expense.  A friend of hers heard about it, and soon a light box showed up on her doorstep.  She felt better within days.

I hope you will seriously consider finding a way to get this into the hands of someone who needs it, especially if you are that person. One lucky reader will win a free NatureBright light box just by sharing this post on social media!

This is the second of seven posts on beating depression without meds, based heavily on Stephen S. Ilardi's The Depression Cure: The 6-Step Program to Beating Depression Without Drugs.  I highly recommend you read the whole book to learn how best to implement this revolutionary treatment program.  Come back next week and learn how exercise out-performs anti-depressants. 

And just so you know...I'm not getting anything from NatureBright or from the publishers of The Depression Cure.  I just get a kick out of helping others beat depression.  Somehow it makes what I go through worthwhile.  Almost.  :)

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Beat Depression in 6 Simple Steps...Without Medication

The geese and ducks are starting to go south, and if you battle seasonal depression like I is everything else.  Actually, depression is a condition I manage on an ongoing basis--but winter makes it worse.  So every fall I gear up for the winter by reviewing my mental health checklist, and especially by turning on my light therapy lamp.

That's why I contacted NatureBright this week to see if they would donate a lamp for my giveaway.   I know it's a great product because I use it all the time.  And thanks to their generosity, I get to put one of these sweet babies in the hands of  a lucky reader--to use for herself or to give to someone she loves.

Lately I've been spending the first half of every day wanting to sleep, or cry, or both.  Whichever comes first, really.  And though it's a little early for SAD to kick in, it's not off the charts.  So as I am reviewing and re-implementing mental health basics that have saved me over and over again, I thought I'd share them with you.

So are we talking about the winter blues, seasonal depression, or major depressive disorder?  The answer is...yes!  They share the same causes, symptoms, and treatments, so--all of the above.  If you're reading this article in the middle of summer, don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.  The practices outlined here improve overall mental health, period--so whether you get slightly blue from time to time or whether you suffer constantly from the enormous weight of major depression, this post is for you.

I found these pearls in The Depression Cure: The 6-Step Program to Beat Depression Without Drugs, written by Stephen S. Ilardi.  If you've been to this blog with any regularity, you know that I want everyone in the world to read this book.  For those who haven't had the time to read it yet, and more importantly, for those of you who are in such tough shape you can't bring yourself to pick it up--and no judgement, because I've soooo been there--I've decided to spend the next six weeks discussing Ilardi's six steps to mental health.

The book is heavily based on research conducted on modern hunter-gatherer societies, noting a marked absence of symptoms indicating depression.  When we contrast the hardships suffered by these groups with the ease and prosperity enjoyed by the typical American, it is strange to report that Americans are the ones who suffer from depression!  These findings lead researchers to formulate a treatment plan based on the hunter-gatherer lifestyle including: dietary omega-3 fatty acids, engaging activity, physical exercise, social support, adequate sleep, and sunlight exposure.  For many people missing only one or two of these elements, addressing just those is enough to affect powerful and lasting change.  We'll spend time on each of these elements in coming weeks here on the blog.

But first, here's my caveat: anti-depressant medications are sometimes the very best first step on the road back to mental health.  They were life savers for me, and I've talked to many who have felt the same way.  If you've found medication that works for you, then there's really no reason to look elsewhere.  I am writing this post because many, like me, come to a point where the medication no longer works well enough to make them willing to put up with the side effects.  I will also say that the steps I will outline consistently out-perform medication in terms of resulting wellness.  But it takes practice and sometimes a little money to develop these life habits.  In the meantime, I am in full support of whatever you can do to feel well.  You deserve to be healthy.

This is the first of seven post on beating depression without meds.  Come back next week and learn how beneficial light therapy can be for depression, and especially for SAD.  And...don't forget to share!  

Share any one of my posts in this series on depression on Pinterest or Facebook, and then let me know you've done so by commenting here on the blog.  Each share is worth one entry, so if you share each of the seven articles on both sites, you'll be entered fourteen times.  

And just so you know...I'm not getting anything from NatureBright or from the publishers of The Depression Cure.  I just get a kick out helping others beat depression.  Somehow it makes what I go through worthwhile.  Almost.  :)


Post edit:  The Sun Touch Lamp Giveaway concluded in the fall.  But feel free to share anyway.  :)

Sunday, September 6, 2015

To the Healers

Ahem.  After that last post, I feel a little bit exposed, and feel the need to crack some jokes or maybe do a little soft-shoe.  But I know you're not here to read about some mythical perfect person, so again I say, thanks for reading, warts and all.

This week, I'm hugely relieved to say, has been progressively better.  Every day, the kids and I get more into our new routine and as stress levels go down, my mood improves.  But mostly I must give credit where it's due.  I know my loved ones have been praying for me, and my Father in Heaven has showered me with blessings.  So, status report on Woman of the House reads Normal this week. Hallelujah.

One of our family members (who shall remain nameless) required a trip to the E.R. last night, and there we stayed until 2 AM.  Flu-like symptoms were seeming less and less flu-like as the week wore on, and a chat with a our family nurse raised the specter of bleeding ulcers due to stress, diet, or (cue horrific music here) cancer.  I felt dangerously close to tears on the way to the hospital because of the C-word and a lifetime of premonitions that something like this would happen to me or someone I loved.

I'm happy to report that all these lugubrious possibilities were dispelled with a few simple--though tediously time-consuming--tests, and we were sent home with a prescription for nausea pills and a new perspective on life.  I'm also happy to report that at no point did I break down and cry.

We joked a lot about the dissimilarities between the ER of reality and that of the TV drama I used to love.  None of the doctors or nurses seemed unusually good-looking.  George Clooney was nowhere in sight.  And if he had been, I suspect he would have been bored.  There were no loud alarms indicating impending death, no paramedics bursting on the scene with gunshot victims, no heated arguments or passionate proposals between the staff.  And as our five hours there will attest, there was no sense of urgency, although once I did see a nurse running, and that made me feel better.

Still, it was real enough for me.  What is it about a trip to the Emergency Room that instantly snaps life into perspective?  I experienced such basic human desires and feelings while I was there.  Need. Helplessness.  Fear. Humility.  And above all, I felt a surge of gratitude toward the brave and patient men and women who work there, day in and day out.

Healers remind me of Jesus Christ.  They take all of humanity, regardless of virtue, status, and even ability to pay--take us at all hours of the day and night--see past our collective ugliness, addiction, and general pitiful state--and they do everything they can to help.  They dig deep, calling not only upon their knowledge and experience, but on their compassion, their humor, and their love.

I said thank you to each individual that took part in the parade through our hospital room last night, but I know that many healers work out of their homes or even just in their families.  If you are one of this noble race, I just want to say: you're amazing.  Thanks for being such an inspiration and a help. You truly make this world a better place.      

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Stewardship Project: Teaching Accountability through Family Chores

We have been getting lazy and crazy this summer.  Staying up late, eating breakfast at ten, going swimming when the kitchen is still dirty, and coming home just in time for a late afternoon nap and then dinner.  It's a good kind of crazy.

School starts next week though, and for home school moms and public school moms alike, it's time to get things back in order--right?  If you're like me, you're busy buying supplies, grabbing the best spots for music lessons, and coordinating rides.  While you get these things ready, I highly recommend getting your family ready for a smooth re-entry.

We're getting ready by rooting our kids out of bed a little earlier every day, and this year I've decided that I really can't start home school until we have chores back in place.  I've discovered by sad experience that throwing a new schedule at the kids all on one day usually results in huge melt-downs--and the kids are unhappy, too.  :)  So this year we're learning chores this week, the schedule next week, and the following week we'll actually add studying.  (Home school has its perks, eh?  I make my own rules.)

My kids know how to clean the kitchen, clean the bathroom, put away laundry, do basic lawn care, wash windows and even organize areas that are messy.  The only problem is...they don't know how to do any one of those those things extremely well.  Ahem.  I'm great at barking orders, keeping the family on a schedule, and getting the house in decent shape.  But I'm not good at follow-through with the kids.  My philosophy so far on kids and chores has been--and I think it's a good one--windows that are washed only somewhat well today by one of the kids are better than windows washed perfectly by me...someday.

We're ready to take it to the next level this year though, and I'm so excited.  This year I'm cutting down on what I ask of them, and requiring quality work.  So instead of asking for them to clean up after each other, I'm asking them to clean up after themselves.  Short term, I might be doing more of the chores around here, but long term I plan on them helping with more as they master the basics.

It's not all about re-branding dreary old "chores" into shiny new "stewardships"--although I am pretty proud of doing that.  I remember my parents re-branding stuff all the time.  We saw right through it all, of course, but semantics matter!  You can't resist the positive force of positive words!

The best part of this new system is that it teaches accountability, which admittedly has not been our strongest suit.  So here are the SHINY NEW STEWARDSHIPS.

In the past, every day a different kid would fold and put away laundry--any which way.  As long as it landed in a drawer, I didn't complain too loudly; and because I didn't know which child was responsible for my disaster of a linen closet, I really couldn't complain.  Now, I sort each child's clothing into his or her own basket, and they're in charge of putting it away.  Neatly.  And because they know no one else will be messing with their drawers, they are more motivated to keep them tidy. My awesome husband put extra shelves in the laundry room to make room for all the baskets.  So they get one stewardship point for an empty laundry basket, and another for neat drawers.

The kids used to share a tube of toothpaste, and Ezra especially hated the mess everyone else made of it.  I remember growing up the oldest of eight, I would have killed for my own tube of toothpaste.  So I got a seperate one for each child and labeled it, as well as labeling an individual little box for it to go in.  Their floss and toothbrush also go in their little box.  So tidy!    They get one stewardship point for not leaving any belongings out in the bathroom, including clothes on the floor or stuff on the counter.

Each child is now responsible for putting away his or her belongings. Such a novel concept!  I check every room in the house, including their bedrooms, which should be tidy with beds made.  They get a point for a clean bedroom, and a point for not leaving belongings in any of the other rooms.

Morning Chores:
Ezra takes care of his lizards
Eliza wipes down the bathroom sink, counter and mirror
Naomi vacuums one room
Paul takes out the garbage
Isaiah wipes down the toilet seat
They get one point each.

Follow Through!
The best part of this deal is that I've planned a time for checking up.  This teaches accountability!  (For me, too.)  Every day after breakfast I walk through the house and make little tally marks for each point accumulated on my handy-dandy chart.  They can let these build up over the weeks for a big prize or (as has so far been the case) blow it all every day on a half-hour of iPad time.  Either way, everybody's happy.

Here is what they can buy with their stewardship points.

5 points   = 1/2 hour screen time
25 points = 1 candy bar
50 points = 1 late night with friends OR a date with Mom and Dad

The points are written in dry erase marker, so when they spend them, we just erase them.

There are a few really great principles at work here.  
#1:  kids will have privileges because we're nice parents.  We might as well make those privileges work for us.
#2:  mess begets mess.  Kids in the habit of leaving stuff lying around get used to living in messy spaces.  And a messy space makes us all more relaxed about making more messes.  Keeping things picked up in real time actually prevents other messes.
#3: kids who are asked to clean up a room other people have destroyed feel resentful, but when we honor and reward personal accountability, they are motivated to take care of their own things.

When I told TJ about this great new idea, he kind of laughed.  He said that it was actually a great idea, even though his initial reaction was, "Another brilliant plan to get the kids to do their chores?" And he's right.  I do come up with a new plan, complete with a spreadsheet and a fun visual tracker, every six months or so.  But I've come to believe that when it comes to family chores, novelty is my very best friend.  New plans don't mean that there was something wrong with the old ones--it just means they've served their purpose and it's time to move on.  So if now is the right moment for your family to move on, good luck!  And have fun designing the new spreadsheet.  It really is the best part!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Summer Book Reviews

It always makes me laugh when people say they don't have time to read.  It's like, "people!  What else is there?"  But I have to say that I'm a little sad about fall because I know I'll read a lot less than I have been lately.  I love summer reading! Here are my favs from this summer (A.K.A. the ones I can remember.)  Admittedly, none of these are really new titles, so you may have already read them.  But they were new to me, and I loved them!

My new friend Rosie sent me this book as a gift for no good reason, and I can't remember the last time someone did that. I absolutely devoured it.  It is the story of a fifth-grade boy born with massive facial deformities.  He has never been to public school because he's always been recovering from surgeries, but his parents decide that the time has come.  As if middle school isn't hard enough! There are some heart-wrenching passages, but big payoffs throughout.  My favorite part of this book is the family of this boy.  You can tell they've allowed their trials to bring them closer together, and to fill them with compassion and love.  Everyone they meet is drawn into this family circle because of the love and peace they feel there.  This book is powerful, funny, and full of heart.

The Ties That Bind
My sister introduced me to this author when she recommended Desperate Measures as a book whose heroine understands the difference between feminism and happiness.  I loved it, and quickly moved on to this one, which turns out to be my favorite of the two.  This is the story of a young man about to become a father.  Because his father walked out on him, he has serious doubts about his own ability to be a good dad, and his wife encourages him to track his dad down and talk to him.  This leads him on a quest that helps him understand not only his father, but those who came before him.  I'm doing a terrible job describing it, but this is really a great book.  It's a book about family history that is not at all corny or didactic.  Wait, am I making it worse?  Just trust me and go read it.


Dressing Your Truth/The Child Whisperer
These are two books that I have held off reading forever for the basic fact that this woman's making a lot of money right now, and that makes me instantly suspicious.  Having said that, I now have to concede that she's pretty brilliant.  Both of these books are based on her energy profiling system, which delineates four basic types of person.  The term, "energy profiling" makes me suspicious, too, and if you feel the same you can comfort yourself that it's just another personality test.  Personality tests are always fun; remember the Color Code?

Anyway, Dressing Your Truth's basic premise is that if you dress like the kind of person you are, people won't be surprised when you act the way you are.  It talks a lot about how we all have closets full of clothing we really don't like, because we're stuck trying to follow fashions or even bad advice. This book has made shopping for and wearing clothes a lot more fun for me.  I feel more at home in what I wear, and I now know why I hate some of the clothes that are perfectly good.  She doesn't go a lot into details, I have to say.  You're supposed to get online, give her a bunch of money, and then learn all she has to say.  But you can pick up enough from the book, YouTube and Pinterest to get the hang of it.  Psst: it's free on Amazon and it's a great crash course on the whole energy profiling system, so go for it!

The Child Whisperer is the most insightful parenting book I've ever read, hands down.  It's more like a reference book, really, so don't try to down the whole thing in one weekend.  I skipped straight to the chapters describing the different types, and had so much fun profiling my kids.  She gives great practical advice for each type on how to handle school, recreation, chores, church, discipline, and communication.  It's amazing how easy this book makes it to pinpoint things that work and do not work for each child.  I felt like she had already met each one of them.  This one's free to borrow if you're an Amazon Prime member.

I always try to read something about the pioneers in the month of July--ever since last year, that is. It's part of my ongoing effort to prove to myself and the world that I can, indeed, read non-fiction. This year I chose to learn about this amazing lady, and I'm so glad I did.  This book reads--may I say?--almost like a novel, it's so good.  I can't believe how little I knew about her before especially since my oldest daughter is named after her.  For instance, did you know Eliza R. Snow was a plural wife both to Joseph Smith and to Brigham Young?  Did you know she gave her substantial dowry to support the church, reducing reducing her to a boarder in the homes of other families for many years of her life?  Did you know that she was hailed as "Zion's Poetess" but that she was so good she really could have made a name for herself no matter what subject matter she chose?  I love how heavily this book focuses on her literary career.  She wrote with passion, with humor, and with great skill--and she consecrated her whole life to building the kingdom of God on the earth.  She is a true kindred spirit to Relief Society sisters the world over.  This one's a must-read.

Well, let me know if you read one or all of these; I'd love to hear your thoughts!  Also, what books are you dying for the whole world to read?  I need to start my fall line-up!