What Having a Teen Daughter is Teaching me About Sexual Harassment

I know that this is a pretty volatile subject, but I feel I have to address the topic of sexual harassment.

I’m going to admit something. I’m not going to say it’s right or wrong, but it’s just how I always felt. I always looked at harassment from the point of view of while none of it was okay, some things were worse than others.

Obviously, some situations and events ARE worse than others. Some things are serious and should be taken as such. Assault, violence, stalking….those things are serious business and should not be ignored.

But there’s the point I’m going into with this…should ANY harassment be ignored?

Here’s the thing. We’ve all been sexually harassed in some way at some point in our lives, right? Men and women, we’ve all been victims of harassment at one time or another.

And do you know what? While it wasn’t okay, as I said before, I always looked at it as no big deal either. It was just something that, as a woman, I knew I’d have to deal with from time to time. Aside from something BAD happening, you just shrug it off and go on about your day.

But when do we stand up and say that’s a problem? When do we realize that by shrugging it off as just one of those things we are enabling the degeneration of society?

When do we start demanding as women AND men to be treated with more respect?

So my daughter is a curvy girl. A lot of people think she is older than she is and she has been getting looks and even cat-called for at least two years. (Yeah, I think I was in shock for days the first time some man cat-called my thirteen year old.)

One day she was walking in town and some boys whistled and called to her as they drove past. As they passed her though, they realized that they knew her. From church. The boys felt bad and pulled to a stop and got out and apologized to her. She accepted their apology but while they were embarrassed because they realized she was someone they knew, she asked them would they have not been embarrassed by their behavior if it had been some random girl that they would never see again? They had to admit that they probably never would have given it another thought had that been the case. They were properly repentant and I think they skipped youth group for a couple weeks just to avoid her. When she told me about it, though, I remember just shaking my head and saying something like, “Dumb boys.”

While fifteen and sixteen year old boys are one thing, sometimes it’s adults too. She has been whistled at plenty by grown men. Gross. (And for the ones of you that are about to ask “What in the world is she wearing??” First of all, one’s clothing has no bearing on the fact that no one deserves to be harassed – and second of all, she is usually wearing a band t shirt, jeans and black Converse high tops. Nothing provocative in any way, and nothing that tries to make her look older than she is.)

One day very recently we stopped at a gas station and she was going to run in and get a drink. We were coming from church and she had on a dress. Going in she passed a man coming out. As they approached one another along the sidewalk, I could see him looking her up and down. She passed him and he turned around to ogle her. This man was sixty if he was a day. I rolled down my car window and said, “Excuse me but did you lose something? Is there a problem?” He put his head down and scurried away. Now I’m sorry, but she might look a little older than her fifteen years, but you can’t tell me a GROWN man doesn’t know when he is looking at a CHILD.

Again, are these things that are just bound to happen? Is it acceptable? Is it okay?

She came home from school the other day with a story. She told me that one of her friends had been making inappropriate comments to her. Since he was a friend, she didn’t want to make a big deal out of it because he didn’t mean anything by it, but it was making her uncomfortable and she had asked him to stop but he didn’t. Now she had not told me or her school counselor that this was going on, because she didn’t want to make an issue out of nothing and get him in trouble.

However, he made a comment at lunch and she was vastly uncomfortable and didn’t know what to do about it. The boy walked away, but one of her other friends who had seen this happen, and knew that she had told the boy to stop, grabbed her by the hand, yanked her up and told her to “Come on.” She asked him where they were going and he said, “We are going to talk about this with someone.” He took her to his advisor and proceeded to rant about boys having zero respect for girls and how this boy had been harassing her and she’d asked him to stop. Her friend declared he was shocked, appalled, disenchanted with humanity, embarrassed by his gender, and fed up. He was so upset he didn’t even let A speak for herself. When she started to giggle at his zeal (just because she was embarrassed) he hotly inquired as to whether she thought it was funny. She assured him that the situation was definitely not funny, and yes, she had been made to feel uncomfortable and she wanted it to stop.

The teacher was upset and promised to take care of the situation, which he did.

A’s friend got me thinking though. No form of harassment is okay. As a teenage boy he saw the problem in something that I, as an adult woman, had been ignoring.

No one has the right to make you feel uncomfortable in your own body. No one has the right to make unwanted sexual comments or advances of any kind. And when it happens, it is our right to stand up for ourselves and demand that it stop. We have the right to demand to be treated with respect.

It’s not too much to ask, and it certainly isn’t too much to expect.

I don’t want my daughter to think these things are “normal” and something that she just has to put up with because she’s female. Enough is enough.

I’m glad she has a friend who was willing to not only stand up for her, but to go against the grain of “normal teen boy” to declare the actions of his classmate unacceptable. His mother should be very proud of the young man she is raising. His actions speak volumes to me. I hope they speak volumes to his peers also.

Respect. Dignity. Morality. These aren’t things we should just wish for and be surprised when we see them. We should demand them.

My Child the Rebel

My daughter is a rebel. And I am so very grateful that she is.

Just for the record, I did NOT say rebellious. I said rebel. And there is a difference.

I’m a rule follower. There, I said it. I believe rules are in place for a reason and I have no problem following them. Maybe I like guidelines. Maybe I just don’t like to make waves. When others question a rule, I run through in my head all the scenarios that must have taken place for the rule to have been made. I figure there is a good reason for it. I believe if we wish to change rules then there is a proper way to bring about change.

I’m a stay on the sidewalk kind of gal, what can I say? (Did you just call me boring? I heard that!)

So A came home today with a gift for me. She’d made it during art club. It’s the cutest little soap dish you ever did see. 😉 She loves to draw and she loves to paint, but she doesn’t work with much else. I think it turned out quite nicely.

But here’s the thing; the dish is in the shape of a leaf, but the artist told them to not try to make cut outs on the edges because she didn’t think they would be able to do so in the limited time she had to teach them.

So you guessed it – Instead of leaving the sides of her leaf smooth, A cut it out.

She was really proud of her work, and hey, it was waaay better than anything I’d ever done. There is STILL a family joke about a cat I made out of clay in second grade. Well, it was supposed to be a cat, but if it was that thing needed an exorcism. My mom still has it and it’s probably why she’s plagued with nightmares.

This simple little leaf got me to thinking though. My daughter, while she respects authority and is always polite and well mannered, she is not a rule follower.

She sees them as personal challenges I believe. Okay, I’m not talking about life or death rules here. But still.

I would never have done the opposite of what the visiting artist said to do. It wasn’t something of utmost importance, she just didn’t feel they would be able to do it. My daughter had to defy that logic and show that she could.

When I questioned her about it she said, “You know, I never learn things from the beginning like other people do. I start in the middle and work outwards. I make a lot of mistakes that way but I learn on my own terms. I learn my way. I set a bar for myself and I can’t go under it. I have to go above it.”

It’s true. When she was a very little girl and wanted to learn to draw so badly, I went and got all kinds of books on learning to draw. She flipped through them, looked at the pictures and set about trying to copy the finished product instead of going through the steps. I would try to tell her, “Look, go back, try to do it this way.” She would get so irritated at me. She would get irritated at herself too, for not being able to produce a perfect drawing, but she just could NOT learn to do it the “regular” way.

That could have something to do with the ADHD too. I think a lot of us can’t learn things the way we are “supposed to.”


Hey, the kid can draw now, so it doesn’t really matter does it?

I thought about all the times in my life I’ve had questions. I never asked them. I thought about all the times I wanted to do the opposite of what I was told to do. I didn’t. I thought about the conversations I wished I’d had, the rules I wish I’d challenged, the arguments even, that I wish I’d fought.

A does not shy away from questioning. She respects authority, but if she wants to know the why of something she asks. Sometimes she isn’t given an answer, but she is never afraid to speak up or out. I admire that. I’ve always told her that as long as she is respectful, the world wasn’t made by the people like me who just stand quietly on the sidewalk. (I know this has changed a lot as I’ve gotten older, I still don’t like confrontation, but I’m a lot less afraid now than I was back then.)

She fights for causes she believes in. She brings discussion into her classrooms. She doesn’t follow wherever the masses are going. I didn’t follow the masses when I was a teen, but I pretty much sat on the sidelines.

A will never sit quietly on the sidelines. She has too much to do, too much to say, and too much that she wants to know. And she is waaay too loud for that anyway.

I’m proud of her for the fearlessness she shows in so many areas. She is such a contradiction. I had someone tell me the other day that she just amazed them, that she was so confident in herself and so comfortable with who she was and how she accepted herself. I thanked them, but I almost sucked my drink up my nose.

A? Confident? A is high functioning. She is far from confident. She has zero self esteem and she thinks she is bad at everything. So how can this kid be fearless? I often don’t understand it myself. But she shows up. Every day. She puts herself out there. Every damned day. She figures she has nothing to lose. I guess she’s right.

I’m lucky that she has the chance to attend a school where her teachers appreciate her personality. They push her to be herself and to actively participate. They welcome her discussions and her questions. They even welcome the sarcastic sparring matches. (most of them do anyway)

For all the times I’ve shaken my head and muttered, “Can’t you just for once follow the rules without questioning?” I’m glad she didn’t. For all the times I told her what I wanted her to do, told her what my advice was, knowing full well she was going to do her own thing anyway, I’m glad she does.

I’d rather raise an independent thinker who can chase her life’s goals than someone afraid to speak up for herself.

Her school is starting a debate team next year. Heaven help them.




Let’s Talk About Crazy.

I want to take a minute to say a few words about a word that I have come to despise.


Oh sure, we use it all the time:  My little sister drives me crazy. I swear, I think my boss must be crazy! If the kids don’t stop arguing I’m going to go crazy! What’s wrong with you? Are you crazy?
You get the idea.

Truth is, I never gave it much thought. It’s just one of those words – a catch all kind of word.

And then one day something happened that changed everything. My beautiful girl was having an incredibly hard time with the depression. She’d passed the point of crying and moved into the point of nothingness. The place where nothing seems to matter. It’s a place where at one time she would have resorted to self harming just to feel something – to convince herself that she still could.

The PTSD symptoms were strong and she felt like she was beyond hope or help. She looked at me with eyes that had given up and she said, “Mom, just face it. I’m crazy. I know it. Everyone knows it. You need to admit it.”

She was scared. She did, after all, hear voices in her head. She did, after all, harm herself. She did, after all, live in that dark void where feeling melted away and was replaced with emptiness. She did, after all, think that she would be better off dead.

She feared that if she were honest about all her symptoms and all the things that were going on inside of her head that she would be deemed “crazy.” She was sure of it.

She was terrified the doctor would have her locked up, away from me, key thrown away because there was nothing that could be done to “fix” her. She had decided that others who had often told her, among other harmful things, that there was something “wrong” with her, that she was mental, she was crazy, she was schizophrenic, she was insane – that they were right.

First, I assured her that sharing her symptoms would never cause her to be taken away and put in a hospital for life. She would never be rid of me, and I most definitely was not giving up on her, or abandoning her.

Then I explained to her that there are all kinds of mental illnesses in the world. She already knew this. She is a smart girl. But why is it so hard to know things, yet believe, when it comes to yourself, something different?

Depression is a mental illness. Would she EVER tell someone who had depression that they were crazy? Of course not. Anxiety, ADHD, PTSD, Self Harm, Panic Disorder – all mental or mood disorders.
A person might have a diagnosis of a mental illness, maybe even more than one – but that wasn’t crazy. Why? Because there was no such thing! There is such a thing as having an illness but not such a thing as just being given the catch all diagnosis of crazy.

This has become a dirty word in my book. A word that carries such negative connotations. Think about movies you have seen where insane asylums are used to invoke fear in the movie watcher. We see someone with behaviors we don’t understand and we whisper about them behind their back; that they’re crazy.

What does that even mean? What are we saying about them? We aren’t using the term in any productive fashion.

Crazy. The word perpetuates stigma. It separates those with mental illnesses from the rest of society. It singles people out. It creates the thought that these people are less, that they are somehow broken beyond repair, and that the world has given up on them.

I for one, refuse to be a part of that.
Maybe I’m being hypersensitive about the subject. That’s possible.

But I hate to see a girl with so much to give to the world, with so much potential, with so many hopes and dreams, assuming that she can’t reach her dreams because she is less. Because she isn’t normal. Having depression doesn’t make her crazy. Being suicidal doesn’t make her crazy. Living with PTSD doesn’t make her crazy.

Because Crazy doesn’t exist. Crazy is a label. I don’t like labels.

Labels are words like “Crazy” “Dumb” “Lazy” “Worthless” “Weird” “Freak”
They are vastly different from words that give a diagnosis like “ADHD” “Depression” “Anxiety” “Bipolar Disorder” “Schizophrenia”
Labels are about hate and being misunderstood. Diagnoses are about understanding, treating, and helping.

Let’s all be helpers.

Two A.M. Post Christmas Ramblings

So, it’s two in the morning as I start to write this. Christmas Day is a memory now along with Christmas Eve.

All in all, we can mark this holiday as a success, and that’s a pretty good feeling to have right now. I was just a little worried about how it all would go.

We celebrate Christmas Eve with my family. With just my mother, my siblings, their children and their children, there were about thirty of us present. Cram that many people into the small room where my mom puts up her Christmas tree, and you can very well have a recipe for disaster for my teen with ADHD and PTSD. The noise and overflow of people could have a definite negative impact causing an episode of epic proportions to occur.

I talked to A beforehand, told her that if she started to get overwhelmed to go take a break. Walk outside, get out of the noise and the crowd.

She said she would, but I wasn’t so sure how quickly she could become overwhelmed, or how fast an episode could catch her unaware. She spent the entire day before we went to my mom’s fretting over what would happen if she had a bad episode in front of people. I was afraid the increased anxiety over the “what if” would cause it to happen. So I watched her like some creepy stalker, looking for tell tale signs that she was in distress.

I have to say she handled the evening probably better than I did. The noise level was extremely overwhelming.

She hung in there to the end though, and as I stayed behind to tidy up my mom’s kitchen as the last person finally left, A is standing there when she drops to the floor, curls herself into a ball and declares that she is glad it’s all over. She said it was awesome to see cousins she hadn’t seen in a long time and she was happy she got to play with the younger ones and catch up with the older ones, but she was at the end of her tolerance level for the night. She made it through though, she could be proud of that.

I knew Christmas Day would run the risk of being heavy with episodes, and although my sister kindly asked us to Christmas dinner at her home, I declined, thinking A would be better off staying home and quiet today.

It’s a decision that I believe paid off.

We got up this morning and opened gifts, then A- took a nap. When she got up we curled on the couch and started watching Christmas movies. You know, those cheesy, awful, wonderful movies about holiday romances, scrooges, non believers, and the joy of the season. It was her idea to spend the day watching them and watch we did. I think we got through six before she called it quits to go to bed at one this morning. Or was it seven? I lost count.

I do know that sitting quietly, even while we rotted our brain with television, ate Christmas cookies and homemade cheeseburger soup, was one of the best Christmases we have ever spent. There were no episodes today, and while I know things are never quiet inside my child’s head, she was content.

Tomorrow we will do more of the same. We will spend a quiet day at home watching more movies if she wants, reading, or drawing. I am hoping that two days of quiet and rest following the overstimulating party that was Christmas Eve will be enough to help her transition.

She has a week off from school before going back, and I do hope she can enjoy her break.

She wouldn’t tell me anything she wanted for Christmas this year but I think I did pretty well in choosing some things she would like. I was happy to see her enjoying herself as she unwrapped her gifts. I think I get more excited than she does.

And what did she do?

She went with me last week when I got my hair cut. She was talking to our stylist about how I never took time for myself. I was sitting in the chair listening to my daughter telling me that I needed to do nice things for myself sometimes, and how I needed to take time to do things that made me feel nice, and I wondered where in the world I was going to find time for those things. I spend my time caring for her, and while I know the importance of self care, sometimes the reality is different than the fantasy.

So this morning my daughter had some gifts for me. There were a few different types of face masks, some lovely, absolutely amazing scented nourishing soaps, lotions, lip balm, a beautiful new journal in purple along with a pen, and a bottle of my favorite perfume that I haven’t had in years because I certainly would never buy it for myself. She also bought me a gorgeous glass Turkish decorative bowl that I had admired in a store while we were doing some Christmas shopping. When I tried to complain telling her I didn’t want her spending money on me, she just shook her head at me. She did tell me that well, when she bought the bath and body items her aunt helped her, and when she called her grandmother to ask her to take her to the store to get the perfume there was “no way” her Grandmother was going to let her pay for that by herself, but the bowl? Well, it was on CLEARANCE, so I couldn’t be mad about her spending her money on THAT, now could I? I know, I know, she wanted to do those things and I know how blessed I am, but my Mom guilt has no bounds, she should save her money for other things. Still, it made her happy, so it made me happy too.

Point taken kiddo. I will do my best.

So as we wrap up another Christmas and move into a new year, I’m grateful at how well the holiday went. I’m looking forward to spending another quiet day at home with my girl before I go back to work on Wednesday, as well as back to work on a couple articles I have due.

Sometimes, the holidays can be magical after all.

It’s now the day after Christmas and I let A- sleep in pretty late. When she got up she wanted to put in another Christmas movie, so that we did. She’s having a bit harder time today but I kind of expected she might.

Things have been a bit louder in her head and she is having a harder time coping. A nightmare right before she woke up this morning and some flashbacks have dampened her spirits. There has been no major episode and hopefully there won’t be, but we handle them as they come.

She went in her room to listen to music, and says she wants to watch another movie in a bit.

Even with the hard times, it has been a beautiful holiday and I am so very grateful for all that I have. Above all, I am grateful that A- chooses not to give up, that she chooses to fight for her happiness every single day. That’s no easy task.

I look forward to the coming year. I look forward to another chance to do things better than the year before, to learn from my mistakes and live with gratefulness.

Merry Christmas. Happy New Year.




Holidays and ADHD

The holiday season is upon us once again, no matter if we’re ready or not. In our family we celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas, and A and I usually do something nice and quiet at home on New Year’s Eve. But oh, the sheer chaos of the month can be a bit overwhelming.

Thanksgiving was relatively easy this year. We gathered at my mom’s instead of my house and I was only responsible for about four dishes. I enjoyed the day with my family, but my anxiety can hit a high level, even among people I love. What’s up with that? I call it holiday overwhelm.

I find myself, after the fact, looking back on the day and wondering, “Why did I say that?” “I hope they didn’t think I meant…” “I was so loud!” I have all these swirling thoughts and I try to remind myself that I’m talking about my family here, they love me quirks and all…right??

And after Thanksgiving it’s all just a mad whirlwind. Clean the house to put up the tree. Shopping. A has finals coming up so it’s study study study. More shopping, trying to figure out just what A would even REALLY want for Christmas. Holiday Baking. Christmas programs. This is added to our already full schedule with school, homework, doctor’s appointments, counseling appointments, getting A to the gym, working, and if I’m lucky finding a bit of writing time.

Now, the thing is, I love the holidays. I love the sparkly lights, the decorations, and the baking. I enjoy it. I also try to slow down the month as much as I can and really enjoy the season and taking time to be grateful and think about my blessings. It’s just very hard to slow it all down. Is it even possible to do so??

With my ADHD it’s difficult for me to prioritize. I am keenly aware of that during this time of year. With extra things to do on top of our normal schedule, sometimes it’s really hard for me to keep up with it and not get terribly overwhelmed.

I hope to make A’s holiday special though, so I can’t afford to go into shut down mode. She loves the holidays and I want her to have good memories. I don’t want to add to her stress by letting her know I’m stressed.

Funny thing is, if holidays just add stress, I could choose to skip the baking, the decorating and all that jazz…but I LIKE it. I can’t skip it! I am my own walking contradiction.

I don’t think I’d have holiday stress if I didn’t have ADHD. My “problem” comes from my lack of organization for being able to prioritize tasks as they need to be completed. I wait for the last minute to do anything and then I’m rushing around like a mad woman. I get angry at myself for procrastinating and well…you know the rest.

Is there a solution to all of this? I use lists. I use a whiteboard in the kitchen. I use a calendar. I use alarms and reminders on my phone. Even those things don’t always take away the procrastination though, so there I am, still rushing around when I don’t have to be. Oh well.

It’s important to me to do all the holiday fun things for A. She battles the PTSD and Depression so damned hard that I like to do things that I know give her joy. I like to see the smile on her face as she watches the Christmas lights twinkle and I like to share laughs as we bake cookies together. I also enjoy watching her open gifts on Christmas morning and see her excitement as she unwraps the treasures I found for her.

Little things, I suppose, but I like to think that these things become part of the good memories that she will carry with her. I don’t want her to remember only the dark parts of her childhood.

We’ve already been watching cheesy Christmas movies. Another thing we like to do. With her depression high at the moment, she likes to cuddle up on the couch in the evenings and watch something together. And everything I have to do? It can wait. And I will try my best to not get overwhelmed when things aren’t very clean, or I have too much left on my to-do list. At the end of the day the things that matter most aren’t on that list. My daughter. She’s what matters. Her health. Our memories. Being there when she needs me. That’s what’s important.

So when the holidays come and my ADHD has me feeling like I’m spinning in circles going nowhere fast, I try to remember why I do the things I do. I try to remember what’s truly important.

Does it matter if I didn’t dust the cat hair from the windowsill before I put lights in the window? Not really. Do I have to clean the baseboards before I put up the tree? Nah. Will anyone know if I take the stuff off the dining room table and just shove it all into a cabinet because I’m not sure what to do with it in the first place? Probably not. Unless it was something that belonged to them, of course. Will anyone know that I chose to make the “easiest” cookies I could instead of making beautiful frosted creations like you see on the cover of a magazine? Nope. Does it matter to anyone else if I let the dishes sit overnight because I chose to sit down and watch a dumb Christmas movie with my daughter and then she needed me to stay in her room so she could sleep? I doubt it. They will be there for me to finish in the morning after I take her to school. Will my daughter remember that I didn’t have a lot to spend on Christmas gifts? No, because she will remember that I looked for things I knew she would truly love.

And when Christmas Eve comes and I am gathered with my family, I hope they do not remember that I talked too loudly, or too fast. I hope they do not remember that I sometimes zone out, that I am a bit twitchy and I’m scattered and chaotic. I hope they remember that I love them, and that I am grateful for the opportunity to share another holiday, a meal, and some laughs.

Learning to let go of my Special Needs Child. (Just a Little)

I lied when I said I was okay.

I sit here outside the bookstore watching the sunset and I realize that at this very moment you are sitting on a bench somewhere by the water watching the same colors roll down the sky.

But it isn’t the same for you.

You are at the cusp of a new relationship. He probably has his arm around you right now. Maybe you are talking and laughing quietly, but maybe you are silent, watching the sky, your heart beating just a bit faster as you wonder what will happen next.

And I am not ready for this. I’m not ready to share you with this new boy in your life.

You have been through so much and we’ve managed it all together – we’ve barely begun to live a life free from the demons that haunted you for so long. I’m used to being the arm wrapped around you. I’m used to being your confidante and your place to run. I’m used to being the one that chases the bad dreams away, who kisses your tears and holds your hand. I’m not used to sharing your smile or your infectious laughter.

But I told you to go. I told you that you could go on this date. A date with a boy that packed you a picnic; a picnic at the beach to watch the sunset.

The orange sky is mocking me. It knows I lied. It knows I’m not ready. It knows that while you experience the first excitement of a budding relationship that I’m holding back the tears.

This means you are growing up. This means that soon you won’t depend on me as much, you won’t need me as much. You’ll need me. Sure. But things are changing. we will always be close but you are just one more step closer to womanhood. One more step away from me. It’s selfish, I’m aware, but I fear for you.

Will he understand your ADHD? Will he understand your Anxiety and Depression? Will he look beyond the self inflicted scars and see how amazing you are? Will he respect you and will he hold you when you are afraid? Will he chase away the ghosts that rear their ugly heads sometimes? Do you even want him to?

Will you remember all I have taught you? Will you remember that you are priceless and worthy of respect not just from others but from yourself?

I am no longer the first person you tell your secrets to. You have girlfriends now that you share things with. And there’s him. Oh, I know you are just starting to get to know one another, but he won’t be the last. This is just the beginning. For you. While I feel as if something precious is ending.

Is it because of all that we’ve been through that I feel this way, or do all mothers feel this same sadness and disquiet when their daughters reach a certain age? It’s been just the two of us for so very long. I’m not really sure what to do with myself, honestly.

I know we have much ahead of us and many memories left to make, but tonight I am forced to admit the reality that you are a sophomore. In less than three years you will be college bound. You have a life ahead of you that will not always include me. You will not always need me the way you have needed me up until now.

Do you guess how difficult this really is?

I don’t begrudge you this time or your friends or the life you are finally starting to live. I’ve pushed and pulled to get you to this point for this very thing. So that you may live. The rest is going to be up to you now.

No, you aren’t grown and you will still need my guidance, but let’s face it. As far as your values or the kind of person you are; it’s all set. My sphere of influence is waning – I’ve tried to teach you all I can. It’s going to be up to you to make wise choices.

I will no longer be with you every moment of every day and the hardest thing I will ever do is to entrust you to strangers – to smile and wave as you go off with friends, or dates, hoping that you will stay true to yourself and hoping they are worthy of you.

The sky is growing dark and you will be home soon. I will feel better then, but this is only the first of many nights where I will sit just waiting for you.

I love seeing you happy. I love seeing you enjoy friends. I love that you have confidence and want to do things when not too long ago you had to be forced to even leave the house. Not long ago you had no one to socialize with – no one to understand you or to dare to look past the face of mental illness and see who you really were. They had no idea what a truly amazing individual you were – but they do now. They know it because you no longer try to hide your light.

Friends abound and dates will too, I suppose. And I will be here through it all. I will always be here. I will do my best to smile when you come home. I will do my best to get used to the idea that this is a typical teenager’s life. A life you deserve.

Forgive me if I struggle. You’ve had too much pain already. You have had too much torment and grief. I never wish for you to return to the terrified, sad girl you have been. I will do my best to protect you from all I can. But I also have to let you go.

And trust your wings.

A Beautiful, Iridescent Stranger


Forgive me for a moment because you are about to enter into a strange world of spiritualism, “new age hoo- doo” (as a few people have said to me – people who got annoyed with me when I tried to give them the definition of hoo-doo), auras, vibes, and premonitions.

This is also a very long story. I’ll understand if you don’t hang in til the end. Just don’t ask me to hurry it along. Because I cannot.

I believe in things that can’t always be explained. I believe there are those who are extremely in tune with the vibes of the universe and can see, hear, and feel things that others do not. While I myself have good intuition and feel strong “vibes,” A- has always been tuned in to something that defies logic and reason.

She senses things about strangers. She feels thing in objects others have touched. She can tell you about people she has never met by walking into the home they lived in. She can see people’s auras.

Maybe you don’t believe in such gibberish, and that’s okay. I never knew anyone on a personal level who had these gifts until I met her. I never discounted it, I just didn’t have any friends who owned up to having these talents. She doesn’t talk about it with many people. She feels embarrassed by it. She feels they wouldn’t understand, or would call her crazy. She’s a highly sensitive being, an old soul, and a tormented one.

I’ve made no secret here of A’s mental health struggles. Depression. Self Harm. Suicidal ideation. Anxiety. ADHD. She’s come so very far, but it has been such an uphill battle. She has worked so hard to claim the life she wants to lead. Yet underneath, there is always the fear. The scared little girl that just longs to be free but doesn’t quite know how to be. 

Things have been going pretty well lately. She’d gone a month and a half with no self harm, then had a setback. I knew she was ashamed of it, even though I tried to tell her there was no need to be. Healing takes time. She had to be kind to herself. It’s been about that long again, and I’ve tried not to get antsy, hoping she can beat her current record. It’s not a game, it really isn’t, but sometimes unfortunately you do find yourself counting those days “clean” with some sort of reverent hope that the number will just grow and grow without ever having a set back again. We hope. We pray. We try to help fight some demon we can’t even see. We love them through all the set backs and all the pain. We love them through the confusion and tears, the self loathing and the shame, the guilt and the desire. She’s battled her self harm. She’s battled her depression and anxiety, and she has battled her self loathing and the desire to just end it all to make it go away. I know how strong she is; I’ve just been waiting for the day that she knew it too.

Things have been better than they have ever been. She’s been involved and active in school. She’s made friends. She’s so much better that it’s frustrating when people see her and see “mental issues.” My child is not a mental issue. She is not something you can put in a box and define. She is a living, breathing person who has many facets to her personality. She is more than depression or self harm. She is a beautiful soul who is blessed and cursed with thinking too much, feeling too much, and seeing too much. She’s just a girl trying to heal from a jagged past, a girl haunted by memories and plagued with nightmares. A girl who wants desperately to be free. 

I’ve watched her on the brink. I see the longing inside of her for wellness. I see her grasping for it, then tentatively pulling her hand back, comforted by the familiar darkness. I wait – just wait for the day she will be ready to grasp at hope. I wait for the day she is confident and comfortable. The day she begins to love herself. I have watched it grow near. I’ve seen her battle with the old thoughts and the new that are crowding them out. It’s been an internal struggle for a while – holding onto the fear and loathing and yet seeking out love, light and acceptance.

Tonight I witnessed something I can only call a miracle.

I’m not saying “Pouf!” all is well and the problems and years of pain have dissipated into the night air, but I did witness something so strong it was almost tangible. Something that left me overwhelmed and filled with wonder.

Tonight I witnessed A- take a leap.

What follows will be a very bad telling of the events that transpired tonight. It will be a poor telling because no matter my fondness for words, I can’t find the right ones to express what I witnessed. I witnessed emotions. I witnessed… change.

A- and I went to a nearby shopping center to find her some clothes. She’s lost some weight and was feeling pretty good about herself and with spring coming and all, she decided it would be nice to add something to her wardrobe that wasn’t a band t-shirt. Don’t get me wrong, my Emo, Metalhead, Punk Rock chick will never give up her band t-shirts and black Converse, but like I said, facets. She’s ready to admit she has more than one side, and is ready to embrace the idea that sometimes, just maybe she isn’t in the mood for a band T and just might be in the mood for oh, flowers? Okay, let’s not go crazy…

So we were ambling along talking and I’ll admit I wasn’t really paying attention when she grabbed my arm and said, “We have to go in here!” pulling me almost violently into a store. At first glance, I wasn’t sure what kind of store it was, there was an odd assortment of many things. Once I was inside I saw it was one of those places with items from around the world. Handmade jewelry, rocks and crystals, purses and handbags, colorful hassocks, and all sorts of delightful treasures that beg a slow stroll. I usually don’t buy much from these types of shops, to be honest. I like to look at some of the items, but would rarely buy anything. A- is drawn to the eclectic. She loves curious and unique things.

When we walked in we were greeted by a lovely saleswoman. Friendly and warm, she welcomed us to the store. I saw A- falter when she looked at her, but I couldn’t read her expression. I knew it couldn’t be bad, because if she had read something ugly or twisted in the woman, she immediately would have had to leave the store. But the thing was, for a few moments, she and the woman just stood there. Both of them just looking at one another. The air felt strange.  In a moment A- seemed to shake off whatever it was that had her transfixed, and she went about happily exploring the store. The saleswoman turned her attention to three gentlemen who were interested in information about a Native American headdress that was in the window, and A- and I were left to our own devices to wander around.

We looked around, walking and talking and let’s skip to A- and the sales woman having a conversation about wolves. A- says they are her spirit animal. There was one wolf item in the shop, a garish turquois wallet with a wolf emblazoned on the front. It was in a glass case with other items, and while A- and the woman both said they didn’t like the wallet, she opened the case so they could have a better look. They smiled and wrinkled their noses in distaste. Then she showed A- the other treasures in the case; spy glasses, evil eye ornaments, and little notebooks from Nepal.

Yes, I know this is a long story. I told you it would be.

Here is where something extremely curious happened. There was a symbol on one of the little notebooks. The lady asked A- if she knew what it was. She did not. She told her it was OM. She asked if she knew what it meant, and surprisingly, A- told her she did not. Now, I didn’t ask her, but I’m not sure if A- really didn’t know what OM was, or if she just said she didn’t because she didn’t want to look like a know it all. Just seemed like something A- would know to me – but anyway THAT is not important.

She told A- that the store had had a wonderful cut out OM wall hanging that she had wanted to purchase for herself, but she showed it to a woman and the woman had loved it and snapped it up. She said she was a bit disappointed, but knew it was for the best. The woman was meant to have it. Then she smiled and she asked A- “Would you like to see something else I have hidden away?” She went to a drawer and pulled out a wooden cutout. She smiled and added, “Okay, I didn’t hide it. I found it in this drawer and I loved it and wanted it so I left it in there and put it on hold for myself. But I decided not to get it.” She held it up and said, “This is Masakra. It is the symbol for ‘I have changed.’  It’s about regeneration and how it comes from within.”

A- looked at me and our eyes locked and she whispered, “Change.”

I said, “You need that.” She nodded and reached out and gently touched the wall hanging the woman was holding and said, “I really do.” She looked at the lady and said, “I’ve changed a lot lately.” Her voice caught as she added, “So much.” And there, for some inexplicable reason, A-‘s eyes teared up. I put my arm around her and smiled. I told her I think we needed the sign. And something strange came into the air and my eyes teared up. I told A-, “You have changed a lot and I’m so very proud of you. Change does come from inside of yourself.” The saleslady looked at us, and the thing is, she didn’t look perplexed at all. She didn’t look at us like we had just lost our marbles, getting teary eyed in a store over a wall hanging. But it wasn’t the wall hanging at all. It was that A- identified with the symbol. She felt it. Then this woman said, “I believe things happen for a reason. I had put this aside for myself but decided not to buy it. It didn’t feel right. I’m a strong believer in feelings and letting the universe tell us what we need or don’t need. Something told me that wasn’t meant for me, that it was meant for someone else. You’re the only person I’ve shown it to. Something just told me to show it to you.” She smiled and held it out to A-. “I think I’ve been saving this for you.”

Now, you are thinking, she was just a saleslady trying to make a sale to two sentimental weirdos. Maybe she was, but I don’t think so. I honestly don’t think she really cared if we bought one single thing. I had a couple items we were getting already, so it’s not like we were leaving empty handed. Sure, the more they can sell the better, but I’ve been in that situation, thousands of times. This was not one of them.

A- just smiled a small smile and she told the woman, “The thing is, I have changed. Just this year I’ve changed so much and I want to continue to change.” The woman asked A- if she would share her story with her. She said, “You don’t have to, of course, but only if you want to, I’d love to hear a little of your story and in what way you’ve changed.”

A- looked at me and then looked straight into the woman’s face and said, “I was abused most of my life. I thought it was my fault and I hated myself. Just this year I’ve started to accept that it wasn’t my fault and I didn’t do anything wrong. I’ve hurt myself for years and just this year I’ve stopped hurting myself.” A tear slid down her cheek and she kind of gave an embarrassed smile and looked at the floor. The woman looked at her and then just reached out and put her arms around her and hugged her close and they cried. The woman told her, “I hear you keep saying, ‘just this year’ but I look at it like look at what you have achieved. Look at the amazing thing you’ve done by starting to let it go. So many people live their entire lives wrapped up in hurt and the anger and the pain but you’ve decided you don’t want to live that way. I don’t know you, but I am so proud of you. I am so proud of you for accepting the change that can be yours. You are going to do amazing things with your life. You’re already doing amazing things.” She let her go and held out her hand and introduced herself. They shook hands and the woman said, “Thank you for letting me be a part of this moment. You don’t know me, but you’ve touched me. You have the power and the gift to touch the hearts and minds of others. It’s inside of you. I can see it and I can feel it.”

We chatted a few more minutes with the woman and then we left the store. I know there was so much more said, but honestly, I was so overwhelmed by the tangible emotions in that store, and by the things A- said after we left, that I honestly cannot recall much of what transpired.

A- told me that she really did feel herself changing. She said it had been an amazing start to the year because she really felt she was able to let things go and love herself. She felt that she had so much to live for and so much to do.

I couldn’t help it. I asked her if she realized what she said in the store. I asked her if she realized that she said “I USED to hurt myself,” or “Just this year I stopped.” She began to cry again and she said, “I’m crying because I feel like it’s over. I feel like I can let it go. I feel like I CAN stop hurting myself. I feel like that part of my life is over and I can move on to look forward to other things.”

We cried more. We talked more. We talked about her budding self respect. We talked about her desires for the future. Then she asked me if I wanted to know what she felt when she entered the store. She said we were walking along and something yanked her into that store. She said it was a strong pull, a sudden push to get inside the door as quickly as she could. Then she said once inside, she saw the saleswoman and she told me, “When I looked at her and she looked at me, I had this sudden overwhelming feeling. We had an entire conversation without saying a word. I don’t know if she knew it, but I think she did. It was like our souls had things to say to each other that we just understood.” Then she said, “And mom, she didn’t have an aura. I was so amazed when I saw her that I couldn’t move or even speak. She shone. There was no aura, but she was outlined. There was an outline around her of brilliant irridescent light. I’ve seen white auras before, and this wasn’t like that. She just shined.”

And then she told me – “She pushed me, Mom. I’ve been standing on that cliff for a long time now, too scared to jump and turn the page, and right then, in that conversation we had when we didn’t talk out loud, she pushed me. Before the Masakra before any of it, something in her being forced me off the edge.” She started to cry. Again. She was grinning from ear to ear and she was crying. She put her face in her hands and she sobbed. “She somehow let me know that it was okay to turn the page and close the chapter on everything bad. I don’t know how. I don’t understand it, I just know it happened. I felt it. Mom, she  somehow told me everything I needed to hear. She saved me.” She shook her own head in disbelief. “I sometimes try to block out this part of me, this part that sees things or feels things. I try to block it out not just because people don’t always understand it, but because I don’t know how to control it. I don’t know how to control the emotions when I meet someone and I can get overwhelmed. I felt in that moment we looked at eachother that she knew. I felt that she was like me, but in total control of her mind. She sees but, she can control her reactions. I can’t always do that.”

I cried too. The night was surreal. We talked about the woman, we talked about the encounter, and we talked about the change. She talked about how things felt different tonight – how she felt about herself, how she felt about her life. She talked about accepting herself and being at peace with who she was, what her body looked like, her personality and her tastes. She talked about confidence and understanding. She talked about a life that did not include self harm.

How can a stranger push your child toward a truth you’ve been begging them to see for years?

I wish I could explain the whole evening better. I wish I could remember more specific bits of conversation between us and the woman in the store. I wish there was a way to recount the look on A-‘s face. But it was a look of peace. We stood in that store and A- said she “used” to hurt herself and I saw a look of peace on my child’s face that I’ve never seen before. I saw her features relax and for the first time, her eyes cleared. There was no pain in them, no hate, and no sorrow. Her eyes were pure and clear and her features held no trace of pain and guilt. It’s a moment I want to hold onto for eternity. It was a moment in which I felt complete bliss as I looked into her eyes and saw things in them; unmasked and unafraid.

That is what I truly cannot put into words. The look in her eyes. It is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.

I began this last night after the events and had to leave it. In the harsh light of day I expected to see it was all a dream, or hadn’t lasted. Although things are much more “normal” today, the light continues to shine in my daughter. She went to the beach with a friend and all I heard was laughter. She played in the freezing cold surf, she let go – and it was wonderful to see.

Just What I Needed

It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of feeling like you’ve accomplished nothing with your life.

For me, that is a constant thought – an unwelcome companion that goes everywhere with me. My shadow. Now it doesn’t matter WHY, it just matters that I feel like I’ve never done anything with myself.

I think many of us with ADHD know that feeling all too well.

We’ve jumped from one thing to another, or never found our niche, or get too bored, or too overwhelmed, or too..well, you name it, we’ve felt it. For me personally, it’s more of an “if I’d known then what I know now” kind of thing. Once upon a time I saw myself as a happy little stay at home mom. As my then husband pointed out – there was no NEED for me to finish my degree because I was going to stay home with our children. (Just a piece of advice – always ALWAYS finish that degree. Things don’t always go according to plan and you never know when you might have to unexpectedly enter the work force. Get some skills. Just saying.)

Oh, as the years went by I tried a few things. That’s where the ADHD kicked in. It was all hyperfocus and excitement for a new project for a while, then it just fizzled out and I was left feeling like a failure. Again.

Don’t get me wrong. Life isn’t about just a career.

I let myself feel inferior for all SORTS of reasons – not having a career to speak of was just one of those things.

So there I was, suddenly a single mom. Now what? I worked and decided to go back to school. I entered into a distance learning program which I thought would be great for me, and then…yep…you guessed it.


My then seven year old had a breakdown. Life as we had begun to know it was suddenly something I didn’t recognize. It wasn’t about jobs, or careers, or self fulfillment anymore. It was about getting through the day intact.

The next several years became about getting my daughter through the day. Nothing else much mattered. I worked at my job, the hours were great for our needs and if there was an emergency I could leave whenever I needed to.

Even though I knew better, sometimes I still compared myself with others.

Even though I knew I was doing what needed to be doing, sometimes I still let that doubt enter in. I would look at others and see people that looked so put together. People happily in careers they enjoyed. People that didn’t panic at the end of every month when there wasn’t enough money to go around. I was never envious of them, I just felt like I didn’t measure up.

So today my daughter was having not such a great day. It was a really rough one for her. This evening I went to church and I just felt helpless. I felt like I’d failed in some way. I wasn’t able to protect her when she needed it. I felt like a lot of what happened to her was my fault. Unproductive thoughts. My brain knows I could not control the actions of someone else. My brain knows I did what I could. My heart doesn’t always see it that way.

So during the sermon, the priest was talking about what we would put on our obituaries if we had to write them for God. What would we say we had done? What would we tell God that we had done with our lives that served Him? I sat there, in the back pew in the far corner and I started to cry. What have I done? What have I given back to this world that I could tell God about? What good had I accomplished?

Then the priest said something that changed everything.

He said God does not judge the way the world judges. In the world when you die they print your obituary and talk about the deeds you’ve done, the organizations you’ve belonged to, your career, and the volunteer work you did. In the world they look at the big things you’ve done, the accolades you’ve been given. God doesn’t look at it that way.

God does not care if you’ve done big things or if you’ve done small things.

He said maybe you’ve led a life where you had the opportunity to serve your community in big ways. He said, maybe though, the things you have done are not so noticeable to the outside world. He paused and when he continued, the words meant more to me than any I have ever heard.

Maybe what you have done with your life is to care for a child with special needs. Maybe you’ve given your life to this child to make theirs better. No one might know that but you and God. No one in the world may notice how important it was.

I sat there crying quietly because my child may not be “special needs” in the way other children are. I am blessed and thankful that my daughter has always had physical health. I cried for all the parents out there giving their all to a child with physical or emotional and mental needs. I cried for other parents hanging on by a thread feeling helpless as they watch their child suffer with mental illness. Depression. Self Harm. Suicidal thoughts.

And even though I know that being there for my child was the most important job I had, I felt like God was reminding me that while my life might feel out of control sometimes, and while I might feel like I don’t measure up – that I’m judging myself on the standards of the world around me, and on false importance. Raising my daughter – keeping her safe – was my most important job, and it was enough.

Maybe I haven’t done big things. Maybe I don’t have an important career. Maybe I’m scattered and forgetful, socially anxious and awkward – but I’m enough. What I have done is important and necessary. I kept her safe. I’ve been there for her so that she can one day reach her full potential.

As a mother I don’t regret one single thing I’ve done. I don’t need the approval of others and I’m not trying to sound self righteous like I’ve done better than anyone else. I don’t need sympathy and don’t mean that I’ve had it harder than anyone. I know that in comparison to some, I’ve had it easy. And I’ve made plenty of mistakes.

Sometimes we all need to be reminded though that sometimes we choose our path, and sometimes our path is chosen because it’s the one we are forced to take. We make decisions every day about what is important to us.

I’ve always chosen to care for my daughter’s emotional and mental health. I’ve lost friends, I’ve missed opportunities, and I often feel I’ve nothing to show for my life thus far.

But that isn’t so. I have a beautiful daughter that is still here with me. I have a beautiful daughter whose smile lights up my day. I have a daughter who is getting better every day. So I have everything.

Maybe my life doesn’t look like much from the outside. But I am reminded of what it looks like to me. And that’s all that matters.