The Greatest Blessing

One thing I always hoped was that if/when I had kids they would never have to suffer from mental illness the way I did/have. So when my daughter started exhibiting signs of anxiety when she was only eight my heart hurt so much. I knew what was possibly in store for her. People said she was lucky because she had me, and I could help, but I don’t know what it’s like to have anxiety as an eight-year-old. I don’t know what it’s like to help an eight-year-old who has anxiety. Luckily, it hasn’t been too debilitating for her. She has a lot of fear and I’ve seen her have full-blown panic attacks, but it doesn’t interfere with her every-day life as much as it could. At least not that I’ve seen. Of course, who knows what will happen in the future?

As a parent it’s always hard—probably the hardest thing in the world—to watch your child struggle. Almost a year ago, after a bunch of testing, I was told that my son (six at the time, now seven) was borderline on the autism spectrum. I had wondered, but there were certain traits he had that seemed to conflict with autism, so I simply hoped for the best. However, there are a lot of stereotypes out there about Autism Spectrum Disorder, just like there are about mental illness, and I’ve since learned that those traits of his do fall within the envelope of ASD. My son is incredibly smart, so I don’t worry about him academically, but socially he has so many problems. Whenever I ask him about who he plays with at recess he usually tells me that he plays alone. He doesn’t seem to notice or care—he’s used to going into his own world. But it breaks my heart. I’m sure kids look at him and see that he’s not “normal.” They make assumptions, not really knowing or understanding why he is the way he is. They make assumptions about who is and what he’ll do, not knowing that he really isn’t that way. Truth be told, he’s smart, energetic (maybe a little too much!) and so extremely loving. The other night, he slipped this note he wrote me under my bathroom door as I was getting ready for bed.

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I know some people don’t want to bring children into this crazy world of ours, but children are amazing and strong and resilient. And my children are the greatest blessing God has ever bestowed on me. All I can do is pray that I’ll be able to help them and love them in the way they need. All I can do is hope that they learn and grow and become more from their struggles the way I have with mine.

Stupid Anxiety

I have wanted to write, but I’ve been too busy. I have written, but then I don’t think it’s good enough. Then I emailed my boyfriend about this experience I had and thought it would make a good blog entry. It’s about anxiety.

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I work as a secretary at a high school and this morning a couple came in at 8:58 for a 9:00 meeting with the principal. He was still in another meeting and not in the office. So the couple sat down to wait. By 9:05 I was wondering if the secretary they had talked to when they came in was going to go get the principal. They did have a meeting at 9:00, and it was now five minutes after that. By 9:08 I was about ready to go get him myself because that’s too long to have to wait. 9:12 rolled around, and I couldn’t believe they hadn’t freaked out about the fact that the principal still hadn’t come down and no one seemed concerned in the least. I was about to freak out! My anxiety levels were going up and up, despite telling myself to keep calm and not think about it. Finally, at 9:14 the principal walked into the office, and finally, I was able to start calming down. Start—because it took awhile.

It sounds so stupid, doesn’t it? It didn’t even have anything to do with me! The couple sitting there seemed calm and patient, and even if they weren’t, I wasn’t involved in the situation, so why should I care? But time gives me so much anxiety. I hate being late. That doesn’t mean I never am, but I try as hard as I can not to be because I know that it will give me anxiety. And that’s what mental illness is. It doesn’t make sense. But it still is.

A Rant

This is going to be a selfish post. A rant. Because I have to get it out or I might explode.

Every year I tell myself I’m going to help my daughter make a creative Valentine’s Day box for school. And every year I put it off and put it off until it’s too late and end up buying some generic one from Target. It’s her last year in elementary so I actually got with the picture this year. I hadn’t heard anything about Valentine’s parties yet, but every year my daughter has been in elementary she’s made her own box and had a party so I assumed it would be that way again for her and my son who is in first grade. I thought about what they liked then looked up ideas. My daughter loves dragons and my son is really into Sonic. So I found pictures online of Valentine’s boxes of Toothless and Sonic then asked my artistic ex-husband if he’d be willing to make them with the kids if I provided the supplies. He said yes, so over the weekend he made them with the kids.

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So cute, right? And I was so proud of myself for actually doing it this time and in such a timely manner!

So yesterday, when I picked my kids up from school, my seven-year-old was in tears as he told me he’s not allowed to bring his box to school, that his teacher said if anyone brings a box they will have to keep it in their backpack because they are decorating sacks—sacks!—at school. I understand doing this for preschool, but everyone knows that once you get into elementary school you decorate your own box to bring to school—at least around here! I told my son I would email his teacher to see if there was any way he could bring it.

I sent the email this morning telling her how every year my daughter had been at that school (since kindergarten) she had brought her own decorated Valentine’s box to school, how my son had made the box with his dad, how excited he was about it, how disappointed he was when he found out he couldn’t bring it, then asked if he actually could bring it. The response I got back was that as a first grade (meaning the teachers) they decided on bags so it wouldn’t become a competition with the boxes. Cry me a freaking river! What first-grader even thinks of making it a competition?! I bet you all the money in the world that the majority of kids that age are only thinking of the excitement of dropping Valentine’s and goodies into their classmate’s boxes and then thinking of all the yummy treats they’ll be getting!

The whole situation frustrates me not just because my son is sad and disappointed that he can’t bring the special box he made (he’ll get over it, and hopefully it will teach him some resilience, which I’m all about) but because it’s the whole mindset of the world these days that everyone has to be the same or “equal.” What frustrates me beyond that is the hypocrisy of it at my kid’s school. It is an immersion school. The whole concept of immersion schools is inequality and the “uneven playing field” because not everyone who wants their kid in an immersion class gets it. Priority is given to those who already have kids in it and then it’s just luck of the draw—and if you’re unlucky, too bad! And students who aren’t in immersion aren’t given any other opportunity to “level the playing field.” It drives me crazy that they preach one thing, but don’t follow it.

Now, if it’s actually a matter of low income, that I understand. As someone who has lived at times wondering if I was going to have enough money to buy groceries that week and was only able to afford that generic box for my daughter because of the generosity of kind people who randomly brought us dinner one night or left a box of groceries on our doorstep, I get it! If that’s the case, why not send an email out to parents asking if they’d be willing to donate materials that those kids can take home? I’d be the first to jump in line to help with that!

It’s also ironic that in a couple of weeks the school is having a “kindness” week. Well, give people the opportunity to be kind! Let the students prove that they are kind rather than assuming they’re all going to be mean and make fun of each other’s Valentine’s boxes. I even asked my sixth grader if anyone ever made fun of her boxes and she said no. I asked her if she ever heard anyone making fun of anyone else’s box. She said no, that she only ever heard people compliment and say how cool someone’s box was.

And yet, they’ll stick to their guns. They’ll force the kids to use as little brain power as possible and force them to all be like each other rather than allowing them to use their own creativity and be proud of something they have made.

Okay, there’s my rant. Maybe I’ll feel a tiny bit better now. Maybe.

Just a Poem

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Maybe

Winter.
SAD.
Cold, wet, dark.
Siren song of depression
lulling me to sleep,
enticing me deeper into blackness.

I need to prop my eyes open
like Odysseus.

But maybe I don’t want to see
the endless ocean,
relying on nothing but hope
to get me home.
Maybe I want to close my eyes.

Let the dark overtake me.

-Tacy Stine

Kindness Really Does Matter

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Being kind has almost become cliché these days. There are t-shirts, billboards and posts throughout social media, so I wondered if I should post about it, but it really, truly is important. One of the things I love the most about my eleven-year-old daughter is how sweet and kind she is. That is what people always say about her, and I would rather have them saying that than that she’s competitive, smart, talented, etc. Those are good things, too, but I love that she is kind.

Several weeks ago a teacher friend brought up a parent who had said some pretty harsh, unkind things. Sometimes I think people expect professionals to be immune. But we’re all human, we all have emotions, and we’re all affected. It made me think of times I probably hadn’t been as considerate or kind as I should have been. It reminded me of my daughter, and I decided to make an effort to be more kind.

The next day I was at a mall/shopping center in downtown Salt Lake City, about 20 minutes from my house. As I came up the escalator from parking I saw this huge Christmas tree already set up (it wasn’t even Thanksgiving yet). A man was attempting to take a selfie with his daughter who looked about 4. I smiled and continued walking until I noticed his wife, with a toddler, go up to them. I had a thought that I should offer to get a picture of all four of them in front of the tree. I almost dismissed it. What if they thought I was weird? What if they didn’t want one? It’s not like I was walking right past them—it would mean curving around, out of my way. Then I decided to just do it. Even if they said, “No thanks,” at least I was attempting to do something nice.

When I asked them if they wanted me to get a picture of all of them they both looked so grateful as they told me, “Yes!” The mom got the toddler out of his stroller and they stood in front of the tree. I took an adorable picture of this cute family. When I handed the phone back the dad, again, looked so grateful and told me, “Thank you,” like he absolutely meant it. It made me so happy! Several minutes later I realized I was still smiling. It was such a simple thing to do something nice for someone, and I was the one who was happy, smiling and feeling great. That’s what kindness does. It makes others happy, and it makes you happy, too. I know it might sound cheesy or cliché, but I really do believe this world would be a better place if we all practiced a little more kindness.

I Miss Writing

I miss writing. I miss my books, my characters, the worlds I’ve created. We writers are a strange bunch, aren’t we?

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I’m the kind of writer who edits and revises as I go—over and over and over again. I know, I know, you’re not supposed to. I’ve heard fellow writers and published authors at writing conferences say not to go back over your work until you completely finish it. But I can’t. My OCD doesn’t allow it. I have to revise as I go along. Sometimes I get sick of my books, my characters, my worlds because of it, and I end up having to take a break. Now, I miss them because they have long been absent. I have long been absent. I have no time. My day starts at 4:00 in the morning and usually ends between 9-9:30 at night when I collapse into bed. I’m going all the time. I miss writing. I miss my creations. I miss having time.

I don’t mean to whine, I don’t mean to complain. I am blessed, so very, very blessed. I’m just overwhelmed and missing the thing that has been such a part of my life for such a long time. I had a panic attack last week, the first one I’d had in quite awhile. Even though I am blessed and doing better, mental illness is still a part of me, too.

Time

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I went for a walk this evening on a trail near my house. Even though I was still in the middle of the city, the beauty of the fields and trees, the colors of the setting sun, made me feel as if I were out in the wild, one with nature. It reminded me of how often I used to take walks like this, when I was young—how often I used to spend time out in nature. Making decisions was so much easier back then because there were far fewer decisions to make. And those decisions didn’t hold the weight that they do now.

It was such a beautiful night, cool, crisp, alive. A hawk perched at the top of a tree, surveying the same scene I was drinking in. I couldn’t tell what kind it was because it was too far away, without enough light, and I cursed myself for not bringing my camera with its zoom. I love the way cameras stop a moment in time. As I thought of that, it made me realize what a hard time I often have living in the present—when the past is dragging at my heels like the chains that Marley was forced to wear and with the future constantly looming before me, as hazy scenes, ever-changing, shifting and slithering, and always just out of reach. Sometimes it feels like every decision is do or die, and I die more often than I do, because I can’t shake the past, and I don’t know how I’m supposed to shape the future. So I wish I had a camera that could actually stop time, so I could stop moving, so I could know I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. But I don’t; I can’t. I keep moving and hope that I’m doing the right thing. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. And time never stops. It just keeps moving. I keep moving.