Posted in mindset

On health and suicide

Many people believe that suicide is wrong. (Fortunately, the grey area on that is growing…but that’s not the point of today’s post.)

Many religions profess that killing—oneself or others—is wrong.

So here’s my question: why does the timeline matter?

I don’t hear people speaking out against American health habits as a pro-life argument.

But if you consistently eat a lousy diet—or a good diet but way too much of it—you’re killing yourself.

If you don’t exercise at all—whether that’s exercise outright or just have active days—you’re killing yourself.

Smoking and excessive drinking are slow suicide.

Why is it socially (or religiously) acceptable to kill yourself slowly but not quickly?

Posted in know better do better, mindset, thoughtfulness

On buying…again

One last one (for now) on spending money and having stuff. (Budgets and smarter spending came before.)

It’s worth it to spend more money for good quality that will last longer, though it’s not always easy to tell what is better quality and what just costs more. And borrow or rent instead of buying things you’re not going to use often or more than once.

It’s worth it to spend extra now to save in the long run.

It’s worth it not to spend money on cheap crap with the intention of buying it, using it once, and throwing it away.

When we prioritize long-term use and savings over short-term considerations, the benefits are more than just saving money long-term.

We save time: the time it takes to shop for and buy a replacement. Depending on what is being replaced, we might save time on breaking down the old one (think: cheap furniture) and setting up the new.

We save the earth: we use less stuff (which means less resources used in their creation). We create less trash. “Less” also to all of the transportation required in all of the steps prior to and including acquisition and later, trash.

We save space: we don’t have a bunch of cheap (maybe broken) stuff lurking around the house.

We vote with our dollars: money is the loudest voice in capitalist America. When you buy more items that are good quality, you add your voice to the growing number of people saying “I want products that last.” The more of us there are, the more availability of these products grows.

Examples of these purchases might be:

  • reusable water bottles (instead of disposable)
  • reusable lunch boxes (instead of bags)
  • reusable shopping bags (little to no financial gain but significant gain on storage and environment)
  • reusable kitchenware (tablecloths, napkins, placemats, dishes, glasses, silverware, baking trays)
  • rechargeable batteries
  • good quality furniture
  • good quality sheets and towels
  • good quality clothes and shoes
  • rent tools
  • use the library for books and movies
  • buy second-hand (wood furniture, bikes, tools, books, clothes, certain sports equipment)

That’s just off the top of my head. There are endless others.



Posted in know better do better, mindset, thoughtfulness

On spending money better

While writing yesterday’s post, I started on a tangent about the process of accumulating stuff and decided to develop it into its own post.

Even as a person who is not big on shopping and has done multiple purges of stuff over the last bunch of years, I still have too much stuff. Some of it has been gifted to me (hooray!), and some of it is hand-me-downs (hooray!), but most of it I spent money on.

And now I’m getting rid of it. Surely, there are things I’d rather spend money on. Taking classes or lessons, taking trips, save it up to buy a good camera.

Seriously: if someone said, “Fill up this little dumpster with stuff from your house (yours only! none from The Climbing Daddy or The Kid) and if you can fill it, I’ll give you a high-quality camera with a couple of accessories that you’ll want to start learning to take good photos,” I’d fill it! (Hmmmm… depending on the size of the dumpster.) Which means that I’ve spent a bunch of money on stuff that I could have spent on something better.

Now … some of that stuff was useful when I bought it and just isn’t being used any more. But some of it isn’t.

In the given fantasy above, I’d finally get rid of clothes that really need to go and for whatever reason, I’m not getting rid of them. Because the external push would be strong enough. (I’ve purged many clothes—not sure why I’m stuck on some of the ones that are left.)

I’d bet—though I haven’t conferred with him—that The Climbing Daddy would take that exchange as well, though I’m not sure what would be an enticing enough trade for him to do it.

I’d bet that The Kid would, too. He couldn’t fill a dumpster—he doesn’t have that much stuff in total—but I bet he’d get rid of a lot of stuff for a LEGO kit expensive enough that he doesn’t get it even for his birthday. (He doesn’t have tons and tons of toys, but he rarely plays with anything except LEGO.)

I bet either of them would trade excess stuff for a trip, depending on where it was to.

All I’m saying is: if I didn’t spend $20 here and $35 there and $10 on the other, that adds up and I could buy one thing or experience that I’d rather have than that collection.

Jeeze, even mundane things would be better than some of the clutter. Windows. A mattress. Random scattered house renovation daydreams.

All that said … I still have a wish list. I got things for Christmas that I’m happy to have. We just ran out of Home Depot and Lowes gift cards from our wedding and I’m sad that we’ll have to spend money to make acquisitions there.

It’s not a matter of not wanting but of being mindful with acquisition, especially of the little stuff. Because there’s a lot of it. And it doesn’t cost a lot. And it piles up and takes space and time (to deal with in cleaning and organizing) and ultimately takes money away from places I’d rather it go.

My current plan (that is hit or miss with implementation) is one in, one out. So, for example, I bought a new skirt. One skirt or dress goes in the donation box.

We also have a box all the time that is the donation box, so any little thing that’s ready to be outgoing but not trash or sell can be tossed into the box. It helps things to go.

Posted in differences, know better do better, mindset, thoughtfulness

Budgets and teaching and capitalism

So … this is likely to ruffle some feathers, but that’s how things go sometimes. (I’m always amazed at things that ruffle feathers—this one, at least, won’t catch me off guard.)

There’s been a lot of media attention to teachers’ salaries, and it’s rightly deserved. We’re not appropriately paid for the work we do.

Lots of teachers have multiple jobs. Right now, I do some personal training on the side and teach preschool music once a week. I’ve taught lessons, done health and wellness coaching, sold lip balm, done copy editing, played gigs, and whatever other bric-a-brac comes up.

I do it because those are things I enjoy and I’m happy to have some extra spending money. (Well, and a little slice of that I was hoping to make my full-time gig.)

But here’s the thing: I can pay my bills and contribute to retirement on my salary and have some left over for fun. The only times in my career that this has not been true was when I have been working only half time. No leftovers at that point.

When I graduated from college, I had a decent little apartment, a car with a small monthly payment, some credit card debt, some student loan debt, and I could pay my bills and have a bit left over.

I no longer carry credit card debt, and, except for a bit in grad school, haven’t since I paid that off the first time.

With few exceptions (inspired by poor judgement, not poor budgeting), I’ve always lived in the type of neighborhood I would prefer to live in, in an apartment or house that was well-kept and affordable. The apartment over the karaoke bar next to the drug dealers is a notable exception.

I don’t owe anything on my car.

We just paid off my most recent student loan debt.

No matter this has all ebbed and flowed, I don’t need another job. I just budget what I have.

We eat healthy food. We cook most of it at home. I was able to feed my son and I for six months on food stamps without compromising the quality of our diet. I budgeted for food a little differently then, and there were a few meals with more expensive ingredients that we just didn’t eat, but healthy doesn’t have to be expensive, even when none of the food you eat has coupons.*

I am not much of a shopper, but I also don’t buy cheap plastic crap. Not for the kitchen. Not for The Kid. Not because “it’s so cute!”

I’m generally healthy, which is part luck and part work. I had good insurance when I went through chemo, which was all luck.

My car hasn’t been hit, so I’ve not dealt with those expenses. I recognize all of this and understand that people have expenses that I don’t deal with.

But how people define “needs” baffles me sometimes.

If you don’t have enough money to pay your regular bills, then maybe Christmas cards at half off still aren’t in your budget. Or new clothes, even if they’re on sale. Or a trip to visit people, even if you miss them a lot.**

Scale back the need list. Live more simply. Cook at home. From ingredients. Use all the food you buy. Stop the endless stream of incoming.

If you’re in limbo with your place to live, choose wisely. (Moving just to save money needs to be a fairly drastic move to actually save money, but it might be an option.)

Someone on a teacher thread was complaining that they were making $60K (in my metro area) and couldn’t make ends meet; that makes me crazy.

On a larger scale, if you have less crap, you can live in a smaller space. Smaller spaces are cheaper to buy or rent, they’re cheaper to heat and cool, they’re easier to maintain.

The amount we spent on our house (just over a year ago) is substantially less than the amount we qualified for. Our spending would look quite a bit different if we spent up to what the bank deemed was our means.

Our culture is one that very highly values buying stuff. Occasionally it values actually owning the stuff, but mostly, we’re just encouraged to buy.

If, in this situation (like so many others…) we can just be a bit mindful, we can slow down the influx of stuff, we can have more money for things that are important to us (which might at first be getting rid of debt, which is not at all fun but so very important), and we can have more time to do things that are important, because we won’t have to work as much to sustain our lifestyles, and because we won’t have to spend as much time taking care of all the stuff we have.

*I had the advantage at that time still to live in the neighborhood that I lived in—there are many grocery stores within a couple of miles—and to have a car, and to have a kitchen and things to cook with and electricity. These are all hurdles of chronically impoverished people, and I don’t feel that my situation and theirs are at all comparable.

**There is an exception to this, but I’ll write about it another day.

Posted in about me

100 posts!

Yesterday was a fun little milestone day.

Yesterday was my 100th post!

Yesterday was also the end of my third month of one post per day!

It’s been fun. Occasionally stressful. But it’s good to be writing on a regular basis, even if some posts are better than others.

Here were the most popular posts from January, in case you missed them:

Suffering in silence

Answering follow-up—3 (these posts need better titles—lesson learned)

A rant on teaching

And, as a reminder, this project is still going on: Community project for 2019 Send in a little something!

Posted in about me, mental health, thoughtfulness

About your friend who’s depressed

I have, at times, been a difficult person to love.

I struggle with depression and have been suicidal a handful of times over my decades.

I’ve done that dance enough times that I know that getting enough sleep, staying connected to people, eating well, and exercising every day in a way that raises my heart rate substantially (looking at you, running and bleachers) will prevent or reverse a downward spiral.

I also know that sometimes things just hit out of nowhere, or there are enough things that hit simultaneously that without warning, I’m in the pit.

When I’m depressed, I am unpleasant and frustrating to deal with. And I know it, but I also desperately need people. But people really don’t want to be around me (and truthfully, I don’t blame them). As people disengage, I become more frantically needy. It’s a horrible cycle that I’ve experienced more times than I care to recall.

I’m on the other side of that friendship right now. A friend’s wife left him without warning and he’s devastated, to say the least. He’s also unemployed, which adds a stressful layer of financial complication. He’s definitely depressed, having trouble functioning, having trouble seeing out of the hole he’s in. It’s totally understandable.

We were texting the other night, and he said, “Don’t get frustrated with me please. I am trying. Even when it seems like I’m not.”

I told him I’m totally frustrated, but it’s not a bad thing, because I understand where he is. It’s the kind of situation where getting out of bed and taking a shower is a major accomplishment—not in a joking meme sort of way, but a serious burn on energy and focus.

I get it.

I also get that if you’ve never experienced that, you might think they’re (we’re) exaggerating or “just wanting attention” (that phrase makes my skin crawl) or wanting other people to do their work for them.

Certainly there are people who exaggerate or are lazy, but in a depression situation, that’s not what’s going on.

Your friend needs you. Even if they’re ridiculously uncomfortable to talk with. Even if their reason and rationalizations are mind-boggling to you. Talk about other stuff if you need to. Tell them explicitly that you want to help them stay connected to people, but you need to talk about lighter and/or different things.

Create boundaries and stick to them, but be loving and assume positive intent. (If you say that you need to talk about lighter things and they continue not to, remind them—explicitly, not hinting—that this is what you need to be able to talk to them right now, and if they can’t respect the boundary, then cut off the conversation. If they need to talk about their stuff, they’ll need to talk to someone else right this moment.)

Depression is insidious. Be a good friend. Take care of yourself, but be a good friend.

Posted in differences, ebb & flow, meandering

Right now…

From my Facebook memories:

“Lots of sirens in the distance. I am snuggled in my bed. Every now and then, I am struck by just how different everyone’s experiences are right in this moment.”

I wrote something similar at some other point as well, while a few close friends were going through drastically different things simultaneously: one had a baby the same morning another closed on a house while another had a parent die while another was packing to move out of her house and marriage.

Sometimes I think with a long view about people’s life paths.

But in this case, I’m thinking just about this moment in time.

In the time that I’ve spent writing, people have died, people have been born, people have been taken to and released from prison. Kids have started and ended school. Job shifts have started, ended, and dragged on. People have been intimidated and liberated. Loves found and lost. Ignorance perpetuated and eradicated. All of these interactions have involved at least two people, sometimes many more. Ripples begin to move.

It’s amazing anything works at all.

Posted in differences, meandering, mental health, vulnerability

Hurt people hurt people

My biggest question is: how do we fix it?

People’s past experiences predict how they’ll treat people currently.

People who treat others badly have a history that leaves them with wounds that prevent them from behaving in pro-social ways.

All of these anti-social people (ASPs for ease in the rest of this post)—from sexual predators to KKK members to your verbally abusive aunt to the bully on the playground—have a history of trauma. Their experiences aren’t all the same, and, in some cases, their experiences administered to a different personality wouldn’t even be traumatic.

Doesn’t matter.

Given that bad behavior is a result of trauma, we should, as decent human beings, have sympathy or empathy for what has brought ASPs to this point.

But as adults, we’re responsible for taking care of our own baggage, so ASPs are responsible for working out whatever it is that makes them like that; they don’t just get a pass because bad things happened to them.

But as humans, if we’re so triggered by our pasts that we can’t give benefit of the doubt to people or we can’t be open to learning about other people’s experiences, then we’re certainly not in a place to own our own shit and subsequently work to clean it up. So ASPs aren’t in a place to be able to take ownership of their behaviors.

But also as humans, it’s our responsibility to stand up for people who can’t do it for themselves—which means standing up to ASPs on behalf of those who they’re trying to cut down.

This goes back and forth forever.

So how do we give enough love to ASPs for them to feel secure enough to look at themselves, realize they’re behaving badly, and get a damn therapist while not at the same time condoning or enabling their behavior?

I have no answers. But I’d love to have a conversation. What do you think?

Posted in about me, meandering

Our first track meet

The Kid is doing track. He’s with a team that, so far, seems very invested in doing right by kids. That’s important, especially in sports.

Saturday was our first track meet.

The email they sent gave us the location, what the athletes should wear (no uniforms until later in February), that we should arrive no later than 7 (8:00 start), they don’t know how long it will go or what time events are, and some attachments, including “Track Meet Advice.”

Advice included where to sit so we could all be together, emphasis on being there early and warming up, pay attention so you don’t miss your events, bring snacks and water.

So aside from the events he was running (100m, 200m, 400m), that’s all we knew for Saturday.

I had heard from someone (I don’t remember who at this point) that the little kids’ events would be early so they could run them and go home.

Whoever told me that was so very wrong.

We arrived at 7 with a back pack full of fruit and trail mix and, as instructed, sat in the home bleachers near the finish line; there weren’t many of us and it turned out we were all newbies. We learned a bit later that the finish line was actually on the away side; we moved.

The Kid joined his team and did warm-ups. We sat in the stands and watched the sun come up. Eventually, he joined us with his bib. At 7:55, they announced that the track was closed. It was close to 8:30 before the first event began.

As a note: the announcements were (presumably) from the box on the home side. The speakers on the home side were on. The speakers on the away side were off. The announcements were all at least partially inaudible.

Before the first event started, someone sitting in front of us got a list of events in order; we grabbed a photo. There were numbers penciled in next to each. We were hoping the numbers were how many kids from our team were in those events. Turns out, those numbers were heats.

They had scheduled 206 heats.

We watched the 3000m. Twice. Then the 800m 23 times. That was the only event while we were there that people did any significant cheering for.

The Kid ran his first race, the 100m, at 11:00. We had been there a full four hours before his first race. (He went with his team to get signed in and divided into heats and all that half an hour or so before.) He finished warm-ups with his team over three hours before his first race.

To pause the sequence of events here… The 8 and under 100m dash was one of the cutest things I’ve watched in a long time. It was apparent which kids have done track before and which ones are new. Lots of mugging for the stands. The first heat of girls was lined up, and apparently they all just kind of looked at each other and took off—no gun or anything—so they herded them back to the start and did it again. Most kids stayed in their lanes most of the time…

During the 100s, we realized we weren’t going to have enough food. We didn’t pack lunch; as per the email, we packed snacks. So after his race, The Kid and The Climbing Daddy went down to the concession stand.

They had one plate of fries left (and were apparently going to the store to buy more). They had no mac and cheese left. And they had no other vegetarian options. The Climbing Daddy convinced them to sell him two plain hamburger buns. We bought a box of Girl Scout cookies from a girl roaming the stands selling.

Near noon, he was called for his second race, the 400m. At 12:25, he ran.

Nearly an hour and a half later, when they were still running 400s, we realized that it was unlikely that his last event would be called before we had to leave for a birthday party. (We RSVPed for the party prior to signing up for track, and it was for one of his best friends.) We checked with the coaches and they confirmed that no, that wasn’t going to happen any time soon and that yes, he should go and enjoy the party, and good job in your first meet.

We left at 2:00, seven hours after arriving. They were on 400m for the 13-14 age group. Two age groups to go, then the rest of the events. I’d be surprised to learn that they were done before 5:00, though I saw quite a few young ones leaving before and when we did, so I’d guess there ended up being fewer than 58 heats of the 200m.

I don’t have an issue with being at a sporting event that my kid is participating in and not seeing my kid participate the whole time. He wouldn’t be active the whole game in any team sport.

I do have issue with the expectation of sitting in bleachers for 10 hours for less than three minutes of activity.

Honestly, unless he’s running an IronMan, I don’t think there should be an expectation of spending a full day for any event.

I don’t blame the coaches, but the way this is set up is disrespectful to people’s time and attention. It’s not good for kids—the majority of people were not watching the majority of races, and aside from the 800, only really close races got any cheers.


On the bottom of the schedule, it told us that ribbons would be given for each event for first through sixth place.

Overall? Per age group? Per age group by gender?

(It turns out—per age group by gender.)

There were more than six heats for most age groups for the short events. So you could potentially win your race and not get a ribbon, unless there’s another rule that I don’t know (which is possible).

When we were leaving, they told us that the next meet would be shorter because some of the runners are actually field competitors and won’t be running. (There were no field events at this meet, but the next meet is “indoor events only.”)

I’m new to this, but I’m also a really big fan of efficiency. This was not efficient.

I mean, they seemed good about getting kids to the check-in tent before their events and getting them out to the starting line well before it was their turn to start. That was efficient. (Aside from difficulty hearing the announcements for who should report—the coaches helped with that.)

But the schedule of the day overall? Terrible!

Instead of, “Yeah, track meets take all day,” FIX IT!

They could run 100s on both sides of the track simultaneously. They could probably run 200s the same way.

They could make two start times: one for 10 and under, and one for 11 and older, which would make the day more streamlined for both age groups.

We are talking about setting up a pop-up tent to the side (there were over a dozen of them) and spending the day in there for future races, then moving up to the fence to watch events. Would be much more comfortable. Could bring other things to do—games, books, whatever. But then we lose the benefit of hearing the coaches call for events. But sitting in bleachers all day… I can’t even sit through an entire staff meeting. It’s not good for bodies to sit all day, whether in comfy chairs or not.

The Kid’s take: “I think it was a good track meet. I ran my best. I really like my coach, too. I did not like sitting in the stands and watching everyone else run.”

Yes, he needs to be able to sit and watch his teammates run, and cheer for them, and so on. But for the entire day? I don’t think so.

Posted in ebb & flow, hope

Everyone is tired

The political climate is sucking the life energy out of us.

There is too much to fight to be able to do it all.

There is too much going on even to stay on top of it all.

There are too many giant steps backwards, undoing decades of work.

There are too many people whose humanity we’ve forgotten or have further degraded.

But on a personal level, as a person who is not immediately impacted by any of it (see: privilege), it’s impacting: people are tired.

Not tired from being too busy—that’s always been a variable.

Tired from all the stuff.

Tired in that “I need an evening to myself” kind of way, but it’s now a relentless fatigue, even with quiet time or fun time or whatever time built in.

People are in touch less. Harder to talk with, even just about day-to-day stuff. Harder to get together with.

I don’t have an actionable solution.

I don’t know how to shift energy expenditure.

I don’t know how to spend the day at work and have energy when I get home, how to give to work what I end up giving to family.

(I’m saying “I” but it’s not just me—I’ve had this conversation with at least half a dozen people—initiated by them—in the last two months.)

I don’t know how to be aware of what’s going on in my country, my state, my town, my school district, my and my son’s schools without it draining energy at every level.

I want to talk to people about health, about diet and exercise and nasty chemicals in common household items, about raising kids to be mentally healthy (to the extent that we guide that), about cooking and playing and painting and writing and on and on and on…

…but who has energy left to examine their habits, much less change them, when it takes all the energy just to make it through the day?

How do we fix this, friends? How do we reclaim our energy and connect with the people around us?