Latest Posts

Rethinking Suicide

Jesse Brisbane (1)

Happy birthday, Dad. I wish you were here but I know you’re in a better place now. Rest in peace.

Today is my dad’s birthday. He would be 73 years old, except that he took his own life in 1982 after a lifelong struggle with depression and loneliness.

Suicide is a complex and painful issue confronting our society in higher and higher numbers. The World Health Organization estimates that almost 800,000 people die by suicide globally each year. While suicide is often seen as a mental health issue, it is, in fact, a very complex problem with multiple variants and causes, including genetics, mental health, socio-economic status, physical health, and cultural identity. I want to take a moment to talk about suicide from the perspective of a survivor of someone who has lived through the loss of a suicide and as a person who has lived with the demons of depression and self-harm since adolescence.

My own story.

I’m committed to ending the stigma around suicide, mental illness and to raising awareness about the loneliness epidemic and the need for true human connection.  So, in the spirit of transparency, I’m gonna spill the beans here.

I didn’t really know my father, he was not in my life until I found him at the age of 9. We connected and began communicating and I had the opportunity to meet him at the age of 10. When I was 12 he took his life. The shock and horror and grief was not buffered by the lack of him in my early years, it was a devastating blow to my world and one that changed the course of my life.

I had so many questions, so much pain, and anguish. I was deeply hurt that he didn’t love me enough to stick around. I felt guilty that I couldn’t make his life good enough to stay alive. I was shattered at the idea that the father that I had finally found was gone forever. I was confused because I still had so much to learn about him and his family. And I was in the dark because no one in his world knew about me and I had to seek him out a second time when he stopped communication, only to find out from a stranger that he had died the year prior. All of this at the age of 13.

The grieving process led me down many twists and turns over the years. One path I found myself on was the path that disallowed anger. I found that I had so much compassion and empathy for his pain and suffering, that it was nearly impossible for me to be angry. I also found that the anger I did experience felt inappropriate (women are often taught that anger is inappropriate for us to feel, so I’m guessing there’s more on this topic than this one instance) and I worked hard to get to the bottom of the feeling of not being able to experience anger, employing my spirituality as a means of understanding more deeply what I was processing. More on this in a minute…

Let’s take a step back in time. I began to experience depression around the age of 11. By 12 it was in full force. I had suicidal tendencies, made two (thankfully) unsuccessful attempts and practiced self-harm for most of my teens. I was a troubled teen without a healthy network of support and there was no information about mental health available where I lived, nor did anyone think to check into why I was “sleeping” all the time. When I got the news of my dad’s suicide I was jolted into a decision. While I had empathy for his decision, the pain I experienced as a result of that led me to understand how much it hurts to be left behind and I decided I couldn’t do that to my family or friends.

That decision I made was a good one but it didn’t end the cycle of self-harm I was engaged in. While I was committed to life, I was still dealing with depression and low self-esteem and a lack of resources to help. My head is a lonely place to be, I’m guessing yours is too. But I didn’t have the courage, nor the understanding to realize that reaching out for help would mean relief, rather than increased stigma. After all, the responses I got to the admission that my father had taken his life led me to understand how much stigma there was around suicide.

Fast forward to 2003, when I went through a very tough divorce and subsequently found myself out of work for 9 months, causing my daughter and me to spend 6 months without a home, couch surfing and relying on the kindness of friends to get us through. During this period I had daily thoughts about ending my life. Yes, you read that correctly, at the age of 31 I considered killing myself every day, even with a precious 3-year-old depending on me. I’m telling you this because I think it’s important to understand that suicidal thoughts are not confined to people who act on them. Nor are they a sign of weakness. I was committed to life and refused to act on those thoughts, but I was in so much pain emotionally and the feelings of failure and despair were so intense that I wanted to escape them and there was nowhere to escape.

I think that’s the key. The feelings we have when we consider ending our life are the feelings of despair or pain (including chronic physical pain) so overwhelming that it’s not possible to see any way out, except ending our life. End of life = end of pain.

Because of my own personal journey and lived experience with both surviving my father’s suicide and experiencing my own suicidation, my feelings on this topic have evolved.

I’ve never shared this extremely private story except with my most trusted friends and family. Why share it now?

Because we have a literal epidemic of suicide in this country, and for me, this is the perfect day to help change the way people think about suicide in general.

First, I think it’s important to recognize the normal feelings that arise in the people who lose someone to suicide. The survivors are often overwhelmed by guilt and feelings of responsibility – the feeling that they could have, should have done more. There is a deep sadness and sense of waste – wasted opportunities, wasted life, wasted chances. Sometimes anger arises – anger at the person who took their own life, anger at the situation, anger at one’s self for failing to stop the suicide or see the risk factors in time to intervene. Many more emotions arise in the process of acceptance – shock, denial, confusion, blame, shame, despair, betrayal, and even relief. All of these emotions are normal reactions to a traumatic event and when experienced should be understood as such and the person who experiences them needs to have access to support and resources that help them parse and understand these feelings while processing their grief.

The stigma surrounding suicide muddies the conversation around the underlying causes and can lead to confusion in how to prevent suicide. This is a complex issue; there is never an easy answer as to why someone takes their own life. We need to have more education and open discussions around the multiple factors involved in suicidation.

There are many misconceptions about someone who attempts or completes suicide. Let’s dive into a few:

  • Weak. Often people who have died by suicide or have attempted to take their own life are seen as weaker than those who do not. This is false. Choosing to take one’s life is not a symptom of weakness, it is due to overwhelming pain, mental anguish, fear or despair that a person cannot solve effectively. This can be brought on by mental illness but it can also be a result of trauma such as abuse, an accident, sexual assault or deep loss.
  • Mental illness. I have already pointed out that there are many factors involved in the decision to take one’s life, and while mental illness increases the risk factors for suicide, not all mentally ill people take their lives and not all people who die by suicide are mentally ill. Seeing suicide as a single factor issue impedes us from understanding the truth around suicide and the risk factors involved.
  • Surprise. In most cases, people who take their own life show signs before doing so. There are the anomalies, but there are often indicators that are not seen or heard prior to the person attempting or completing suicide. Understanding the signs and risk factors of someone who is considering or planning to take their life can help prevent death by suicide.
  • Myths and education. There are many myths surrounding suicide. These myths do harm through reinforcing the misconceptions around suicidation and reinforcing the stigma of suicide, thus making it more difficult to progress in prevention.

In addition to misconceptions, the topic of suicide is considered taboo in many homes and cultures. The lack of public awareness around the causes and prevention strategies of suicide creates a challenge in developing effective preventions.

It is imperative that we change the narrative around suicidation in order to make progress in preventing suicide.

As an example of how complex, confusing and devastating suicide is to the loved ones left behind, even after experiencing tremendous loss as a result of suicide, I offer the following perspective:

I believe that in some cases, suicide is an intensely personal decision made by those who can no longer bear suffering and pain.

Whoa. I know, you’re confused. I’m talking about prevention and then I just made that statement? WTF? Here’s the thing. I don’t ever want to lose another person to suicide. I want to prevent people from taking their own life, I want to ease the sense of despair or pain that drives people to end their pain through suicide and I actively work on doing so.

But here’s where my perspective has evolved:

Each person’s lived experience is unique, we develop diseases that shorten our lives or lessen our quality of life. Some of us develop cancer or another chronic disease, other of us develop mental illness. Still others live with chronic pain, emotional and physical. Thus, my question becomes “If, as a society, we are moving toward acceptance of a person with end-stage disease choosing when they die, can we also move toward this idea for people with chronic pain or despair?”

I know this is a big and shocking question.  I’ll go back to my dad to look at this further.

From the age of 9, when his mother died suddenly, my father experienced deep emotional and physical trauma that left him emotionally and physically scarred. With a family history of mental illness and alcoholism, he faced a world where trauma was a daily occurrence and he did not have the support to navigate the trauma in a healthy way. As an adult, he failed time and again to develop long-term emotional ties to people. He also failed to find “success” in the typical measure. He was an artist and was unable to find financial stability. By the time he made the decision to take his own life, he had several failed business attempts under his belt, many burned bridges and was destitute and starving.

My father had done his best, everything he could do, to pull himself up by his bootstraps (which is a concept that deserves further consideration, but that’s another post, on another day), to find healing and to find happiness and financial success. He was never able to achieve these goals and the scars from his unhealed trauma tortured him. So rather than feel anger at my father for killing himself, I developed a sense that his death was his only option. That he deserved the right to choose to end his life when he found there were no other answers. Much like I would defend a terminal cancer patient in dying with dignity, I learned to see my father, and many like him, as having an incurable illness- the weight and pain of which only they could understand.

I don’t advocate suicide, and I continue to work to prevent it, especially in children and teens. But I think it’s important to have a full and honest discussion about suicide and its effect on our world, which for me includes the idea that some people may opt out and that is their choice- and if they have made that choice, there may be very little you can or could have done to stop them. Like Amy Bleuel, who gave the world the gift of Project Semicolon, before finally taking her life after a long battle with trauma and subsequent mental illness.

Amy’s gift to the world has saved many lives, my father’s gift to me saved my life.

Today, on my dad’s birthday, I write all of this in an effort to alleviate the horrendous guilt that weighs heavily on those left behind after a suicide. Each person’s life is their own journey, and ultimately they own that journey, no matter how much we want the truth to be otherwise.

So the next time you think of suicide or are confronted with its tragic reality, consider taking a moment to educate yourself on the complexity of the issue and on ways to offer support and help. In a hyper-connected world, we should be able to make sure everyone feels a sense of belonging and connection and that everyone has the opportunity to find the support and resources needed to be able to choose life every day. Below are some simple steps you can take today to help prevent suicide. (Credit to Project Semicolon for these ideas)

  • Pay more attention to mental health and well-being and encourage it in others.
  • Support a loved one/friend/colleague who is living with a mental health issue or illness, who is going through a difficult time, is struggling with suicidal thoughts or has lost a loved one to suicide.
  • Refrain from using the phrase ‘commit suicide’ or successful suicide and instead say ‘died by suicide’ or ‘suicided’
  • Encourage people that it’s ok to talk about suicide.
  • Take a suicide alertness or intervention training such as SafeTALK or ASIST or Mental Health First Aid. Just like we learn physical first aid skills we can also learn emotional first aid skills. Encourage families, friends, co-workers, faith groups, coaches to take training in your community. Raise funds and host one!
  • Host a Project Semicolon event in your community if one does not already exist

Thank you for reading this. How does it sit with you? How do you feel about the idea of suicide being a choice or the only option for some people?

And don’t forget to take a peek at the resources listed below, they just might help you save a life.


US national suicide prevention lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
US national suicide crisis textline: text TALK to 741741

Project Semicolon
Suicide risk factors and warning signs
Statistics on suicide in the US
World Health Organization fact sheet on suicide
Resources from Check Yo Mate to help make connections with people and end the stigma around mental health

I’m voting for her.

 

So many people came and sang for mom in her last days, she delighted in the music and the melodies. This song was especially poignant for me as I have been listening to this voice my whole life, and the comfort it brings me is akin to a warm bowl of soup on a cold winter’s day.

My mom’s close friend (and my Auntie), Sandy wrote this song, inspired by a conversation with Mom about how The Work is not always done in one’s lifetime. Mom passed on from the world, leaving her latest project, restoring the Similkameen River, to her husband and community. Leaving her Work was very hard for Mom, but knowing she was a link in a chain of action allowed her to feel that she could rest, even though she worked right up until her brain could no longer function enough to write an article, or critically follow a conversation thread.

As I sat on Election night of 2016, with my mom and sister on the phone, looking at a bleak future, all I could think of was the 40 years of Work that Mom and the rest of the environmental community had done, all of the sacrifices the families of those doing The Work had made and the gains we had received as a society, were in jeopardy.

My mom’s legacy was in jeopardy.

For all of the links in the long long chain, and all of the future generations, for my mom and those like her who have served this country, this world, and The Work, for Mother Earth, who gives us all life, I’m voting for Her next week.

May we gain a representational leadership that protects the ability of future generations to live and love freely, rather than the monied interests of corporations and billionaires.

Thank you, Auntie. This song warms my heart.

Stone by Stone: Burying an activist, community builder, wife and mother.

We buried mom on Thursday

Thor’s Day, God of Thunder

Ruled by Jupiter and Sagittarius

Fitting for the Warrior she was

Dragon Lady

Defender of Earth

Her body, dressed in the splendid purple silk Autumn bought her years ago and

Unpolluted by fluids meant to preserve her flesh

Laid to rest in a simple pine casket

Handcrafted by a Colville man

Lined with a Pendleton blanket

A cedar filled pillow for her beautiful brain to rest on

Tucked into her time capsule were special stones

Her feather and staff and

The dragon box she cherished, filled with farewell notes of love and gratitude

 

Her community gathered

Friends, allies and

Hearts filled with gratitude for her tireless optimism in the fight for Justice

They spoke of her journalism

Her quest for Truth

Her penchant for framing conversations in a way that can be heard by those in power

Her commitment to Community, also

Barter Fair committees, the Tonasket Co-op, the Tonasket Community Cultural Center, Annual International Mother’s Day March for Peace

The list goes on: co-founder, board member, advocate, volunteer, ally

They spoke of her commitment to our Earth and

How she inspired them to take up action, that

Each citizen of the planet can make an impact, that

Everyone shares responsibility to keep our home for the next generation

She was honored by the Similkameen People of Canada for her dedication in

Helping restore ceremonial rights on the River

For helping them understand how to fight the Okanogan PUD in the US in

Their corrupt bid to build a new damn and

Destroy the sacred salmon run

This honor is great, as

Mom deeply respected the Indigenous Peoples, and yet

The white environmental community has historically not

Aligned with the needs or ways of

Indigenous Peoples

She was honored in song by the Hyde Family and

Upon Mom’s request, everyone sang Amazing Grace

I was overwhelmed by, and also grounded in,

Community

The women, my Aunties

Those who had grown the food,

Made the birthdays and weddings and so many parties, and

Rituals of Life happen, they

Came together and made the wake, funeral, and meal afterward happen

The men, my Uncles, they

Carried the casket, set the site, made the prayers and

Many quoted her in saying

“It takes a village” and

All honored Mom

Builder of Community

 

James did the rope science and tied the knots and

That way we didn’t need a machine so

We hoisted her into her Beloved Earth

By hand

Clutching the ropes tightly

Bracing our legs, we

Gently touched her down into that 10 foot hole

We shoveled the dirt

The huge mountain of dirt

So much dirt on top of Mom

Forcing myself to shovel and

Knowing it was only her husk, still

Fighting every moment to not yell

“Stop! She’s gonna suffocate in there!”

I continued to shovel with my brothers and my dad and sister and

As we slowly made our way home

I kept the panic at bay

No, we hadn’t forgotten Mom under all that dirt

That’s now her Forever Home

 

Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust

 

Friday morning dawned bleakly, what

Would I do with myself now that 7am wasn’t the time to get mom up and dressed?

I binge watched Netflix

“She’s Gotta Have it”

While drinking pots and pots of tea

At 4:30 am

 

I worried most about Rick

Lover, Partner, Husband, Coparent, and Ally of 35 years

Inseparable from almost the first day they met, together he and Mom

Raised children, founded and published a magazine for 20-plus years, made bread, stopped a mine and saved a mountain and a watershed, grew food, sued the Army Corp of Engineers and won, canned pickles, taught on the Colville Reservation, cared for and nursed many loved ones through death, volunteered in the community and

Loved each other passionately

Now, still young and healthy at 79

He mourns the love of his life

A love few are blessed enough to know

He is the strongest kind of man there is

The embodiment of feminism and

True Equality for All

A male who supports the females in his life

Not just with words, but actions and

Supported Mom in all ways, including

Nursing her during her six year battle against cancer and

Finally death

Always protecting her right to make her own choices

 

Mom’s love of and study of geology went far beyond

Simply learning how to read an Environmental Impact Statement

Everywhere we traveled by car Mom would explain and

Recite the geological formations and processes of the local landscape

She was enamored with stones and

Collected a few thousand pounds of rocks

During her 34 years in Chesaw

Delighting in the geology everywhere she went, she

Surrounded herself with stones and

People gifted her with stones and

Her favorite stone, a granite erratic boulder

Uncovered during a backyard excavation project

She had placed upon the hill behind her house

Her Sitting Stone

She chose it for her Headstone

 

Friday, after rising

All in a daze

We made plans to clean and decorate Mom’s grave

We collected some of her stones and

Headed back to the cemetery

In tears we raked and built a mound of the remaining dirt

Brainstorming how to make her gravesite

Insisting that it had to last a couple of hundred years I

Wanted Mom’s descendants to know who she was

When they came looking for their ancestor

Chris took the biggest of stones and began digging them in

Building a rock fortress around her edges

 

We worked at it for four days

Collecting rocks from the house and yard

Loading the truck

We brought at least a thousand pounds of those rocks to the cemetery

Amongst the hazy fog of grief and shock we

Discussed and ideated

Hugged and cried

Drank booze and smoked ganja

All the while steadily, but without a clear plan, moving forward

I like plans

I need plans

Plans make me feel better

We couldn’t make real plans without the erratic in place

Late on the third day

We had just placed the stones the erratic would rest on when

We spied Leroy rolling down the road with

The erratic in the bucket of his tractor

Of all of the days he could have delivered it

Like a miracle it showed up just then

 

Sometimes plans are less than Flow

 

On the fourth day

Still without a plan

We collected and delivered the

Mother Lode of stones

James and I bickered

I cried

Still no plan

I just wanted to collaborate on a plan that

Incorporated everyone’s ideas, meanwhile

Rick began to place stones with his usual quiet gentleness

Randomly placing with Intention

He led us as

One by one the rest of us followed him

We picked up Mom’s beloved rocks

Stone by stone we

Placed the rocks mom had collected

Circling inward with each stone we

Built a Cairn

An ancient Irish burial mound

She was very happy with our work

 

Covered in the rocks she loved

The rocks and Mom

Nestled between the mountains she loved and fought to protect

Now in their Forever Home

 

The building of Mom’s cairn was centering and

The process we needed as a family to bring to a close

Our collective journey in Mom’s disease and

In the nine weeks we spent together helping her die

A beautiful, dignified death

Now the five of us are bonded in

Our shared experience

Our collective grieving

Our love of Mom

Uniting us from her side of the veil

Where we shall all pass one day, but

For now we live and carry on her work

All of us

In our own ways

 

photo credit chad madden

Me too

Ok [deep breath], the first time I was 5. My parents had family friends over, their 12-year-old boy managed to get me away from everyone else. I haven’t been able to think about that family without hot shame flushing my face or disgust making me shake, ever since.

The second time I was 11, I was swimming when an adult family friend signaled me out of the water, I ran up to him all smiles before he grabbed me, right where our president likes to grab. It took years before I could look at that side of Osoyoos lake again.

The third time I was 13 and sleeping over at a friend’s house. She shared a room with her older brother. In the middle of the night, I felt his hand creeping into my sleeping bag. I never went back for another sleepover at that house.

The 4th time I was 12, in my orthodontist chair, he liked to cop a feel as he adjusted train tracks. I later learned he was banned, or whatever happens to dentists who aren’t allowed to practice because they’re perverts.

The 5th time I was 14 and my Uncle tried to kiss me. I’ve never told anyone about that before now.

5 times before I could even be considered a consenting adult. I’m guessing you’re thinking this is excessive and I must have asked for it. Maybe it was because I was curvy early? Perhaps my attitude? I was too friendly? It must be my fault somehow, right? After all, boys will be boys.

When I was in my early 20’s the one friend I had told about the incident at Osoyoos spilled my beans to the powers that be. The people of my community discussed this amongst themselves and I was forced to speak to a council of my parents and other community leaders about what had happened when I was 11. I was told that the man (at least 20 years my senior) was facing deportation back to his country, based on my account of what had happened, where he would face certain death. The pressure was overwhelming and the questions kept coming, I kept looking at my parents, desperately wanting someone, anyone, to be on my side. I was made to feel alone and this was almost worse than the violation I had experienced as a youth.

My daughter is 17, they refuse to ride a bike because they get constant catcalls. What I want for them, more than almost anything is to never experience what I and so many women experience, All. The. Time. I’ve lain awake nights, worrying about how I can protect them. I’ve not allowed sleepovers unless I knew the family and never if there’s an older brother or mom’s boyfriend around. My child deserves to be unmolested, whole, innocent and complete amongst themselves. This is a basic human right.

Why do we have to teach girls to be careful and safe? Why don’t we teach boys to respect girls and not to rape? It seems so simple to me. I am working hard to raise the kind of man I would want my daughter to marry, one who values and respects women, understands that everyone’s diverse strengths make up a strong team and most of all, one who understands what consent means. May he live in a world that values all people and one where respect for all life is paramount.

I wrote this post exactly a year ago, when the Access Hollywood video was released. I decided it was too private for me to post then, and buried it away. But here we are, a year later and the same story is circling – 1 in 3 women have been sexually abused or harassed in their lifetime. I’m not a victim, I’m a warrior… and a survivor. So this time I am sharing because perhaps my story can help swell the tide that will create a change in our world?

When a workout makes you cry, and it’s not because it’s a tough one.

Crossfit has a long standing tradition of creating workouts of the day, or WODs, in honor of service people who have fallen in the line of duty. Generally very tough, these workouts are referred to as Hero WODs. Typically the Hero WODs are performed on the day commemorating the event and include either weight or reps that correspond to a significant number to the fallen heroes. One of my favorite Hero WODs is the HotShots 19, dedicated to the 19 firefighters who lost their lives while defending homes in Yarnell, Arizona on June 30, 2014.

The Hero WOD is a symbol, and also a way to push ourselves through the toughest workouts, reminding ourselves of the fallen heroes, challenging ourselves mentally and physically to work harder, faster and with more intensity. For me the Hero WOD is a time to remind myself of how much a human can endure, with the right mindset. It’s also a way that I put myself, and my ultra privileged life, in the proper context. The “yes, this is hard but I’m alive and look what this hero and their families went through” self-coaching that allows me to push myself harder and tell myself “as long as I’m alive, I can do this.”

So, I was stunned, when checking the box’s blog before heading to Crossfit Up for class today, when I saw that the WOD was titled “Pulse” and was in fact a Hero WOD.

Screenshot 2016-06-18 14.44.39

The tears and horror of this week came flooding back, and at the same time I felt safe with my feelings being so much on the surface as I walked into the gym surrounded by people pushing themselves to extremes while wearing rainbow armbands (provided by the gym). I was amazed and thankful to see this level of awareness and thoughtfulness. While the act of creating a WOD with 49 reps of anything doesn’t solve the problems we face, or bring back loved ones who have senselessly lost their lives, it creates an awareness. And most of all, with the collective thoughts of those doing this WOD focused toward the fallen people, a ripple of good was sent into the universe, in the same way a prayer circle does. These athletes will go about their day, having connected to those cut down in Orlando, even for a brief hour, in a way that will not fade because they felt it, sweated it and pushed themselves, in memory of so many vibrant lives cut short.

IMG_2614

When I came home, I did a search and I found this one, and this one, and this one! For a sport with a history of making some really bad decisions with respect to transgender athletes, this awareness (albeit at the affiliate level) really makes me feel that the tide might be turning in our country. When ordinary, every day Americans care enough to memorialize the loss of innocent, mostly marginalized LGBTQ people, rather than fight about bathrooms, there may be some hope for normalizing our queer population.

And now, I’m wondering when we can finally say that Crossfit is every person’s sport, regardless of athleticism, age, or gender preference?

Happy Halloween, Blessed Samhain!

Today is one of the oldest and holiest holidays in the Celtic tradition. Halloween or Samhain (sah-ween) is the time when we honor the harvest, the end of summer. It is this time when the veils between the spirit world and the physical world are thinnest. We decorate our homes with symbols of the harvest, carve faces into pumpkins, inviting in their lively spirits; and don costumes of ghoulish beasts to remind ourselves of death and to make it seem just a little less scary. We remember our dead and give thanks to be alive.

IMG_1076

We grew some of these and others were gathered at a farm outside of Santa Cruz.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some seek communion with loved ones, others guidance from the ancient ones, and many quietly memorialize their dead with small remembrances and prayers. We are our great grandmothers and great grandfathers, they are in our bones, our eyes, our DNA. To honour them is to honour our bodies and our lives, to remember that from which we came and to give thanks for the bounty we are blessed with.

This is the night when the gateway between 
our world and the spirit world is thinnest. 
Tonight is a night to call out those who came before.
Tonight I honor my ancestors.
Spirits of my fathers and mothers, I call to you,
and welcome you to join me for this night.
You watch over me always,
protecting and guiding me,
and tonight I thank you.
Your blood runs in my veins,
your spirit is in my heart,your memories are in my soul.
With the gift of remembrance.
I remember all of you.
You are dead but never forgotten,
and you live on within me,
and within those who are yet to come.

— A Prayer to the Ancestors by Patti Wigington

The end of the summer marks the end of the Celtic year, with November 1 recognized as the traditional Celtic New Year and the start of winter. It is a time for us to move inward to our warm homes, nest with our loved ones and practice gratitude for our many and bountiful blessings. Winter is a time of introspection and slowed growth, when we dwell with our thoughts which will become the seedlings of action that burst forth in the spring.

Maggie and John Currie

This year my family lost a dear friend, Jon Curry. Jon was a native of Washington state, a photographer, a Vietnam Veteran, a son, a brother, a sailor and the best friend of my Uncle Llwyd  who was like a father to me for the first several years of my life. Uncle Llwyd is gone too, he passed 6 years ago.

Unlce Llwyd wearing his famous patched outfit

I know they are both together somewhere, telling their stories, laughing hard about the hell they are raising and making art out of their experiences. When these great men passed, friends all over held memorials for them, calling up memories and remembering their legacy with respect and fondness.

So tonight, as candy passes hands and treats are traded in lieu of tricks, while my young son is learning about the spooky fun of Halloween, I am remembering my loved ones – my father, uncles, grandparents, my ancestors and all those who have come before me. Tomorrow my kids and I will feast with our dead. I’ll tell my kiddos stories about each of their ancestors and together we will keep their memory alive for another year.

Our Samhain altar for our dead.

May the ancestors deliver blessings on you and yours…
May the new year bear great fruits for you…
May your granted wishes be as many as the seeds in a pomegranate…
May the slide into darkness bring you light…
May the memories of what has been keep you strong for what is to be…
May this Samhain cleanse your heart, your soul, and your mind!
— Traditional Samhain Blessing

Thank you for taking the time to read my sharing. Blessed Samhain, Merry meet, merry part, and merry meet again.

IMG_1072

When Work is Play and Play is Work

Dylan sweeping
Tonight my son found his little toy laptop in a basket of toys. He pulled it out and started typing “letters” to his daddy. After a few minutes, he prompted me to ask him to play with him.

 

Me: Will you play with me?
Son: I have to work.
Me: (stifles a giggle and a sob at the same time) Ok, will you play with me when you’re done?
Son: (types furiously for a minute and then closes laptop) Ok, now I am done with my work, I can play with you Mommy.

I had such a reaction to this. Being a single, working parent means that sometimes I have to say no to playing because I am (insert activity required for daily existence) and then I have to make myself stop and just play with him, which feels hard, like I’m working at it. So of course the guilt starts in strong when he’s showing what I am modeling as not being available to him…

IMG_6151But then I thought that maybe modeling working and then stopping to play is a good thing. Maybe I’m not abandoning him and “scarring him for life” in doing so. Maybe instead what he is learning about how to amuse himself – and learning that sometimes we play and sometimes we work – is positive?

Aye yay- it’s all just a guessing game, this parenting thing. I often ponder that it must have been much simpler when we were in small villages or tribes and the kids literally “played” at what the adults were “working” at, there wasn’t much difference between the two activities then. Children learned how to do the things required in life because they played at doing them from the time they were old enough to hold something in their hands. They mimicked their parents work until they were able to start helping, between the ages of 3 and 4.

In a lot of ways, I think the expectation I have on myself, as a parent, to always be available on my children’s schedule to do what the they want to do is an unrealistic expectation and may set my children up for not being able to be resilient and resourceful when they are in need.

How do you handle your child’s playtime requests? Are you always available?

IMG_0400