A Broken Understanding

Last weekend, our little family among millions accomplished something grand.

It’s actually so monumental to us as a family that I imagine that the universe celebrated along with us at the very moment that it happened maybe even with the creation of a new star out there somewhere in the galaxy. The residue from broken egos gathered like magnetized dust particles and came together in agreement. At that moment, a new and positive energy was created, and it’s unfolding with great purpose. While our accomplishment may seem like no feat at all to others, it’s life changing for us individually and as a family.

Simply put…

Bill and Kim have learned how to work together, not just as a father and daughter, but as musicians. I want to say that they put their egos aside, but that’s not actually what happened. What really happened is that their egos chronically, like a long-term illness, collided day after day and year after year, and it wasn’t a pretty father-daughter dance. In fact, as in many parent–child relationships, it isn’t pretty. And that’s okay because from our experience, imperfection can result in something even greater than we had imagined. Bill and Kim didn’t put their egos aside. Instead, with broken egos front and center, they decided to finally, and truly, work together.

Getting to that moment wasn’t easy…

Last summer, Bill and Kim had talked about working together as musicians, and at one point in time it appeared that they had come to an agreement regarding the direction that they were headed with Kim’s music career. It seemed that they had teamed up and were well on their way to forming a working band. However, for us, it couldn’t be that easy. And in all reality, they were not practicing together. They’d talk about it, but they just didn’t seem to be able to sit down and practice together for very long before getting into some disagreement. Last week, Bill learned that Kim was not in agreement with him regarding the creation of music, lyrics and copyright. They were at a crossroad. It looked like the time had come that Bill would no longer be a part of Kim’s musical journey, and we sadly thought that maybe he never was a part of her journey. Bill and I talked about the possibility that maybe the accumulation of music gear, guitar lessons, healed blisters and melted ice-packs were a false reality that we had created for ourselves as parents, and if so, how unfair to Kim.

Had We been lying to ourselves?

After careful deliberation, we got to the point that we told Kim, “It’s your career. You are in charge of it. You do what is right for you. You know what you are doing. We will still support you, but we can’t move forward with mom and dad as direct partners. You’ll figure it out.” And then this awful dark feeling enveloped our little family, and our smiles dissipated as if they never existed before. Sadness filled my heart, and emptiness. I wondered if I was desperately clinging to Kim all these years later after her last suicide attempt by way of music, and I wondered if Bill was doing the same. The following day, we didn’t talk to one another. Rather, we existed together.

And then…

that same day, moment by moment lapsed…and without really thinking about it…and somehow with all the motherly confidence that I had ever gathered before, particle by particle, I walked outside to the patio where Bill and Kim were. Bill was standing there playing guitar, and Kim was seated at the patio table. I looked at each of them and said, “We have to make this work for you Kim, and for you Bill, and for Jaden, and for me.” I then walked back inside the house. That was it. That was all I had, and I like to believe that it was enough.

Later that evening, Kim shared with Bill and I that she had received an email from a potential client who wanted to know if she could perform at an upcoming event. Bill and I hesitated to get involved with her decision making process and told her that it was up to her to decide how to respond and move forward with this new and exciting opportunity. She then asked Bill for his help. She said, “Dad, I need help with equipment and sound checks. And I need a guitarist.” Nothing more needed to be said. Bill and Kim started to talk to one another again, and they started to truly practice together, and they’ve been working together ever since. We move forward with renewed respect for one another, and we continue to support one another’s definition of self: Kim – singer/songwriter, Bill – guitarist, Stacy – writer, and Jaden – busy being three…1 little family among millions doing it differently…

You can find Kim here: https://www.kimking.us/

~ Stacy (1 Mom)

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Throwback Thursday | Remembering a Happy Full Nest

This Throwback Thursday post is all about remembering when I had a happy full nest. It’s still happy but just half empty now. The picture included in this post captures Kim, Katlin and Paul celebrating Katlin’s 3rd birthday and years later her 16th birthday. I think that both moments, that we somehow managed to captured, are adorable. Don’t you think so? Of course, as their mom, I think that they still are adorable even as grown adults. Wow. To think that now Katlin is in her twenties as well as Kim and Paul. How time flies. I love the fact that both Kim and Paul are giving her a celebratory kiss! Even though they are grown, and Paul and Katlin have flown the nest, all three of the kids are still very close. The fact that Paul and Katlin live over a 1,000 miles from us now doesn’t mean that the kids are any less close. They’ve just had to learn a new way to support one another via special trips home, Skype, their phones, etc.

As I reflect back on their younger years, I remember the bond that they had when they were growing up. Of course, sibling rivalry was alive and well back then, as it is with most siblings, but they always came together in the end to support one another. Years later, that sibling support system still is in place and stronger than ever. As a mom, this means more to me than I can say. Just this past Christmas Bill and I had the joy of having all three of them home with us, and it was so wonderful. Having all three of them home, even for a short while, made everything right in the world. It was so right that Kim, our songbird, wrote one of her original songs “Talk Too Much” during that time. There they were, three grown kids sitting together. Kim was sitting on the fireplace hearth playing ukulele (she had never played it before) and singing as she came up with the lyrics to the song and Paul and Katlin were sitting nearby. They sat smiling and cheering her on.  At one point, I remember hearing Katlin yell out, “Yah! That’s what I mean!” with a big grin on her face. I’ve included the video below so that you can hear the fun that they were having which comes through Kim’s lyrics perfectly. Of course, Kim refined the song after Paul and Katlin made their way back to their homes, but they played an important role in the development of the song. If you listen to it, I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

A happy full nest became a half nest. Even so, those that have flown, return often. Therefore, it’s a perfect half nest after all.

Growing stronger…

A Beautiful Nest…

DSC_0398Today, I awoke to the sweet melody of birds singing outside my bedroom window and a sunbeam that cast a glowing, wispy blanket of light across my room, and in that moment I felt thankful and blessed…

Welcome back to our story!  It has been awhile since I have written a blog post!  I have been busy taking classes.  Also, to be completely honest, in addition to coursework I have been trying to find a healthier balance in regards to family, school, volunteer work etc.  The good news is that I have found a healthier balance.  While on my journey to find calm among the waves of life’s stressors the blog has never been far from my thoughts.  There have been days that I have sat down with the intention of writing a blog post only to find that the words eluded me as if they evaporated into the mist of life.  Not today!  Today, the words flow as I write about one aspect that is central to my being – my home or what I like to call my nest.

When I think of a birds nest I think of the intricate weaving of natures tools such as grass, twigs and leaves or perhaps even mud or rocks depending on the species, ultimately culminating in a place called home…a place to raise a family…my nest just happens to consist of 2 x 4’s, siding, windows, a roof and doors…and in a nest, whether it be a bird’s nest, a rabbit’s nest or even my nest, an infinite number of experiences occur and reoccur sometimes with a gentle calm…like a bright, sunny, warm day with a slight breeze touching you as it highlights your presence…sometimes with great turbulence…like a wind so strong attempting to disrupt the life within, sometimes with pain…like death or illness that swoops down and takes our breath away and other times with great joy and happiness…like the birth of a new little one…and depending on the tools we have in our nest we may cope by responding with fear and other-times we may cope with an abundance of grace.  To help me face life’s challenges that exist both within and beyond my nest I have some tools that have helped me and those I love dearly that I would love to share, sing and echo beyond my little nest I call home.

Of all the tools that exist in our nest none is greater than love.  In our nest there exists an infinite abundance of love for one another, ourselves individually, our beautiful family and friends and those we see in passing AND those special little ones to come and those that have left or transcended life here on earth.  Love…it really is the tie that binds!  Within love their exists such infinite potential for strength, healing, forgiveness and growth!

What is so exciting and empowering is that beyond our many tools within our personal nest’s there exists within our grasp other tools to support us no matter the challenges we face.  What are these tools and where can we find them?  For me I realized last night, as I headed to class, that our tools consist of resources beyond our immediate support system.  As I packed my bag for class I noticed that I had several pamphlets and a special book nearby.  I decided in that instance to take them with me since the topic discussed in class specifically pertained to those resources I had laying there on my desk.  So I gathered my resources, packed them in my bag along with my class textbook and binder and with great purpose headed out the door.  Ultimately, I was blessed with the opportunity to share those resources with my instructor and peers.  And at the end of class, as I walked to my Jeep, I realized how important these resources have been in helping me and my family to heal as we have journeyed together down a sometimes rocky path.  The resources I speak of have helped to provide a balance and much needed support during those times when we felt alone and were in a great deal of emotional pain.  They have become an integral part of our nest and have  become key tools to the creation of our nest being as healthy as it can be.  In closing, I will list the organizations that I shared with the class and that are dedicated to helping and supporting YOU as well no matter your challenges.  They are here with you and for you!  May we all continue learning about new resources that may potentially help us in times of turbulence and may we continue to add those tools to our own, unique and beautiful nests…

Now…the only question that remains is… “What’s in your nest?”

Growing stronger…

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention : The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) is the leading national not-for-profit organization exclusively dedicated to understanding and

Bring Change 2 Mind : Take the Bring Change 2 Mind Pledge. The fear of stigma and discrimination can have a devastating effect on those living with mental

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance : DBSA provides information on depression and bipolar disorder, online tools, and support groups across the USA. Find help from the leading national

National Alliance on Mental Illness : NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, is the nations largest nonprofit, grassroots mental health education, advocacy and support organization dedicate

Perfect Chaos – A dual memoir of a mother’s and daughter’s triumph over mental illness…

Silent Siren : Silent Siren offers PTSD support and hope by creating communities that put the safety and wellness of those with mental illness, their caregivers, and emergency

The Balanced Mind Foundation : The Balanced Mind Foundation improves the lives of families raising children and teens living with bipolar disorder and related conditions…

The Karla Smith Foundation : Karla Smith Foundation supports families affected by mental illness and suicide. KSF aids in mental health awareness by providing mental health resources

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline : Helps individuals in suicidal crisis to contact the nearest available suicide prevention and mental health service provider through a toll-free phone number…1-800-273-TALK (8255)

The Power of 2!

According to bpchildren.org, “Because bipolar disorder is a chronic illness, it continually effects family life and taxes your parenting abilities.  Parents sometimes experience caregiver burnout, compassion fatigue, or secondary trauma as a result of their child’s illness.  This can happen especially after a child has been unstable for an extended period of time.  Parents who begin to feel numb, or very negative toward their child with bipolar disorder, may be at this stage.  In order to take care of your child with bipolar disorder, you must also take care of yourself.  Make your own appointment with the doctor.”

So this is a post about learning to take care of ourselves.  Enjoy!

I like to tease our two year old granddaughter and say, “Remember…you are only two!”  because she often does things that simply amaze me as all grandchildren do.  Last week she taught me the power of 2!  What do I mean by power of 2?  I’ll try to explain.  Last Wednesday night Bill and I decided to visit Rissa and her daddy at their home.  Usually they come to our house, but because of the frigid cold weather Paul decided to whisk her home after picking her up from daycare.

So in 34 degree weather Bill and I made the chilly trek to Rissa’s house.  Once at our destination, with freezing wind whipping around us, we hurried to Paul’s front door.  We rang the doorbell.  We could hear giggling coming from the other side of the door.  Slowly…the door opened.  No one was there!  We saw movement and looked down, and there was our bubbly, smiling, adorable granddaughter.

Once inside, and warm from a humming furnace running overtime, Rissa decided she wanted to show us her toys so we headed to her room.  As Bill and I casually walked she ran towards her room yelling, “Come on Grandma!  Come on Grandpa!”  Bill and I quickly picked up our pace.  Ah…the power of 2!  Rissa showed us everything from her Disney Castle to her cuddly teddy bear that sings and plays Patty Cake.  Bill, Paul and I found a place to sit amongst her toys.  After all, watching a two year old can be exhausting for a grandma and grandpa!  Experiencing jet lag from his trip to China, Bill fell asleep in a rocking chair.  With his eyes closed his head bobbed up and down as he fought the sleep that overcame him.  He started to quietly snore.  I sat on a nearby couch visiting with Paul and watching Rissa play.

She tried to wake Grandpa up but to no avail so she climbed up on the couch and sat next to me playing with a ruby red teddy bear.  I noticed a leftover plastic tag hiding in the fur of the bear’s ear so I asked Paul to help me remove it.  Rissa intently watched as Paul cut the milky white tag off.  “There!  Your bear is all better Rissa!” I said.  Paul left the room to put the scissors away.  And then…she climbed onto my lap.  She leaned in and stared into my eyes…she continued looking at me…she held her gaze and then said, “You okay Grandma?” Then she softly patted my arm.  I was floored.  Here she is a mere two years old asking me if I am okay?!  And…she did it again.  She leaned in as if to say, “Hey!  I’m serious!”  and she asked, “You okay Grandma?”  She was very gentle and talked very soft.  She patted my arm again.  I told her, “Grandma is okay.” She hugged me and then scurried off to play.  I was astonished.  My eyes filled with happy tears.  Sometimes I get so focused on the challenges of life and my loved ones that I don’t think about me!  My precious granddaughter, who is all of two, brought that to my attention.  Rissa got Grandma thinking…”Am I okay?”

The power of 2!

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References

Parent’s corner: Frequently asked questions. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.bpchildren.org/BPChildrenParent.html

Calm Waters


I woke up today thinking about how thankful I am for my family, and I realized that up until now I have shared with everyone a little bit about Bill, Kim and Katlin.  However, I have not spoken yet about my son.  Actually, I believe that there is a reason I have waited.  I’ll try to explain…

Today, I want to introduce you to my son Paul.  He is our oldest child and the sibling of Kim and Katlin.  He is 24 and just like his sisters he never fails to fascinate me.  What fascinates me the most about Paul though is the way in which he handles some of life’s most difficult challenges.  You see Paul has this calming effect.  It doesn’t matter what the situation is, like when he dropped everything and quickly drove 300 miles to Chicago to assist Bill and I during an unexpected medical emergency, Paul remains calm.  There are numerous times in addition to the Chicago trip that Paul has responded to one of us in need and provided much needed support in his gentle and calm way.  Of course Paul is there many other times as well, but for some reason it is in times of need that his calming effect becomes highly notable.

Throughout the years Paul has been told how much he is like his father.  I do have to say I agree.  Paul definitely looks like his father, and many of his mannerisms remind me of Bill.  However, Paul stands apart as the man he has come to be.  He has defined himself, and as his mother I could not be prouder.  He is a single father raising our adorable two year old granddaughter Marissa, works for North Star Ice-cream and is a full-time student at Devry University.

You probably have noticed that a picture of two people fishing showed up in the sidebar of the blog a few days ago without explanation.  It isn’t just any picture.  It is a picture of Paul and Kim fishing in Branson, Missouri September 19th, 2010.  I love this picture because Paul is standing near Kim.  He is not right next to her nor is he too far away.  That is how Paul is!  He is always near.  He is supportive, but to just the right degree.

This picture is dear to me for several reasons, but mainly because it was taken just four months after Kim’s second attempt.  According to Merriam-Webster.com a brother is defined as, “…a male who has the same parents as another or one parent in common with another.”  Clearly, when you read this blog and look at this picture you can see that a brother can’t even be defined!  And this is the reason that I hadn’t wrote yet about Paul.  Sometimes I have a difficult time putting into words how great a person affects me.  This is one such time!

The ripples of life’s challenges continue to ebb and flow our way, and yet I know my son Paul is near and the waters will calm.

Paul & Kim ~ Summer 2010

The Memory Hutch

I have talked about meeting phenomenal people while in Ottawa, Kansas, and I have shared how blessed we are to have the immeasurable support of the Karla Smith Foundation as our family copes with the mental illness of our loved one.  However, I would also like to share with you a story about a phenomenal dad.  He is not just any dad.  He is Paul, Kim and Katlin’s dad.  His name is Bill, and I am extremely proud to say he is my husband.  We have been married twenty five years now, and as you can imagine we have shared a lot of life experiences: some very interesting, some very sad, many happy and many miraculous.

Throughout the years Bill and I have managed to cope with just about anything that has come our way.  However, the past few years have been difficult to say the least.  How does a family recuperate from the devastating effects of the mental illness of a loved one?  What I have experienced and witnessed is that a family pulls together, draws strength from one another, and puts one foot in front of the other.  As difficult as it might be they keep the door open, so to speak, with one another and slowly…very slowly just like a seed taking root they grow a little each day and eventually find that they have the strength to keep growing!  At the root are unconditional love and hope.  Of course everyone is held accountable for their behavior and actions, but we remain as neutral as possible respecting the uniqueness of each other.  And we realize that in order to provide encouragement and support we must take care of ourselves.  It hasn’t been easy, and we understand that mental illness doesn’t just go away.  It is something that we must continue to learn more about, and learn how to cope with positively.

That is just what Bill has done.  One way that Bill has coped is by putting his creativity to work.  One of Bill’s many talents, loves and hobbies is woodworking.  Through woodworking he tells a story.  I would like to invite you to watch as Bill builds a handcrafted memory hutch for the 2011 Karla Smith Foundation Dinner Auction.  I will post the design plans, materials list and photos to show the progress.  The drawer and cabinets will hold and organize the memories for a family showing how they got to where they are today and will store the tools used to record and signify where they are headed.  Bill exemplifies growth literally by building something functional as well as beautiful out of a few pieces of wood!  The picture to the right shows the wood that will be used for the hutch.  The memory hutch will be built as a representation of the hope Bill would like to share with others going through similar situations.  Please feel free to check back often as he makes progress….

P.S. I Love You

Yesterday while enjoying lunch with my youngest daughter Katlin I was very moved by our conversation.  As a mother I have often found myself wondering if my adult children will remain in contact, and continue to have a close relationship with their siblings.  Katlin blessed me with insight to that very thought; it was in regards to Kim’s love of singing.

Like the changing of the tide, due to the challenges of bipolar disorder, Kim doesn’t sing as often as she desires.  Without any of us knowing Katlin has been resourceful in finding Kim singing opportunities.  I shared with Katlin how wonderful it was of her to help her sister.  Katlin replied, “Well, it is something Kim wants to do.  All I can do it set it up.  It is up to her what she does with it.”  I heard love, maturity and strength in her words that I haven’t heard before.  She remains supportive of her sister while moving forward with her own life despite the multitude of bipolar roadblocks that have been thrown in her path.  Katlin is coping beautifully, and she is a role model for me.  You can actually catch a glimpse of Kim singing one of her favorite songs by Christina Aguilera below.  The video is from the 2007 February Frolics show at the high school.

Katlin leads a very full life.  She has moved into her first apartment, and is busy working as a manager full-time in the food industry.  She works a second job at the church nursery and also volunteers for the Karla Smith Foundation.   However, she is unequivocally available for her sister.  Their bond reminds me of a letter.  A beautiful sister bond has been carefully scripted through love, friendship and encouragement.  The editing includes the constant working through the inevitable sibling quarrels, and usual family ups and downs including the bipolar moments…and yet at the end of the letter, and   underscored, it appears that they never fail to mention to one another, “P.S. I love you.”

Reframe

It was a little over a year ago that my counselor encouraged me to re-frame my experience regarding finding my daughter after her second attempt.  You see I was feeling very guilty about what had happened.  I was questioning myself.  “What if I would have done this or that?”  What a difference a year makes!  At first, I didn’t get it.  I couldn’t imagine thinking about the experience in a different light.  Let me say, I feel totally different today.  A year ago I  honestly did not know what to do.  While my beautiful daughter was home recuperating I  fell and broke my wrist, injured my shoulder and had bronchitis on top of all of that.  I found myself spiraling into depression.  What was I to do?  My husband, son and youngest daughter all returned to work, and I went on family leave to assist Kim with her recovery.    A few months went by, and I was not doing well.  I found myself staying close to Kim for fear of another attempt.  My husband Bill creatively and out of total love, adoration and support got me back up on my feet.  Reluctantly, I went with him on a trip out of state.  I had the most difficult time removing myself from Kim.

When we returned from our trip I felt a little stronger, and I actually returned to work the end of July.  Something clicked for me.  I started going to the YMCA and began to lose weight.  In addition to losing the weight, I noticed that I was feeling better and more optimistic.  In relation, I believe, to my increasing positive outlook Kim returned to college and completed her CNA program.  I admire her strength and determination.  What a phenomenal and beautiful person she is!  It’s been a little over a year, and I have lost over 30 pounds.  I have completed my first year of graduate school in a clinical counseling program.  I have become an active volunteer and most importantly I have regained my strength, and I have become a voice and an advocate for those with mental illness.  Additionally, I hope that I have become a healthy source of strength for my loved ones.  I rejoin Bill, Paul, Kim and Katlin in walking this journey together.  May we never give up!  I think I can finally say to my counselor, “Re-frame successful!”

Transparency

For reasons unknown I find it difficult to write.  Maybe it is because I don’t know how to share the upheaval that has occurred in our lives due to the mental illness of a loved one.  The mental illness I am talking about is bipolar disorder, and it afflicts our beautiful daughter Kim who is 21 and therefore afflicts me, my  husband Bill, youngest daughter Katlin who is 20  and older son Paul who is 24.  In particular, from August 2001 to May 21, 2010 life was extremely chaotic and unpredictable.  Currently life is calmer.  We strive to live a more peaceful life and enjoy the calm while we have it.  I am thankful to say that as a family we have faced the challenges bipolar disorder has presented us, and we will continue to as we learn more about mental illness and how best to support our loved one.  We walk side by side.