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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Remembering Our Mental Wellness

Tea Pot ImageHave you heard?

January is Mental Wellness Month! I can’t imagine a healthier way to begin the new year. And It’s important to remember that, even though the end of the month is near, awareness of our mental wellness doesn’t end January 31st, especially since it encompasses everything we do. We need to tend to our mental wellness throughout the year. To give us an idea just how encompassing our mental wellness is, let’s look at a definition of mental health. According to the World Health Organization, “Mental health is a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community” (World Health Organization [WHO], 2014). As you can see, our mental wellness touches on every aspect of our lives.

How do I care for my mental wellness?

I don’t know about you, but for myself, since mental wellness is all encompassing, it can be easy to forget about my mental well-being. As a wife, mother, grandmother, etc., I find that the last thing I usually think about is my mental well-being despite the importance that I do. It’s hard enough to find time for myself let alone take the time to think about my mental health. However, I realize that if I’m going to continue to effectively care for my loved ones, and fulfill my responsibilities, then awareness and care of my mental wellness is a must. How do I care for my mental wellness? Below are a few examples:

  • I try and take a quick daily mental inventory: Each day, I try to intentionally spend a few moments taking note of what I’m thinking and how I’m feeling. Self awareness helps me adjust and make changes to whatever challenges lie ahead throughout the day.
  • I exercise: I’ve had a health issue so I’ve gotten away from my daily walks, but I’m starting my walks again.
  • I get plenty of sleep: This has taken persistence on my part. I live with chronic insomnia. It took me awhile, but I finally found the courage to talk to my doctor about it, and she’s been very helpful. We’ve finally found, after several trials of different medications, that Ambien helps. Reducing my caffeine intake helps as well.
  • I communicate with others: I talk to my spouse about how I’m feeling, especially if I’m not feeing well. I’ve discovered that talking to someone that you trust can help. It provides us an opportunity to problem solve together.

What do you do to care for and strengthen your mental wellness? If you’d like more ideas about how to care for your mental wellness, check out Mental Health America’s Ten Tools to help you feel stronger. I especially like #8 – Take care of your spirit.

Are we getting the message out?

As you can see, mental wellness is vitally important. Interestingly enough, in spite of how important tending to our mental wellness is, I wonder whether or not we are getting the message out to the public and to employers to name a few. I discovered something that surprised me. Last Friday, when I shared with my daughter Kim that it is Mental Wellness Month, she said, “Wait. Now what is it?” After I shared again with her what month it is, she said, “I didn’t know that!” Without knowing it, she brought up an extremely important point, and that is, even though there are those trying to bring about awareness pertaining to our mental wellness, it seems that many are not getting the message. To my surprise, when I did a Google search of the words “mental wellness,” none of the top mental health organizations that I’m familiar with like NAMI and DBSA came up. However, when I typed in the words “mental illness” several organizations came up such as NAMI, Mayo Clinic, Web MD and other organizations as well. This is interesting to me. Shouldn’t these prominent organizations come up when I type in “mental wellness?” I also discovered something else. Many of the sites that I looked at had outdated material as well. This is an interesting discovery and one that I thought that I’d share with you. For now, the focus of this blog post is mental wellness so I’ll revisit my findings another day. In the meantime, if you’d like to learn about the history of Mental Wellness Month and learn more about caring for your mental wellness, check out Sovereign Health‘s article  “January is Mental Wellness Month.” And if you haven’t thought about it before, I do hope that you tend to your mental wellness. May we all have a great and healthy week!

Growing stronger…


World Health Organization. (2014). Mental health-strengthening our response (Fact sheet No. 220). Retrieved from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs220/en/

Perceived Obstacles | Seize the Opportunity to Shift Positive Thinking into Overdrive

Draw Bridge ImageHave you hit a roadblock lately?

It sure seems that I have. As a first time anthology creator and compiler, I’m finding it challenging quite frankly. I’m enjoying the process, and I especially like the creative aspect of compiling a collection of stories into a cohesive whole. In fact, this is a project that I’ve dreamt about for years. I’m no longer dreaming about writing the book Stories of the Traveling Talismans. I’m doing it! And it’s a kind of wonderful that I can’t even begin to describe. I’ve grown up to become a weaver of sorts, but rather than weave with fabric, I weave with words, and I absolutely love it and can get lost in it. However, despite my love for writing, it does come with challenges, and what seems to be the most challenging for me lately is waiting for the submissions to come in. I find that I’m worrying about whether or not I will find enough interested writers and thus submissions. After talking with my husband about this concern, I’ve come to realize that this is a perceived obstacle, and I’m going to seize the opportunity to shift my positive thinking into overdrive rather than let negative thinking overtake me.

How am I going to shift my positive thinking into overdrive?

First, I’d like to share a little about the photo above. My conversation with Bill about my writing challenges reminded me of this picture. I took the picture several weeks ago while traveling back home from the beach. At that time, we had a carload: Bill (driving), myself, our two daughters and one granddaughter. When we had arrived at the beach, and everyone got out of the car, it came to our attention that Kim, the eldest of our two daughters, had misplaced her backpack which had her phone in it. After expressing some frustration with Kim over the misplacement of her bag, Bill and Kim decided we’d better head back home to find the bag. All five of us, with disappointed expressions, got back in the car. Ugh! Instead of walking over to the beach to enjoy the warm sand beneath our toes, the radiant sunshine and salty ocean breeze, we ended up driving back home. That certainly wasn’t what we had planned. What was supposed to be a relaxing day didn’t seem so relaxing after all.

Lo and behold, on our way back home, we saw a drawbridge ahead of us rising. It seemed that Murphy’s law was in full swing when this happened. Let’s be honest. When you saw the picture, what was the first thing that came to your mind? I know that my first thought was “What?! Now we have to wait in traffic! We’ll never get to the beach!” After the initial shock that the drawbridge indeed works (we hadn’t seen it actually work before), laughter ensued. You see, when we drove over the drawbridge earlier in the day, to go to the beach, Katlin, our youngest daughter said, “Does this thing actually work?” So when we drove back over it to go home, you can imagine our surprise when the bridge, with it’s massive gear assemblies pulling it up, simply and ever so slowly rose up. The bridge no longer looked like a bridge but rather it looked like some medieval fort wall that was stopping us from passing through and that was keeping us from retrieving Kim’s backpack so that we could get back to the beach. Of course, it eventually went back down, and we were able to drive over the bridge, retrieve Kim’s backpack and go back to the beach.

And that’s just my point…

Even though something may seem like an obstacle, usually there’s a way around it. It’s not the perceived obstacle that’s keeping us from achieving our goal(s). It’s typically our thinking. Dr. Wayne Dyer said it beautifully when he said, “Change the way you look at things, and the things you look at change.” And that’s precisely what I mean when I say that I’m going to shift my positive thinking into overdrive. In essence, I’m saying that rather than think about things negatively, I’m going to think positive thoughts and ramp up my positive thinking when negative thoughts seem to be taking over. I’ve got a book to write! It’s going to be smashing! It may even end up on the New York Times Best Sellers list! This my friends is positive thinking in overdrive. And why not? It just may happen!

Growing stronger…

Mental Health and Communication Barriers: Are We Providing Outdated Crisis Center Services?

photo (14)Imagine, if you will, that you are a teenager and you need immediate help because you are in crisis and the only thing you have to communicate with is your phone. Do you call for help or do you text for help? According to pewinternet.org, “Texting dominates teens’ general communication choices. Overall, 75% of all teens text, and 63% say that they use text to communicate with others every day.” (n.d.). Therefore, it’s highly likely that a teenager in crisis would text for help rather than call for help. However, few crisis centers offer crisis text messaging services. Additionally, our teens may not be aware that such services have become available in recent years. Sadly, teens in desperate need of help go unnoticed because we haven’t stayed up with the times. I know because I’ve learned of one such young man who died by suicide because he texted people who didn’t have the resources to help him in his time of need. Have I caught your attention yet?

Regarding attention, Dan Strauss, Executive Director of The Alex Project, caught my full attention this past Wednesday on the Care For Your Mind blog. In Care For Your Mind’s blog post titled “We Need to Provide Services that Young People Will Use” Dan shared his story about how his 17 year old son Alex died by suicide October 11, 2010. He also shared that his son had sent text messages to his friends and counselor just prior (Care For Your Mind, 2014).

I don’t know about you, but I found myself wondering why Alex didn’t text a crisis center. The Alex Project notes on their website, “Had he known there was a crisis center open 24×7 that would have welcomed a text from him, Alex might still be alive today” (About The Alex Project, n.d.). Based on the tragic and preventable death of Alex it’s resoundingly clear that we are using outdated services. In answer to the question “Are we providing outdated crisis center services?” the answer is yes! Of course we still need crisis phone services, but at this point in time we also need crisis text messaging services as well. It’s beyond time that we catch up with the newest technologies.

In addition to adding text messaging services to our crisis centers around the country, we need to make sure that our teenagers are aware that such services exist. With suicide as the third leading cause of death of young people between the ages of 10 to 24 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2013) it’s imperative that we make sure that our young people know what technological services are available to help them should they find themselves or someone they know in crisis.

Despite the sadness of this blog post and the seriousness of the topic, I learned from reading Dan’s story that there are now a few crisis centers that offer text messaging crisis services specifically for our youth. You can find those crisis centers listed below. Additionally, you can learn more about Dan’s mission by visiting The Alex Project website. He offers Alex Project Crisis Line Texting Cards that you can order and share.

Before signing off, I just want to share with you that I highly respect and admire Dan Strauss and his mission. He gives all of us parents, families, friends and loved ones of a teenager(s) great hope that we will eventually succeed in preventing youth suicide. I’m feeling thankful today that I learned about The Alex Project, and that Dan has so graciously shared the tragic loss of his son in an effort to advocate for meaningful change. From the heart, I’m so sorry Dan for the loss of your beautiful son. Thank you Dan for all you do and stand for. His memory will live on, and many young lives will be saved due to your efforts.

All the very best,

Stacy

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YOUTH CRISIS TEXT MESSAGING RESOURCES

Crisis Text Line

The Reno Crisis Call Center

121Help.me

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About The Alex Project. (n.d.). In The Alex Project. Retrieved May 22, 2014, from http://www.alexproject.org/about-the-alex-project/

Care For Your Mind. (2014, May 20). Re: We need to provide services that young people will use [web log post]. Retrieved from http://careforyourmind.org

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014). Suicide prevention: youth suicide. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pub/youth_suicide.html

Pew Research Center. (n.d.). Highlights of the Pew Internet Projects Research on Teens [Teen Fact sheet]. Retrieved May 22, 2014 from http://www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheets/teens-fact-sheet/

Paying for Mental Health Services: Have You Heard of the Mental Health Parity Law?

LAW PIC-001Do you find yourself wondering how you will pay for mental health services for a loved one or for yourself should the need arise?  I don’t know about you, but it used to seem to me that such services were available only to those that readily had the money to pay out of pocket.  Regardless, a variety of barriers have existed, and mental health care has been inaccessible to many.  I have good news!  Times have changed.  There is now a law known as the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008.  The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) discusses the law and its meaning on their website.  According to the SAMHSA article titled “Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity” the “act requires insurance groups that offer coverage for mental health or substance use disorders to provide the same level of benefits that they do for general medical treatment” (2014).  Therefore, access to mental health care has increased due to the act.

Unfortunately, a number of Americans may not be aware of this important act.  The American Psychological Association (APA) notes in their article titled “Resources on the Mental Health Parity Law” that based on a recent APA survey “only four percent of Americans say they are aware of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, which requires mental and behavioral health coverage to be equal to or better than coverage for physical health, with no annual limits or higher co-pays or deductibles for treatment of mental health disorders or substance-use” (2014).  This is good news for sure!

To be honest, I’ve heard of the act, but I was not fully aware of the meaning and impact of the act until today.  The APA provides a helpful, animated video about the act here: http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/parity-law-resources.aspx.  I encourage you to check it out.  It’s only one minute and 20 seconds long so it won’t take long for you to watch.  Believe me, it’s worth your time.  Also, APA shares additional helpful resources pertaining to the parity law that you can find listed below the video. Furthermore, there is an APA consumer guide titled “What You Need to Know About Mental Health Coverage.”  You can access the guide here: http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/parity-guide.aspx.  The guide includes a wealth of information such as but not limited to an explanation of what the law does, health plans that the law affects,  how to know if your health plan provides mental health coverage and much more.  I highly encourage you to check it out.  I’ve already book marked the website and plan on re-reading it again for future reference.

I’m thankful to have learned more today about this extremely important act.  I hope you will find it beneficial too.  Perhaps you can share it with those you know and those that you are aware may need help.  If you wouldn’t mind, I’d be honored if you shared this blog post with others in an effort to continue to raise awareness about this vital law.

Best,

Stacy

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Resources on the Mental Health Parity Law. (2014). Retrieved May 20, 2014, from http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/parity-law-resources.aspx

Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity. (2014). Retrieved May 20, 2014, from http://beta.samhsa.gov/health-reform/parity

 

To Everything There is a Season

Stacy's Flutterings Lantern

When you reflect on your life, past and present, is it a new season for you?  Do you find another season has come and gone?

It is no secret that millions of people around the world are impacted by mental illness.  In America alone, one in four adults experiences mental illness in a given year (National Alliance on Mental Illness [NAMI], n.d.).  That is over 60 million Americans my friend.  I know.  I am one of the millions.  I have a loved one who lives with bipolar disorder.

Concerning the one in four adults who go on to experience mental illness, they have loved ones who are impacted as well.  Can you imagine what the numbers would look like if we tried to calculate the sheer number of people impacted by the mental illness of a loved one and/or a friend?  We may not have an exact count on how many of us are impacted by the mental illness of a loved one, but we do know that on a daily basis someone, somewhere has a loved one who has either just been diagnosed with a mental illness or who is being affected by mental illness.  This too I know.  It was about three years ago that I was one of those that would learn that my loved one lives with bipolar disorder.  Additionally, I would learn that I would become intimately connected with the world of suicide, in particular, I would learn more than I ever wanted to about suicide attempts.

In regard to when mental illness entered my life, and based on my experience, I felt that little existed to help me cope with my loved one’s illness.  I felt alone.  I felt a sadness so deep that I cannot describe it in words.  Slowly, as I walked the path with my loved one, I discovered that I am not alone!  There are people and organizations just waiting to help.  And that is how “Stacy’s Flutterings” blog came about.  I don’t want anyone to ever feel as alone as I did as I learned how to help my loved one.  Also, the resources that I have discovered are just too vital to keep to myself.  I had to share.  And so share I did, and I keep sharing as I go.  Of course, I will never know if this tiny space on the world wide web has truly helped anyone.  I will never know if this one mom among millions has had any impact.  My voice feels very small in this infinitely large world and yet I still sing the words of hope.

In an effort to continue to spread the news that there is hope I have created what I call “Stacy’s Lantern of Hope.”  If you have found yourself here, please join me by sharing my lantern of hope in an effort to let those know, who are either just learning of their loved ones mental illness or who are in the depths of the illness with their loved one, that they are not alone and that there are credible resources available.  Just like the words on the lantern say, my wish is that you will find hope when you least expect it here on Stacy’s Flutterings, inspiration to light your way and resources to help you navigate the turbulence.  If this is the beginning of a new season and the end to another just know that you are not alone.

Growing stronger…

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National Alliance on  Mental Illness (NAMI). (n.d.). Mental illness facts and numbers fact-sheet. Retrieved from http://www.nami.org/factsheets/mentalillness_factsheet.pdf

Healthy Invitations…

While flipping through photographs from our travels this year I noticed that I had taken pictures of random chairs here and there.  There is nothing special about the chairs or is there?  As I look at each photo I notice something.  Each chair has its own unique characteristics.  Each chair sits solitaire in the room.  And each chair looks inviting.

I find that I ponder why I took the pictures.  Why a chair?  Why then?  Why that particular chair?  Maybe I saw an invitation…an invitation to sit…stay awhile and perhaps relax or simply contemplate life.  Maybe I saw an invitation to read a favorite book or close my eyes and take a nap…

It’s as if each chair is an open invitation to melt into a billowy state of bliss.  For me that bliss would be a state of relaxation where I let the stress of life float away.  It’s an invitation to let go and re-energize a tired body, mind and soul.

What is so wonderful is that each chair in this blog post represents one of many opportunities to sit and let the stressors of life and worries of tomorrow float away if only for a moment and an opportunity to recharge.

May we never forget to take care of ourselves.

Growing stronger…

What Do You Choose Today?

It’s raining!  We have needed the rain so desperately.  And it here it is.  We have the windows at our home open wide so that we can capture some of the cool breeze as it mingles with the rain and winds its way through our part of the country.

I have decided to turn off the TV as I type.  I don’t want any distractions that would keep me from hearing the sound of the rain.  The heavenly sight and sound of the rain brings me a sense of balance.  The simple act of opening the windows and turning off the TV reminds me about the control I do have in my life.

It seems that all too often things are out of our control.  I don’t know about you, but I have many days where I feel like I can’t get a grasp on anything.  At times my life feels like a speeding, reckless train headed to the depths of the unknown.  And then I have days like today where I am reminded that I do have control over many things in my life.  I can choose to open the windows and allow the fresh aroma of the rain to fill my house.  I can choose to turn off the TV and allow the sound of the rain to calm my senses.  The question now remains…what will you choose to do today?

Growing stronger…

Extreme Makeover Home Edition – Ottawa, Kansas: One Year Later and Growing Stronger

A year ago today Bill and I were busy preparing for the trip of a lifetime.  We both had work and school obligations to complete, kids to contend with and family pets to make arrangements for.  I actually had marked in my day planner for last year, “Class at 5:00 p.m. and final tonight!”  At the time, I was a graduate student at McKendree University working towards my professional counseling degree.  I had an awesome professor who allowed me to take my final early so that I could travel later in the week to Kansas with Bill.  So…Saturday, August 30th, 2011 Bill and I began our journey to Ottawa, Kansas.  We left Illinois at 3:00 pm.  We were on our way to help build Gina, Allen, Makale and Dreyson Hill’s beautiful home along with thousands of other volunteers and ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition show.  Little did Bill or I know the life changing impact that the event would have on us then and now.

So, how did all of this unfold?  Well…we learned about the opportunity due to my volunteer efforts with the Karla Smith Foundation.  We were graciously invited by Emily Smith, Mental Health Advocate and former Executive Director of Bring Change 2 Mind.  Bill and I had talked for years about our desire to volunteer.  Finally, the opportunity presented itself, and we couldn’t resist.  I mean…how could we pass up an opportunity to volunteer with the ABC Extreme Makeover: Home Edition show?!  We couldn’t!  So on we went…

Sunday morning, July 31, 2011 at 8:00 a.m. Bill and I arrived on a dusty, scorching hot set along with thousands of volunteers and the t.v. crew.  And the rest…well…I can’t even begin to explain how phenomenal the experience was.  Instead of trying to cover what happened over the course of the 7 days I’d like to share with you a few of the amazing people we met.  Honestly, everyone we came in contact with was pretty darn amazing!  However, there were a few people that we would connect with that would greatly impact our lives over the course of the next year and for years to come!

Before I continue though, I’d like to ask you a couple of questions.  Have you ever met someone before that you feel you were supposed to meet?  When you met that person did you feel like they were a game changer?  Didn’t you feel, when you met those people, that they were going somewhere in life?  I don’t know about you, but I find that these are the people that make you want to be better than you are.  They strike a positive chord deep within your soul.  And in turn you find renewed strength.   That is what happened to Bill and I.  Every person we met over the course of the seven days had that affect on us.  Even my own husband had that affect on me.

So, who are some of these people that impacted our lives so greatly?  Well, first and foremost I have to say the Hill Family including Gina’s parents Loren and Sharon Middlebusher and Gina’s sister Chris Middlebusher.  Bill and I didn’t know them before the home makeover began and yet now we find that they have become incredibly special and important friends.  Life wouldn’t be the same without them.  In fact, due to Bill being shot by gunfire in a horrific drive-by shooting and rampage in Wichita, Kansas years ago we didn’t like to visit Kansas.  That was the last place we desired to go.  But now we feel different.  While in Ottawa last year Bill felt finally at peace with the incident, and we find that we desire to go to Ottawa whenever possible!  We learned that it wasn’t Kansas that we needed to avoid.  It was so amazing to me because my husband has coped silently for years with PTS due to the shooting, and there we were helping build a home for Allen who also lives with PTS.  During the build Bill didn’t feel alone anymore.  It was finally safe for him to talk about it.  By opening up to the volunteer experience in Ottawa Bill and I walked away with a profound sense of healing and new and incredible friends.  We were supposed to be in Ottawa, Kansas July 31st, 2011 through August 7th, 2011.  It was clearly meant to be.  I like to believe that it was orchestrated from above.  Below is a video of the first half of the Hill Family episode.  To watch the second half of the episode you can go to: http://abc.go.com/watch.

 

In addition to meeting the Hill’s, Bill and I had the privilege of meeting Valerie Brown who was just on Late Show with David Letterman last night!  Over the course of that week Bill and I saw Valerie around the set, but I especially recall meeting her at the mental health awareness tent.  I learned at the time that she volunteers with The Mission Continues.  And Bill and I had the privilege of sharing a table with her at the after party.  We knew then that she was going places and going places she is!  Thank you Valerie!  We are so proud to know you!  Your strength and courage to advocate for others is contagious!  We are better people because of you.  To learn more about Valerie and her prior military experience and future goals I encourage you to check out the video below.


I also had the privilege of being introduced to and visiting with Cinda and Linea Johnson.  This past May their book titled “Perfect Chaos: A Daughter’s Journey to Survive Bipolar, a Mother’s Struggle to Save Her” was published and released by St. Martin’s Press.  To learn more about their journey and to purchase a copy you can click here: http://www.amazon.com/Perfect-Chaos-Daughters-Journey-Struggle/dp/0312581823/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1343236171&sr=1-1&keywords=perfect+chaos.  I can’t begin to tell you how amazing they both are!  Again, I knew when I met Cinda and Linea that they are phenomenal ladies.  They actually took the time to listen to my story.  There we sat in a sticky, hot catering tent with the whir of an exhausted portable air conditioner in the background visiting about mental illness and it’s effects.  Their level of empathy helped me in not feeling alone as we cope with the challenges of having a loved one ourselves who lives with bipolar disorder.  For the first time I connected with a mother who “got me.”  Cinda knew just what I was talking about.  I felt a sense of empowerment as I listened to both of them.  I owe them a huge debt of gratitude because they have shown me, as well as millions of others, that it is okay to talk about mental illness, that we are not alone and that we can heal.  Thank you Cinda and Linea for empowering this Mom!  I am so very proud to say that I know you!  In addition to their book, Linea recently shared her story on the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA)  website.  I encourage you to check it out!  From the heart I thank you both!

I also had the pleasure of meeting and working with Nanci Schiman, Program Manager for The Balanced Mind Foundation formerly known as the Child Adolescent and Bipolar Foundation.  I believe that she is in this picture helping with volunteer coordination at the volunteer check-in tent.  When I think back to last summer I remember Nanci and I delivering water to the build crew.  There we were.  We had never met prior to the build, and yet we were driving around in her rental car trying to find our way around the set.  I was so comfortable with Nanci that as we bounced along the road (which wasn’t a road!  It was just an area marked off for cars to drive on!) I laughed and told her she was awesome!  Before we all knew it the time had flown, and she had to leave.  But a life changing connection was made.  I say with great pride that I am now one of Nanci’s volunteers with The Balanced Mind Foundation.  I love it!  It is the most awesome volunteer work!  And I get to pay it forward so-to-speak and help families in a similar situation to mine.  What a gift it was to meet Nanci.  Thank you Nanci!  I am so proud to know you, and thank you for the wonderful opportunity you gave me!

And…as you can tell,  I could keep going, but I’ll stop here for now.  There is no possible way that I can begin to capture in one blog post all the good that happened in Ottawa.  My hope is that maybe a spark will be lit and maybe some of you will be inspired to get involved in volunteerism if you are not already.  In my experience, it is beyond rewarding.  In time I will share more stories about our volunteer experiences and the amazing people Bill and I meet.  For now, I do want to list some other names that immediately cross my mind as I recall last summer: Jayne Rae-Altic, Keith Anderson, Janine Byrne, Ricky Canlapan, Marguerite Davis, Theresa Emerson, Ashley Erlinger, Erin Hazen, Chris Hendrix, Birgit Imkamp, Craig Layman, Shelby Norris, Emily and Kevin Smith, Robin Walker, Stephanie Williamson, Jim Watkins, Tori Wilson and Pat Winegardner.  There are so many more, and I have not forgot you!  I never will!  Thank you from the heart everyone for the volunteer experience of a lifetime!

I wish the same healthy connections and experiences for those of you reading this!  May we all continue to connect, learn and grow from one another.

Growing stronger…

Healthy Change On the Move…Change Agent Youth M.O.V.E.

Kim and I were honored to be invited to and attend a special Children’s Mental Health Committee meeting last Friday at Chestnut Health Systems.  The focus topic was Youth M.O.V.E. Illinois.  Mary Pat Dejarnette, Region V Family Leadership Coordinator, from the Karla Smith Foundation graciously invited us to attend the meeting with her since she is aware that Kim has been seeking a healthy way to share her story and use her voice in advocating for others her age, especially in the realm of mental health.

So…what exactly is Youth M.O.V.E. Illinois?  They are one of 32 statewide chapters across the country helping to fulfill the mission of Youth M.O.V.E. National.  I think the Youth M.O.V.E. National website explains their mission best by saying, “Youth M.O.V.E National is a youth led national organization devoted to improving services and systems that support positive growth and development by uniting the voices of individuals who have lived experience in various systems including mental health, juvenile justice, education and child welfare.”

And…what are Youth M.O.V.E. National’s goals?  “…to assist in developing the Youth Leadership program at meetings, to create youth movement principles and policies, to develop training tools, guides and other documents, to unite the voices and causes of youth, to act as consultants to youth, providers families and other adults, to provide national youth leadership representing youth served by mental health and other youth-serving systems and to coach others in the area of authentic youth involvement.”

How encouraging!  There is meaningful change taking place that takes into account our nations youth!  And even more encouraging is that the changes taking place come from voices of experience.

It is exciting that there are organizations that exist today that not only support our youth but encourage our youth, with real world experience in various systems, to use their voices to create positive, meaningful change.  If you are interested in learning more about Youth M.O.V.E. National or starting a chapter you can find more information about them on their website: http://www.youthmovenational.org/.  And if you are interested in learning more about how to get involved with Youth M.O.V.E. Illinois you can check out their website here: http://youthmoveillinois.blogspot.com/.  I encourage you to check them out and learn how you can become a change agent too!

Growing stronger…

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Youth M.O.V.E. Illinois.  Accessed on June 22, 2012 at http://youthmoveillinois.blogspot.com/

Youth M.O.V.E. National.  Accessed on June 22, 2012 at http://www.youthmovenational.org/