What Is Bravery

Have you ever learned a second or third language or more? Have you ever thought about it? What were your reasons? What was your motivation?

I love language. I always have–whether it is English grammar (my daughters are not nearly as thrilled with that passion right now), learning American Sign Language in my teens, or my current endeavor of learning Arabic.

Learning ASL and working on Arabic now are valuable to me and bring me joy, but I don’t have to…I speak the language of the country I am in, the country of my birth. I could blithely go along never learning a word of any other language. I have that option. It’s not a good option, but it is a valid one–for me.

That is not always the case.

Life often moves people around, forcing them to add a second or third language to their vocabulary. And that task is rarely easy.

Imagine you have to move to another country. With just a suitcase of belongings and facing the fact you will likely never return to the place you are leaving. Imagine also this country you are going to does not speak your mother tongue. Take that further and imagine the new country will not give you any time to learn the new country, you must get a full-time job immediately, regardless of the language barrier.

This, my friends, is the experience of refugees, some immigrants, and asylum seekers in America. Other countries provide financial support for these immigrant people groups and families, for years if necessary, so they can spend some time learning the local language but America, in true pull yourself up by your boot straps fashion, offers no support or time for language learning beyond giving a list of local English classes that are hopefully near their home or apartment.

I can tell you language is hard to learn. And that isn’t helped by age. I watch kids pick up English within months when young, like 5; ASL was quite easy to learn at 15 but now, oh my word, now Arabic is just not penetrating my brain.

Now imagine doing that while supporting a family, adjusting to a new culture, and mourning the loss of what you have left behind.

As well as learning a language faster, young kids may find themselves shedding more and more of their accent while for older kids and adults, the accent may lighten but many sounds will continue to be different than a native speaker. It is normal, natural, and to be expected. But sometimes people forget that and just cop an attitude because it takes more effort to understand some of the words.

People do not typically struggle with language or an accent because they are lazy or stupid–they struggle because it is hard, the process of learning and using a new language is demoralizing. I am a college educated woman, Arabic is my third langauge and yet, at best I sound like a 2 year old after three years of studying with native speakers.

Please take just a moment to consider this next time you are talking to someone who counts English as their second (or more!!) language. A little patience will go a long way to making communication easier and enjoyable. Trust me, the effort is worth it.

“Do you know what a foreign accent is? It’s a sign of bravery.” – Amy Chua ♥️♥️♥️

The Year of the Ox

I just went running into my daughters’ room to tell them the one phrase I know in Chinese–Happy New Year. You see, years ago I was engaged to a guy who’s maternal grandparents were originally from China. The relationship with him was a total bust (whew) but I adored his grandmother and I learned how to say Happy New Year.

Man, his family was good to me–but I digress.

Fast forward many years to 2012. Caitlyn and Sue were enrolled at the local elementary school. The school had asked families to unplug for the week. I failed miserably, but the school also sent home some activity ideas. It was this time of year and it was Chinese New Year so I made my first attempt at making Chinese food. I don’t remember the food at all but a tradition was born.

Every year we do our best to make Chinese food for the Lunar New Year.

Caitlyn chose her recipes, I bought the ingredients. She cooked for hours to make us spring rolls, dumplings, and wonton soup. I made beef broccoli (pretty sure that is not authentic but we like it…). Patrice was her assistant in this process. She used carrots and purple cabbage to make the dumplings orange and purple. Making fortune cookies failed us, per usual, but it was fun. Caitlyn wrote little fortunes. Mine was, “You will give Caitlyn money soon”, daddy got, “don’t tell anyone, but I poisoned your food” and Patrice got, “Did you thank Caitlyn for this wonderful food?” Sue also gets to give Caitlyn money…since the cookies failed, I taped everyone’s fortune to a piece of candy.

It was really good and as Caitlyn said, “well, it kept me off my phone all afternoon.” Maybe the school did accomplish something all those years ago… 😉

Inside My Head

If you have been around here for awhile…you know it can get messy in my brain…I am constantly trying to understand, explain, put my finger on what is going on in there.

If I could express my bipolar in one word I would say rage. The depression shows up as rage. The hypomania shows up as rage.

A few weeks ago I found myself in that place again. I was upset about something (a home repair) and just started SCREAMING at my husband. Thankfully, he is a saint about this and just kept saying, “Charity, where is this coming from? What is this about?” I kept saying it was about the house issue but it wasn’t and I couldn’t stop.

I finally climbed out of the rage with a sore throat and shame as my reward and we fixed the house issue.

But why was I there again? Why was the rage there again? Why?

This week I think I finally figured out why. I don’t know how to fix it, but I might know why.

In that place, I feel something wrong with me. As I rage I know there is something wrong with me. It would make sense to stop, but in that place, I know something is wrong, something is broken and I think if I just keep raging, that thing will get fixed or go away. If I can just rage long enough.

But I never can. I never ever can.

*the rage is often a sign I need a medication adjustment so I called the doc and we made that adjustment. It has helped. It really has.

**sometimes my hubby just stays quiet and that is quite wise, but sometimes he needs to speak up–this was one of those times.

What is allowed is not always wise

I totaled this post way back. I honestly don’t even know when but I am going to guess at some point during 2020 and while the world has been in crisis mode thanks to the covid-19 pandemic. And, unfortunately, the title still fits. As my daughter pointed out last night, she was 13 when this started and now she is just 7 months from being 15.

And my heart is broken at this fact. But I am excrutiatingly proud of my girls. As mentioned, Caitlyn has turned 14 during this, Sue has turned 13, and Patrice 10.

Caitlyn has thrown herself into crafts, Sue in all sorts of art, and Patrice has had playdates via zoom and continues to be her happy self.

I have fought against the politics that are burning America down around us and hubby continues to be his faithful self, working day in and day out, restoring his boat, and the like.

And it is okay but it is frustrating. We are very conservative in what we do and who we see. The girls and I see one other family and Bob sees one man he is helping learn English. We don’t attend church, Bible study or prayer meetings in person. It is virtual or we are out.

And we feel alone in this. Our kids are the only ones in their Bible studies not attending in person. Sue is so passionate about trying to explain covid and the risks to her friends, I am afraid she is going to lose friends over it. I again spent time last night reminding her not to ruin relationships.

But I understand her anger.

I understand it to my very core.

I understand having to explain myself over and over for doing what our doctors and others have said is very necessary. I understand feeling like I am screaming into the wind.

And I HATE IT!!!!

Because you know what? I want to go to church. I want to study with other people. I want to pray with others.

But what is allowed is not always wise.

The Decade

My youngest, Patrice, is 10.  A whole decade.  One I never dreamed I would survive in the early days, months, years…

Her birth completed our family and just about killed me.  Baby blues came.  My midwife talked me through those days.  And then I got a week of peace.  I thought I was in the clear…then I couldn’t sleep.  My brain refused to shut off no matter what I did.  I couldn’t stop moving.  I had to be busy or I was just sure I would fall apart.  I had three girls 4 and under–and we never stopped going to the park, the library, anything I could find to do while wearing a tiny baby.  I even cleaned my house!!

The darkness was overwhelming me.  I was sure my family would be better off without me.  I would e-mail my midwife who would convince me I should go back home.  I didn’t want to leave my family–I just didn’t see how I would ever survive.

Over the years I have done hospital stays; I take medicine that makes me sick every single day.  I run for exercise and to keep my sanity.  I have people around me that love me, encourage me, challenge me, help me focus on why I continue to fight and live.

My postpartum depression and anxiety were not nice enough to resolve and leave…it made itself at home as bipolar 2 and anxiety.  I am pretty sure there is another diagnosis but eh, who has the time to remember them all?

But here we are, 10 years later.  Patrice seems pretty happy and growing in Jesus, living life in this pandemic.  Ten years later, we are all here to celebrate the decade of Patrice and how far we have come!

Walking your own journey with postpartum mood disorders and need someone to talk to or get resources?  Contact the PSI warm line (leave a message) call 1-800-944-4773 or text 503-894-9453.  Leave in your message if you would like to talk with someone with particular expertise, such as Armed Forces, Arabic speaking, Spanish speaking, dads, adoptive parents, birth mothers, postpartum psychosis.

The Thing You Forget

Bipolar is a jerk.  Even in the times you are well and stable, you’re not normal.  But you get used to that normal.  You adjust your expectations, you learn your oddities and live.

I had a blip during our shelter in place because of medications getting messed up, but I knew what it was and why it was.  That made it easier to live with.  I cried a lot and got emotional, but that was part of a collective angst.  I was not alone.  That was not necessarily even the Bipolar.

But then I got tired.  If you ask my friends how I was doing, for weeks they would tell you I was tired.  No matter how much sleep I got, I was tired.  And that hasn’t changed, but the reality of Bipolar has made itself known.

Last week it messed me up good…making it so, so, so hard to leave the house.  Even when I knew I would enjoy where I was going the dread was devastating.  And Friday knocked me for a loop.  I had to go somewhere.  I had to talk to people.  And I talked to too much.

And I remembered what I forgot…

How much I hate myself.

In Came Her

A few years back we decided to get involved with a particular group of people in a particular life circumstance and see if we could help.

And I think we have.

But not nearly as much as they have helped my family, and me, especially.

A little over 3 years ago I went to a family’s house.  I didn’t know the family.  I didn’t know what to expect.  We met that day.  I helped with something and she sent food home with me.  For the first of what has literally become thousands of times.

God has used her to carry me many times.

Three, in particular, come to mind.

The first was a year ago.  Earlier in the spring, the doctors found a lump.  It wasn’t cancer but had to come out because it has such a high likelihood of becoming cancer.  A year ago, right now, they removed the lump.  The surgery went great. I had no pain.  That was a Monday.  I expected to go right back to my life on Tuesday.  But I didn’t.  I dropped my girls off at an activity and I went to her house.  And sat there.  I just sat.  I didn’t even hold her newborn daughter.  That’s what I did for the rest of the week.  She had a newborn baby but she was the one taking care of me.  She just sat with me and sent dinner home to my family every night.

Another time was a month or so ago.  The bipolar had been playing mean.  But I was okay, just a rough evening.  And she saw it.  She messaged me on my home and used our particular code to ask if I was really okay.  She saw it.  My hubby can see it sometimes.  And I have people who I can reach out to but they are not nearby so I have to tell them when I am struggling.  But. she. saw. it.

That brings us to today.  The last two weeks have been hard. I still do the things that need to be done but I really just want to hide.  I am always exhausted no matter how much I sleep.  I have seen her a few times this week but just for accomplishing a few things, not to visit.  I love being with her when I am there but it is just hard to be anywhere.  It took me until Friday to ask if it is the Bipolar.  And today I have just not done anything and have done little to connect.  But she did the work to connect with me.  A couple of hours ago my daughter yelled, “she’s here.”  And she was.  And again she knew just the right time to be here.

Funny, a few years ago I thought I would help her when I was the one that needed her help.

 

Pandemic, Bipolar and a Mask

Patrice can make anything look cute!!  And monkies are her jam!  Gotta say my girls made being under stay at home orders for a couple of months life much easier.  They are fun, smart, and for the most part, obedient.  Being traditional homeschoolers we had no trouble continuing on with school–I actually added more.  We got more schoolwork done this year than any other year–why not?  We were at home!

Caitlyn got some practice sewing making masks for the family.  It is not her favorite thing to do but she also does not like listening to me nag so she did it–though she did tell me not to volunteer her to make a bunch of masks.

I was a little bit of a disaster during the tightest of controls as we stayed home to lessen demands on the hospitals here.

Easter was probably the worst of it for me. I missed my best friend so badly–so badly.  And that morning she and her husband dropped off several of my favorite dishes of food she had made for us.  I couldn’t hug her.  I couldn’t invite her in.  We could barely chat.

I was so glad to see her but it broke me.  I came in and cried and cried and cried…until the next day.  I thought I would never stop crying.  Honestly.  And of course, you can’t hide anything from your best friend so when she found out, she did another porch drop the next day to make sure I was okay.

And that time, I was okay.  For some odd reason, that time made me happy.  Yes, I still wished I could invite her in and give her a hug but I was at least also happy I got to see her.

 

I cried a lot during the 2-ish months of shelter in place.  There were days I was afraid I wouldn’t stop and I would scar my children forever but honestly, I don’t think it can be blamed on the bipolar.  I really think it was a pretty normal reaction.  Such a time of upheaval and fear.  Somehow my children seem to be handling it okay.  Even as homeschoolers, we lost a lot during this–co-op, theatre, youth group, time with friends, but my girls were amazing.  I seriously don’t know how I can have ended up with such stable kids when I am anything but, but I thank God every single day for that.

*Not my baby–I like to borrow them and give them back!

As we transition to doing more, it is hard to know what is okay and what to do or not to do.  For the most part, when we are with people the rule is masks on indoors and off outdoors IF we can be spaced apart. It is hard.  A lot of people try to tell me we don’t need to worry about it but I want to love my neighbor as myself so we wear them.

I survived all of this with my emotions somewhat intact but one of my biggest struggles now is people not wearing masks or face shields when out.  Science has shown they reduce transmission of covid-19.  I want to be safe and I want to do my part to keep others safe.  It is my duty and my privilege to love others in this small way.

Pretending It Doesn’t Exist

Note:  This comes out of recent events we are aware of but not personally involved in and a conversation I had with someone.  The person I talked to is one of the sweetest people I have ever known and was receptive to my perspective as we talked.  She did not know about my mental health journey.  I am by no means upset with her; I just wanted to share my thoughts after this conversation.

A young man known by many in our circle of friends died by suicide earlier this week.  This lead many parents to have to consider how and what to discuss with their children.  In a conversation this week, a lady said to me, “I don’t talk to my kids about it.  I don’t want them to even know it [suicide] exists.”

I was floored.  Her kids are all in their teens and 2os.  Without meaning to, I jumped on her.

“But it does exist.  Kids need to know that.  I live with bipolar disorder and while it is not right now, there are times suicidal ideations (thoughts) are part of the illness.  They are a symptom of bipolar and other mental health issues.  Kids need to know that.  They need to know what it is and to seek  help whether it is a one-time thing or part of ongoing their mental health concerns.”

She knew nothing of my history, my journey or my battles.  To be honest, I share less and less of it openly.  But today, I was reminded why I sometimes have to speak up.

Mental illness almost killed me.  It almost tore apart my family, as it did this family earlier this week.  I do not know this young man’s story, but I do know suicidal ideations.  I know what it is to fight that battle with every breath in my body.  I know what it is to fight alone and with others.  I know what it is to have beat back the thoughts for now.  I know what it is to dread their return.

There are many causes of suicidal thoughts and none of them are because someone knew suicide existed.  We can not protect our children by never mentioning suicide or mental illness.  We can not wish or deny it away.  We can not cause our children to deal with suicidal thoughts by saying the word any more than we can make it disappear by never talking about it.

I am not telling you to spill out everything you know about suicide and every scary detail to every child–different ages call for different types and amounts of information.  Choose wisely, but please don’t choose nothing.

 

 

Clowning Around

Today found us heading out for a field trip to The Parade Company in Detroit.

We saw where they build floats and big heads for America’s Thanksgiving Parade; it is the third biggest Parade in America–behind the Rose Parade on January 1st and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

It started in 1924 as the JL Thanksgiving Day Parade.  Employees from Hudson’s were in the parade–but only men–they pulled the floats.  A couple of years later women were allowed to be in it and all were paid for doing so.  The parade was not held in 1943 and 1944 as the parade supplies were donated for the war effort.

The Parade Company employs artists and has 4,500 volunteers that put on the parade each year.  People 14-years-old and up can walk in the parade.  Wearing a Big Head or being a clown is an option for those making a donation of various sizes.

We saw a styrofoam culture being crafted, floats from previous years that will be reused, and a float being dismantled that is being taken out of service.

Can you find the first ethnic float character or the handpainted Petoskey stone?