Monday, April 30, 2018

Things that Feed Me

When I had breakfast with Erynn last week, she inspired me to generate a list of the things that feed my soul.  Here goes.

* Walking and finding other people's gardens in bloom
*  Writing
*  Writing poems that no one else will read
*  Feeling a grandchild lean into me
* Listening to music
*  Sitting on the front porch and watching the moon rise while enjoying night fragrances--white petunias, white nicotiana, the white blossoms on my crabapple tree
*  Sitting on the porch swing with my cat Enzo
*  Hearing a cat purr
*  Stretching out like a cat in the sun
*  Walking the dogs through the cemetery
*  Running barefoot
*  Knitting a baby blanket
*  Walking with friends before the sun comes up
*  Listening to the sounds of a baseball game
*  Sitting in the ballpark on a summer's evening and watching the mountains to the southeast turn blue
*  Enjoying the sounds of a summer night--crickets, sprinklers, a motorcycle in the distance somewhere
*  Going on drives with Ken Cannon
*  Roaming through local nurseries
*  Cracking open a cold can of Dr Pepper

I could keep going but I need some Dr Pepper now.  What feeds you?

Friday, April 27, 2018

Oh, Grief: The Gift That Keeps on Giving

My dad worked as an assistant coach with a man named Chris Apostle, who also happened to be our neighbor when we lived in Edgemont.  Chris was a sleepy-eyed Greek with a sharp wit who could have easily passed for a member of the Rat Pack because he had that kind of cool daddy-o vibe.  He and my dad shared an office and often took recruiting trips together in our little green VW and probably shared a room at the first Motel 6 they could find.  Such was the life of an assistant football coach back in the non-heady days of the 1960s.

Anyway, Chris died in 2003, and when I went to his viewing where he was surrounded by BYU memorabilia, I had the eerie sense that I was looking at my own father's future.  At my future, too.  And I walked away shaken, wondering how I would bear it.

Well, now I know.

I am finding this second spring without my father's large laughing comforting presence to be harder than that first spring when I was still numb.

I brought this up with my lovely friend Jen who lost her mother a year before Dad died.  She sent this to me in an email, and because her words about a church talk given by a Japanese man who speaks English as a second language touched me so very much, I'm sharing them here.

And then this man spoke about the experience of losing his mother.  And he is a scientist by training, and obviously very brilliant, and he was trying to work through some kind of "empirical truth" through gospel experiences to find some way to know for a fact that he would see his mom again some day.  He wanted assurance from the Lord that was irrefutable.  He wanted to know 100% in his heart.  And his talk was about that.

And he said two incredibly beautiful things--even more beautiful because English was not his first language so he structured the phrases in interesting ways.  The first thing he said was that he came to the conclusion that to the Lord, it is much more important for us to have faith, and it is much more important to have hope, than for us to KNOW.  And then the thing he said that I loved the most was:  "The pain of losing my mother never goes away.  But I have learned to carry it more safely."

Carry it more safely.  How beautiful.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Really? Still? After All These Years?

Okay, I'll admit it right upfront.  I'm not organized.  Especially when it comes to paper stuff, I AM NOT ORGANIZED.  This always made for tense moments when I was supposed to produce my children's immunization records for whatever reasons.  But they're grownups now, so I'm home free.  Right?

Well.  Take a look at this text exchange I had last week with my oldest son, who's closer to 40 than he is to 30.

SON:  Do you by chance have any of my immunization records?  I need them for my graduate school.

ME:  Ugh!  I don't know!  I'll take a look when I get home.

SON:  Thanks!

ME:  I was horrible about keeping records.  Loser Mom!  Call the SLC school district and see if they have them on file anywhere.  Tell them you need them because your house burned down and your parents are dead.

And that's how you deal with graduate schools that want your children's immunization records.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Riding Shotgun

I've been surprised by how much I've been missing the Coach the past few months.  In some ways the second year has been harder than the first.  By the time you hit the second year, you better understand all the ways there are to miss someone you love.


Yesterday, I listened to a Johnny Cash CD (Yes!  I know.  I still listen to "CDs."  And my third son just called to ask if I know how to download an "app" or if I need TRQ to help me with that) as I drove around town, running errands.  As soon as I returned home I wanted to call the Coach and tell him how much I'd enjoyed listening to the Man in Black, but yeah.  I couldn't.

It did occur to me, though, that my dad might have been riding shotgun with me all along.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

#9 Choose hope, yo

So once when I was driving south on I-15 CRYING LIKE A BABY because I was stressing about one of our boys (gah! they don't tell you that you never stop being a parent when they first put those cute little babies in your arms!) I noticed a big old fat rainbow looming over the mountains to the east.

And suddenly I remembered the old Noah story about how the rainbow was God's promise to Noah that he (Noah) would never have to float around the world with a bunch of smelly animals in a boat again.

Okay.  Whether you believe the Noah story is literally true or not isn't the point.  The point is that the rainbow is a symbol of hope--hope in the future, hope that goodness will prevail, hope that you won't have to share your bedroom with camels.  And when I saw that big old fat rainbow looming over the mountains to the east, this thought flashed through my head:  Hey.  Why don't you try a little hope for a change?

Which reminds me of a letter written at Christmas time to a friend by a 16th-century Catholic father named Fra Giovanni:

I salute you!  There is nothing I can give you which you have not; but there is much, that, while I cannot give, you can take.  No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in it today.  Take Heaven.  No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present instant.  Take peace.  The gloom of the world is but a shadow;  behind it, yet our reach, is joy.  Take joy.

Take joy.  Take hope.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Tip #8: A Useful Reminder

When I get depressed I start searching for ways to feel better (obv!), but sometimes that becomes its own kind of pressure.  Oddly, sometimes by just acknowledging the pain you're feeling, you lessen (a little) its grip.  I'm reminded of this when I do the five minute self-compassion break on this website recommended by a good friend of mine who's also a wise and very experienced therapist.

The takeaway?  Suffering is, in fact, a part of life.  Acknowledge it and then treat yourself in that moment of acknowledgement with the kindness you would extend to a dear one.  I find that when I offer myself kindness, I can be kinder to the people around me.

OKAY.  I think tomorrow will be the final tip thing because now I'm just ready to write random crap about life.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Grandparents are the gift that keeps on giving

I was lucky enough to know each of my grandparents, who all lived into their 90s with the exception of my Grandma Covey who died when she was 87.  Addie, my dad's mom, had a million grandchildren, but she made an effort to reach out to us individually by sending pretty little cards with crisp dollar bills for our birthdays.  Louise, my mom's mom, only had three grandchildren, which she gleefully spoiled.  Meanwhile, the grandpas, Philo and Irwin (known as "Skinny" to all of his friends) smiled their approval at us.

The point is, I always felt loved by all four of them, even if Philo sometimes got mixed up and called me "Rhonda."

But here's the thing.  Even though they've been gone for many years now, I feel like my grandparents are still an important presence in my life.  Why?  Because they faced hard things.  Disappointing things.  Sad things.  Tragic things.  And somehow they endured.

I think of them often these days as I attempt to negotiate certain challenges.  I'll tell myself stuff like, "Well, if Addie could deal with (fill in the blank) or (fill in another blank) or (YUP!  IT'S ANOTHER BLANK TO FILL IN), then I can, too."

I can, too.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Tip #7: Seriously, just go ahead and put on your damn earrings

That sounds kind of in-your-face.  Sorry.  I'm not talking to you, I'm talking to me.  I look at myself in the mirror and have the following conversation when I'm depressed.

ME:  Ugh.  I want to go back to bed and pull the covers over my head and sleep until the Fourth of July.

ME:  Right.  That'll solve everything, won't it.

ME:  I'm too blue to even wash my face.  Faces are so stupid.  Why did God invent something that you had to wash every day anyway?

ME:  Look.  You'll feel better if you wash your face.  You'll feel better if you do some of the things you always do.  Even if they're little things.  You know.  Like putting on your earrings.

ME:  Ugh.  Why were earrings even invented?  Why were ears even invented?  Earrings and ears are so stupid.

ME:  You campaigned hard for those earrings, starting in the sixth grade, although TRQ made you wait until you were fourteen to get your ears pierced.  And then she went out and got her ears pierced the next day.  But that's not the point.  The point is that putting on your earrings reminds you of what it feels like to be you when you're not depressed.

ME:  Whatever.

ME:  Seriously, just go ahead and put on your damn earrings.  NOW!

It doesn't have to be earrings, obv.  Lipstick counts.  A bow tie.  A trademark pair of shoes.  Any little thing that says hey!  This is me on a good day!

And the good days will be here again!

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Okay, a couple more tips today

TIP #4:  Pull back from the things you can!  Okay, we all have busy lives.  But the truth is that we often fill up our dance cards with things that can be deferred.  Or even eliminated.  Sitting out a dance or two while you're getting better won't hurt.  Unless, of course, Prince is performing "1999."  Then you really should get up and dance.

Meanwhile, the next tip is like unto that last tip.

TIP #5:  Don't isolate yourself but do feel free to cut back on social engagements for awhile.  One of the things that happens to me when I get depressed is that my social energy plummets.  Being with other people is exhausting, which is one of the reasons why depressed people want to isolate themselves.  There are other issues at play, too--like that fear that you'll disappoint others and drive them away forever because you ARE NO FUN AT ALL AND YOU PROBABLY NEVER EVER WERE IN THE FIRST PLACE AND THINGS WILL NEVER BE GOOD AGAIN.

But whatever.

Just remind yourself that right now you have limited energy and you maybe oughta give some thought to where the energy you do have should go.  Then remind yourself this is only a temporary state of affairs.

Speaking of which . . .

Tip #6:  Learn to love the bomb.  Stephen Colbert has talked about the importance of "loving the bomb," i.e. embracing a failure as a way of getting through it and past the fear of failing that dogs us all.  My version of loving the bomb is to embrace the illness--or at least embrace what it teaches me.  I mean, why not put all that misery to good use?

So what have my episodes of depression taught me?  First and foremost, I've learned that I am resilient.  I know how to get back in the saddle again.  Which I would totally do if only I had a horse.

Awesome, right?

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Mark Zuckerberg and (now that I think about it) TIP #3

I didn't spend a lot of time yesterday watching Mark Zuckerberg testify in his big boy clothes about technology to old people, but I saw enough to remind me of . . .

TIP #3:  LIMIT YOUR TIME ON SOCIAL MEDIA!  Or at least that's a good call for me.

Hey.  I've been around long enough to know that stuff on social media is curated at some level.  Still, when I'm feeling like UGH! everything I see on Facebook or Instagram makes me feel like a loser who buys herself stretchy pants at Rite-Aid for $15.00.

Which I do.

But whatever.

Meanwhile, it's a beautiful day here in Salt Lake.  I'm off to sit in some sunshine now!

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

We interrupt this lecture on mental health to bring you the following update . . .

So last night I drove out to Woods Cross to watch my three year-old grandson play in his first tee ball game.

I know.  Three!  He'll be four next week, though, so he's practically a teenager now.  And it must be said he's so excited that he literally has not taken off his uniform for the past five days.  Not even his new cleats.  Not even when he goes to bed.

Anyway, I figured he would be the youngest kid out on the field, but no.  It was a diaper derby with lots of happy dads telling their kids which way to run.  I practically died from happiness watching all of this because CUTE.  Also, because I remembered being there myself as a parent not so long ago.

The difference, though, is the level of engagement.  Back in the day I really CARED how my kids played.  And, seriously, I was pretty much that parent you could hate because I harassed umpires and made many inappropriate comments and basically behaved like a lady jackass whenever the opportunity presented itself.

Bottom line.  I was never classy.

Last night, however, as I looked at the parents and the players, I realized how young I was then--and how watching my grandkid play will be a different experience.  Which is fine.  I'm glad I'm here to have it.

And, actually, that does bring me to Tip #2:  Watch baseball.

Ever since Gigi's dad paid me a dollar per game to scorekeep for our local little league--George was the president--I have followed baseball.  It's the perfect summer sport.  Relaxed and unrushed, it's all the things you want summer to be (even when it isn't).    But during my last major depressive episode, which hit at the height of summer, baseball turned out to be the only thing I could listen to or watch.  Why?  I'm not sure.  Maybe because of the sport's connection to my childhood.  Or maybe because a person doesn't need to pay close attention to know what's happening.  Or maybe because of baseball's sweet, unhurried rhythm.

Whatever the reason, I found myself turning on a game whenever I was at home--even if teams I ordinarily don't care about were involved.  (I'm looking at you, Tampa Bay.)  (No offense.)

Baseball turned out to be a constant and steadying presence during a time when I felt anything but constant and steady.

Thanks for that, Baseball.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Tips for pulling off a nervous breakdown so no one will notice and your life will still be there waiting for you when you feel better

Yeah, I know.  Nerves don't literally break down.  I learned that in my junior high health class (thanks, Mrs. Roberts!), although as a veteran of periodic major depressive episodes, I think the phrase hits as close to the mark as any other description out there, so I feel ok using it.

Anyway, I feel like I'm standing on the edge of the rabbit hole again--haven't gone down it yet, so yay!--but I've decided to remind myself of some of the strategies I've compiled over the years that help me manage myself.  I've also decided to share them here in case they're useful for you or someone you love.  And please.  Not everything works for everybody.  When I first rattled off this list to my friend Louise, she plunked her head down on the table where we were writing and said, "Gah.  This list depresses me even more.  THANKS A LOT, ANN."  And then she didn't move from the table for a couple of weeks.

So there's that.  Still.  It's a good list for me.  And I'll be sharing a few ideas here during this upcoming week.

1.  Read non-fiction.   I know.  This sounds totally random, so let me explain.  We read fiction because we want a) characters who have b) problems that aren't c) easily solved.  And the more problems they have, the more engaging the narrative.  But when I'm REALLY depressed, I don't characters with problems in my life.  So if I can read at all--I have a hard time with both concentration and retention when depression sits in--I read non-fiction.  NOT THAT HISTORICAL PEOPLE DIDN'T HAVE PROBLEMS.  The Romanovs down in that cellar with the bolsheviks, for example, come to mind.  But there's a certain distance in non-fiction's narrative style which I find soothing.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Friday Thoughts on Tulips and Natural Habitats

So walking is my current anti-depressant drug of choice these days, which is why I've spent more time than usual out and about in my neighborhood.

Today as I was walking to 7-11 in the rain to buy a can of Campbell's tomato soup (which is kind of a depressing sentence, actually), I noticed a bed of tulips and was struck by how saturated their colors were.  So vivid!  So glistening!  So pink and yellow pearly!

It hit me that while these tulips might also be lovely with the sun shining on their throats, they're far more beautiful in the rain.  Why?  Because they were invented in the Netherlands, a country that experiences over 700 days of rain a year.  The Netherlands is an overachiever that way.  Tulips love rainy days.  Let the drops fly and they're all about showing off their sturdy fancy selves.

Me, I don't much like the rain.  But today I'm giving the rain high fives for making my little walk just that much more satisfying.

Thank you, Rain!

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Dogs and Lessons Not Learned

We have three dogs now, including a 120-pound Newfie that makes the ground shake when she busts out her running shoes and takes off after a squirrel.

Living with three dogs causes Ken Cannon and me to have the following conversation on a regular basis:

ME:  Didn't we have three dogs that one time before?

KC:  Yes.

ME:  Didn't we say we'd never do that again?

KC:  Yes.

ME:  So why did we do that again?

KC:  Because we're a halfway house for other people's dogs.  And also because we apparently never learn our lessons.

ME:  Well, this time we've learned our lesson FOR REAL.  After these three cross the rainbow bridge, it's only one dog for us.  And possibly a cat.  But only one cat.

KC:  Of course.

ME:  Except, you know, dogs are social beings.  So maybe we'll have two . . .

And so it goes.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

On blogging in a post-blogging era

I started this blog years ago at the suggestion of my great friend Lisa Bickmore.  And, lo, it has served me well as a place to capture the moment--bits of ideas and experiences and memories that I often later turned into full-blown columns.

Well, things changed.  How, you ask?  Let me list a few of the ways.

1.  Blogging seems to be less relevant or popular or whatever.  People have moved over to Instagram or Twitter or Facebook.

2.  I started losing interest in blogging myself.  I was all been there, done that.

3.  Besides, I still had my column in the Trib.

Long story short, I more or less abandoned the blog.

And then around Christmas I got the news that the Trib would be eliminating my column.

I wasn't surprised by the news.  Papers everywhere are trying to figure out their next move and the feeling downtown was that the column wasn't pulling its own weight.  That happens--many columns have limited life spans--and I accepted the news reasonably well, especially since I still have the advice column, which is a joy to write.

What I didn't expect was how much I miss writing that column.  I've done a version of it for almost 35 years--first at Parent Express, then at The Deseret News, and finally at The Trib.  The column allowed me to record a variety of life experiences while I was in the middle of them.  What a great gig!  And I'm so grateful to all those readers and editors who gave me that opportunity.

I tinkered with the idea of publishing in other arenas--and maybe I can still do that.  But it occurred to me that my blog was still here, just waiting for me to throw something random at it a few times each week.

So here I am.  Still.

Thanks for dropping by.

Monday, April 2, 2018


I'm 62 years old now and the thing about being 62 is that you're more aware of your ghosts than you were when you were younger.

Here's what I mean.

We just got back from a lovely weekend in St. George where (among other things) I listened to the sounds of boys playing basketball across the street.  And for a split second I thought they were MY boys, ballin' like Stalin with their dad and also my dad who always played with his elbows UP.

("I hate playing basketball against your dad," a kid in our ward told me when we were growing up.  "He steps on my toes whenever I go up for a shot.")

It took me a minute to remember that oh yeah.  Those boys showboating out there on the basketball court?  They belong to other mothers.  My boys and I, we're all living another life now.  Still, I'm grateful for the ghosts who sometimes show up and remind me of who we used to be.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Little Red Riding Rodeo Queen Hood


My Mother, the Rodeo Queen, has always been this long-legged cowgirl from the hinterlands of Wyoming who could out-eat fifty football players at the evening training table and still stay reed slim.

I, on the other hand, am naturally built like a football player at the evening training table, albeit a super short one.  That's me.  A miniature football player.   And also a miniature football player  who totally sucks at throwing.  But whatever.  The point is I've always had to watch my weight and yes.  I've spent many years watching my weight go up.

Now, even though she's in her 80's, TRQ still eats like a champ, something I remembered Friday morning when we went out for breakfast together.  When I looked in her car, I noticed she had her basket of goodies in the front seat with her.  Crackers.  Toffee.  Licorice.  Perhaps an apple or two although I'm not sure I saw any fruit this time and, truly, the fruit is mostly for show.

Why the basket?  You know.  To keep her strength up as she journeys from Provo to Salt Lake and back again.

Seeing that basket made all kinds of happiness bubble up inside of me.  I love my big alive TRQ.