Monkey boy

monkey boy

Phil loved his monkey mask. Maybe he loved it more than his big clunky shoes. It was hard to tell. Just to be sure he never wore them separately. Why ruin a good thing?

It didn’t take long for him to settle on this routine. Every day after school he put on his mask and boots and sat on the front stoop. It made the rest of the evening go better. Otherwise he was out of sorts and not really worth being around. If he forgot, his Mom reminded him. She was the one who was most affected by his behavior if he forgot.

All day long at school he thought about being able to wear the mask and the boots, and it made the day tolerable. Sometimes he would hold his hand up showing three fingers to his teacher, meaning “is it 3 o’clock yet?” – meaning “is it time to go home yet?”

Class was unbearable most days. It was too bright, or too noisy, or the food was too rich. Life was too much for Phil, but he didn’t know it. Every day at school his shoulders were tense and his head ached. Only by sitting on the steps with his mask and boots on could he begin to feel somewhat normal again.

He’d asked if he could wear them to school but the teacher said no, said that it would be too distracting to the other children. So the pain of one little boy wasn’t important, but the discomfort of 28 other kids was, apparently. It didn’t make sense. How did she know how they would feel?

Maybe they would like his mask. Maybe they would want one too. Maybe they all felt the same way and all were overwhelmed by the noise, the clutter, the all-too-much-ness of it all. Maybe they were being loud to compensate, to hide their terror.

In the meantime, Phil would continue to sit on the stoop staring at the cars that whizzed by. His Mom could tell what kind of day he’d had by how long he sat outside. Sometimes it was an hour. Rarely was it less than 20 minutes. One day he sat outside like that for nearly 3 hours. When it had become dark his Mom insisted he come in. Sometimes the day was so bad that no length of time outside would fix it. Then it was best to just come in and try again another day.

His mother was unsure if she should teach him better coping techniques since this one seemed to work so well. He was in seventh grade when she realized he’d stopped doing it, and assumed this meant he’d outgrown the need. She couldn’t be further from the truth.

A schoolmate had seen him in his mask on the front porch and told his friends. He’d been walking by on the way to the ballpark and noticed. Enough shrubbery was in the way that he’d not been spotted, but he had no reason to worry. Phil couldn’t see anything anyway in that mask, and that was part of its appeal. But the damage was done. The next day it seemed like the whole school was calling him “monkey boy” and that was it.


The room of abandonment (prose poem)

What does it look like?
Invite Jesus in, so you aren’t exploring this scary room alone.
What is in there?

No tools or toys

The walls are light blue, robin’s egg. There is a handmade wooden chair in the center. And a green fuzzy shawl, a gift from Jesus There is no door, but there is plenty of sunlight from the windows.

What situations, people are the cause of this room?
Why did I have to build it?

I must practice Self care to heal
be my own Shaman
Exercise food sleep, you know the drill.

What happens before the anger? Anger is a response, a protective thing. It shields from grief. Dig down to find the truth.

Don’t make God an afterthought. Make God the base of the building, of the life.

Anger comes from grief, a sense of loss, any loss. It is an unwillingness to accept change. That is also an unwillingness to accept things as they are. It is a desire to shape the world to fit me.

So roll with the punches. Accept, in a fluid way. Don’t resist. Turn the other cheek to stop that same one from getting too bruised.

(This is from an exercise I did with my first spiritual director, probably around 2013.)

Some good things from the current US situation.

A friend posted about how the current President gets so upset about what he thinks of as “fake” news.”  I think it is important to state that I didn’t vote for him or Clinton – I voted a different party. That is the change we really need – to get past this divisive mentality embodied in the two-party system.  It sets up a no-win situation, where there is always a “loser”.  But I’m starting to see some good out of what has happened because people are starting to wake up and realize that the government cannot take care of them.  People are taking matters into their own hands in a healthy and healing way.

Here was my response to him –

“It all seems fake to him because he’s being fed lies by his cronies.   There is evidence that he not only does not, but cannot read.  This means he is incapable of getting first-hand information.  It is all pre-digested for him.   I no longer think of him as evil.  Just very sad and mislead.   Pray for him.”

One of his friends (unknown to me) was freaked out that I suggested we pray for him, saying that we all needed to be prayed for instead.  I replied that Jesus tells us to pray for our enemies.

While meditating on this, I read the Catholic readings for the day, and all three that were for the afternoon spoke to this.

Leviticus 19:17-18

17 “You must not harbor hatred against your brother. Rebuke your neighbor directly, and you will not incur guilt because of him. 18 Do not take revenge or bear a grudge against members of your community, but love your neighbor as yourself; I am Yahweh.

1 Corinthians 3:16-17

16 Don’t you yourselves know that you are God’s sanctuary and that the Spirit of God lives in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s sanctuary, God will destroy him; for God’s sanctuary is holy, and that is what you are.

Matthew 5:38-48

38 “You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. 39 But I tell you, don’t resist an evildoer. On the contrary, if anyone slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 As for the one who wants to sue you and take away your shirt, let him have your coat as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and don’t turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. 43 “You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing out of the ordinary? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.


Another friend shared this, and there is a lot of truth to it. This is copied from a writer named Susan Keller. I have edited out the snarky bits.  What is left shows how much people are waking up.

“I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it looks like Trump is actually making America great again. Just look at the progress made since the election:

– Unprecedented levels of ongoing civic engagement.
– Millions of Americans now know who their state and federal representatives are without having to Google.
– Millions of Americans are exercising more. They’re holding signs and marching every week.
– The Postal Service is enjoying the influx cash due to stamps purchased by millions of people for letter and postcard campaigns.
– Millions of Americans now know how to call their elected officials and know exactly what to say to be effective.
– Everyone knows more about the rise of Hitler than they did last year.
– Everyone knows more about legislation, branches of power and how checks and balances work.                                                                                                                                                                     – Marginalized groups are experiencing a surge in white allies.

– White people in record numbers have just learned that racism is not dead.
– “Mike Pence” has donated millions of dollars to Planned Parenthood since Nov. 9th.
– Travel ban protesters put $24 million into ACLU coffers in just 48 hours, enabling them to hire 200 more attorneys. Lawyers are now heroes.
– As people seek veracity in their news sources, respected news outlets are happily reporting a substantial increase in subscriptions, a boon to a struggling industry vital to our democracy.

– Live streaming court cases and congressional sessions are now popular.

– Massive cleanup of Facebook friend lists.

– People are reading classic literature again. Sales of George Orwell’s “1984” increased by 10,000% after the inauguration.

– More than ever before, Americans are aware that education is important.”


My take is that the best thing we can do is to pay attention to what is going on and be active. Not reactive – because to react is to let “them” set the pace.  Don’t let them rule the dance.  Look for what is broken, who is hurting.  Go help them.  We’ve long said that the government is too involved in our lives.  This is a great opportunity to take control back.  Instead of the government taking care of the sick, elderly, poor, homeless – we need to do this, through churches and other civic organizations.  Don’t worry about government funding for Planned Parenthood – make it private.  Then there will no longer be a debate from some that their money is going to something they don’t agree with. We need to decentralize everything.

Perhaps the nomination to be the Secretary of Education of a person who has nothing to do with public education is a good thing.  We have a broken system, with children who are not able to get a job or even think on their own.  Currently, children learn to read well enough to memorize test answers.  This leaves them unprepared for adult life. Parents who can afford to send their children to private schools because they are seen as better.  So why not take the template of the private schools and put it on the public one?  Now – and this is critical – it must not be religious-based (unless it covers all faiths).

Better than that – let’s start reading again.  I don’t mean current fiction.  I mean non-fiction, things that make us think.  We’ve spent too long escaping life and not facing it.  We’ve spent too long asleep.  Go to your local library and support it.  Get together with people and discuss what you are learning.

Worried about your health-care?  Go for a walk or to the gym.  Eat the healthiest food you can.  Learn to cook.

This entire debacle has caused us to stop thinking of the government as our savior.  This is a good thing.



(All Bible verses are HCSB)

Poem – It isn’t them

Don’t blame other people
for your problems.
Don’t expect other people
to rescue you

They are not
the cause
or the cure.

Your choices
determine your reality.
Things happen
that are beyond your control
but your reaction
is within it.

What you do or don’t do
is your choice.
How you respond
in thought, word, and deed
is your choice.

Take ownership
of your life
and take
your own life
It was yours
all along
after all.

There is hope after diagnosis

A guy came into my workplace yesterday, obviously experiencing the mania that comes with unmanaged mental dis-ease. He was raving about conspiracy theories and the Temple Mount – said he was even frisked by the police in the Holy Land just 50 days ago.

Little does he realize but I speak Crazy fluently, being a citizen of that country. I’ve also taken classes and read books on how to safely interact with people who are on the edge of “dealing with it”. I enjoyed the challenge of the conversation, but was also reminded of how far I’ve come.

Today is marks the 17 year anniversary of the last time I was in a mental hospital. There is hope after a diagnosis. Since I started taking care of myself, I’ve had the same job for 16 years, I’ve been married for 12, I’ve published four books and I have excellent credit. You can have a mental disorder and be fine – with proper care (a lot of it is self-care).

Like many people, I went through the trap of thinking it was a temporary thing and got off the meds (which weren’t good for anyone anyway – they no longer prescribe the one I took) and went off the deep end again. I went to the hospital again (both times self-initiated) and got on different meds that gave me clarity so I could start taking care of myself. It is hard to be “normal” when the high is so vivid and interesting. Everything is connected. Life is 31 flavors when high with mania – but only vanilla when “normal”. I’ve learned how to be in the middle.

A lot has to do with getting enough exercise, eating right, and enough sleep. Writing helps me a lot. But Americans aren’t into self-care for anything – do whatever you want and damn the consequences – and blame them on someone else. This is true with every disease we have.

The only way out is to –

admit that there is a problem,

that it won’t fix itself,

that it is chronic (think heart disease, not the flu),

and that you have a lot you can do to help yourself get better. It isn’t all about the meds – but they are important.  Look through my “Survival” book list for books that will help you help yourself.


Most of all – remember that a diagnosis is not a definition.  You are a person who has a mental health diagnosis.  You aren’t the disease.



Live like you love yourself

If you spent all the money in your bank account, would you be then surprised that you had nothing left? Then why are people surprised when they have spent a lifetime of inactivity and eating badly and then get sick? It is exactly the same thing.

Are we so divorced from cause-and-effect?

Or perhaps we have had our power taken away from us and been told too often that others have to do things for us – by teachers and politicians and ministers.

But perhaps even that isn’t fair to say. Nothing can be taken away from us that we aren’t letting happen.

We have given our power away. We have let others take it away from us. Rather than get angry about that, realize it is time to take it back. It is time to take back your health and your life. It’s time to eat like you love yourself. It’s time to treat yourself as a valued guest in your own life.

It is time to remember that our bodies are temples of the living God. We need to treat them like that and not as garbage dumps.

Step by step

How is health achieved? One step at a time. You just have to get out there and do it.

You have to be active about your health. It’s not something you can find in a pill. The simplest thing you can do is to go for a walk. There’s no special equipment to buy, no gym membership required.

Sometimes I come up with every excuse possible for why I can’t go on a walk. I’ll tell myself I don’t have enough time. I’ll get lost. I’ll be too far from the house when I want to pee. I’d rather make art. I want to sleep in.

I don’t like exercising. But I do like that I have exercised. I like how I feel in my body after I’ve moved it in a purposeful manner. But I think more importantly I like how I feel in my head for having made a commitment to myself, to my body, to my future, and having gone through with going on a walk.

Some mornings I don’t have a lot of a lot of time to go for a walk but I realize that even 10 minutes is better than nothing. Even five minutes is better than nothing. And then I resolve to get ready earlier to go out earlier the next day. And I forgive myself if I don’t. And then I try again.

Taking care of your body is like putting money in your bank account. It is worth every step. It pays you back double in a stronger body and lower stress levels.

My work schedule has changed so that we go in 30 minutes later and therefore leave 30 minutes later. Rather than lamenting getting out of work at six, I have chosen to celebrate going into work at 9:30 because that gives me 30 minutes in the morning I didn’t have before to go for a walk.

I could have used that time to make art. I’ve chosen to walk instead because it’s important. I know people who say that they don’t have time to eat well or exercise. They don’t get that if they don’t do both of these things they won’t have any time to do anything because their life will be a lot shorter and a lot less worthwhile. Who cares if you live a long time but your body is feeble because you didn’t take care of it? The years of your life are important, but the life in your years is important too.

We only have one life.
We only have one body.
It is your choice how you use them.


(This picture was taken by me on my walk this morning. I recited all of this into a dictation app on my phone so I could encourage you.)