Conflicting views of conflict resolution

So there are (as you know) many types of conflict, but in conflict resolution, we are talking specifically about a difference between ideas, interests, or fundamental beliefs. Battle in this arena plays out in discourse, argument, disagreement, discussion, or other linguistic venues. It can be loud, heated, passionate, or civil. It is precisely not defined as a physical altercation. Physical conflict is not conflicted at all – it is a fight or a beating or bullying, or any other situation where ideas and belief systems are thrown out and the void filled with hostile and hurtful action.

These are critical distinctions to understand. Aggressors, bigger, smaller, or in-between, when held to account for their lack of morals – will revert to fists and weapons – and they do so because they have no moral ground on which to stand. These aggressors whether they are parents, police, teachers, or peers, are not involved in a conflict – they are looking to accomplish nothing more than inflicting corporal punishment with the intent to draw blood.

Case in point – the orange man, squatting in the white house: he is a bully, an abuser, and a man of non-existent morals. He represents the most deplorable elements of this nation. He precisely exemplifies the definition of a bully – an opponent unable to back his dialogue or intent with the structure necessary to have a pure argument. The bully then resorts to his weapon of choice – most often for the orange squatter this is verbal abuse. And he makes me want to puke at the very thought of anything he may say.

I have been on the receiving end of bullies. I have taken my share of beatings that left me bloody and sliced open. I have studied Judo and enrolled in self-defense weapons training, and I am still afraid of physical altercation. I am armed to the teeth to win in a conflict but lack the skills to win a contest.

Conflict without content is a fight. When confronted with a situation of unknown basis, assess the potential level of harm and evaluate for intent. When I look into another and see that void, I will cave, run, scream, pull the pepper spray lashed to my purse strap, and brandish the knife I carry – because that is not a winnable conflict – that is a fight pure and simple. You can’t counter this attack with logic or discourse because the opponent is unable to engage in a combat of conversation. The orange squatter in the White House is a moral and ethical black hole, so my advice is to run or get a bigger stick and prepare to get bloody because conflict resolution is impossible for him.

But, if the result of that assessment shows your opponent has an opposing ethical or moral structure, the result is a verbal sparring or even a heated argument. I say bring it on baby! There may be tears of passion or pain from the truth, but there is also a path to resolution.

Finding a path to a usable solution is the definition of conflict resolution, and you should lean into it. By this, I mean, embrace the other’s point of view. Roll the words around your head and test them on your tongue. Spit some out, take others in, and find a way to an agreement that is better than where you began. Don’t shy away from a disagreement. Wrestle it to the ground with your opponent, work it over, bend it, shape it, and build it anew. When you exit out the other side, you may find you have created greatness together – something the orange squatter bully in the white house will never, ever, under any circumstance, be able to accomplish.

It’s definitely time to find a bigger stick.  I wonder if Negan is using Lucille? Hmm.

#AlwaysKeepFighting ~ My story about struggling with suicide (a reposting from 8/4/2015)

Hello to all the fighters out there:

“I don’t know where I’m going, but I’m going.” 86 year old Alzheimer’s patient said with a smile.

With that statement, I was reminded that one of the most important ways you can help someone is by offering some guidance when it is needed.  I haven’t posted my complete story of my struggle with anxiety and panic disorder before, not because of shame, or fear, or pain, but because I think that it’s too complicated, or self-indulgent, or slightly narcissistic.  However, I think that for those who are new to opening up about the pain of depression, suicide, self-harm, loneliness, sadness, isolation, anxiety, panic, or any other socially painful issue, hearing the ongoing stories of their fellow fighters can make a difference.

So please excuse the length this is sure to become. Not only is it a long story, but I am a very wordy person. (It’s in my nature to talk – a lot – really – a lot.)

So here it goes… It was a dark and stormy night.  Oops, wrong story.  Well, no actually, anyone can tell you that the most beautiful nights will feel dark and stormy when you are faced with the pain and agony of mental illness.  My dark and stormy night lasted for years and there were times when I thought the only way out was, well…out.  I have been married for 27+ years now, and while my story started long before I even met my husband, it became the most difficult and life-changing just before our 15th anniversary (that’s 2003 for those not wanting to do the math.)  My story isn’t mine alone either – none of ours really are.  We share our lives with so many people. The passing impact of those around us can often unintentionally change the course of our lives – for better or worse.

For months, my husband, Mike, had been having all kinds of physical issues.  One of the most misunderstood aspects of mental health problems is that they can manifest themselves with physical symptoms.  He could not concentrate, his vision was bad, his sleep patterns were all over the place, he had headaches, twitches, muscle pain, trouble remembering, and motor coordination problems.  All a really big issue for a man who makes his living as a professional musician. It is in his nature to hide his flaws (who among us doesn’t feel this way). He feared it would look like he was making excuses or allowing it to get in his way.  It was something for him to deal with and of no business to the rest of the world.

As we went from doctor to doctor, it just got worse. Test after test revealed nothing.  Mike isn’t really keen on doctors, to begin with, (especially ones that can’t offer answers) and getting him to continue when the results were so pathetic became an ongoing struggle.  We started fighting – and not in a good way.  I had long dealt with panic and anxiety, but mostly on my own and in silence.  However, my panic attacks became more frequent and my anxiety more pronounced. I spent most of my days in tears.

I am a fix-it girl by nature. Whether objects, animals, humans, or society, I want to make it all better, and the most painful thing that can happen is to be made impotent to help.  So we started having the same circular argument.  It went something like this:

Mike:  “I don’t know what’s wrong with me.!”
Me:  “What can I do to help?  I don’t know what I can do.”
Mike:  “It’s not about you!”
Me:  “I know that, but I don’t know what to say!”
Mike:  “Just forget it.”

Spiral down from there.  Doors slamming, tears flowing, chairs occasionally breaking, threats of leaving, actual leaving, and on, and on, and on.

It got so bad that I was afraid to go home.  Not because I was afraid of him, but because I was afraid for him. I didn’t know if I would come home and find him hanging from the rafters, or curled up in a fetal position – catatonia having taken over.  I didn’t want to have the same argument again.  I began to have increased panic attacks – both in frequency and intensity.  My anxiety skyrocketed, and my migraines, weight, stress, and blood pressure all shot through the roof.  I started thinking of ways to end myself as well.  I entertained the spectacular –  drive off a cliff – or the instant impact of a car vs. a wall – or maybe just driving until I ran out of gas and walking until I ran out of… me. I worked through all the options until one night I finally left.  I just couldn’t take the pain anymore.  Without plan or purpose, I got in my car and I drove.  And then I stopped, hyperventilated until I passed out, came too, cried until the blood vessels in my eyes burst, and the racking sobs caused my body to shake violently.  When there was nothing left and I was completely empty, I decided I couldn’t care anymore.  I couldn’t continue to endure this pain. I built a fortress of protection around myself and cut off the emotionally damaged pieces that were so very devastating. And in that empty void, I found I could think.  I thought about the good, the bad, and the ugly.  I found that I no longer needed him to survive – I would be fine all by myself.  I was strong enough to make it alone and without him, I figured the pain would lessen. But then I also saw that I wanted him in my life – that I liked the us that was greater than me. That his very smile, as infrequent as it was, made my life brighter. That what we had built over the 15 years was an amazing and intricate structure of two lives woven together.  There was something freeing about realizing that I had a choice.  In this empty void I created with the emotional wall, I was able to see that I could find my way back.  Not because I needed him in my life, but because I wanted him there.  Because what we were together was something greater than each of us alone.  That the reasons I married him in the first place were still there – buried under the crap we were heaping on each other because we didn’t understand what was really wrong – that depression, anxiety, and mental illness were in control of our lives.

So, I drove home.  Of course, by this time I was somewhere in the middle of Wyoming, and Denver was a long way away, but I drove. And when I got there around sun-up, he was there too.  And I told him I didn’t need him. But I also told him I wanted him – that I wanted to find the us that had been lost.


So we really started the fight – this time the fight that defines this group.  And we fought our way through more doctors until one finally suggested that the physical issues might be the manifestation of clinical depression.  Now the fight became one of finding the right combination of meds – for him and for me.  It became one of talk therapy and counseling to fix the places that had been broken and to tear down the walls that had been built – of facing the pain and damage that we had wrought on ourselves and each other – of building us anew. I had often heard that it is at the lowest point that you find your way back.  That’s a little like saying my keys were in the last place that I looked.  (Think about it for a minute.)  Your lowest point is always the place where you find your choices.  And the choices you make will forever define your future.  Suicide is a choice – but so is living.  I firmly believe that living is the more difficult, the more painful, the more complicated choice.  But it is also the most amazing, the most wonderful, the most beautiful one.  Without darkness, the moon would not shine.  Without pain, the wonderful means nothing.  It is in the opposites that we can see the colors that fill our lives.  In the pain and desperation felt by one, all the rest become the saviors – every broken person has a piece that will fit someone else.  A kind word or touch becomes the lifeline needed to always keep fighting.

I am lucky to have a spouse that I can turn to when I am not enough for myself – when my strength and courage seem missing in action.  But we also find strength from our animals.


Our cats (5) and dogs (2) are often found lying in a big pile on the bed – heads, tails, arms, legs, and bodies wrapped around each other to form a big furry pile of indistinguishable shapes.  The concept of “cat” or “dog” being unimportant to the greater purpose.  I got my first cat when my anxiety about college got to be too much.  I thought needing to care for something else would help me focus. And it did.  She needed me and I couldn’t fail her and in return, she would give to me the love and affection that I needed in the middle of the night, in the middle of a crying jag.  Maybe it is telling about our mental states that we have so many animals – maybe we just have big hearts and are suckers for furry faces.  Whatever the reason, there are times when they have pulled us through – when we both were spiraling down and needed a warm furry body to bury our faces in.


Today we continue to Always Keep Fighting.  Sometimes we win the battle, sometimes we lose the skirmish.  But we survive to begin another day tomorrow.  Each day is a choice to live, to share, to change someone else’s for the better.  We are still broken, but then what favorite item isn’t a little frayed around the edges, chipped on the corner, dented, scratched, or bent in the middle – and it is the flaws that make it ours and ours alone.

I worked at an Alzheimer’s residential home.  As I fix-it girl, I had to learn that I can’t hope to fix what is broken but to simply make their today as good as possible.  My ladies would often say they cannot repay the kindness I show them.  What they don’t see, and what has become so important to me, is that in giving, I am repairing my own soul.  I fill in the cracks with their smiles and laughter.

Always Keep Fighting… It’s worth every cut and scrape you take. Remember fighters that you are not alone. You have a family ready with band-aids to help seal your wounds.

We re-committed to each other on our 15th anniversary with matching tattoos that say:

With Single-hearted Devotion

I don’t always know where I am going…but I’m going.  And I want all y’all to go with me.

Team Nevin
Love unconditionally
Live life like a 12-year-old
Give even when you think you have nothing
And…Always Keep Fighting.


Jared Padalecki, Actor and Activist with his boys – Shep and Tom Photo via @jarpad

I am a huge fangirl of the show Supernatural and of the work the lead actors are doing to destigmatize mental illness. Jared Padalecki has been the driving force behind the #AlwaysKeepFighting campaigns to raise funds to support various causes promoting mental health awareness.  He has become very vocal about his own struggles and the importance of realizing how many people live with mental illness.  His drive has prompted fans everywhere to reach out to each other and offer support and strength – from creating facebook groups dedicated to supporting,  to Twitter campaigns to match people willing to buy shirts for those who can’t afford one.  The work that Jared and Jensen Ackles are doing has taken on a life of its own.  If you struggle with any kind of mental illness, please reach out to someone – you are not alone – there is a world of fighters ready to help.

Some places to find help:

National Suicide Hotline

An Online Crisis Network


The first online network with 100% of its volunteers trained and certified in crisis intervention.

To Write Love on Her Arms

TWLOHA is a non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope & finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, & suicide.

Always Keep Fighting

Puppies for World Peace – a Proposal

"Stella" courtesy of The Animal Orphanage of Voorhees in Voorhees, NJ

This is a rewrite of a blog I wrote about 3 years ago.  I just felt it was timely again.

Recently, my husband and I took the step of ditching our regular TV provider.  We now get our boob tube entertainment via the internet – and quite frankly, this has been working out really well for us.  However, it means that if I want to keep up on news and headlines, I have to search them out.  My daily foray onto the news sites returned the following:

  • ISIS: Why we enslave women
  • Vietnam vet’s leg stolen at NFL game
  • Ranger disrespected by flight crew
  • Brawl erupts after NASCAR race
  • And on…and on… and on…

It’s enough to make you want to jump out the window (which given that I am on the first floor probably won’t solve anything.) But yesterday, I think I may have discovered the solution to all the world’s problems.  Okay – that’s a gross exaggeration, but I may have hit on a thought that could help a little… Puppies!  Yes, I said puppies!

My friend and I meet at a local coffee shop on Sundays whenever we can.  We sit, eat delicious quiche, and catch up on whatever comes to mind.   At yesterday’s java joint, I had the opportunity to watch a fascinating thing happen.  I brought our new puppy Stella with me, and as we sat and drank our coffee, the most interesting phenomena began to occur.  Each person that walked by stopped to play with Stella.  They stopped in groups, singles, and couples; they were young and old; black and white; tall and short; high-heeled and sneakered.

Stella helping build peaceful relations.

Fostering world peace at the coffee shop with friend Amanda

They were all unknown to each other, drawn by this little black and white fur ball of bouncing energy.  At one point, there were at least three different groups of strangers, all playing together on the sidewalk in front of the café.  And as they played, they began to interact with each other.  One woman bought a cup of coffee for an older gentleman; someone else took the time to pledge money for an Aids walk; a young couple helped an elderly lady cross the road – and the catalyst to all of these acts of kindness was a silly little puppy.


Stella advising her new dad.

So, is my answer to world peace a puppy?  Well, sort of.  Okay, not really.  But if you stop and think about it for a minute, you might start to see some sense in what I am saying.  After all, I’m positive that the diversity among the individuals playing together on that sidewalk also represented an enormous diversity in belief systems.  None of that mattered for the few precious minutes of happy puppy playtime.  People that might otherwise never interact smiled, talked, and enjoyed a few moments together.  And their actions reflected the small transformation a puppy had on their worlds.

Can we change the world with puppies?  Well, no.  But we can take that small lesson and realize that, for a few minutes, the world became just a little bit better – that adversity and differences among individuals can, in fact, be set aside for a brief moment.  And, if you can set your differences aside for one moment, who’s to say you can’t do it for two, or three, or four or…  Moreover, just maybe, those who stopped to play with that puppy, took the feeling with them and made someone else’s day a little bit better as well.

So to the world leaders out there reading this blog (because I’m sure some of them do,) at your next meeting, take a puppy with you.  It just might make a difference.

Image of Stella with her head cocked slightly to one side.

Stella – ever inquisitive. The new ambassador for world peace.

Freedom on my 50th Birthday: a definition

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Thomas Jefferson

Let us find a way to make this true for all people – regardless of ability, color, education, religion, gender, marital status, language, country of origin, financial status, social standing (or sitting), political preferences, family history, and any other word or phrase we as a society use to separate ourselves from each other.

I am the epitome of the great American mutt – the result of the once great concept of the Melting Pot. This is me on my 50th birthday – it is not me of yesterday and won’t be me of tomorrow. This is me of today.

Ability: I am able-bodied but make choices that may one day rob me of that. I am not better or worse than others – just different (sorta like everyone else.) I do have to stop standing on things that are not meant to be ladders, or this may change sooner than I think.

Color:  I am technically white but appear mostly pink and blotchy red. What color are you? I think under our skin we may be the same -indistinguishable from each other. I keep this in mind (but occasionally picturing everyone without skin makes me a little queasy.)

Education: I am highly educated but occasionally (maybe frequently) stupid.  Some of our leaders are highly stupid and occasionally educated.  I am working to help change that.

Religion: I was, but now I’m not – we must each be free to believe in what brings us peace and let others do the same. I suggest we try to be good people.  I think that might work.

Gender: Is unique to the individual and should remain that way. I am a woman who likes the manly type of things.  I can plumb, use power-tools, bar-b-que, swing a hammer, and MacGyver the hell out of most things.  I don’t wear make-up. I am not you, and you are not me.  Let us admire each other’s definition.

Marital Status: Yes – for all.  I believe you fall in love with a soul.  The soul I love is male – just kinda worked out that way. Who you love won’t ever change that for me.  What I want is for you to have this same deep bond – if you want it. Makes no difference to me who it is.

Language: My language is filled with curse words from all over the world – now including ASL. I am open to learning the curse words from your mother tongue – will you share?  Speak what lets you convey the important things in your life. Work to communicate with everyone. Understand that language and communication are not the same things.

Country of Origin: America. Did you think I meant my ancestors?  What does that have to do with me? They gave me the pink with red blotchy skin that burns at the thought of the sun. They gave me stories.  But I am an American.

Financial Status: Sometimes I have money – more times I don’t.  I give away when I can. I have no status.  I’m okay with that.

Social Standing (or Sitting): I am a total social misfit that really doesn’t give a flying f*ck. (At least I pretend that’s true.) Underneath I am scared and shy and afraid and clumsy – and I’m hoping you’ll like me and I try not to care.

Political Preferences: I prefer politicians that do not exude ignorance, bigotry, self-centered idolatry, sexism, sadism, racism, intolerance, narrow-mindedness, hatred,  misogyny….. I didn’t say democrat or republican.  Right not my preferences are not being met – wanna help me change that?

Family History: I am not born into my family but was lucky enough to be picked by them. I am celebrated, cared-for, tolerated, teased, rebuked, praised, scolded, and welcomed.  You know, the good stuff about family.

Right now, I am this.  Tomorrow I will be something else.  We each carry with us the sum of our experiences – good and bad – that blend to make us who we are.  Each adventure changes the picture and redraws the landscape where we live.  It’s kinda exciting.  I wonder who I will be next? I just hope I like her.

Me at 50

BKPE 2017 – you have healed me.

Image of the percussion ensemble in competition
The Cave

It is 3:00 in the morning and I am sitting in a slightly better than a 2-bit hotel in Dayton, Ohio – a place I come once a year, almost every year.  I don’t have relatives here.  I don’t come here for work. I don’t come here for a vacation.  I have gotten here via plane, driven my own car through the night, and ridden on a bus I swear was out of control. I have had good times here and bad times.  There have been successes, failures, and growth – laughter, tears, and dancing – struggles, missteps, and triumphs. And always I am thunderstruck at what a group of kids can do.

I am at the World Guard International Percussion Finals is Dayton, Ohio.

And I beyond proud of this cobbled together family of 40 kids, the amazing adults that lead them, and their astounding director (who BTW is snoring as I write).  They may not know it yet or understand what has happened, but they have achieved a greatness today that will follow them always.  I know this because I have watched it happen year after year, for almost 30 years now. 

For those of you who don’t know what WGI is all about, I am going to send you to a website to see for yourself.  In spite of being a writer and making my living with words, I can never quite explain what is indoor percussion.  I usually resort to something like this:

“So you know what a marching band looks like?  Okay, you take the guys out on the field with the drums, and the group that is usually up front with the keyboards and stuff and you put them in a basketball stadium where they march around and play music while wearing costumes and makeup and sometimes jumping off of things and sometimes things go wrong and sometimes things go right and at finals there will be thousands of these kids involved that aren’t out on the street making the kind of trouble that makes old men swear at them and cops wish for a different life.”

Now you see why it’s easier just to go to a website and see for yourself.  Try this one: 2016 Percussion videos.

Okay, now that you understand a little more what I am talking about, I want to tell you about this group – this family – that make up the 2017 Blue Knights Indoor Percussion Ensemble.  My husband is their director, my friends are their instructors, and I put them in you-can’t-wash-them, they-are-way-to-warm, the-metal-gives-me-a-funkyrash costumes.  It has been a long time since I was solely responsible for making 40 uniforms.  But that was my fault for designing something that was unique to each of them – but it also let me get to know them all, at least a little bit. They’ve been fun to tease, to push, to shock, and make laugh. And I think they have healed me. Those of you who have been following my blog (oh ye mighty few) have read about the difficult time Mike and I have had over the past couple of years – from the lost jobs, the lost house, the lost items in the flood, the lost strength, the lost… we have struggled to find our way through. But we did!  I love my new job (a tale for another time), and I love being home in Colorado. But it wasn’t until just now (at 3:00 am in Dayton, Ohio) that I realized I needed to be involved with an ensemble again. I needed to feel what it meant to put your “all” into something like this – something that lives and breathes because of kids – because they give me hope.

Over the years, Mike’s ensembles have had all different levels of success. Some have won (irrespective of a medal) and some have not. Some crapped out on themselves, and some have gone the distance.  But these guys, they are something special. I keep trying to put my finger on just what makes them so… (see, I can’t even find the right word)… just SO. There have been a few groups of the years (and they know who they are) that have had that something… SO.  They are the ones that still smile at us when we see them in the lot – or the ones that invite us to their wedding even though we haven’t seen them in years – or the ones, who in the middle of warming up their own group, turn and throw themselves at us for a hug – or the one that showed up to help us unload our moving van on a snowy January day. The one who told us he was glad to finally have the chance to pay us back for what we gave him all those years ago in the ensemble. But you give to me…to us.

This group didn’t medal today.  They didn’t even make semi-finals, something I desperately wanted for them and truly believed they deserved. I watched them dig down a little bit deeper than before and pull up something great. I am awed by your strength.  

We all hear about how our leaders suck, or so-and-so is doing such-and-such to him-and-her.  Or that we worry about the future because of those-rotten-good-for-nothing-kids-that-don’t-care-and-will-amount-to-nothing. Well, I can say, if our future is in these kids’ hands, AWESOME. I admire their leadership.

I watch you comfort those around you when your own pain is apparent. I am moved by your kindness.

I heard you tell me it’s nice just to have me there at rehearsal.  I am tickled by your acceptance.

I listened to you tell each other that not one of your instructors would put winning above someone’s health.  I am honored by your trust.

I saw the intensity of emotion when you said you just played the best show of your life.  I am changed by your passion.

And I noticed when you moved your mind to next year and saw what possibilities lay ahead. I am fortified by your vision.

And I know that you have healed that part of me still broken by life.

I thank you, and I am proud of you – you are so…

…I have no words.


Family has nothing to do with blood

Family – Kin – Relatives – Tribe – Folk – Fellowship- Mates – Clan

When you look up synonyms for family, these are but a few of the words you will find.  And none of them have anything to with blood or biology.  I am in a unique position to understand that family is anything but blood.  I am an adopted child – the only one out of four children.  Uniquely, I am a middle adopted child which is even more unusual. The general scenario is either people adopt thinking they can’t have children and then find they can – the adopted then being the oldest. Or they can’t have any more children and choose to adopt making the adopted the youngest.  But my parent’s  plans ended up with me in the middle. See – I’ve been odd since birth.

But in spite of the unique situation of how I came to be part of this family, I am just that – a member of the Haney clan. I have always been treated exactly like the rest, from chores to arguments, to rewards, and so forth. No one ever said, “You’re not our real kid/sister/ etc.”  And I don’t remember ever saying, “You’re not my real family/mom/brother/sister.” In fact, most of the time I hear how much we look alike – which is pretty funny given that the rest of my family are taller, thinner, and more athletic.  They look at a mountain and say, “Alright, let’s climb that.”  I look at that same mountain and find a great place to sit and draw it.  But we hold our heads the same, have the same facial expressions, use the same phrases when speaking, and have the same mannerisms.  These are things that identify us as family.

I understand completely that a family is something more than a chance of birth.  In fact, for some, birth families are the least family-like.  This is why I am so grateful for the other families I belong to. I have a furry family with my husband, one that brings us joy and comfort.

I have a new work family that has embraced me as one of them, not in spite of my quirks and weirdness, but with total disregard for them (and even embracing some of the odder ones.) They are teaching me the finer points of being a part of the disability family, putting up with my fumbles and answering my (sometimes) stupid questions.  They are teaching me how to be a member of this wonderful family.

I have an online family of people I have never met face to face. They are as much a family to me as any.  We care for each other, look out for each other, offer support and praise for each other.  And sometimes help each other understand that perhaps their blood relatives are not the family they think they are.  We help others with issues of abuse, neglect, abandonment, spitefulness, and sometimes violence.  We work to help everyone feel that they are important, wanted, cared for, and needed – all the things I learned from my first family.  And I try my best to bring this understanding to others.

This time of year is difficult for many. While suicide is not at its peak over the holidays, it is nonetheless prevalent and likely for some. According to the CDC, every minute someone will attempt to commit suicide – and every 13 minutes someone will be successful.  And here’s the kicker – disease and illness are mostly out of the average person’s ability to heal, but for people considering suicide, sometimes you and I can help. A suicidal person may not ask for help, but that doesn’t mean that help isn’t wanted. People who take their lives don’t want to die—they just want to stop hurting. You and I can help by recognizing the warning signs and taking them seriously. Often we are afraid to bring up the subject.  Even writing this, I find myself using synonyms for suicide – as if just saying it will trigger the action. But talking openly about suicidal thoughts and feelings can save a life.

I didn’t really intend for this post to be about suicide prevention – but like many times when I am writing, the words take me somewhere I didn’t see when I started.  I meant for this to be a celebration of family – to try and open minds about the importance of the relationships that make a family rather than the blood relations that we often use as a family definition. But perhaps my definition of family by default lead me to this discussion because I understand how much family cares for each other.  Sometimes we sit around the table and talk about nothing.  Sometimes we sit on the floor and share the most important, the most wonderful, the most painful moments of our lives. A family listens. When we listen we can share in the joy, laugh at the crazy, revel in the beauty, cry over the pain, hurt in empathy, rage at the unfair, scream at the wrongs, and heal with each other. We reach out, stumble, trip, fall, catch, hold, lift and support. My family taught me this – teaches me this every day.

These last couple of years have been very hard.  They have brought some difficult times, but they have also brought joy, happiness, redemption, and growth.  I have tested the strength of my family bonds.  I have missed birthdays, holidays, and celebrations – sometimes because I just couldn’t see beyond my own four walls.  I have caused hurt and pain.  But in spite of my failings, my human fallibility, my family is still there, waiting for me to get it together and keeping an eye on me until then. You have a greater family than you may know.  Look around and rethink what family means to you.

Family: a group of people, connected by interest, support, kindness, and care.  A  bond that will often cause you to put other’s needs above your own.  A well that offers hope and healing, filled by others in your tribe. Not defined by blood and biology.

To all my family members – we will find hope, happiness, and joy in 2017 – together.


If you are worried that you or someone you know may be at risk for suicide, please call your local authorities (911). The hotlines below are 24 hours and are confidential.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1.800.273.TALK (273-8255)
For hearing and speech impaired with TTY equipment: 1.800.799.4TTY (779-4889)
Español: 1.888.628.9454

National Child Abuse Hotline
1.800.4.A.CHILD (422-4453)
National Domestic Violence Hotline
1.800.799.SAFE (799-7233)

Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN)
1.800.656.HOPE (656-4673)
The Trevor Project
1.866.4.U.TREVOR (488-7386)

Veterans Crisis Line
1.800.273.TALK (273-8255) PRESS 1

Crisis Text Line
TEXT “TWLOHA” TO 741-741

Maybe this year I will finally cross something off my bucket list – getting arrested for civil disobedience.



I cried last night as I often do in the face of great emotion.  I am a crier and always have been.  It is only when I am really angry that the tears pass and I become coldly focused, intensely rational, and very scary .  This morning I am not crying. But it is not because I passed through the emotion to anger, but because I realize we have been given an opportunity.  It’s true!  Let me show you what I mean,

Jump in the Wayback Machine with me to yesterday. As many of you are, I am watching the returns.  I had a strange feeling of unreality – not unlike the feeling I had when I first heard that the towers had fallen.  I keep thinking “This can’t really be happening! I don’t live in a country of racist, bigoted, homophobic people!”  And you know what, we don’t.  I refuse to believe that the majority of people in America share the same beliefs as Donald Trump.

But he got elected!” you say.  True, but we have a flawed electoral system.

But he’s now the president!” someone wails.  False, not yet he isn’t.

But the world is over as we know it!” True. But it always is.

Every day, the world is over as we know it.  Yesterday is gone and there isn’t a Wayback Machine to give you a do-over.  In fact, we shouldn’t ever get a do-over.  Because it is only in the face of adversity that we find something to fight for – something worth our time and effort, our sweat and tears, our pain and suffering.  The greater the adversity, the greater the opportunity to make a difference.

My friends are black and white, yellow and red, blue and green. They are straight, gay, bi, transgender, transsexual, married, divorced, separated, and single.  My friends have 2 legs, 1 leg, no legs, and wheels. They speak, and sign, and stutter, and slur. They speak English, Spanish, French, German, Russian, Turkish, Arabic, and Gibberish.  They are Roman Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Wiccan, and Atheist. And we all live on the Island of Misfit Toys together. It’s warm and happy here.  We are accepted, admired, and encouraged for our diversities.

But now the country has said they don’t like our being different.  They want us to be the same.  They want to keep out the elements that make us different – the very elements that blend us into a unique and beautiful country. Well, maybe we should say thank you!  Thank you for the opportunity to show the world that we are not what our political outcome suggests. But see, here’s the thing – this is no different than it was yesterday or the day before or last year or years ago.  It is only that it has been said out loud, at the top of people’s lungs. The fractured country that we live in has been brought out into the open. And in doing so, we have been given an opportunity to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!  The first step in recovery is to admit you have a problem.  It seems to me that the county stood up last night and said, “Hi, My name is The United States of America and I have a problem.

The road to recovery requires getting help.  Get involved in an organization that shares your beliefs.  Find a way to start making a change.  Look for an opportunity that might have previously been hidden. Go find something that makes you feel empowered. Trump may have been elected, but he has a long road ahead to prove he can make good on any of his campaign threats. You and I, however, have a golden opportunity to affect true change. Find a local organization and ask how you can get involved.  For me, I might just cross off a bucket list item – getting arrested for civil disobedience.  Does anyone care to join me?


Some Colorado organizations that are working for positive change (look for something similar where you live):

Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition (CCDC)

The Gill Foundation

Indivisible Colorado

Black Denver

Colorado Muslim Society 

Please post in comments any of the organizations that you know are working for positive change.  Let’s spread the word and share the resources.