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Saturday, February 25, 2017

#momconversation with Joan Gubbels: straight talk on depression

One of the great rewards of being employed for a family-focused organization in a tight-knit community are the friendships developed on the job. I work in the Finance/Operations area of the Shelby County State Bank with Joan Gubbels who happens to be a double cousin of my husband–like I said, a tight-knit community! We work closely together on many projects and it’s sometimes eerily similar to working with my husband–if he would have any affinity for accounting, that is. Needless to say, Joan and I have plenty of laughs together almost on a daily basis. 

Last summer Joan experienced a personal crisis. She had a nervous breakdown which shocked everyone who knows the cheery and fun-loving person that she is. Joan has been very open about her struggles with depressions with the intention of helping others. By making more people aware of the affliction, she hopes to erase the stigma of the disease.

Here's Joan.

Quick bio (family, current job, where from):  Wife and mother.  Husband – Joe Kids, Jack – 19 Jace – 12 almost 13.  Cashier at SCSB.  Originally from outside Portsmouth but currently live on an acreage near Harlan.
Favorite family tradition:  Going to the lake to boat, wave run, fish, camp and make TONS of food.  As well as spending time with our lake family in Lake View.
Funniest kid story of late:  When my son was about 5-6 years old, I walked in to his room.  He kept knocking his private thing down.  I asked him what was wrong and he said. ‘IT WON’T STAY DOWN!’  I could hardly keep my laughter in and I said to quit doing that and it would quit standing up.  Then I left his bedroom and laughed a long time.
Most surprising lesson you’ve learned about being a mother:  IT is very hard to understand them and you HAVE to pick your battles about what is REALLY important.
Opinion on work/life Balance:  I really like my job and the people I work with but my family has always come first. Luckily I have a hubby that is understanding and helpful now.  When the kids were little it wasn’t quite that way. 
Guilty pleasure:  Candy Crush – having drinks with friends.
Last book you read that you couldn’t quit thinking about: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
Best family tradition:  Going to Adventureland with my parents and neighbors.  Going to Lake View with my kids and great family friends.
Favorite or most-used app:  Candy crush or Facebook

Who’s your celebrity obsession?  There are quite a few but two are older like Sam Elliot, Sean Connery in his younger years, Also, Ashton Kutcher, Matthew McConaughey

What’s your go-to movie? Anything drama like Fast and the Furious or and any love story (kind of sappy).
What advice would you give to new parents:  PICK your battles at all times.  Things you might think are important at the time is actually very minor.  Spend time with your kids and GO to their activities but don’t push them into doing them unless they want to.
How do you recharge?  Exercising or playing games on my phone.  It helps clear my mind and NOT think about things that are bothering me.

Jace, Jack, Perriann, Joan and Joe
You have communicated your struggles with depression. What would you like to say to others who also struggle? I’ve been going to counseling for years, on and off, more off than on (dumb).  I was hospitalized in my early 20s for depression and now at 46 had a major breakdown in July and was hospitalized for 2 days.  (There’s kind of a funny story about being it’s funny anyway.)  None of it was fun and I wanted to give up with everything.  I seriously wanted my life to be over, on Monday, July 18th officially, to take the pain AWAY!  Luckily I kept thinking of my awesome kids, hubby, sisters, brothers, friends and awesome co-workers (my work family.)   The reason I am writing this is I want to remind teenagers and adults as well that life is hard!  Please don’t give up though!!  Each year gets better one way or another but then you might hit 46 and it’s all still not perfect, but if you look back at the awesome kids you’ve created with awesome talents, the awesome husband you need to rely on more and love dearly with amazing talents and cares so much, 10 brothers and sisters that would drop anything to help you along with their kids, my nieces and nephews, as well as awesome in and out laws that always make me feel welcome and would love to help too.  I also have a workplace to go every day that feels or actually is your second family.  Some really GREAT friends, which are WAY too numerous to mention.  I am truly blessed.  I also have an amazing future to look forward to such as  daughter in laws, grandkids, etc.  I don’t have a deathly illness and a lot hasn’t gone my way throughout my life BUT I still try to keep looking forward.  My final and most important point is… suicide isn’t the answer… remember what you have and if you don’t have what you want, find it or fight for it. I keep trying every day.  One other point that I have to make is KEEP going to counseling even when you don’t think you need it anymore. If you have depression – you have depression!!!

Thanks Joan for sharing that very personal story. It's so important to recognize the need to get help in counseling and medication. Like Joan said, "life is hard," but it can also great. Taking care of oneself is the first step in creating a purposeful and rewarding existence.

Monday, February 13, 2017

the evolution of a parent

Right now my oldest child is three hours away at college, fighting influenza A.  I'm texting her instructions to hydrate and alternate between ibuprofen and Tylenol. My instinct is to hop in the car so her mother
Wish I could send her a cat for comfort...
can lay a cold rag on her head and provide comfort. But she has told me to stay put. So I will.

The dynamic of parenting changes throughout the years, but the mysteries and challenges remain. By the time you no longer wake up in the middle of the night to a crying child, you're laying in your bed watching the clock and calculating what time they should walk through the door. Or in the case of a college student, you might  be analyzing the last Snapchat story and hoping she wasn't trying to send you an encrypted cry for help on a photo that merely appears to be the setting of a party.

Anyway, I happened to ask my budding investigative journalist to give me some thoughts on how to be a good parent to a college kid. (I asked last weekend, before she came down with the flu.) Her responses were not only enlightening, but profound. Here's what she said:

  • Answer any questions we have for you guys. It's our first time on our own, and this may sound like a given but half the time we're making shit up as we go. We realize how much our parents actually have it together when we have to stumble through the weird, legal lingo of our first lease...
  • Care packages go a long way. It doesn't have to be anything big, it could even just be a letter or a picture of the family. Especially in the dorms, getting mail is always a strange pick-me-up. Maybe it's because someone knows where you are when you're in a new place? I don't know, that's a question for a psyche major.
  • If you're able, come visit but not too often. I know plenty of friends whose parents can't get away to see their kids and it wears on them (I'm guessing both sides, but I'm not a parent so just guessing). It's comforting to see the people who have your back regardless, but if it's too often, the excitement wears away and independence is lost. It's like training a college kid off of dependence. You can't go cold turkey and throw them in, but you can't coddle them either because then you have a Failure to Launch situation. I think you guys have a good balance despite the fact you email me every other day ;)
  • If you do get to visit, BUY THEM GROCERIES. This is the biggest stress relief, seriously.
  • Talk to them without judgement. A lot of times we need advice but it's hard to cross over into that world where your parents aren't disciplining you anymore, but you still feel like if you're totally honest you'll get in trouble. Tons of weird situations arise in college that need to be talked about. Idk just be a good parent and help them out so they will talk to you. You feel like a quasi-adult now so you don't want to be dodging/lying to your parents anymore, that's just added unnecessary stress. And it's tiring, you just got through 4 years of it, and college is about moving on.
  • Tell them stories about when you were in college, or when you were that age. That's always fun to hear that your parents messed up like you did ;) Evens the playing field. Don't overdo it though.
  • From a liberal arts perspective, talk to them about assignments or projects they're proud of. You don't really get any recognition for doing well on specific things anymore but a lot of the work we do is important to us now, more so than high school. It is always the biggest confidence boost to have someone dote on your work for a minute, even if it's your mother and she's incredibly biased.

She signed off by saying:

That's all I've got right now, sorry if that wasn't helpful and please clean it up as much as you feel, I was just spit-balling as this is the first I've looked at my email this weekend lol

Pretty decent spit-balling. I've read this three times already–partly to make myself a list of "do's" and partly because I admire the wisdom of my daughter. Maybe her parents are doing some things right.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

teach your children well...and don't judge

After a dose of winter precipitation one evening, I asked our teenage son how he had managed driving on the roads. My ice-induced maternal anxiety had subsided since he had made it home safely. I acted all chill as he responded with a story that made me wonder, "What else doesn't my kid know?"

Here's the scoop.

“Guess what?" Cole said with wide-eyed excitement. 

Oh no. Something happened. 

Then he said, "I have this thing where water comes up on my windshield. It's so cool.”

It's called wiper fluid, kid.

He went on to explain how he and a buddy were driving to the school when they met a semi who mucked up the windshield as semis tend to do. Cole panicked when his friend Conner told him just to use the wiper fluid. 

"Conner!" Cole emphatically replied. "My car is old! It doesn't have that.” 

Cole drives a 2010 Ford Fusion—a real junker with heated seats and a sunroof. Conner reached over and pushed the wiper fluid lever muttering something affectionate like, "You’re an idiot.”

Thanks to Conner's ingenuity and knowledge of basic car features, he saved the day by providing a clear view of the road. But I couldn't help but feel a tiny bit of a parental failure after hearing that story. What else doesn't Cole know?

A few days later, I told Conner’s dad the story because I thought it was amusing. He chuckled and said, “Well you know what? Conner just learned about windshield wiper fluid two weeks ago.”

Aha. They're still learning. It's easy to roll your eyes and judge your kid by what he or she doesn't know. But I think it's important to take a step back and consider how much there is to learn about this world. There's a lot to know! Heck, I just am now understanding a little bit about Watergate.

So when another windshield wiper moment occurs, ask your kid to give you a lesson in Snapchat. It'll remind you that perhaps you don't know everything either.

Just look at them and sigh, and know they love you.