Be Courageous in Death: For Our Children’s Sake

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No one wants to talk about death. I mean No One. It comes creeping up on our door and we immediately act like we have gum on our shoe. We kick, rant and push off that sticky, tacky trash until it’s gone. When a loved one passes, we struggle to reflect on our own mortality and it is not uncommon to cry not only for the one gone, but also for ourselves, knowing we’re not made like Superman.

Somehow, I have recognized we must suck up some bravery for the conversation once we have children. I know it gives us brain freeze, but I would go so far as to say that we are acting irresponsibly if we do not have honest conversations about our demise once we bring someone into our lives that relies solely on us for their survival.

So, unlike the sometimes flowery and sweet messages I attempt to send, this one is of practicality, but I hope offers the deepest act of love and kindness we can offer to our children. YES, I am talking to all those parents who have no Will and No Plans for Guardianship if We DIE.

What will happen to your child(ren) if something happens to you? If there are two parents, divorced parents, multiple children from different families; what will you do if you are not here to show them the way to adulthood? And more importantly, what kind of message are we sending to our kids if we choose to operate from a place of pure denial everyday? And worse yet, what will it possibly feel like if our kids have to suffer through a painful Yank-n-Pull Party if our family turns into people we do not recognize?

I am imagining some of your faces now. The grumbles. The ‘I KNOW ALREADY!’ ‘GEEZ, Really Alicia! You want me to be THIS brave?’…… And, of course, my answer is, Yes. We can do hard things and I can say now that I have had some experience, it is not as difficult as one might think.

So here are a few guidelines and pieces of information to consider now that I have your attention:

*Note: Let me make clear, I am not an attorney. This is a conversation about how we can show up in our lives and choose to be brave. My suggestions may be incorrect. They are the best knowledge I can offer based upon what I understand.

  1. You can choose to do an online version of a Will. We did this originally and although sometimes state language can be different, it will overall do what you need it to. I imagine that some states have more stringent guidelines and may want to look at how especially Advance Health Care Directives are worded as this appears to be guided different from state to state. There is a much smaller fee involved if cost is an issue.

  2. Consider carefully who you may want to raise your children, NOT who you are going to have to make happy. I understand there are often hurt feelings involved in something like this, but it is good to inform the appropriate family once decisions have been made. Ask the person/family about being a guardian before moving forward and give them time to consider the gravity of what you are asking. It could mean having to monitor assets as well as raising your child(ren).

  3. You can ask one person to act as guardian and another to handle money. That can be tricky, but what I understand now is that you want to set up your Will and Guardianship where the court is not regularly involved if it is not necessary.

  4. Succession is relevant. If everyone is gone including your children, pay attention to the state rules of succession. In the state of Georgia, assets immediately go to parents, siblings and on down the line. If, for example, you need this to be bypassed or changed because it may be difficult to impossible to find someone, consider how it may need to be different. Again, we had to do this and made changes accordingly.

  1. Consider carefully who you want to be your Executor. Try to take your emotions out of this decision and consider what is in the best interest of your child(ren) and not what family flavor you are preferring this year. Again, ask and receive confirmation that this person is open to this duty. It is a MAJOR responsibility and one you want them to feel comfortable with. I have learned from my best friend that the process is riddled with hurry up and wait scenarios and can take more than a year under good and simple circumstances.

  2. Do not leave your assets to your minor children. Oops, we did this! This is apparently a major mistake made often with life insurance policies and even bank accounts. They cannot inherit until adulthood and perhaps even then, do you really want your 18 year old to have a slew of money with no completed brain to speak of? (A side note: our brain does not complete its work until we are about 25). This can be left to your partner or in another fashion that will allow the guardian to have access to it to use on your childs(ren)’s behalf

  3. It is so difficult to sit down and look at our children’s lives without us. It is gut wrenching to consider how my sweet baby girl would emotionally survive without her parents. The truth is no one can ever replace us. But how can I honestly have those conversations about death, you know the weird ones that show up while you are driving in the car to dinner, and not answer back as to what will happen to her if we are gone? I am responsible to her, both in life and in death. Of course, we all hope and most of us do not have to live through this kind of tragedy. But what if we did?

Let’s start a meaningful conversation about the gifts we can leave by not running away from our worst fears. Our children need to know that we will not only show up to their extracurricular activities and games, but that we will also show up in the darkest crevice of their life. We will not leave them in a heap of grown-up stuff simply because we were too afraid to have the conversation in this moment.

For the second time, our Will and Guardianship are done. It has been sent to the appropriate family members and it tucked away in our fire chest. It’s done and unless we have some odd reason to look at it again, we don’t have to. So, in this moment, what will you do?

I pray you can take a big deep breath and start the conversation, write a few things down, get some clarity for your child(ren)’s sake. Our daughter knows exactly what would happen if we were to perish prematurely and although many may think that is just another thing to keep from your child(ren), I believe it gives her satisfaction that she already knows that if we cannot be here to love her as she deserves, she knows who will.

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                                                                                         LIVE.OUT.LOUD.

P.S.  Big Love to My BFF’s Anne and Frank <3.

P.P.S. If you would like a great local attorney for this purpose, may I suggest Charles Newberry @ 478.986.5141

You Already Have Everything You Need: Words for Savasana

You already have everything you need

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I invite you now to sip in a long deep breath- and let the breath go.
And then another……

Sink a little deeper into the stillness.
…… And remember — You Already Have Everything You Need.

There is nowhere to go.
Home is right here…….residing within your beautiful vessel we call a body.

You Already Have Everything You Need.

There is no one you need to be -you can allow all the hats you play……~just fade away.

You Already Have Everything You Need.

There is nothing to chase after.
You Are Loved.
You are someone’s Beloved.
Friends and Family are already waiting to embrace you.

You Already Have Everything You Need.

In the quiet of this moment………
I invite you to lay down your desires.

Allow them to wash over you and melt away in the Mother Earth
As you sink a little deeper into the stillness.

You already Have Everything You Need.

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Weaving Stitches into a Broken Heart

In December, I sent my Mom what turned out to be the most rewarding and possibly challenging gifts I could offer. In my continuing efforts for us to heal, I offered her my wedding gown as a symbol of my wishes for our relationship.

See my Blog from December to read the letter:

https://amentalhealthhack.wordpress.com/2014/12/24/your-daughters-christmas-wish/

I was scared. What if she said, “No?” Even worse, what if she did a whole lot of fumbling around with it until I lost hope? This whole vulnerability thing- S.U.C.K.S., I’m just sayin’. But I knew no matter what happened, I had to trust and know that a wedding gown was not emotionally bulletproof.

But, of course she said, “Yes!” She called Christmas morning and we cried and laughed and she thanked me and we weaved more stitches into our broken hearts. I was elated knowing that I could not give her back the moment, but we could agree to not allow anything to steal our joy in the future.

What came over the course of the next several months has been a slow bright, beautiful burn in our lives. I could say lots of fancy words here, but I will let many of the beautiful pictures and texts that popped up periodically speak for themselves.

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Something Sparked in my Mom that I have not seen in quite some time.

Perhaps here is an important piece of the story that has not been told, but all too common in many familys. Mom medically retired from being a correctional officer of many years and later went to work part time for Michael’s Craft Store. This was a dream job for her; she got to play all day and create to her hearts content. Of course, she would do the normal bitching anyone does when someone else gets to tell you how to use your time, but she loved it, made friends and felt good about her place in the community. Then a terrible accident occurred resulting in not being able to physically work and the with it, the return of the ugly monster of depression and anxiety. It was devastating and so incredibly painful to watch my vibrant, loving and generously kind mother go to a place that is all too familiar and dark for many of the women in my family.

But the spark was so much more than I imagined. I asked her to consider healing for us, but I believe that if we want to change the world, we must change ourselves…..And So She did.

A few days after the initial text she sent me this:

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I called her after this message. Woah.

Then came this blob of material in a text:

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Then another blob of material in a text…no note, just blobs:

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Then came the first Angel Gown:

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Then another:

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Then the first for a baby boy:

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And Here are all Eight Angel Gowns that my dress made, by hand and stitched with love of my mother:

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It was truly a delight! Out of tragedy for my Mom and I, we were able to build something new. I understand she did not loose me in the physical sense that parents who loose their child do, but in many ways I was lost to her in the emotionally. Perhaps we give dignity to our relationship, as well as, those parents who will loose their child at what would be a moment of pure joy.

What happened next just blew my mind……She called me a few months later and said that she knew why ‘I was doing this‘. She felt I had some other covert (although kind) agenda to get her to connect with people again and give her meaning and purpose by working with others on the Angel Gown Project. I absolultely and honestly can say that I only wished I had that much devious forethought to consider what it may open my mother up to. But it did. She even sent me selfies to prove she had gotten dressed, put make up on and was leaving the house to meet the wonderful women of the Fresno County Angel Gown Project:

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Isn’t she beautiful? I did suggest she smile, but I think she was still figuring out the selfie stuff and it is very serious work, as you know. I always recommend taking a few in just the right light and making kissy faces to loosen up the death grip smile….or just kissy faces in general. How could you go wrong?

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This is what ensued following the completion of my gown:

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Yes Ma’am! She made a slew of them and has not stopped since January. My mom talked about how she recognizes what an unimaginable heartbreak it would be to loose an infant and if she can provide just a moment of dignity for those babies and their families, then her mad mad sewing skills will never go in vain.

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When I sit back and look at all these images, from a dress to a transformation for dignity, I am truly in awe. I get that sweet warm feeling in my chest that makes my eyes tingle. I hope these images speak the volumes in which they speak for me. Go back and stare at them for just a moment and revel in the gifts that are given on so many layers.

So I say Thank You; Thank You Mom for hanging in their even when their seemed to only be threads left. I am grateful to you for stitching our broken hearts back together and giving dignity back to our relationship as well as the lives of these parents.

                                           Now This. This is  LIVING. OUT. LOUD. 

Mother of Dragons For Mother’s Day

Worth a Second Look….Happy Mother’s Day to Every Human Nurturer ❤

Transformative Trauma

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I think of myself as a rather thoughtful and kind person. Yes, I am well aware that my sassiness might blind you to these facts from time to time…..but they do exist. However, when it comes to Mother’s Day, I have been stuck in a SUCK tunnel.

Before becoming a mother I am sure I made plates of burnt toast and construction paper cards, followed by cheese ball Mother’s Day Cards (I dunno, ask my mother). Then I brought home my beautiful baby girl on Mother’s Day nine years ago and looked forward to breakfast in bed and gifts I (usually) requested from my BFF’s jewelry store. If we are not uniquely acquainted, everyone should have a BFF that is a jewelry designer….Just Sayin’.

But over this past year, something has sprouted within me and has been vining around my pretty little heart. The weeks leading up to this…

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The Fault in My Scars

In Others' Words...

On the girl’s brown legs there were many small white scars. I was thinking, do those scars cover the whole of you, like the stars and the moons on your dress? I thought that would be pretty too, and I ask you right here please to agree with me that a scar is never ugly. That is what the scar makers want us to think. But you and I, we must make an agreement to defy them. We must see all scars as beauty. Okay? This will be our secret. Because take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, I survived.

Chris Cleave, Little Bee

There is a scene in Good Will Hunting where Robin Williams’ character, Sean Maguire, has Will cornered and he has his social services file in his hand. They talk about the abuse Will suffered as a boy, and…

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Law of the wild

In Others' Words...

My hands are shaking as I write this.

I am noticing a recurring theme in some of the comments and emails I have been receiving, and I think it needs to be addressed.  Like, immediately.

It seems as though we’ve decided there is a hierarchy of victims.  I’ve talked about this before, regarding our rape culture.  This is different.  I mean, we- as victims of sexual abuse- have decided this.  About OURSELVES.

Typing that makes me feel a little sick to my stomach.

Just within the past week, I have had two emails from women telling me their stories, stories which are remarkably similar and are, unfortunately, becoming increasingly familiar to me.

I have yet to hear a story of sexual abuse that doesn’t involve shame.  It is the singular unifying theme- there is no surprise there, sadly.  But there is a subset of stories within our collective tale…

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Bringing up a Bodhisattva: Establishing the Path to Enlightenment

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In Buddhism, there is an attainable state called Bodhisattva, where the practitioner reaches a point where they have a sudden and spontaneous desire to attain Buddhahood to benefit all other sentient beings. They are driven by compassion and bodhicitta, the awakened mind. It is the wish to replace others suffering with bliss.

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