Sunday, November 27, 2016

A Sound Book of Advice on Depression

"Much as we don't see a clogged drain before it backs up, we often don't recognize the initial signs of anxiety, depression, cancer, heart disease, and many other conditions for what they are.  Until enough signs and symptoms add up to a situation warranting concern, we don't recognize a problem exists." pg. 42 from Hope Prevails by Dr. Michelle Bengston

Depression is the subject that Dr. Bengston tackles in Hope Prevails.  She has both lived with
depression and walked others through the struggles of living with depression.  I have read several books on depression over the years and I'm always curious about how authors deal with this subject.  I've seen it handled well and handled poorly.  

In my own life, I have seen some Christians make black and white statements about depression--one person told me that it's just sin and anyone struggling with depression just needs to fight it.  Another Christian told me "that's just the way he/she is and we just need to accept him/her that way".  I've also heard Christians vocally speak against antidepressants.

Depression has had an effect on my entire life from the very beginning because I had a family member living with depression who blamed me and other people in their life for their unhappiness.  Deep scars have healed over the years only to be replaced by new ones.  I know personally what God means when he says in the Psalms that he will heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds.

BUT, it doesn't have to be this way.

There is help.  Dr. Bengston knows this.   The thing is that although depression makes life difficult--it can be more difficult or less difficult.  If you're reading this book because you're living with depression, start with Chapter 12 and then go back and read the rest.  I appreciated what she says about medication.  Then, go back and start from the beginning.

She's very honest about what she has walked through and I look for honesty and humility in authors' writing.  I found her book to be encouraging and helpful.  There isn't a chapter written to family members and loved ones who are loving someone who lives with depression, but this book can be helpful with its insights and gaining perspective.

I remember thinking when the person said to me that depression was just sin that the person speaking hadn't experienced it themselves or had a loved one live with depression.  As with most things in life, we understand best what we've experienced.  But, if we haven't experienced something, reading books by people who have and by listening, really listening we can grow in our compassion towards others.  This is one of those books that can help someone better understand depression if they listen, really listen.

This past week I walked through some really stressful events in life that pretty much brought me to my knees.  I didn't know things were going to implode on me until they did.  I found myself sick and unable to drive the day before Thanksgiving.  Quite the timing.  I'm climbing back up now, but I think this author hits it right on the button with the quote I began this post with.  I just read part of the chapter about recovering your joy.  Like her, I often struggle with authors that make simple, platitudes about what we need to do to fix our situations or our selves.  I don't think it works that way.  Rather, the heart is very complex and the mind just as much so.  I have found myself clinging to Isaiah 43:2 while recognizing that as I walk through the waters, the Word doesn't tell me that I will have 100% of my energy as I walk through them!  Ms. Bengston portrays a vivid and helpful picture, I think, of walking through depression and coping with life.  Even if you don't live with depression, but are struggling with stress and what it steals from your life, you may find parts of this book very encouraging and helpful.

This book surprised me.  It was far deeper and far better than I ever expected it to be!

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book for review, but that these thoughts and opinions are clearly my own.  I'm quite opinionated!


Sunday, October 30, 2016

Thinking before you speak

Yesterday at soccer, I was discussing social media and email with another teacher at a local school.  She said that their school used a poster to help teach kids about what to say--and not say via email and social media.

I found a similar poster to the one she described HERE.  I'm definitely printing this up and laminating it for my classroom today!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Returning to Facebook

With all our activities this year, I realized that some of the groups we're now involved in communicate via Facebook.  I've been off Facebook for five years because they deleted something on my page (non-offensive) without my permission.  I decided to return to Facebook this week.  But, it's interesting.

My husband made this stipulation to me when I opened a new account:  "Don't put anything on Facebook that you wouldn't want in the newspaper."  I think this is wise guidance and it is what I am using to make decisions about what I post and what I don't post.

I realize that I have walked back into the world of deciding who to be friends with and not friends with on Facebook--what to say and what not to say.  When I got off Facebook years ago, I realized that people wanted to be facebook friends with me who hadn't been nice to me when I was a kid.  When people say that people will do and say things they wouldn't in person, they usually are referring to insults people are willing to hurl at people on the internet.  But, ironically, I found that people are also willing to be "friends" with people they wouldn't be friends with in person.

Facebook introduces a complex series of decisions--a complexity of which I had mostly forgotten until this week.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Time

My kids are no longer toddlers.  They're growing up heading towards their teenager years with lots of things they love to do.  There are so many opportunities we can pursue with them.  But, what is wise?  How much is enough?  How much is too much?

This fall has been a busy one.  We have more activities going on than we have in past school years.

Sports--Soccer
4-H
Mini co-op for art
Flute, Piano
Watercolor lessons
Homeschool PE 1x/week (this is an organized large group)
Youth Group
Mini co-op for French and Writing

We've been busy for the past eight weeks.  But, what now?  My middle daughter loves soccer. Should we become a year round sports family?  Can we say no?  yes?

Yesterday, I sat watching my daughter's soccer game and talked with a mom sitting next to me who had come to cheer on her friend's daughter.  This woman's two sons play sports year round and she was surprised when I said we only did soccer.  I immediately felt this emotion well up in me that I needed to explain that we do a lot of other things, too, though.  

As parents we all want to do well by our kids.  Every parent I know does, including my husband and me.  But, he asked me to pause and step back before I jump into committing our daughter to playing soccer year round. 

What are our priorities?  We do have three children, not just 1.  Are we ready for that (soccer/sports) to become the focus of our lives?  I didn't realize before how easy it would be for my mind to sway.  I want my kids to have a good, well rounded education.  I'm willing to push myself.  But, at the same time, I know that my kids are happier when they aren't stressed and have enough time to get their work done.  

I'm not exactly sure what activities we're going to pick up this winter to help us stay physically active, but I know I need to be careful about what I take on and that I make sure I'm not neglecting one of my children over another.  

Jump to another scene from this week...

This past Monday night I was a part of a panel discussing homeschooling with a group of parents.  I listened to the other parents and found myself pondering several questions at the end of the night.
1.  Are my children having fun in school?
2.  Are my children driven?

The answers to both made me pause again--in the same way that our choices about sports are making me pause.  I don't think my kids would say school is fun.  They enjoy their co-op classes and activities.  My girls are willing to do their work and are growing and learning.  My son is struggling to do the subjects he doesn't want to, but he understands it is his responsibility to learn and do his work.  The discussions about homeschooling through high school particularly made me pause.  The kids who advance are driven.  But, my oldest isn't driven the way they describe and the way I was when I was her age.  Yet, she is taking 6 high school courses as an 8th grader.  When I realized this, I knew I needed to find a way to take something away.  So, we took her health off the table.  I am going to spread it out over the next 2 years.  

For some families, homeschooling is fun.  I think my family has its fun times and I enjoy the time I have with my kids.  When Sami made pancakes for everyone this week, enlisting her sister and brother and teaching them before school began one day--that was fun.  When we decorated pumpkins on Thursday before school began--that was fun.  When Eli did his science experiment with bubbles and the girls joined in blowing bubbles everywhere--that was fun.  But, it isn't all fun. There's lots of work, too.  

One of the topics that came up during the panel was how long it takes to homeschool.   For some families homeschooling only takes an hour for kindergarten and 3-4 hours a day for 1st-8th grades.  I have realized that it has a lot to do with the curriculum you choose, how much work you ask your children to complete, and how easy it is for them to complete it.  Preschool was 30 minutes 2x/week for PK3 and 45 min. 3x/week for PK4, but once we hit Kindergarten, it took us 2-3 hours or a little more because our work got spread out while I juggled my younger children.  When I followed the Well Trained Mind for kindergarten with my oldest it took longer.  First grade was hard with my oldest.  I pushed my daughter too hard, listening to the Well Trained Mind and its very intensive, idealistic view of what homeschooling should look like.  Then, long about the middle of the year, I realized that I needed to change course with her, or we both would never survive!  I let go of the Well Trained Mind because it didn't fit us (though I know many families love it!).  I began to find my own path.  And we've been on our own path since.  But, that path takes longer each day than the families I was listening to on Monday night.  If we get a full day of school in at home, we work for 6-7 hours.  This year, we only get one full day at home in which we don't have activities interrupting our day.

I think homeschooling isn't a cookie cutter mold that one can plop onto a piece of bread and cut out a perfectly shaped sandwich.  Our families are all different.  I'm just trying to remember we don't have to do everything and we don't have to keep up with the Jones', so to speak.  

It has been an interesting week.  





Thursday, October 20, 2016

Another Time Around the Track

Last spring, I found a book series on Hoopla Digital that I really enjoyed it.  It was a series about the Christiansen Family by Susan May Warren.  So, I was curious about her new series that begins with Wild Montana Skies.  This book is about a pilot, Kacey Fairing, who is returning home from a deployment to Afghanistan--trying to recover and cope with PTSD.  Enter her daughter, Audrey, and Kacey's high school boyfriend, Ben King.

The book follows these three as they cope with a weather tragedy and as Ben and Kacey try to help others in need.  This is a story of the truth coming out.  It is a contemporary romance, but it isn't as bad as a Harlequin--or as bad as the second book I'm reviewing in this post.

I like some romance in a novel.  There's plenty in Wild Montana Skies for me.  It isn't too physically descriptive, though, and I'm grateful for that.  This is the funny part of romance novels to me.  Where is the line that bothers me when it comes to romance?

I think the line is the one between the words "hot" and "handsome".  When an author's tone about romance tends towards the first word, the descriptions tend to be more physically graphic and rooted in the surface physical attraction between characters.  When an author's tone gravitates towards the second word, there is more of a lasting type of emotion that's not just about physical attraction.  It's more about the heart and feels more grounded somehow.

The second book I read this week was Irene Hannon's new book Tangled Webs.  This romantic suspense tends towards the first word more, which is why I didn't like it.  It felt more Harelequin-like.  The attraction between the two main characters was instant and felt very unrealistic because of the issues they were both dealing with and--PTSD--for different reasons.  I read this book because I've
wanted to give Christian Suspense another chance.  I enjoyed the last book I read by Lynnette Eason,
because it wasn't so focused on romance.  This book, on the other hand, was far more romance than suspense.

The two main characters, Dana and Finn, are neighbors at a lake.  After first meeting and realizing they are both attracted to each other, Finn finds reasons to be around Dana more.  Enter the suspense-- two people who don't want Dana to stay in the cabin where she's residing.  As the story progresses and Finn tries to figure out who is threatening Dana, they begin dating.  I wasn't sure that how PTSD plays out for both of the main characters was really realistic, either, which took away from the story for me--that's the difficulty I run into sometimes with realistic fiction.

One thing I will say for the romance in this book, even though it is more Harlequin-like in tone, the author doesn't cross any physical boundaries that I was really uncomfortable with.  A few months ago, I read a few pages in a secular romance novel just to understand what it was like.  It only took a few pages and I had to quickly put it down because it was unwise for me to read.  The pages were filled with cussing, physical affection that was far too physical for me to be comfortable with, and an attitude towards dating that reminded me of the difference having God in my life makes in my relationships.

Please note that I received complimentary copies of these books from the publisher.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Melody Carlson's Annual Christmas Novel

For the past few years, I have enjoyed reading Melody Carlson's annual Christmas novels.  Every Fall, a new one comes out.  This year's novel is titled The Christmas Angel Project.  With this story, it's hard to explain the story without giving the crux of the plot away.  So, I'm not going to.  This story is one of 4 friends who grow and walk through some tough times together around Christmas.

Melody Carlson writes these novels like Hallmark Channel Christmas movies (since they're the only ones nowadays who really make cheesy movies like the story of these books).  But, they're fun to read.  There's something about Christmas that makes people think of healing, family, friends, and fellowship.  That's what this book is all about.

Does the plot flow?  Yes.  Are the characters flawed, yet likeable?  Yes.  Does the writing make it easy to picture the story?  Yes.  It's just fine.

If you enjoy tv movies or cheesy Christmas stories, you'll like this short story.  It would be fun and easy to read while sipping a cup of hot tea.

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell Books for review.