Monday, September 24, 2012

Five Places to Make Home

Living in a typical American town, I imagine I have typical items in my home.  I have a couch, a few chairs, and a table where my family gathers for meals, kitchen appliances and electronics.  For today’s Monday Listicles, which has the theme of 10 Things in My Home, I wonder what I can share that will be of interest? I do have dogs, but that’s not unusual.  There are tidy spots and spaces that are disasters.  Typical, typical, typical. 

My younger daughter started 7th grade last month and my older daughter is a freshman.  Lately, my significant other and I have been discussing whether or not we will stay here six years from now when the girls are finished with high school.  It’s a fun discussion, full of hopes, dreams, and sometimes good ol’ boring reality.  The reality being we would have to fix up our current house in order to sell it, in order to move.

Here’s a list of 5 places we’ve thought of moving after the girls graduate from high school:

The Short North
The Short North – We live in a little municipality that is surrounded by the city.  It’s beautiful with historic homes and very mature trees, but the taxes are high, and we never really feel like we fit in.  We feel at ease when we are downtown among the galleries, the fun eateries and venues for live music—the trendy neighborhood Columbus, Ohio calls the Short North.

Louisville, KY – My significant other grew up in Southern Indiana, across the river from Louisville.  He spent much of his early 20’s living and working there, and we spent many weekends there when we were courting.  He’s feeling called to go there.  I wouldn’t mind at all.  I grew up along the same river, just a few hundred miles north.  I get it.  The river means home.

Savannah, Georgia – One evening we went so far as to explore homes for sale in Savannah--online, not actually in Georgia.  The homes are too expensive for us to afford.  But we found out that we could afford a small (better described as tiny), rental on Tybee Island, on the water.  The sun and the south.  This is high on my fantasy list, for sure.

Somewhere in the middle of nowhere, Tennessee – Not sure why Tennessee.  Maybe it’s because I saw a documentary on HBO called One Nation Under Dog that featured a woman who has this amazing space in Tennessee where she makes art and rescues dogs.  Seems like a dream world to me.

Chicago, Illinois – I lived in Chicago during my early twenties.  I usually say I grew up there because I literally grew up while living there.  I had to do grown up things in order to pay rent and survive.  It was difficult, but I loved it.  And Chicago has it all--friendly people, arts, commerce, bodies of water, history, and . . . wait.  I forgot about the winters.  This one will probably be the first to be removed from the list when it’s time to decide.

Here’s 5 things I will have to do to my house before moving:

Clean this light fixture – When I happen to look up from the table where I write and where we have meals, I am quite mortified.  I’ve been meaning to clean this thing forever.  Today may be the day.

The plumbing – I don’t know exactly what is wrong with it.  It wasn’t right when I bought the house six years ago, but I didn’t know that until I moved in.  I bought the house while living in California and thought too much of my realtor.  She really got me good with the inspections that passed but shouldn’t have.

The electrical stuff – Again with the lousy realtor.  How this home passed inspection is beyond me.  If you run the hair dryer, half the house loses power.  If you run the microwave and the vacuum at the same time, the entire house loses power.

Refinish the floors –I love me some wood floors.  Ours are icky, and need refinished.  Anyone want to do me a favor?

Something with the chimney — It was disclosed that there was an issue with the chimney.  I haven’t gotten it looked at to figure it out and have it repaired.  A cozy fire may be appealing to future owners.

There's more.

Actually, the list of things that need to be done to this house before I could sell it is enormous and overwhelming.  I’m going back to my first list, the list of places I’d like to move to after the girls graduate.  For me, it's more fun to fantasize about a freshly painted rental in an ideal location than to contemplate fixing things in this old house.

After this one is sold, I will never own a house again . . . ever.

“Hello, Mr. Landlord, the toilet is clogged.  Would you mind?”

The best way to spend Monday in the blogosphere!

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photo credit: OZinOH via photopin cc

Thursday, September 20, 2012

She Must Get A's

Bad grades=bad self-esteem

Good grades=good self-esteem

Good grades do not necessarily indicate learning or becoming a better person, or growing.

In the world of a teen, where everything is rapidly changing, where coming home from school should mean time off to relax, regroup, and recharge, teens are required to do homework so that they can get good grades.

That homework takes hours.

When do teens exercise?

PE has been removed from the curriculum for more academics.

Lack of physical activity does not help the performance of the brain, it hinders it.

Lack of physical activity also sabotages the outcome of the state mandated BMI tests.

It is recommended students be in extra-curricular activities.  These improve the chances of students performing well, academically.

The extra-curricular activities take time away from homework which is a requirement in order to receive good grades.

When should teens socialize?

What if they aren’t interested in the history of the Ming Dynasty?

My teen is struggling.

She’s smart.

She can do the work.

I do not know where her mind is when she is studying.

I do not know how to help her without hovering over her as she stares at a book that she recently stared at in class.

Maybe it’s time to choreograph song and dance numbers composed of World Studies facts.

Maybe it’s time to tell her she must put a hold on growing up.  There are A’s that need to be seen on her transcript.

How do I tell her it's not her fault, it's not her teacher's fault?

How do I not feel it is my fault?

How do I tell her I will not have the ability to change the educational system in America before she graduates from high school?

Learning we must do things we do not want to do may be the hardest lesson to learn.

If she can master that, she'll have it made.


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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Wednesday's Woman: Mothers and Daughters

“Probably there is nothing in human nature more resonant with charges than the flow of energy between two biologically alike bodies, one of which has lain in amniotic bliss inside the other, one of which has labored to give birth to the other. The materials are here for the deepest mutuality and the most painful estrangement.”
― Adrienne Rich, Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution

Missy Bedell, Literal Mom
Today’s Wednesday’s Woman comes from a blogger I have been following since well before the birth of Sperk*.  I would say, she is probably one of the reasons Sperk* is in existence.  Her blog, Literal Mom, inspires, is accessible, and has its pulse on reality, examining what it means to be a “thinking parent” in today’s world.  She is a former litigator, a wife and mother, a child advocate, and a passionate volunteer.  Like all of us, she's someone's child--a daughter.

I am thrilled to welcome Literal Mom’s, Missy Bedell, as today’s guest blogger for Wednesday’s Woman.  After you read her post here where she examines the mother-daughter relationship, I guarantee you’ll be moved to read more at Literal Mom, follow her on Twitter and like her on Facebook.  You can also find Missy at one of my favorite sites as a contributor at Just Be Enough.

Wednesday's Woman: My Mother
Missy Bedell, Literal Mom

Sometimes the time for a story comes and you're afraid to write it. 

I agreed to write for Sperk* for Wednesday's Woman a long time ago.  And when she reminded me that it was today, I had a bit of a panic attack. 

I can write about moments.  I can give you kid vignettes.  I can hide behind humor and tongue in cheek posts, like I did last week.

What I normally don't give you is information about my past. 

And today I'm writing about someone else's past. 

My Mother.

We've had our ups and downs over the years.  I'm beginning to think that all mothers and daughters do.  It's the nature of the beast - two females existing in what is arguably the closest relationship you have with another human being. 

The relationship starts off with 100% give on the part of the mother and 100% take on the part of the daughter.  But gradually, the daughter earns more and more autonomy and the mother, if she's wise, knows how to pull back her percentage of giving to her daughter, creating instead of a 100% give and receive, a balance of love, support, encouragement and recognition that the daughter's her own independent, brave soul who can navigate the difficulties of life without her mother's hand leading the way.

No easy task.  I'm a daughter and I'm a mother.  I see it from both sides now.  Why my mother has seemed overbearing at times (she's my mother and mothers know best, dammit!) and how I always want to support my own daughters without being an overbearing mother (even if they're doing something I know is wrong and why aren't they listening to me - I'm their mother and I know best, dammit!).

So yes, the mother daughter relationship.  It can be fraught with pitfalls over the lifetime a mother and daughter may spend together.

But my mother, despite our ups and downs, deserves a Wednesday's Woman write up more than any other woman I know. 

Kimberly sent me an email saying "Wednesday's Woman can be courageous, honest, authentic or humble - any characteristic that speaks to the power of what can happen when we are in touch with our own humanity."

Immediately my mother came to mind.  Because of one word.


This is a woman whose husband left her in the 1960's saddled with three young children, no job and no real skills as she'd married him right out of high school and had her children back to back while he attended college.  HE attended college.  Not SHE.

What did she do?  She tapped into her courage, because for this woman, defeat would never be an option.  That was for the weak. 

She tapped into her courage, talked her way into a job as office manager in her town's dermatology office and made it work.  Often by sheer grit and determination. 

Likely by some blood, sweat and tears along the way too.  Or maybe not tears.  This is a woman who, if she'd been a man, would have been considered a real ball buster.

It was the 1960s! 

And she did it all on her own for quite a few years. 

Eventually she met a man, a good man, and married him.  He would become my Dad, when I was born a few years later.

And this December they're celebrating their 43rd or so anniversary.

A second marriage that's lasted over 40 years.  Raising a blended family of his, hers and ours.  Which has its own inherent challenges.

It hasn't been easy for her.  And sometimes I get mad at her. 

But she's a mother and I'm a daughter.  It goes with the territory. 

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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

My Daughter's 10 Favorite Wedding Dresses

If I were to get married again, I would be late to the ceremony, just like I am today for Monday Listicles.  

I took the weekend off from blogging every day and yesterday my kids were off from school for Rosh Hashanah, which meant no time to write. 

Well, that is not true.  I chose not to write.

Today, Tuesday, I chose to write for this week's Monday’s Listicles' theme, Weddings.

I am divorced, so I have mixed feelings about weddings.  A wedding means marriage.  Mine failed.  Therefore, other than the pretty dresses and the party, I am somewhat unenthusiastic about the notion of a ritual designed to break a big hole in the savings account with little left over to wager on whether or not it will last forever.   

Sophia with Randy of SYTTD.
Antonia and I were jealous!
Notice I mentioned I like the pretty dresses.  My younger daughter, Antonia, does, too.  There was a time when we could be found cuddled next to each other on the couch watching episode after episode of SayYes to the Dress streaming from Netflix through the Wii.  We have since then watched every episode and watched with envy from afar as her older sister got to visit Kleinfeld's with her dad last year in New York City.

Because we have seen every episode of Say Yes to the Dress, Antonia and I have moved onto watching David Tutera’s, My Fair Wedding.  Our favorite part of the show is, of course, when the bride-to-be tries on fabulous dresses to replace the dress Tutera cannot possibly seem to tolerate.  We attempt to guess which dress Tutera will choose, which is not revealed until the day of the wedding (aka the end of the show), and we are usually right.

Yesterday while I was grumbling about needing to write, I asked Antonia to make a list of her 10 favorite wedding dresses.  She carefully chose the following 10 from the 45 she has proudly curated on her Pinterest board, Wedding Dresses.

Antonia’s 10 Favorite Wedding Dresses

                                          Source: via Toni on Pinterest

                                           Source: Uploaded by user via Toni on Pinterest

         Source: via Toni on Pinterest

                                                                     Source: via Toni on Pinterest

                                                                   Source: Uploaded by user via Toni on Pinterest

                         Source: Uploaded by user via Toni on Pinterest

                                                   Source: via Toni on Pinterest

                                                  Source: via Toni on Pinterest

                              Source: via Toni on Pinterest

                             Source: via Toni on Pinterest

It is safe to say that Antonia has exquisite taste in wedding gowns.  She also has an eye for gorgeous cakes which she is curating photos of here: Cakes!

[Thank you, Antonia, for your contribution to today's post.  I promise to adjust my attitude about marriage if you ever find yourself shopping at Kleinfeld's.]  

The best way to spend Monday in the blogosphere!
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Friday, September 14, 2012

Where Is My Daughter?

I really want to read other blogs and leave comments right now but have the need to fulfill my blog every day commitment.  So, what do you want to read about?

Would you like to know how frustrating it is to have your first born off and running around town while you worry about her getting into cars, homes without parents. . . situations in which you may have not yet given her the tools to navigate?

The GPS tracker on her phone picked her up three blocks out of our little “city” which put her IN the city and I freaked out.  

The only thing I worry about in our 2.5 square mile municipality within the capital city is the lack of parental guidance given to some of her peers.  It’s pretty safe.  But when you get to the edge of town and step across the street, it becomes about so much more than if a parent is present in the home.

After I saw her location, I texted her twice. 

No texts back.

I called.

No answer.

I immediately thought someone swooped her off the street, had her in a vehicle, and was speeding her towards a place of doom.

I texted her dad who had her in his care for the weekend and before he could respond, she called.

I heard screaming teens and an echoing voice coming over loud speakers and knew.  The GPS was not exactly accurate.  She was at the football game, exactly where she was supposed to be.

I contemplated going there, but I didn’t.

I knew it was normal for her to go to a football game without me sitting somewhere in the stands keeping watch.

I knew I could trust her dad when she’s in his care.

I knew I should trust her.

My heart, though, knew nothing but the ache of watching a girl growing into a woman.  It knew of all the things that could go wrong and little of what could go right.

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Thursday, September 13, 2012

I Am Doing It, So There.

As part of my plight to thwart depression, I have committed to blogging every day.  I have not come out with an official public announcement regarding this pledge because typically, when I broadcast what I’m going to do, I don’t do it.  Then I am left with evidence of my failure—that evidence being an audience and my blog.

There is nothing worse than the sting of your daughter saying, “Mom, you never do anything you say you’re going to do.  You don’t do anything, with the exception of Sperk*.  You do that.”

Yeah. She said it. 

No. It’s not true.  I do a lot of other things besides Sperk*.

I refrained from going into a raging rant about how there is always food on the table and asking her where she thought that came from.  

I refrained from asking her what she might think her life without a devoted mother may look like.

I just said, “Yeah, it’s probably too late for me to become the famous female music conductor I always wanted to be.”

She had a twinkle in her eye as she said, "That would have been perfect for you.  You could act crazy and everyone would politely laugh at your jokes, you know, because of the formal environment.  Everyone is always polite to the conductor."

Where was this coming from?

So what if I haven’t finished redecorating her room, a project I started two summers ago.  She changes her mind about what she wants every two days.

So what if I haven’t gotten a job teaching at a preschool.  Yes, I finished my degree in early education almost a year ago, but even though I love babies, I don’t want to change diapers for $8 an hour.

Then I announced to her that I wanted to go back to school and possibly get my teaching license.

She said, “Well, you know you’ll have to be a substitute first if you go for teaching.  They call in the morning for that, you’d never be able to get ready.”

She was right.  I would never be able to get ready.

She went on, “Plus, you’d be that substitute everyone hates.  The one who is excited to be there, the one who is excited about learning.”

She was right.  I am excited about learning.

This week I’m learning to be patient with my depression and her adolescence.

This week I am learning that I actually do the things I say I am going to do.  Here's the proof:  you are reading post #4 on day #4 of blogging every day.  

So there.  
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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Wednesday's Woman: Fighting Childhood Obesity

Anna Mahler is a passionate blogger, wife and mother who generously contributes to Wednesday’s Woman on a monthly basis.  She considers herself a student of life and inspiringly shares what she learns at The Mommy Padawan.  She was recently featured at in an insightful piece Three Reasons Why Bad Moods are Wonderful.   

Eat, Move, Live  - Healthy!

There have been many reports in recent news about the how heavily processed and fast food along with a sedentary lifestyle is actually causing an epidemic of obesity in America, but adults are not the only ones being effected.

Today, nearly one in three children in America are overweight or obese. In fact, it's predicted that this could be the first generation of children with a shorter life expectancy than their parents.

As serious and sobering as this news is, it is also our most preventable disease. 

It's common for mothers to to be concerned with what are children are eating and trying to make sure they are getting everything they need. Encouraging and even sneaking in fruits and vegetables to daily meals is an every day struggle for most but one mom has taken this concern to new levels.

Today's Wednesday's Woman is walking the walk in her own life, for her family and creating programs and initiatives to educate, inspire and empower families to create fuller, healthier lives.

Michelle Obama is today's Wednesday's Woman.

To encourage and educate her daughters about eating more natural home grown food as well as inspiring others, in 2009 Michelle Obama planted a kitchen garden at the White House. There were ups and downs, successes and challenges, but that garden is flourishing today. To share her knowledge from this experience as well as sharing tips about what worked, Michelle wrote American Grown: The Storyof the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America  and was published in 2012.

On February 09, 2010 the First Lady launched “Let's Move!”, an initiative to make the fight against our country's childhood obesity epidemic a serious priority.  Along with helping to empower families to live healthier lives, the Let's Move! web site includes information for schools, community leaders and even health care providers.

While some states are discussing the option to get rid of P.E. classes and looking for more ways to save money on school lunches, this initiative could not be more timely and needed.

The White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity Report recommendations focus on the five pillars of the First Lady’s Let’s Move! initiative:
1      Creating a healthy start for children
2      Empowering parents and caregivers
3      Providing healthy food in schools
4      Improving access to healthy, affordable foods
5      Increasing physical activity
Becoming a living example of the change you wish to create in the world is one of the most powerful things you can do. From her own garden and encouragement for her family to eat better to creating an initiative to help all of our children and families, Michelle Obama's message and hope for the next generation is clear:
The health and wellness of our future is too important to neglect or take for granted.  We can work together for a happier, healthier tomorrow.

(Be sure to check out Apps for Healthy Kids, a competitive project of Let's Move! which provides our tech savvy children with activities that support healthy food choices and exercise.)

Do you know a Wednesday's Woman?  Would you like to share her story?  Contact Sperk* for an opportunity to guest post.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Proceed with Caution

There was a welcomed chill in the air this morning that allowed my thoughts to be crisp and driving.  They jumped from having an idea for this to wanting to finish that.  There was much to read, many people to catch up with via social media and blogging, and chores I actually felt like doing.

I took a moment to be with the high-spiritedness in the tingling of my fingers and toes.  It made me laugh.

I was wise enough to take step back.  I remembered to embrace the feeling of lightness and not let it overrun the day.  It could lead to more new tasks being created before I finished the ones I abandoned at the onset of my depression.  Like a prisoner being released from a lengthy sentence, I needed to proceed with caution.  The new free world could be a danger.

I took one more step back and looked around to see what had been going well.  I discovered that even when I had the shades drawn to the brightness of life, I did okay.

Two stars remained in my sky.  Their forward-spin towards adulthood did not stop even when I did.

With relief, I noticed my daughters were well, and for that I was grateful.

photo credit: Lori Greig via photo pin cc

Monday, September 10, 2012

10 Songs That Rock

I planned on composing today’s Monday Listicles earlier this morning but was sidetracked after my daughter, a freshman in high school, sent me a text.  Apparently she has to stay after school and write on the chalkboard, “I will not forget my Spanish binder” a number of times as a consequence for, you guessed it, forgetting her Spanish binder. 

I spent a few hours looking for credible research that supported my instinct: writing lines is an ineffective and demeaning form of punishment.  More on that in a future post.

Now for the fun stuff, a great topic for today’s Monday’sListicles: 10 Songs.  That’s it.  No explanation and left open for interpretation.

I’m going for 10 Songs That Rock. 

You may ask, “What’s the criteria for rocking?”  The answer:

~Any song, if you heard it on the radio, you wouldn’t change the dial.
~A rock anthem (Still ambiguous, I know. Now you’re asking, “What’s a rock anthem?”)
~Any song with a driving beat that brings you to your feet.
~Any song that makes you feel empowered.
~Any song that will help alleviate my anger for forgotten binders and punishments given as consequences.
~Any song that fills in for anti-depressant medication.

10 Songs That Rock

Why Go - Pearl Jam

Elevation - U2

Paradise City - Guns N Roses

Baba O'Riley - The Who

We Will Rock You - Queen

Under Pressure - Queen

Seven Nation Army - The White Stripes

Killing in the Name - Rage Against The Machine

Born in the USA - Bruce Springsteen

Infinity Guitars -Sleigh Bells

The above were ranked in no particular order.  It was challenging enough to choose only 10.  Ranking them would have taken days of research and statistical analysis.  Which songs are on your list of Songs That Rock?

Be sure to check out Monday Listicles to see how other bloggers interpreted 10 Songs:

The best way to spend Monday in the blogosphere!

photo credit: larskflem via photo pin cc

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The One Thing I Can't Say: I'm Depressed

The first time I remember feeling depressed was in the first grade.  My grandfather had just died.  During recess, I walked around the school yard without talking or playing with anyone for at least three days. One of those times, Sister Miriam Ann decided to bring me into my classroom and tell my homeroom teacher what she had observed.  This attempt to help me included empathy from both her and my teacher.  I felt it in their words, even though I didn’t believe what they said: “Your grandfather is happy in heaven with God.”

That was approximately 36 years ago.

Since then, I have experienced many varying levels of depression, from mild to clinical—after every break-up, every time a performance run ended, when I failed exams, after recovering memories of sexual abuse, after each of my children were born and after my divorce.

I have had varying types of treatment—talk therapy, rehab, medication and EMDR.  They all worked for a period of time.

Time is a tricky thing.

I am on the upswing from what I thought was a mild bout of depression.  However, when examining the calendar, charting the amount of time I have felt down and the number of episodes of Pawn Stars I have viewed, I have to reassess—it has been severe.  On the other hand, it hasn’t lasted that long and to the untrained eye, or to those who do not regularly see me, nothing seems unusual. 

I don’t think my daughters have even noticed.  Or maybe they have.  And that kills me.

It’s not that there are glaring signs of my depression staring my daughters in the face.  I do not stay in bed all day (at least, not when they are around), there is always food on the table, clean underwear in their drawers, and I have made it to every beginning-of-the-school-year parent meeting.  However, I know what would be staring them in the face if I was not depressed.  It would all be better—the condition of the house and my enthusiasm for after-school time beyond making sure they get their homework done successfully.

The funny thing about depression is that it can become comfortable.  An upswing towards feeling good, although being the desired goal, is uncomfortable and unfamiliar—scary. 

And what would people think if they knew I struggled with depression?  That question plagues me with such ferocity that I dare not admit even the slightest bit of sadness.  So things come out sideways.  For instance, yesterday when I was driving my older daughter home from school, a telemarketer called.  I answered the unfamiliar number with enthusiasm because the opposite, ignoring the phone, is typically one of the first signs that indicate I am depressed. 

I thought, “Yay! I am answering the phone.  I am getting better!”

The conversation started out pleasant but ended with an inappropriate outburst that stunned my daughter:

Telemarketer: Is Kimberly Speranza available?
Me:  (with a very sweet sounding voice) It depends on who is calling.
Telemarketer: This is [so and so] from [so and so]
Me: (continues sweetly) She’s not available to you and please take her number off your list.  I mean, this is Kimberly.  Please take my number off your list.
Telemarketer: Are you on the National Do Not Call List?
Me: (getting angry) Yes.
Telemarketer: How’s that working out for you?
Me: (blows her top) Why don’t you suck balls and die.

(Uh-huh.  I know, I know. It was terrible and completely out of character for me.  IT was my depression being inappropriately expressed as anger towards and innocent person trying to do their job.  Additionally, it was a not-so-fine moment of setting an example for my daughter of how to handle annoying phone calls--not OK.)

I tapped the phone to hang up as the telemarketer whaled with laughter.  My daughter heard him.  She said, “Mom! That was awful. He was laughing at you.”

And there it is.

I don’t want to be laughed at.

I don’t want to be coddled and consoled.

I don’t want to be looked at like an insane person who is incapable of functioning.

Intellectually I know the above list of fears is unwarranted.  I understand mental illness.  I understand it is nothing to be ashamed of or to hide.  And yet, here I am, feeling exposed and afraid.

I am afraid that if I admit I am depressed, I will no longer be taken seriously.  Everything I say, write, or suggest will be met with, “She’s just crazy.”  Then I will be ignored, no longer heard or believed.

Typically, in order to avoid that vulnerable feeling of being exposed, I’ll cover it up by announcing my new “thing”:  quitting smoking, exercising, juicing, writing 2,000 words a day, yoga, meditation, taking walks.  Some of which I have tried, some of which I have only contemplated while lying on the couch with the TV mindlessly flashing before me.  And when all turn out to be unsuccessful attempts at getting myself off the couch, the depression worsens.

In AA, the first of the Twelve Steps is:  We admitted we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable.

I believe that within the words of Step One lies freedom.  Admitting.  Saying what is.  Calling a spade a spade. 

I admit it, I struggle with depression.

Gratefully linking up with Pour Your Heart Out
 which prompted me to write about my struggle with depression.
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