How I Dealt With Fears of Kidnapping

How I Dealt With Fears of Kidnapping

The Pied Piper

In my recently published book A MOTHER’S TIME CAPSULE, one of the themes that I work with is that of losing a child—to accident, death, but also to kidnapping, abduction—your child goes missing. And a week ago, in a piece published on the Huffington Post, I wrote openly of such a fear: …in 1983, when my daughters were nine and five, ten-year-old Jeanine Nacarico was kidnapped from her home in Naperville, Illinois. Though the kidnapping was in another Chicago suburb, it was something unconscionable that could happen: Jeanine home alone sick, her mother checking on her, and then a man breaks in, takes her, rapes and murders her. Days later her body is found. I couldn’t get a grip. I read newspapers for answers—the mother did something careless? Absolutely not. The horrific event made me realize again: these things actually happen…

There is no soft landing when a child is taken. Within days, the Nacaricos knew the unspeakable fate of their daughter. But then again, there is Etan Patz. Thirty-six years ago, May 25th, 1979, Etan disappeared while walking to his school bus in the Soho district of New York City. He was never found. Recently, a hung jury was unable to convict the man who claims he strangled Etan and dumped his body in a trash bin.

News such as this grabs mothers. Because after Etan, there was Adam Walsh, taken and murdered in July 1981 and two Des Moines Register paperboys: Johnny Gosch taken in 1982 and Eugene Martin, taken in 1984—never found. There was also a string of child and adolescent murders in Atlanta. Then in 1983, President Reagan declared May 25, the day of Patz’s disappearance, National Missing Children’s Day. And in 1984, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) was formed.

A curtain of fear descended. A wall went up between naïve security and scary reality. As a young mother, the climate of fear came into my mailbox as periodically, along with catalogues and Better Homes and Gardens, the Advo flier appeared, listing the current MISSING child and a grainy black and white photo. What did I do about all of this? In my Huffington Post piece, I describe in detail what my husband and I did to raise our three as safely as we could. You can read it here.

But the other thing I did, was take that fear, that feeling of being paralyzed, and try to deal with it through my fiction. The three stories mentioned below are all in TIME CAPSULE. 

In SONG FOR HER MOTHER, I worked beyond the finding—trying to discover some form of healing and forgiveness to bind up the wound of the forever separation and the unknowing.

Ana wondered if there wasn’t a place where all missing people gathered. A place deep in a wood where the trees arched overhead to form a cathedral-like space, and underneath, a pocket of peace, a place shot through with golden light. The missing found each other there. And while they spoke and learned each other’s history, more kept coming. They held out their arms to new arrivals. And they wept on each other’s shoulders or picked up the children and held them and wept again. And after a time they settled into a life of waiting in stillness and quiet, until the pattern of the trees and branches against the light above them became so intense and all-consuming that their memories of those they had lost melted away.

In THAW, I made myself work directly with the Nacarico case, of course changing names and ages, but always working through my own inner terror.

Maddy once said that it helps to think that Jessy is two years older now. She’s not eight, she’s ten and she understands what happened to her and the terror of it has subsided. Karen decided a year ago, though she never brought it up with Maddy, she never wants to ever bring it up, that Jessy was unconscious almost immediately; they beat her and raped her and she didn’t know anything. Karen had decided.

I also wrote a story entitled ANGEL HAIR, which though it’s a story about children going missing—the blame lies not with the abductor, but with the falsehoods, the cheating, the penchant for war and blame and fighting that still riddles our societies. Using the old story of the Pied Piper worked well: a well-meaning person is accused or taken advantage of and in retribution he or she uses the children as collateral.

But then in one of Jeff’s runs down the lawn, she heard sounds, the soothing notes of a high piped birdcall, or the humming of bees wings, and she smelled the pungent fragrance of shorn grass or scattered rose petals and saw the flash of a yellow/red cloak engulfing the sunlight for a split-second to reveal a shadowy opening in the hedge at the end of the lawn. Then in a blinding light there was Jeff, that was all she could see, the strands of his hair and then his entire head, and his entire body becoming golden and brilliant.

And maybe this last story is closest to truths we need to look at. We should teach our children to be aware of strangers, but we should not live their lives for them and we can better insure their futures by working to improve society—all aspects of it.

Fact: many of today’s parents tend to be over-protective—yes there are reasons for that, but society has jumped on the bandwagon, like charging a mother with neglect because she allowed her two children under ten to walk home from a park. Let’s not go crazy.

In a recent article, Meghan Daum gives us some stats: An oft-cited figure when it comes to missing children is that 800,000 are reported each year. What that number belies, however, is that the definition of “missing child” includes runaways and children abducted by a parent. Research from the Department of Justice puts “stereotypical” kidnappings at just over 100 per year — an unsettling number but hardly a national scourge.

Daum wants mothers to not sweat the small stuff in the face of the horror of kidnapping and disappearance. We can entitle our children to safety, but we must also get them out the door into their own lives where responsibility and initiative creates a full human person. In other words, we don’t want them to be entitled to life.

In a recent talk with a college professor, the extreme of entitlement presented itself. He told me that some students now verbally assault a teacher if they don’t get the A they think they deserve. And then if the complaint doesn’t cause a grade change, which it won’t, the student takes revenge and writes up a poor teacher eval.

Daum ends her piece with some thought-provoking words: Statistics (see above) are important to remember as we are, once again, being instructed to be scared for the nation’s children. This time, the boogeyman isn’t a mostly nonexistent marauder who strikes when parents aren’t looking. It’s the ever-lurking, overbearing parents themselves.

Strong words. What do you think? How do you handle the fears you have for your children and grandchildren? What societal changes would better protect our children, yet give them the tools to be independent?  As for me, I continue to mine the theme of MISSING in a novel I hope to publish next year.

Thanks to Eyeofthesoul Mixed Media On: monIster


I’m Not a Scientist. Oh Yes You Are!

I'm Not a Scientist. Oh Yes You Are!


I’m not a scientist. Actually in some ways I am. I went to nursing school and for three years I read nothing but science related to disease, the anatomy of the body, the physiology of the body, how bacteria and viruses live among us. But those are blatant examples. Anyone who operates a piece of machinery whether utilizing electricity or wireless is working with science. Definition: the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.

Neil deGrasse Tyson, the host of the new television show STAR TALK and an astrophysicist states: “Pop culture at face value views science as this other thing. Until you realize that science is everywhere, it affects everything that you do, it affects how you communicate, it affects your health, it affects your future, it affects your wealth. And StarTalk is an exercise in highlighting for the public what role science actually plays in the survival of a society.”

Tyson has guests on his show, some truly involved in the practice of science like Bill Nye the Science Guy, but others like Jimmy Carter and Arianna Huffington who find connections with science in their daily lives and acknowledge the importance of those connections. Talk can be about current culture—which is really the point—science is part of our lives. Tyson says: “I think it’s a first rise, a science appetite being revealed in the hearts and minds of the public. And among the various points of evidence we point to is the wholly and unpredicted success of the TV sitcom the Big Bang Theory. …if you had been a network executive and someone walked up and said ‘I have an idea—let’s have five scientists and an engineer and they’re all friends and they talk about their job, speak science fluently and half the time you will not explain what it is they’re saying’—that’d be a great show, wouldn’t it—you’d be out on the street five minutes later.”

But The Big Bang Theory is in its 8th season: five characters living in Pasadena , California, two physicists who share an apartment; a waitress and aspiring actress who later becomes a pharmaceutical representative, a geeky and socially awkward aerospace engineer and an astrophysicist like Tyson.

The point that Tyson is making and that the popularity of the television show reveals, is that we are all ready for new knowledge and for expanding on the basics of knowledge that we already have. Children ask the question WHY and when you provide an answer, they often immediately say WHY? The chain of questions reveals that we all want to make connections between our experience and an understanding of that experience. Kids love science–they love learning how things work and WHY they work the way they do. The age of technology can baffle us now and again, but it’s exciting that answers are out there–research is available to us, we don’t have to live in ignorance. As kids often say–science is cool. Yes it is.

Tyson enjoys linking science to comedy. “…interest (in science) has been undercapitalized because we somehow as a culture don’t think that science is fun or entertaining or a source of comedy. There’s a bias. And I think the universe is a hilarious place.”

He goes on to describe what would happen to a person if he fell into a black hole. “You get stretched and ripped apart–it’s not so much hilarious as entertaining. If I had to pick one way to die, that’s how I’d want to go. It’s far more interesting than getting hit by a bus.”

Maybe Tyson glibly says this to be somewhat outrageous and because there is little fear that this can happen to him. But he certainly approaches such information with wit and irony. Science is intellectually cool.

A recent major article in TIME Magazine, called THE IDEA FACTORY, (no link available) reflects how the man and woman in the street are using science to power their careers and to embolden their bank accounts. All sorts of inventions are listed: a baby-formula dispenser, a power strip that bends, an LED bulb that can be controlled with an app and many more.

Science rises up in all of us when we get sick and want to be well–fast. We can read and inform ourselves. It wasn’t always this way. The availability of information on the internet and just the openness of desiring to understand and accept change can move us forward as a planet, as a people.

In that process it’s better to say, though I don’t have a degree in science, I can educate myself, I can read and discover. I can become science-informed. There are no excuses.

We need to honor and love our planet. If the mention of climate change is presented–better to read and get informed than to say I’m not a scientist! Because you are–do you accept gravity? Would you take your sick child to the doctor or wave incense over them? Would you insist on walking everywhere or accept airplanes, cars and whatever!

We are all living with the benefits of science and that assumes that we believe in it–we accept it.

Tyson follows Carl Sagan, his mentor from the age of seventeen. The words below are Sagan’s and they underline the importance of our accepting science and helping our planet.

“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering…every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. …The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. ..

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”

I'm Not a Scientist. Oh Yes You Are!

Sagan’s pale blue dot.








Photos: Little Red Elf, Flickr, and

P.S. My collection of stories, A MOTHER’S TIME CAPSULE, available in many stores and formats at


Everlasting Gifts from My Children

Everlasting Gifts from My Children

Mom, Carrie and Christie

Everlasting Gifts from My Children

Andrew and Mom















Before: In 2007 my husband and I are new empty nesters. 

We live in an empty nest, a hollow house devoid of children. Once we were capacious with four bedrooms, now we are lousy with them. But are my husband and I lonely? No, not really. Our schedules are more varied and that’s fun. We eat out on a whim. We can cancel an entire Saturday if we want to—read, watch films, hide away. But it’s truly amazing when the house fills up again with warm, human bodies who lug laundry in with them, run the shower constantly, and scatter various exotic foods and drinks around the kitchen. I mean at some level don’t we all miss that?

After: Now we are seasoned Empty Nesters

We have downsized from the four-bedroom house and moved to a townhouse in California. The HOA hires a gardener, but I should have brought more gardening tools for my back patio—and about once a week I ask myself, why did you give that away? But overall downsizing is good. When you have fewer things, they take on more meaning. Like life itself, things are more precious when we prize them and avoid squandering.

We boomers are aging, our children are aging—and yet we eternally have these strong bonds and life experiences that weld us together. They remain, regardless of the change consuming us; and yes, we must adjust to change, embrace it and move on. Below are the things we treasure most.


1. First words, smiles, and offerings–a dandelion, a heart made from clay, a card filled with words of love and the greeting I LOVE YOU MAMA, handmade ornaments which will be kept forever, a self-portrait, a fund-raising presentation,  a parade of stuffed animals, a series of original songs–words of love.

2. Stellar report cards, high school honors and awards, college degrees, grad school scholarships. Falling in love with amazing people. 

3. A phone call when I needed it. Knowing I belong. A shared photo of a trip, a graduate project, a grandchild, a published article, a published book, an original song with an amazing guitar riff. Phone calls!!

4. And most importantly–and all three of them possess these traits–persons full of kindness, eager to help others, possessing tolerance, joyful when you experience music, art, dance, literature.

Thus, the house, this nest, is NEVER empty, because is glows with the memories of us all being together. It carries within it the beating heart of love that makes a family. And when it does fill up with your physical presence, the walls sing and the windows let in more than the usual amount of light.

Thanks for your everlasting gifts! Mom 

Everlasting Gifts from My Children

My mom, the greatest giver of them all with C and C.

Thanks to John for the photos.










Susie Darrow wrote: I immediately bought your book through Amazon and have read about 1/2 of it so far. It is wonderful. I found some character trait or emotion that I could identify with in each story.Thanks.





Mother. Writer. Those are two of the titles that I have proudly claimed for a long time. But today I have something to show for those two titles—A Mother’s Time Capsule—my first published book. It’s fiction, a collection of stories that grew from being a mother, but more importantly from being a writer. Because writers can be alchemists. We absorb life experience and then, with hope in our hearts, we work to create gold—something meaningful that honors the human interactions that we have witnessed or experienced. Writers also read and read some more, and listen–eager to hear the stories of people’s lives, their joy and their pain. Over time my stories accumulated and some of them made it into small magazines. But when I began to really look at them, I saw that they all dealt with some aspect of motherhood. My book was born.

A Mother’s Time Capsule takes you on a time-travel journey, some stories pulling you back in time, others taking you to a present and immediate place. Though the experience of pregnancy, birth, raising children and the empty nest has commonalities, there are many more variables. In these stories, mothers are married, divorced, aging, young, facing their fears and blinded to them. You’ll meet their children who struggle with responsibility, know the pain of an absent father, ruin the one opportunity to bond with an absent mother, go missing, attempt suicide and teach their parents that being fearful is not the way to live one’s life. There are mothers whose lives are welded to helping their children, and mothers who must settle for only the memory of a child.

The book is dedicated to my husband and three children who are the children of my dreams and of my life. But know, these stories are not pure autobiography—instead they are tangential to what I have experienced as a mother to my children and the daughter of my mother.

Last week I wrote about how Boomer Highway came to be. Now I want to thank you for the opportunity to share more of my journey from writer’s desk to the publication of my first book. I hope you enjoy A Mother’s Time Capsule and I welcome comments about the stories on here and on TwitterFacebook, Goodreads and Amazon. I have also created a board on Pinterest with an illustration for each of the stories. You can find it here.

A Mother’s Time Capsule by Elizabeth A. Havey ebook available now and soft cover will be available soon. Check :  You might want to share it with the mother in your life this Mother’s Day, May 10, 2015.

Events: On Facebook, I will be chatting about CAPSULE with Women’s Fiction Writers Association (WFWA) on Tuesday, May 5th at from 1:00to 1:30 eastern time. Here’s the link

And Thursday, May 7th, on Twitter, I will be talking with Sezoni Whitfield on Writer’s Kaboodle. That’s from 1:00 to 1:30 eastern time.

Below are a few examples from the 13 stories in the collection:

FRAGILE: It’s a given that mothers worry about their children. But can a wife and mother who worries too much shape her own reality? And how would that affect the father who is almost a stranger to such concerns? In the story, a couple takes their young daughters, eight and four, on a camping trip and an accident occurs. My husband and I had two daughters those ages. I certainly had fears, and he was often traveling. As I wrote the story, my fears came onto the page and I worked through them, actually learning from my children.

MAKING CHANGE: Motherhood totally changes the direction of a woman’s life, filling up the days and determining choices. The empty-nest years can offer shining promise, but they sometimes bring confusion, health challenges and regrets. Whether a woman has many children or just one, there will come a time when that child takes on an individual life and the mother’s trajectory changes. Even if a full-time job filled the mother’s life, the empty-nest years can bring about challenge.

WHEN DID MY MOTHER DIE? We all know a mother, our own, and even if during our lifetime we never have children—as our mothers age the role will reverse, and like it or not, we will know many aspects of motherhood. This is my most recent story, written after my mother died in 2013. It reflects the anguish and confusion of loving someone so intensely that when they develop dementia and their lives are narrowed down to sitting in a wheelchair, you can hardly bear it. But you have to.



Decisions, Decisions–They Take Us Places

Decisions, Decisions--They Take Us Places

In January of 2007 I went with a friend to North High School in Des Moines, Iowa to hear Hillary Clinton announce that she was running for president. Her slogan at the time: I’m in it to win it. It was a rousing afternoon with people packing the hall and everyone in great spirits. Believing in someone does that to crowds. Making a decision to support someone can take you places. Hillary did not win the Iowa caucus and eventually dropped her run. But her actions had an effect on me and one morning I found myself writing the following: Hillary and I are not dumb old women. I must have been reacting to something I’d heard as I joined the ranks of empty-nesters and faced a future that was full of shadows. And tasks. That same day I made a list.


1. Sign power of attorney for health papers for my aunt, age 96

2. Call the head nurse at Smith (the facility where my aunt was living) regarding her dementia

3. Submit paperwork for Mom’s (my mother) Medicare D Plan as she requested; try to explain to her the donut hole

4. Work with Andrew (my son) on completing admission forms for application to colleges

5. Research a new health protocol for John (my husband) who has a chronic illness

6. Find a house for a family reunion in the coming August

7. Proofread a master thesis for Christie (my daughter) she’s close to graduation

8. Make phone calls for the Clinton campaign

9. Take some time for yourself: write

That last one–who was I kidding. When and where would I find that time. But I did.


The list sat on my desk for a few days. Maybe I was working on it–it’s all a big haze now. But sometime during that period I wrote to the Des Moines Register and shared the list. Wouldn’t they like a column or a blog that dealt with this craziness, this midlife, this sandwich generation??  No, came the answer. So I started Boomer Highway. It was a way to organize my thoughts, to share with others in my place that though I no longer was changing diapers, staying up late with a fevered child or debating which to do first–clean, grocery shop or shovel snow–it was a busy time in my life and I had to figure out how to navigate it without losing myself and hurting my health.

My very first post was THOUGHTS WHEN I SAW THE CARDINAL. There was no photo when I first posted–I had no clue how to do that. In the post I wrote:

The cardinal against the so pale green grass and just beginning trees has to be something of my father’s soul reminding me to remember him, to hold him in my heart as the day wears along. Because the brightness of the cardinal’s feathers is inexplicably beautiful, like the spirit within all of us that begs for us to be perfect, though we struggle within our human context. And so I look to the garden and the birds of air for mental and spiritual health. And if I’m digging in the dirt and dragging bags of soil and mulch around, it keeps my body healthy too!!!

I must have wanted to channel my father, who I lost at the age of three–maybe he could help me spiritually with the tasks that lay ahead. I went on to research lots of stuff related to my aunt’s and my mother’s dementia and their eventual passing and the sorrows we all experience as life takes us away from a place of comfort and we find ourselves in some new, uncharted territory. And there are lots of joys that go along with such an adventure. I am blessed, my son and daughters living successful lives and my husband healthy and volunteeriing, helping others. My phone calls for Hillary didn’t help much, but now here she is running again.

None of us who strive and care and accept change as we go are dumb old women. No, we are vibrant and flexible, we are full of passion and intent.

Anne Lamott, one of my favorite writers and arm-chair philosophers writes:

Age had deepened and widened our sense of faith–and by “faith” I don’t necessarily mean religious conviction. I’m talking partly about belief in the existence of a divine intelligence but also about faith in goodness, in life, in things mostly working out. And let’s not forget faith in ourselves–the conviction that we are loved and chosen–which is such a component of the spiritual life.

I love her: things mostly working out. That’s key to acceptance and happiness. We have a vision, but sometimes it’s not exactly what happens and then we say–You know, I really like this better anyway. This is what I really wanted.

So on we go. I still make lists and this upcoming week I have a really big one to work through. I’ll share a lot of that list next week. Until then, I wish you the best with your own decisions. They are important and whether we like it or not they do take us places.

PHOTO: thanks to Writing Life List FB, Huffington Post


Comfort Versus Rejection–Which Do You Choose?

Comfort Versus Rejection--Which Do You Choose?

Thank you always, Charles M. Schulz

In a recent humorous essay in TIME, Kristin van Ogtrop of REAL SIMPLE fame, reveals her take on a new book: Rejection Proof: How I Beat Fear and Became Invincible Through 100 Days of Rejection. Written by Jia Jiang who came to the United States with dreams of finding that pot of gold, the idea for the book came about when Jia quit a secure position in marketing for an app launch. When the app was rejected by the so-called interested investor, Jia decided he would work to “get rejected” 100 times—to create that hard shell, get out of his comfort zone and do away with his fear of rejection.

Filming his attempts and uploading them to You Tube, he was successfully rejected twice. But on the 3rd day of his experiment—things got confusing. He asked Jackie Braun at Krispy Kreme in Austin, Texas to make five doughnuts in the shape and color of the Olympic rings. Jackie asked a few questions, drew a diagram, checked on the colors and though Jiang was hoping for rejection—Jackie made him exactly what he wanted. He had failed miserably. And to add to his failure, Jackie didn’t charge him and she gave him a hug. On the bottom of his You Tube of this event, he wrote AT THIS VERY MOMENT I KNEW WHY GANDI HAD EVER LIVED.

Ogtrop writes: And you know how things go with social media: one minute you have a video of yourself with five Olympic-ring doughnuts, the next minute you have a movement and a book deal.

So where is the familiar phrase—there is nothing new under the sun?

Because there is. And get this. For his 100th rejection challenge, Jia worked to help his wife get a job at Google—another impossible dream, another go at that pot of gold. Did he get rejected that 100th time? I’m taking guesses here—yes? no?

Of course he didn’t get rejected, because by that time with his book deal and project he was riding high. Subsequently, he and his family moved to Silicon Valley and as Ogtrop writes: cue the happy ending!

But even though it was a genius idea, maybe the chances of that happening can be compared to a lightning strike. Thus, can Jia’s book truly teach us to conquer the fear of rejection? Amazon claims in the book’s blurb that Jia provides a thoughtful examination of how to overcome fear and dare to live more boldy; that a preposterous wish might be granted if a person knows how to ask. And finally: he learned techniques for steeling himself against rejection and ways to develop his own confidence–a plan that can’t be derailed by a single setback

Thanks, Jia, thanks Amazon, but you are talking about how to get through life! Ogtrop muses that as a parent or grandparent we cannot prevent the children we love from experiencing rejection: And treating that wound is exponentially harder than bandaging a skinned knee. Now that’s insight.

So do we teach our children to seek out comfort, to avoid the sting and pain of rejection? No, of course not. From the very beginning children experience failure—they can’t manage a two-wheeler bike right away; they fail a swimming lesson; the kid they like in preschool won’t play with them and after trying ballet or T-ball, piano or soccer—they look around for something that says success. And that’s only the beginning. Dating anyone?

Jia concocted an amazing idea and as it grew and developed, he saw his way to an end. A profitable end. I once joked that maybe I could get a literary agent if I threatened to jump from a four-story building. When the psychologist and police officer, the fireman and the counselor and all members of my stricken family stood below me begging me to reconsider, I would simply say: get me an agent and I’ll be good.

Oh well. Rejection. I’ve had my share and maybe the rejection notices I’ve received would add up to 100. But one thing I do know, my writing and my endeavors will work for me. And I’ll keep you posted. After all, I was a lousy ballerina, never played soccer or T-ball, and 13 miles on a bike is not my idea of a good time. Writing? I’ll stick to that. Any agents reading this? I’ll order you doughnuts shaped any way you want—and I’m finding comfort in knowing that as I continue to write and create, I’m on my way–I’m on that beautiful road to success.

Please comment if you have a dream that you are pursuing no matter what. That’s what life is about.


Comfort Versus Rejection--Which Do You Choose?

Jia’s #3 failure. Hey Literary Agents, what kind of doughnuts would you like?

Thanks to Charles Schultz and You Tube.


Dear Men: Are You Depressed? Take a Survey

Dear Men: Are You Depressed? Take a Survey

Depression is isolating.

Depression is not a short episode of the blues; depression is not a personal weakness that someone can snap out of. Depression is a medical illness that makes you feel sad and causes you to lose interest in life. Physical symptoms include: low libido and interest in sex, loss of appetite, insomnia and fatigue, or wanting to sleep constantly, slowed mental processing and outbursts of anger that surprise even you. Depression can also mean frequent crying spells, unexplained body aches and pains as well as suicidal thoughts. Depression upsets your life so that day-to-day activities become increasingly difficult and you often feel that life is not worth living. You are numb.

Here are a few things you should know:

  • CDC statistics: 9% of adults are depressed at least occasionally and 3.4% of adults suffer from major depression.
  • The prevalence of major depression increases with age, from 2.8% among people aged 18 to 24 to 4.6% of people aged 46 to 64.
  • Researcher Jim Thornton states that possibly 10% of patients over 50 who see a primary care physician are suffering from a major depression.
  • Statistically, women are able to reveal their depression more easily than men.

Terrence Real in his book I Don’t Want to Talk About It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression writes: “It’s not considered unwomanly to be emotional and vulnerable, but a real man would never be so weak as to let his emotions get the best of him. There’s a lot of shame involved, and this sets up what I call compound depression—a man gets depressed about being depressed.”

And if men are not seeking professional help, how are they coping? Answers: excessive drinking, gambling, uncontrolled sex or temper flares. This reinforces negative behaviors which Real calls an “addictive defense.” Dr. Barry Lebowitz, a professor of psychiatry says that men often talk about every symptom of depression except sadness, lacking the ability to reveal their feelings.

Dr. Margaret Rutherford, a clinical psychologist, understands the difficulty some men have arriving at the decision to seek help. She asked me to share a survey with my readers which she created so that you can ask yourself some questions, possibly getting a better handle on whether you might be depressed.

To start, ask yourself: Do you think you could have ever been depressed? And whether you answer YES or NO, continue on with the next questions. I have reprinted the SURVEY here, but you can also go to the following link on Dr. Rutherford’s website. Here.

Here’s the Survey:

1. What might keep you from telling someone if you are depressed?

  • would think you were weak, less of a man
  • they might not keep it confidential
  • depression is something women feel
  • you never talk about how you feel
  • belief that you will get over it by yourself
  • other:

2. Would you be more likely to tell a female or a male?

  • female
  • male

3. Would you tell your family physician and seek medication?

  • yes
  • no
  • would talk to him/her but would not take meds

4. Would you consider going into therapy if you felt depressed?

  • yes
  • no

5. If you would consider going or have gone into therapy, please check the major reasons.

  • believe getting problems out in the open is good
  • know someone who was in therapy and it helped
  • at my wits end; tired of feeling this way
  • fear of hurting myself
  • realization that symptoms are having negative impact on others
  • can afford or if a struggle financially–it’s worth it
  • getting negatively evaluated at work
  • wife/partner asked
  • history of abuse that I have never shared
  • don’t mind asking for help
  • don’t want to take medication or if on, want to try to stop
  • other:

6. Please check major reasons if you are not considering going to therapy

  • someone would find out
  • am not a good talker
  • feel that it is weak
  • have never been one to ask for help
  • don’t believe that others need to know your problems
  • mental health professionals are weird people
  • I don’t believe in depression
  • can’t afford
  • it’s not worth it even if I can afford
  • don’t have time
  • don’t think I will commit suicide
  • suicide is an option
  • think it will go away
  • drink or smoke pot regularly to take care of it
  • would rather take medication
  • other

7. Would you prefer a male or female therapist?

  • male
  • female

8. Do you define yourself as heterosexual?

  • yes
  • no

9. Age/Marital Status    age_______

  • married
  • single
  • divorced
  • widowed

We might have missed something. Please tell us in your own words why you might or might not seek therapy, especially if you were really depressed or suicidal.

Thank you. P.S. Dr. Rutherford and I planned these posts before the Germanwings tragedy. She writes: The perpetrator of that crime, suffering from mental illness, was seeking help but allegedly not using it well or appropriately. All our hearts grieve for those affected. I am also sure that those suffering from obsessions with fear of flying are having a hard time as well. Please care for yourselves.

TO READ DR. RUTHERFORD’S POST and take the survey go here.

Dr. Margaret Rutherford is a clinical psychologist. She earned her Ph.D. through UT Southwestern Medical School in Dallas and blogs at

Thanks to Caramdir Photostream; Thanks to Google Images and

Dear Men: Are You Depressed? Take a Survey

A Feminist Easter Story for Children

A Feminist Easter Story for Children

This is a reposting of a post I wrote in 2011

Many people, Christian and non-Christian, have heard of Mary Magdalene. She appears in the Bible at prominent places in Christ’s life—two being at Easter: she was with the women who discovered Jesus had risen from the dead.  And in another reading, she comes upon Jesus in the garden adjacent to the tomb. She mistakes him for a gardener. Such a lovely story to awaken deeper Easter meanings–this woman was highly regarded and blessed–a new idea for that time.

Easter is spring and rebirth and invites us always to look at our lives and to grasp new ideas, live our lives differently, make our lives better. Spring holds so many symbols of rebirth and rethinking. Even the plethora of chicks and bunnies says that on a small level. But the birth of new ideas is what we need to focus on. And what better way than to teach children, the coming generations, equality for everyone–male and female.

Maybe that’s why DuBose Heyward, a southern author who is best known for his novel Porgy that was the basis for Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, wrote The Country Bunny and The Little Gold Shoes. The title page states: as told to Jenifer, his daughter, who needed to know that her sex didn’t have to hold her back from becoming anything she wanted to be.

This heart-felt story cherished by many families during the Easter season, tells the tale of a simple mother bunny and how she became one of the five Easter Bunnies who travel the world bringing baskets of colored eggs and candy to children. With a copyright of 1939, it’s a tale ahead of its time.

The storyteller describes his heroine as: “a little country girl bunny with a brown skin and a little cotton-ball of a tail.” Her dream was to grow up and become one of the Easter Bunnies. “You wait and see!” she would say. But the Jack Rabbits with long legs and the big white bunnies who lived in fine houses scoffed at her and put her down.

After Cottontail grows up and has twenty-one Cottontail babies, these same Jacks and big rabbits really laugh at her. “What did we tell you! Only a country rabbit would go and have all those babies. Now take care of them and leave Easter eggs to great big men bunnies like us.” Heyward writes that “they went away liking themselves very much.” Note that Heyward’s editor wanted Cottontail to have a husband, but in the end she is a single mom.

The Grandfather Easter Bunny who is wise and kind, lives in the Palace of the Easter Eggs. In the story he must select a fifth bunny. This is Cottontail’s chance. She brings all of her 21 children to the tryouts where the Grandfather cannot help but notice her.

He tests her to see if she is as wise and kind as he is. But she must also be swift. When she scatters her 21 children and in seconds is able to round them up again, the Grandfather is convinced. She will be his fifth Easter Bunny. The writer tells us that when Cottontail arrives at the Palace of the Easter Eggs for this amazing duty, the other four Easter Bunnies do not laugh at her—“for they were wise and kind and knew better.”

Cottontail meets her challenges during this charming tale, her deep desire and loving heart capturing every reader and providing a sunny Easter morning finish.

Anita Silvey on her website A Book-A-Day-Almanac writes: The story stresses the importance of hope, determination, and courage. Not only was the book a feminist statement in a time when this perspective was rarely shown, it also celebrates the achievements of a brown bunny rather than a white one. Yet at no point does the reader ever feel as if they are being given a polemic—Heyward has created a totally satisfying world.

The copy I own is a First Printing, copyright 1939, paper edition. It is well-worn and well-loved. It might even be the one my mother read to me. But I know it’s the one I read to my three children. For anyone wanting to celebrate spring, rebirth and ideas that are meaningful–this simple story is powerful and yet gentle at the same time. Enjoy.

I want to thank my daughter, Christie, who is also a mother to a daughter and values this story for the simple power it holds for adult and child readers alike.

For more ideas on this interpretation go here.

Thanks to Istock Photos. Thanks to Washington Post photos.

A Feminist Easter Story for Children


Cleaning and the Spark of Joy

Downsizing to a New Home? Think Delightful, Not Depressing

Cleaning, joyful? There is a connection says Marie Kondo, whose New York Times best seller The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up provides those of us who want to declutter with a method she has tested and believes in. I agree with Kondo on many of her basic principles: life is more enjoyable when it is not full of clutter. That applies to your home, your office and your car.


And like Kondo, who at the age of five found herself tidying her parents’ house, I was straightening rugs at the age of two and have always enjoyed cleaning and organizing over grocery shopping and cooking. My blog post, The Art of Cleaning with Some Zen Help, recommends that cleaning involve the five senses, that it increase love for your rooms and that to make it even more fun you should collect found or purchased items to ADD to your decor once the dusting and vacuuming is done. Plus if you can involve your partner in the process, research shows that men who help with cleaning have more and better sex. (Apologies to my male readers if you already are the chief housekeeper.)


But back to Marie Kondo. When she was fifteen, she read every book she could find on organizing cabinets, shelving, drawers. Then she began to apply some of these concepts, gradually perfecting a process of tidying up that is the message of her book. She calls herself A FANATIC ORGANIZER, but whether you follow all of her ideas or just sample some, the basic KONMARI METHOD is well worth considering.


Here is the first principle which Kondo shared on a recent You Tube:

TIDY IN ONE SHOT AS QUICKLY AND COMPLETELY AS POSSIBLE. But beware. You will need time to do this, because Kondo suggests that if it’s clothing you are working with or books–that you take every article of clothing, every book, and pile it all in one location. This helps you realize how much clutter you have in your life. Underlying her principle of sorting is that once you have divested yourself of things that you really don’t care about, there is less to wash and iron, or in case of objects–dust and store. Less becomes more.

Once you have categorized everything and it is all in piles, you sort. Some you keep some you don’t. But here’s where according to Kondo, the method is magical. You touch each item and wait for it to communicate to you. How does your body feel when holding this item? Do you feel down–your entire body responding negatively to this item? Or DOES IT SPARK JOY? That’s the key. If it sparks joy, it’s a keeper. And Kondo acknowledges that you might be skeptical. But she believes in her method saying IT WORKS. Try it! 

Still skeptical? This next part of Kondo’s process makes some sense to me, because as you apply the above technique, you will learn how your body responds. And in order to learn that, Kondo provides the order in which she suggests you sort and toss. (it’s below) Follow this order and you are more likely to respond to the DOES IT SPARK JOY concept.

Technique   Order Of Tidying

Clothes first; Books second; Documents third; Miscellaneous items fourth and

finally Mementos.

Why mementos last? Because over time your body will learn how to respond to an item, and in her mind, clothing and books won’t immediately spark joy. But as you learn about how you are responding, when you get to mementos, like a photo of your grandmother–you will understand what the spark of joy is. You will feel it. That part makes sense to me, except that I am probably in love with some of my books too. But Kondo states that mementos stop you from organizing. You can’t work quickly when sorting them, because you are taken back in time with a photo or souvenir or a work of art. I agree again. I wrote about that last week in my blog post Adjusting to New Developments–What Photos Mean to Us.


There definitely is a little fanaticism involved in Kondo’s work. I cannot fold a contour sheet to save my life. I know Martha Stewart can, but mine always ends up in a messy bunch that I somehow shove to the back of the linen closet. Not Kondo. She has methods for folding many clothing and household items. Check out visuals here: KONMARI METHOD on Pinterest. 


Kondo’s book has arrived at the right time. A recent article in TIME MAGAZINE, Are You on the Verge of a Clutter Crisis, addressed again the issue of over-buying, that many of us have too much stuff, that garages and basements are crowded with things we will never use again and that an over-abundance of clutter just adds stress to our lives.

Even before I made a major move from a four bedroom, two car garage, basement and roomy shed house to a smaller footprint, I always had a large cardboard box in my basement for household items to be given away. Then four to five times a year I made a trip to the Disabled American Vets and donated my items. I made lists and deducted my offerings at tax time. It worked for everybody, but especially me–it kept the clutter down. My daughter Carrie told me about Kondo’s book. She’s intrigued and using some of her organizing principles. So I just had to share with you. After our move, I’ve done all the downsizing I need to do for quite a while, but I’m going to keep that “spark of joy” in mind!!

Cleaning and the Spark of Joy

How Marie Kondo organizes a drawer.

Thanks to Marie Kondo and Google Images  


Adjusting to New Developments: What Photos Mean to Us

Adjusting to New Developments: What Photos Mean to Us

Ah, so seventies. Would I have shared? It means much to me, memories of writing.

Photos of the meal you are eating, the dress you might want to buy, the garbage cans left out on a neighbors’ driveway, a car crash on your street, the rash developing on your face–all examples of photos that will probably be deleted from your phone after they have fulfilled their purpose. Because in our age, the ability to carry a camera has changed the way we think about photos and use them. It’s a new development in our society. But is it always a good thing?


In his new book, TERMS OF SERVICE, Jacob Silverman, referred to as a “thoughtful critic of our evolving digital lifestyles,” points out the negatives (excuse the pun) in our picture-snapping culture. “Photos become less about memorializing a moment than communicating the reality of that moment to others.” He develops this idea by claiming that often the purpose of the picture is not to live in the moment, capture the moment, but to deal with the anxiety we may feel that others are doing things more interesting and more fulfilling than we are-at that same moment. The photo has entered into some timeless competition. He claims that some party goers forget about experiencing fun as they angle to get into a Facebook Photo that tells people YES, I’M HAVING FUN. LOOK AT ME!

I do find it interesting that in this current time (which probably will become even more frenetic and not go away) we feel the need NOT ONLY to send photos of all that we do, BUT ALSO to go somewhere and practice MINDFULNESS, listen to our breathing, so we can learn to live in the moment. REALLY? How ironic.


So let’s all take a step backward, because before all of THIS, the constant need to capture an action or a prop in time and shout it to the world–there was the mind, the thought. Let’s try to sort it out this way:

1. The purpose of a photo, of taking a picture was to PRESERVE a human’s image so we would know that person and remember them. Previously, those with wealth sat for a portrait painted by either a really good artist or an itinerant one–but in any case the job got done and so we know what Elizabeth the First of England supposedly looked like as well as George Washington etc. You get the picture. (oops, pun)

2. The purpose of a photo also became its ability to record history. Yes, there are paintings of battles, coronations, but they took months. Photographs was more immediate and allowed for a variety of views. Thus we have Mathew B. Brady (May 18, 1822 – January 15, 1896) a photo-journalist, one of the first American photographers, whose name became synonymous with photos of the Civil War.

3. As the decades progressed, the daguerreotype and the tintype gave way to a process where a dry gel on paper, film, replaced the photographic plate so a photographer could take photos without the clumsy boxes of plates and the toxic chemical previously needed. Film was developed by George Eastman, of Rochester, New York, in 1884. As early as 1888, Eastman’s Kodak camera was available to consumers. His slogan: “You press the button, we do the rest.” By 1901 the public could take photos using the famous Kodak Brownie, a great little camera that took pretty decent photos. ( I owned one once.)

4. But that was truly the beginning–because now you didn’t need to hire someone to paint your portrait. Families framed photographs and hung them on the walls of their homes to honor grandparents and remember weddings and births or to help the aching heart that missed those who were miles away. In some cultures, people even took photos of their loved ones lying in coffins surrounded by flowers. But it was all about remembering. It was all about preserving and honoring the moment–BEING IN THAT MOMENT.


In some ways, you could say that holding a photo of your sweetheart as a GI during World War II or glancing at one taped to your flight deck as a pilot during any conflict became a moment of mindfulness. The photo carried you away from the trauma of where you were and for brief moments you could be present to the person that you loved. Photos were and for some maybe still are a talisman of memory. Photos ignite thought.

But not so much any more. The ability to take so many photos and of things that are truly worthy of remembering and of things that you might forget about in 15 minutes–has changed our attitudes toward the photos themselves. We take a photo and delete. We worry about how we look–we probably always did, but film was costly and you didn’t SEE the photo until after it was developed. Photo phones changed that whole process and thus truly changed what picture-taking meant in the moment. Because it’s not a moment–it’s a photo-shopped or deleted moment until the right moment comes along.


And let’s not forget the Polaroid! It saved folks from the following scenario: you take your roll of film to the local drugstore to be developed and when you return for it, you have to meet with a manager and maybe even a policeman. (This happened to a friend of mine as recently as the 90’s. She took some photos of her children naked in the bathtub and too much anatomy was showing.)

But the Polaroid allowed people to take such photos–because they developed right there in your home. Now of course, the concept of privacy isn’t even on anyone’s radar and thus some young people have been labeled sex offenders because they were not aware of the dangers of clicking without thinking first. Those images could hardly fit into some nostalgia category or talisman of memory or thought. Again–change change change.


I have taken photos forever or been extremely grateful to my husband who is a great photographer. But why? Because I love my family and want to remember them at all there amazing stages. Because I treasure all the homes I have been privileged to live in–from the one you saw in my post When I Was a Kid to the bigger footprints we have enjoyed. But I didn’t take these photos so I could put them somewhere so everyone would say WOW. (well, maybe they wouldn’t say that anyway)

And I think photos of family should be protected and treasured. I don’t think everyone needs to see them and I don’t believe that we are that protected online. Silverman would probably agree with me. Jacket copy on his book reads: Social networking is a staple of modern life, but its continued evolution is becoming increasingly detrimental to our lives. Shifts in communication, identity, and privacy are affecting us more than we realize or understand…(the books discusses) the identity-validating pleasures and perils of online visibility; our newly adopted view of daily life through the lens of what’s share-worthy; and the…(ability of ) social media platforms—Facebook, Google, Twitter, and more—to mine our personal data for advertising revenue…(is invading our privacy)

So I treasure my old photo albums which I have been keeping since my marriage. I can show our children photos of them at any age and during any vacation. Weddings and graduations are definitely preserved–for me, for my family. If I share online, I am judicious in what I share. And I do it infrequently. Because when I look at my photos–they mean something to me. They bring about mindfulness–they create thought. The photo leaps beyond the photo to the smells and sounds and feelings of that day, that moment.

What do your photos mean to you? As a dear and wonderful friend of mine once told me in her practical and knowing way: if your house catches on fire, grab your photos albums. Everything else can be replaced. Well people, I guess you better take your phones!

Adjusting to New Developments: What Photos Mean to Us

IRONY: I could bring this old photo to you, because of my IPhone

Thanks to Wikipedia