#AtoZChallenge: G is for #GirlsRock (an Interview with Mental Health Care Advocate Kitt O’Malley

Reblogging this: An interview done by my friend Eli, with Mental Health Care Advocate Kitt O’Malley. 💗

Coach Daddy

girls-rock-lede-11-3 Snowtrooper at St. Andrew’s Catholic Church in Roanoke, a gorgeous fall Sunday morning.

The winding roads that unfurl before us.

cd-interviewsWe rode them on this trip to Roanoke, descending from the top of Mill Mountain to the stately St. Andrew’s Catholic Church below. We couldn’t see our destination at first, but took faith in the ribbon of the road down the mountain.

For those of you new to this blog, #GirlsRock is a series of interviews with women who do incredible things, from musicians to writers to bloggers to those who take a dream and make it a reality. Read other #GirlsRock posts here.

Today’s guest knows all about those winding roads that bring us to our fate.

She’s Kitt O’Malley. Many of you know her for her blog, on how to Learn, Love & Live With Bipolar Disorder. It’s an incredible and inspiring journey. She’s…

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#AtoZChallenge: K is for the 7 Women I’d Sing Karaoke With

My friend Eli’s latest blog post! I have a new duet partner! 🙂 Enjoy!

Coach Daddy

stormtrooper guitar singer photo credit: Nukamari Just voice and guitar via photopin(license)

I get crushy.

KAlways have. At first, it was Judy Jetson, then Ms. Truesdale, the kindergarten teacher’s aide. All of a sudden, I’m drinking whiskey, eating sunflower seeds and writing blog posts about seven famous women I want to sing cheesy duets with.

Just like that.

Two years ago on the company trip, I sang La Bamba. Sally, the tall, winsome blonde from our Dallas office, swayed back and forth, stage left, and let me take center stage. I might as well have been the Mexican Mick Jagger. (Meek Yagger, as it were.)

I’ve chosen seven women you’ve heard of, and cheesy ballads from my childhood that I’d read clumsily up on a tiny monitor in a Motor Inn lounge, in a heartbeat.

Sing along if you know the words.

1. Shannon Adams

Love Will Keep Us Together


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Seeing the Light

I have been wanting to write another blog post for quite some time now. The thing is, there have been a lot of not-so-great things going on in my life and the lives of people I know, and so I didn’t think I was in the right mindset to write a post. I knew the post would be sad, and I didn’t want that. I’ve had a few sad posts in a row, and I didn’t want to continue with that pattern. I even talked to my friend Eli, the talented blogger Coach Daddy, and told him that I didn’t want to be Debbie Downer. So what could I write about?

Today Eli asked me what was good about my day yesterday. And, despite the sadness hanging over me like a dark cloud, I was able to list a number of things that made my day good. So why not write about what made my day good and practice gratitude?

Physiotherapy. I have been going off and on for 16 years, but for the last year I have been going regularly to two different physiotherapist teams. I have just added a third, as of two weeks ago. I’m grateful for those people whose job it is to make me feel better. Today. I felt 1000 times better leaving the physio office than entering it, physically and mentally. That was also in part to one of the other patients reading corny jokes to me from a Reader’s Digest magazine. They were corny but they made me chuckle, which always makes a day better.

Tea. I had a party a few weeks ago for a friend who sells tea. I was very excited for this party. Maybe too excited…? Anyway, my tea order came yesterday, which means I can try out my new purchases and tasty new teas, which makes me giddy. On the menu tonight: Toffee Crunch Rooibos Tea.

“Survivor”. I still love this show. I have watched since season one. It never gets old to me. I get excited during the competitions, and I always seem to find someone to cheer on. This season is especially fun to watch because it includes some of my past faves (Ozzy 😍). The best thing is my husband and I actually sit down together to watch this – he’s usually on his iPad playing a game, but will occasionally look up so we can chat about the show – and there’s really no other TV show we watch together. I look forward to Wednesday nights for this reason.

My dog, Sophie. A few months ago, a beautiful 10-year-old dog became a member of our family. She was a friend’s dog, but that friend recently moved and couldn’t take Sophie with her. Our family has wanted a dog for a long time, and we always planned on getting a puppy, but we just never knew when the right time would be for that to happen. That right time turned out to be now, and instead of a puppy we were blessed with an already trained, calm dog. Sophie is such a sweet dog, and she’s become a much-loved fixture at our house. The kids run in after school and call for her immediately, giving her hugs and kisses after missing her all day. She and I have spent the last few weeks together, as I have been on sick leave from work, and I love having her here to cuddle with. We had lots of that cuddle time yesterday.

My kids, Zander and Zoey. These two gems are obviously the most important people in my life and what I am most grateful for. All I want for them is to be happy, and yesterday they were happy. There were no meltdowns or fights. There were no tears. It was all good. Zander and Scott went out for a long walk with Sophie, while Zoey read me a story before bed. Zoey is also counting down the days to her birthday – we’re at 6 now – and she’s so excited. I love these two so much, and they brighten every day.

I am a very lucky person to have so much to be grateful for. Despite the sadness, and despite the uncertainty and frustration, I must see the light in every day.

You Just Never Know 

A little over a week ago, my principal sent an email in the evening. It said something about an incident involving a student at our school, and that we all needed to meet first thing in the morning before classes. Unfortunately my brain went right to the worst thing possible…and it turned out to be the case.

Having taught for over 16 years, I have connected with a lot of young people. There are always some that you connect with more than others though. I must admit that although there were a few kids I seemed to “get” in my early teaching days, I really didn’t start feeling like these were “my kids” until much later into my career. 

Last year I returned to teaching after 4.5 years off to be home with my youngest child. I was blessed to be able to take that much time off and still have a job waiting for me. I taught part time, and one of my classes was a grade 10 academic English class. At first I wasn’t sure how things would go, and it was kind of strange going back to it after being away so long. However, relatively quickly I knew this class was special. It was the nicest group of teens I had encountered. They were kind, studious, fun, always up for discussions about world events, and I felt like they were my own children. I loved them that much. I looked forward to seeing them every day after lunch. 

One student in the class was a boy named George. George sat in the front, in the centre of the room (he ended up there because of his last name). He always had a smile on his face. He was always polite and friendly. He always raised his hand if I asked a question and no one else tried to answer. He was, to put it bluntly, the perfect student. 

He always entered with a smile and a greeting. He and I would often chat about the day or world events when students were doing independent work. Since he was front and centre and my desk was up there, I naturally gravitated to him during those times. (Maybe he thought, Lady, leave me alone because I am trying to get work done, but he never looked like he was thinking it!) Everyone loved him. A few girls and I would rib him about his hair (which was slicked back and styled perfectly), and he would respond shyly with that smile that would light up the room. George knew it was in good fun, but it WAS perfect. I remember a day he must’ve had gym and didn’t slick it back, and we noted how great it looked that way too. The kid was blessed with amazing hair, and we were jealous. 

Though I was sad to not be teaching them anymore once the course was over, I was happy to see those students in the hallways, in other classrooms, and around town. I would always exchange smiles and greetings with them, and that included George. Last semester a new teacher started at the school. She had many students from my much-loved class last year, including George. She and I were running a group, and so I would often pop in to her classroom for a quick chat. There was George, smiling and waving, and I would say, “George is my favourite. I love you all, but…” It was kind of a joke, but also not. The students knew I loved them all, but George was just that kid. The sweetest boy with the perfect hair, the beautiful smile, and a “hello” and wave every time we saw each other. 

A few weeks ago I was having a bad day. These headaches were getting me down and I was really frustrated. George walked into my classroom, with another student whom I didn’t teach but know from my group, and said something like, “Hey, you’re the best.” I found out that the teacher he had last semester had sent him in to say that to cheer me up, knowing that George had that power. Apparently his response to her was, “You don’t have to ask me to do that!” and he headed straight to my classroom. Of course it brightened my day immediately.

So when the staff gathered on a Thursday morning to hear what that incident involving a student was, I was shocked, confused, and devastated that it was about George. That sweet boy with the power to make a day better and brighter was gone. That boy whom everyone loved was gone. 

I thought about how, just the week before, he had come into my classroom to lift my spirits. I thought about how I had seen him the week before that as I was driving away from school late in the day and he was heading in “for English homework” he said. I thought about how he got up in front of the whole school the week before that, with about an hour’s notice, and took part in a lip-sync/dance-off battle that was the greatest thing we’d seen. That new teacher, another, and I laughed and cheered for George. He was so full of life. How had this devastating thing happened?

A little over a week later it is still difficult to process. I never saw anything but that sweet smile on his face. Listening to his family and friends speak at the funeral made it even more puzzling. George had so many people who loved him and would have supported him if he had reached out. But he didn’t. And now those of us who were blessed to know that extraordinary boy will never get the chance to see him again. 

I cry every day about George. I wish he had come to me to say he was suffering. I wish I had known he was so I could have tried to help him. I would have done everything in my power to help. I can just hope that George, that sweet soul who was only 16 years old, is resting peacefully now.

*If you are or anyone you know is in need of someone to talk to, please reach out. The Kids Help Phone line is 1-800-668-6868. Know that you are loved and supported.*

Would You Do Something Bold for Love? I Just Did.

With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, here’s a post I love…about love…courtesy of my friend Eli!!

Coach Daddy

bold moves lede.jpg

One of my blogging friends once made a bold move for love.

You might know her. She’s April, and she writes a beautiful blog called Stories of our Boys. In The Boldest Thing I Ever Did for Love, she tells the tale of how she bent the Southern guide to dating etiquette like an aluminum can and changed her world forever.

(I won’t ruin the ending – go see it yourself.)

April’s words gave me thought, and I socked away her link for the right time. Here we are, a month from Valentine’s Day, an itchy holiday to many on which bold moves are most likely to happen.

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Fear Is Normal 

I have something to admit: I am scared. I am scared about a lot of things – with young children I fear for their well-being and hope for their happiness every single day – but right now I am scared about what’s going to happen to me in the near future. I have actually spent a lot of time lately wallowing in self-pity, but please indulge me to do the same here…and then I need to buck up and shut up.

Let me back up. Almost 3 years ago I started getting terrible headaches. I saw a nurse practitioner, afraid that perhaps I had a tumour or something, and she assured me all was fine and that I should take an aspirin. Months later, when the headaches had not gone away (they were coming daily and were very bad), I went to see my doctor. Since then I have had to take prescription medication daily for my headaches. After a lot of tests, it was determined that I have degenerative disc disease in my neck (which is also curved the opposite way it should be), and that it is an accelerated degeneration. That is what has been causing, and will continue to cause, my headaches. 

Because I also have scoliosis (a curvature of the spine), I have sought the services of chiropractors, physiotherapists, and massage therapists for many, many years. About three decades actually. However, things got particularly bad about 8 months ago. Since then I have been a regular at various medical facilities and, to be honest, I would be surprised if those who are part of my personal medical health team –  my doctor, my chiropractor, my 2 physiotherapist teams, my massage therapist, my reflexologist, and my physiatrist – aren’t sick of me by now. Not a week goes by without me seeing several members of my team. Though I have loads of respect for them and think they’re fantastic, I think it might be nice just to have a week free of any kind of appointment and reminder of my messed up body. 

As I have mentioned before on this blog, a good friend of mine was hit by a car and paralyzed about a year and a half ago. She spent months in a rehabilitation facility, and she told me that the majority of the people she met there with spinal injuries have the same disease as I have. That made me scared. Incredibly scared. Could I be paralyzed soon? Will I be in a wheelchair in the next few years? I have young kids with whom I barely play because I am always sore and in pain. Will I even be able to get down on the floor with them or go for a walk with them in the near future? It’s scary to think of my future. I see my friend and her new normal and she struggles every day. She is an unbelievably strong woman – physically and mentally – with incredible determination, but she faces challenges and obstacles every day. I hope I can be as amazing as she is…but I really don’t know. 

And that’s why I am scared. And that’s why I crawl into bed and cry alone for hours when I hear my doctor say this is my new normal. Fear is my new normal. 

But it’s okay to be afraid. I guess it’s okay to wallow every now and again too. I just can’t make THAT my new normal.


Exploring Other Passions

Wow.  It’s been a long time since I’ve posted here.  Since my last post, I’ve returned to work (teaching), my youngest started school, and life became much busier than it had been before.  And, unfortunately, as things got busier my writing was shoved aside to make room for other things that were work-related or family-related.  But here I am now.  And that’s thanks to Eli Pacheco, one of my blogger friends.  Eli (Coach Daddy) has been a constant support throughout the last few years that we’ve known each other through social media, and an inspiration for many of my posts.  I still love reading every one of his blog posts, and every time I do I think, If only I could have that much creativity running through my veins to be able to write not only so often but so poignantly.  Recently Eli emailed to ask if I would participate in his latest 6 Words post.  I always feel honoured when he asks me to participate because he’s giving his platform to other bloggers so that we can generate interest in our own blogs, which is a pretty generous thing for him to do.  And his 6 Words posts are always thought-provoking for me and fun.  But because I haven’t written a post on my own blog since August of 2015 (I returned to work in September of 2015), I wasn’t sure how to respond.  I didn’t want to say no.  That email from Eli was a kick in the pants to take some time, sit down, and just write.  So here we are.

I have mentioned several times in previous blogs that one of my passions is singing.  I grew up singing all of the time.  I would sing in church, I would sing to my dog, and I would sing in my room, pretending I was on a stage entertaining tens of thousands of people.  In high school I sang in a school play, and after high school I sang with my friends’ band and in multiple weddings.  I was pretty good.  But I never pursued it further because…well…life gets busy.  That seems to be my excuse for giving up my passions.  A number of years ago I set a goal to start singing again, but that idea was quickly shelved and I busied myself with another passion:  writing.  However, at the end of this summer I thought, This is it.  Just do it.  I enlisted a good friend of mine – who happens to be a musician when he has spare time – to play guitar and sing some songs with me.  We did that and decided to record them.  Then, maybe against my better judgement (!), I decided to post them on YouTube.  I’m attaching them here, just for fun.

This is the latest – a “True Colors” cover – which we recorded last week.

This is the second – a “One Day” cover – which we recorded last month.

This is the first one – a “Wheat Kings” cover – which we recorded in September.

Although I feel vulnerable posting these, I’m doing it anyway.  I hadn’t sung publicly since 1999, so doing this first one was pretty scary.  But I honestly feel like that’s part of what life is about:  feeling vulnerable and scared so that we push ourselves to do things that challenge us and enable us to grow and be better.  I will continue to do that with singing…and hopefully that kick in the pants to start writing again will stick so I can continue to do that with writing too.