Last summer, a new friend and I started walking the hills of my neighborhood. She’d load up her little squirt, I’d load up mine and off we’d go. She’s a perceptive sort, this friend. The kind you sense an immediate kinship with, though you’re not entirely certain just why. Not surprisingly, I feel most myself with persons of similar intensity. I tend to lay it all out there, which I have discovered makes some people just uncomfortable. So be it.

So this friend of mine, very early on in our walking endeavor, asked me: “Jennifer, are you an anxious person?” This came out of nowhere, or so I thought. Initially, I assured her that no, I’m not, not essentially. But then I added a few qualifications. I told her about my stint with anxiety when I was ten, as if it was a one time event I outgrew. I said I still wake up in the middle of the night and start thinking (BAD time to think) about Jonah or John or Gabriel or the lot of us and can’t go back to sleep. But no, I’m not an anxious person. Right.

A few months into our walking routine I started taking a low dose of Prozac (you can read about that decision HERE), and I must say, it worked like a dream. Not only did it assuage my PMDD symptoms (bi-monthly episodes of uncontrollable crying, raging, and despair, which took a good week to recover from both mentally and physically), but those anxieties that surfaced in the middle of the night diminished significantly. No more panic attacks at 3 a.m. No more feeling as though I would crawl out of my skin if I could. I simply rolled over and went back to sleep.

Then came the inevitable speed bump. As my insurance company kept switching up my meds because of cost or availability (shifting from generic to name brand to tablets to capsules, changing manufacturers), I had cause to reconsider taking the pills at all. One tablet worked great, the next not-so-well, but good enough. The next (those terrible blue capsules) gave me recurrent headaches that made me give up the endeavor entirely for about a week (and let me just say, taking a pill every day is an endeavor—nevermind those naysayers who call it a crutch or the easy way out).

During that pill-free week, the tears started to flow, the headaches still lingered in the back of my brain, and the world took on a potency and a depth that, frankly, I hadn’t realized I was missing. I yelled more. There were strange, disturbing dreams. I woke for hours in the night. I’d gone on the medication because my behavior was hurting my family, and I was losing the ability to care for them and myself. After extensive, and possibly excessive, soul-searching, I’ve come to the conclusion that I still need the pills (but only if they’re the little blue tablet sort), as much as I sometimes miss the intense way I see the world when my brain chemistry isn’t being altered.

The pills are my critical mass. They’re what’s required (for me, at this point in time) “for a specific result or new action to occur”—that action being life, which is all about carrying on. And I don’t mean that in a trudging uphill both ways sense. I mean getting up again, and again, especially when hope gets desperately thin. Some part of me—however small, however remote or half-hearted—believes people can change. The way we choose to follow or pass over certain thoughts and the behaviors that result from them is our critical work of attention (or inattention, as the case may be). And it’s not so much about getting it right every time as it is dusting off our sorry selves and giving it another go. As an oft-quoted saying from the Desert Fathers goes:

“What am I to do since I have fallen?” The Abba replied “Get up.”
“I did get up but I fell again.” “Get up again.”
“I did, but I must admit that I fell once again. What should I do?”
“Do not fall down without getting back up.”

And of course it’s about love. The author Paul Coelho writes that love entails “a constant state of anxiety, a battlefield; it’s sleepless nights, asking ourselves all the time if we’re doing the right thing. Real love is composed of ecstasy and agony.” Soren Kierkegaard said, “Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.” That makes a lot of sense to me. Anxiety’s the crack in my shield. It’s my vulnerability—what takes me over and reminds me that I’m not nearly so strong as I thought I was, and that no, I cannot not do life alone. How preposterous to think I ever could. I need other people. I need help. Who knew?

Leonard Cohen, apparently.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.  —from “Anthem


Gamma-Amniobutyric Acid (GABA)

So I got this comment on my Gaba Logs post (also HERE). It was the the sort of spam that makes you question whether or not it’s spam. The sort where your instinct says “spam folder” but the comment is actually a complete, intelligible sentence that has a point related to your post, however remotely. This one said, “Whenever I feel anxious, I always take two 750mg GABA supplement to reduce my anxiety.” It finally clicked that GABA is an acronym. There’s a reason why every time I text the word in lower caps my spell checker corrects it to all-caps “GABA”.

GABA is a chemical that is made in the brain.

GABA is taken by mouth for relieving anxiety, improving mood, reducing symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and treating attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It is also used for promoting lean muscle growth, burning fat, stabilizing blood pressure, and relieving pain.

GABA is used under the tongue for increasing the sense of well-being, relieving injuries, improving exercise tolerance, decreasing body fat, and increasing lean body weight.
[from WebMD]

Am I the only one here who sees the crazy, almost mystical, admittedly kooky connection between GABA the chemical that is made in the brain and Gaba the two-year-old creature who is my son? Yes, yes, I know. I’m his mother, and I’m built to make direct connections between my children and just about whatever I darn well please. But if you’ve ever met Gabriel Keats—even if you’ve read anything about him on this blog—I can’t help but think you can at least see where I’m coming from.

As with all miracle cures, there are hazards associated with the remedy. GABA is also the boy-force who, only two steps behind me on the stairs, reaches back to pull the fire alarm. IN THE MIDDLE OF CHURCH. Smack in the midst of the most reverent prayers leading up to the Eucharist. (He ran to me and practically jumped into my arms. If a person could will himself to be absorbed and be made invisible, he would have done it then.)

Or consider this: I inform the boy made in my belly he must eat two more bites of pizza to have a piece of candy for dessert (let’s forgo the obvious lack of nutrients in this meal). I leave the room. I return not a minute later and both pieces are gone. “Did you eat that?” Big grin. “Did you feed your pizza to the dogs or did you eat it?” “Feed dogs!” So I think, at least the kid told me the truth, and I give him a piece of halloween candy. He finishes it. I wipe the boy down. He stands up. Two pieces of pizza fall out of his pants. He laughs and eats them.

Then there’s the time I find him in the drier with his lovey: “So warm!” Or the time he climbs into the washing machine to take a poop. John found him walking in a tiny circle. Later he’s playing garbage truck with his brother: “O no! Gaba fall in dumpster!” There’s Gaba with the scissors—and I quote: “I cut out the entire Iron Giant. Iron Giant says ‘OW!'”

Gamma-Amniobutyric Acid anyone?



I’ve been compiling this post in my head for months now. It’s comprised simply of things I’ve come upon that have struck me as worthy of praise. None of the photographs are staged, though a few have been filtered or sharpened because heck, an iPhone may be convenient, but it’s a mediocre camera at best.

Yes, that’s my son in the drier. He’s also the one who was found trying to cut an apple with a butter knife (and making some progress!). J and I discovered the mantis on the side of a building covered by mirrored windows. I almost ran over that beautiful Eastern Screech with my mower (John and Jonah later drove him to a wildlife rescue center some thirty miles away). The steamy road was witnessed by G and I early one cold morning, shortly after a crew had laid the asphalt and flattened it with a steam roller (something of a dream come true for Gaba). The crow died in our yard, just like that.

[Copyright notes: the best picture of the bunch is the owl, which was shot by John with a Sony NEX-5; Jonah took the picture of the stained glass at St. Nicholas in Mogadore, using the CamWow app.]


Gaba says VOTE!

What do you mean you didn’t vote?

G made his preferences very clear at our polling place — “Gaba vote Rock Obama!” — even when the kind people at the registration table gently, and not very convincingly, chided, “Now, we’re not supposed to talk about those sorts of things here.” But you could see the gleam in their eyes.

I must say, it’s a lot more empowering to get to vote in a state like Ohio than, well, Kansas. You feel like it matters a little more. Though it’s all about how you do the math, all how you look at it. Slate ran an article on which states have the most power per voter, and in that paradigm, Ohio ranks 47th or something. Kansas is a strong 19. Vermont comes in at #2 and Wyoming brings it home at #1.

So it matters, no matter where you are. For all of the negative campaigning and the complicated nature of our democracy, it’s good to stand for something. Take Jonah: he’s casting his vote for George Washington this year. On the way to school today, we got to talk about what it means to vote for your library and vote for your city and county parks.

When it was all said and done (I got to vote electronically for the first time ever), G was pretty put out because he didn’t actually get to vote. Not for himself. Being held in daddy’s arms while daddy voted (“iPad!” he proclaimed as John tapped the screen here and there) didn’t cut it. So get on out there, and make Gaba proud!

[Postscript: I wish I had a recording of G saying “Mitt Romney.” It’s hilarious to hear a 2-year-old say “Mitt Romney.” Heck, it sometimes cracks me up when I say it.]