Posted in Endometriosis, Exploration, Life, Personal Challenge, Southern California

My Cup Has Runneth Over . . . On My Back: Personal Challenge, Day 22 (10.8.12)

Considering how sore I am from yesterday’s adventure, I decided that I would try something a little less active.  Since I had an appointment scheduled with my amazing acupuncturist, Dawna Ara, I decided that maybe I should try something different.

I first started seeing Dawna after my car accident back in May.  She did a wonderful job assisting with my recovery and healing process.  And even though I am technically done with the therapy on my injuries, I keep going back to see her because I feel so good after an acupuncture session.  She is helping me deal with the stress from my job and the pain from my severe Endometriosis.  So today, I asked her if there was something else that I should try besides the acupuncture.  She mentioned Cupping.

I remember the first time I had ever heard of cupping was from a tabloid story about Gwyneth Paltrow’s spots on her back.  Then it came out that the spots were a result of cupping, a form of acupuncture that involves heated cups over the skin to promote blood flow and ease stress, aches and pains.  Cupping can involve the acupuncture needles but Dawna chooses to just stick with the heated cups.  She isn’t a fan of the more extreme forms of cupping that literally involves blood flowing…into the cups.

According to Acupuncture Today, “cupping is one of the oldest methods of traditional Chinese medicine.”  It is often used to treat congestion, arthritis, pain, depression and to reduce swelling.  The American Cancer Society states that “Cupping is supposed to realign and balance the flow of one’s vital energy or life force called qi or ch’i, pronounced “kee” or “chee.” In the presence of illness or injury, proponents say, the qi is disturbed and there may be too much or too little at certain points in the body. The practitioner diagnoses any imbalances in the qi and attempts to restore them.”  It is also thought that this is an excellent way to remove toxins from the body.  There is no real scientific proof of the benefits of cupping but if the Chinese have been using this for thousands of years, there has to be something working.  For me, as a Libra who seeks balance, how could I possibly resist trying a new method to get rid of the imbalances in my life?

For today, my imbalances lie in my sore muscles and Dawna decided to use the fire cupping technique to treat my condition.  After finishing up my acupuncture, Dawna  applied oils and lotions to my back.  (This is to help move some of the jars up and down my back).  She pulled out several glass jars that looked like mini fish bowls.  She used a swab to apply alcohol to the inside of the glass jars and used the flame from a lighter to ignite the substance, removing the oxygen from the jar.  She quickly placed the heated jar on my back and as it cooled, it created a vacuum that caused my skin to rise up into the jar.

My back after cupping

It sounds like it would hurt but it didn’t.  It was an intense feeling but not at all painful.  She placed several jars on my back, some remained stationary while others were moved around my back.  Again, there was nothing painful about this procedure.  I felt like I was getting a deep tissue massage as she moved some of the jars up and down my back.  After a few minutes, I heard the popping noises as she took the jars off my back.  I felt great.

And even though I have red streaks and hickey-type marks on my back, it was totally worth it.  My muscles are relaxed and the majority of the soreness I felt before drifted away into the glass vacuums.  I would definitely do this again.

Posted in Astrology, Exploration, Life, Music, Personal Challenge, Southern California, Spirituality, Tourism, Travel, Universe, Writing

The Teacher Becomes The Student: Personal Challenge, Day 10 (9.26.12)

This morning, while watching the news, I saw a commercial talking about a website called Discover Los Angeles.  I thought this would be a great place to find new ideas for my personal challenge.  And today, my allergies were still acting up so I thought it would be best if I found something indoors.

So I went to the Discover LA website and clicked on their link to “100 Free Things to Do.”  I am a broke teacher who lives paycheck to paycheck (gotta love budget cuts where you are making less money then when you started your job).  There were so many interesting ideas but I thought it would be best, in my current state, to check out the “Free Health and Beauty Things to Do.”  The last item caught my eye, “Get self-centered,” at the Sahaja Yoga Meditation Center.

Unfortunately the link what is disabled but being the tech savvy photo teacher, I just deleted the last part of the web address and was redirected to the Sahaja Yoga Meditation Center home page. 

On the home page, I read the following:

“Sahaja Meditation is a simple yet very powerful technique which brings meaning, balance and gravity into our lives. Everyone can do it! And remember… it’s always free! Your self-realization is your birthright. You should never have to pay for the touch of Divine Love… Sahaja Meditation is a unique method of meditation based on an awakening that can occur within each human being. Through this process an inner transformation takes place by which one becomes moral, united, integrated and balanced. One can actually feel the all pervading divine power as a cool breeze, as described in all religions and spiritual traditions of the world.

Perfect!  I noticed that there were several locations and I found one in San Gabriel that was meeting tonight.  I always wondered what it would be like to take an actual meditation class so this was my chance.  Plus the description mentioned something about one becoming balanced–that is every Libra’s dream, their mission to find balance.

So I drove down to the San Gabriel Library (a place where I had never been before).  The parking lot is small so I had to park on a neighborhood street.  When I walked into the library, the teacher in me almost had a heart attack.  It was loud and children were chasing each other around the book stacks, no parents in sight.  The teenagers at the information desk were busy texting that they didn’t even notice I was standing there, waiting to inquire about the location for the class.  I cleared my throat, loudly, and then just asked them about the class.  Without even looking up from their phones, in unison, they said, up the stairs.  WOW!  I was a little concerned about how a group of people would be able to meditate in this Chuck E. Cheese atmosphere.

Thankfully quite a bit of the noise was inaudible once you reached the meeting room.  But when I arrive, I was the only person there.  I thought that maybe I had the wrong place.  This wasn’t what I expected.  I had imagined a room with Tibetan prayer flags strewn about and a big Buddhist alter.  This was simply . . . a meeting room with off-white walls and industrial gray carpeting.

A few minutes later, the instructor arrived.  Again, not what I expected.  I think my mind had assumed that a meditation class would be something like the ones run at the monasteries.  I was expecting a guru in his robes.  Not a man in business attire carrying a Macbook.

A few minutes later, another person arrived.  Again, not what I expected.  I had dressed the part of what I thought a meditation student should look like.  I was in my yoga pants and tank top, wearing my sandals and all of my crystal bracelets.  I had my hair up, dangled earrings and my Buddhist necklace.  The young woman who came in looked like she had just come from work, or the mall.

As it turns out, we were the only students that evening but that was actually to my benefit.  The instructor told me the history and ideals behind Sahaja Meditation.  Then he guided us through a Chakra meditation sequence followed by meditation with music and then the conclusion of the meditation process.  It wasn’t what I expected but it turned out better than I imagined.  I basically had a personalized course with the meditation instructor, once again proving that a teacher is more effective with a smaller class size.

I left there feeling calm and relaxed.  I was drama free and happy.  I think I will be back next week.  Who knows, perhaps my meditation skills will improve, allowing me to ignore my noisy teenagers.  This was definitely a good experiment.

Posted in Astrology, Life, Relationships, Spirituality, Universe

The Libra Moon

Last night’s full moon was the Libra moon, a time to strive for peace and harmony.  As a Libra myself, I found last night’s moon mesmerizing.  There was just a little bit of haze in the Southern California sky that created a halo around the moon.  It was absolutely beautiful.  I tried my best to capture the moment but a camera can only do so much.

In Asian cultures, this full moon is known as the peaceful Crane Moon.  One should fold 1,000 origami cranes and their dreams will come true.  For many, they dream of peace and harmony.  In Japan, the crane is one of their mystical creatures, like dragons, that are said to live for a thousand years.  So when you make 1,000 origami cranes and string them together, the crane will grant you a wish, such as long life or recovery from illness.  This is traditionally given to special friends or family members, often on their wedding day representing a wish for a long happy marriage.  I once worked with a guy when I lived in Florida who spent a month making 1,000 paper cranes for his girlfriend, which he presented to her on her birthday when he proposed marriage.  She said yes so I guess he got his wish.

Either way, the crane is supposed to bring health and happiness, peace and harmony–just like the Libra scales.  I didn’t have time to make 1,000 paper cranes last night (I do have Tibetan prayers flags hanging all over my house, does that count?)  But I did read about a Druid peace prayer and ritual that could be done instead of making 1,000 paper cranes on this full moon.  Here is what you do:

“Draw a rough outline of a crane in salt on a plate, pouring into the salt all your beliefs about finding inner peace or witnessing world peace.  Allow the salt’s bitterness to soak up your fears and doubts.  Pour the salt into a bowl of water.  As you watch those beliefs and emotions dissolve, recite the Druid’s Peace Prayer: Deep within the still center of my being, may I find peace. Silently within the quiet of the Grove, may I share peace. Gently and powerfully, within the greater circle of mankind, may I radiate peace.” ~Kristin Madden, Llewellyn’s Witches Datebook 2012.

Personally, I like to take a long hot bath during the Full Moon–a literal cleansing to coincide with a spiritual one.  Then I like to go outside with a hot cup of tea, and stare up at the stars.  This is my own personal version of a Full Moon Meditation.  I do this on every full moon.  But like I said before, I am a Libra.  I am always in search of peace and harmony.

And in that spirit, I would suggest that one should try to make peace with their past (or a troubled relationship/friendship) in order to feel a sense of inner peace.  Use this as a time to let go–think of it as a form of Spring Cleaning.


Posted in Life, Writing

Am I Being Productive or Am I Just Procrastinating?

This weekend my mother is coming to visit and our grades are due next week.  All week, I told myself I would finish grading my classes’ projects.  But here it is, Thursday and I haven’t graded anything.

However, I did manage to reorganize my basement.  I moved bookshelves from one room to another.  I reorganized what books and magazines go in which room.  I organized my DVDs by classic movies, Johnny Depp Movies, All other Movies and TV shows.  Then I proceeded to alphabetize each group.  I organized my photo magazines by year and month.  I put my shoes inside individual clear boxes and labeled them.  I rearranged the furniture in my office.  I made and then hung curtains in the office.  I finally put up the pictures and posters on the walls in my office.  And I vacuumed the office.

So I got a lot accomplished around the house but I didn’t actually do what I was supposed to do.  So was I really being productive or was I productively procrastinating?

Posted in Endometriosis, Family, Life, Relationships, Spirituality, Universe, Writing

March is Endometriosis Awareness Month

Well, it is here, Endometriosis Awareness month. I think for those of us who have Endometriosis, we are VERY AWARE of the disease that affects us on a daily basis.  In fact, in case I was starting to forget, my body decided to remind me on February 28th when a cyst burst during one of my classes.  Because of that particular incident, most of my students are now aware of the disease as well.  Actually, anyone who knows me knows about Endometriosis.  I make sure I talk about it to as many people as I can, not only to explain what is happening to me but what is happening to millions of women around the world.

My Mother and Aunts have Endometriosis.  But I wasn’t aware of this until my diagnosis because they come from a generation where you didn’t talk about such things.  I come from a generation where we talk about EVERYTHING.  My generation is overly educated so we like to share and discuss all kinds of topics.  I think my mother still struggles with the fact that I will call a boy.  “Girls don’t call boys.  Girls don’t ask boys out on dates.  You wait for them to call and ask you out.”  So what do I do?  I call boys.  I ask them out on dates.  And I talk about life with Endometriosis.  I’m a rebel!

Maybe that is why the Universe gave me stage 4 Endometriosis (also referred to as severe or invasive Endometriosis–some doctor’s don’t use the stage any longer).  The Universe knew I would talk about it and write about it–maybe even write a play about it.  I can see it now, “The Endo Monologues.”

It’s funny when I hear the stories from those who were recently diagnosed and they talk about their treatments.  I always wind up in this “been there, done that” Twilight Zone episode.  I have tried every treatment available to me, even a few I had to battle my insurance to cover (which they didn’t, hence a fairly large medical debt looming over my head).  The thing about Endometriosis is that there is no cure and it affects every woman in a different way.  One treatment may work for one woman but not for another.  I did have surgery, followed by 8 months of Lupron treatments, followed by trying every birth control on the market.

Six and a half years of trying to treat Endometriosis, seeing specialists in Detroit, Reno, and Los Angeles, and I am still working on my “therapies” on a daily basis.  The Endometriosis has created adhesions that are now affecting my muscles. But I don’t want to endure another surgery when I don’t have any large Endometria tumors.  The more surgeries you have, the more likely you are to develop Endometrial cancer.  So I am trying new therapies.  I work with a Physical Therapist, a Deep Tissue Massage Therapist, a regular therapist to help me control my stress management, Meditation classes to help me learn how to relax, and a psychiatrist to help with my PMDD (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder–the clinical term for what I like to refer to as “Endo Fog”).

I have this entire team behind me, which includes my incredibly supportive friends, family, and students.  Endometriosis is not something you can handle all on your own.  Believe me, I tried.  I tried to move all over the country, thinking I could run away from it but it followed me.  It has helped me destroy some relationships in my life–and my therapists have helped me find ways to repair those relationships.  Unfortunately, some could not be repaired no matter how hard I tried.  That is the sad reality of the Endo war–there are always casualties.

I do live alone and I am the only singleton in a group of couples but I have learned that it only takes a phone call or a text to have someone there to help you.  There are days when the pain is so bad that I can’t get out of bed.  My California sister lives down the street and I gave her a key.  I can text her and she will come over to bring me my pain meds and take care of my cats.  And I have many friends who will come over and feed me if I don’t have the energy to go grocery shopping or to cook for myself.  Even my neighbors will come and check on me.

But I do know, as a very strong Independent woman, that I have to learn it is OK to ask for help.  I am often afraid to let people get too close because I never know how bad the Endo is going to be from one month to the next.  I tend to push people away when the pain gets bad because I am afraid of the “Endo Fog.”  But the great thing about my closest friends is that they don’t let me push them away.  They show up on my doorstep.  They bring me food and pick up my prescriptions for me.  They know the real “me” and they can tell when the “Endo Fog” has taken over–they never hold it against me.

So to the other women out there who are struggling with Endo, just like me, I want you to know that you are not alone.  There are times when this disease can push you into a deep depression where you feel like there is no one else in the world who understands what is going on with you.  You start to think that they don’t believe you.  They don’t think your pain is real.  You look healthy on the outside but your body is being taken over by Endo and adhesions on the inside.  You are not alone.  There are people out there who understand.  There are women out there, like myself, who are struggling just like you. And it is a daily struggle. But you have to do your best to survive the darkness.  Don’t let this disease define you, only you can define you.  And trust me, once you find yourself some supportive friends, hang onto them and don’t be afraid to lean on them, ask for help.  Don’t deal with Endometriosis on your own.  Like the old cliche’ goes, “it takes a village”–a village of support and you will survive.

Posted in Endometriosis, Family, Life, Relationships, Spirituality, Universe, Writing

Take Life One Skittle At A Time

There are times when I feel like I need an Anonymously Stressed Support (ASS) Group to survive.  If there was one, I would go to a meeting today.  My introduction would be something like this:

Hi, my name is Kelly. I have severe Endometriosis and I have stress issues–a wonderful combination.  I have been in therapy for three years now, working on my stress management techniques.  My stress levels, when elevated, trigger my Endometriosis and send me into a dark, emotional, vortex of madness.

I used to take birth control to help maintain my Endo hormone levels but back in July, we realized that I was having a reaction to the progesterone in birth control.  So my options became surgical or holistic.  I decided on the holistic route.  I thought eating right, exercise, physical therapy and stress management therapy would suffice in maintaining my Endo.  And it did, during the summer when I was stress-free.  I was back to being my happy goofy self until school started.  For teachers, the beginning of the school year is extremely stressful.  This was my first year without the birth control helping me maintain some form of sanity.  Without it, I took a dive off the deep end into a pit of darkness in early September.

This was my Awakening.  I knew I had to change my life around or I was going to end up in a mental institution, bouncing around in a padded cell, enjoying that lovely white jacket that lets me hug myself all day.  So in addition to my therapist, physical therapist, a psychic and Endo doctor, I decided to add a psychiatrist and Buddhist monk to my Team Kelly survival crew.  Our goal: stop my stressful job and the Endo from defining my life.  I needed to reclaim my life and myself again.  I needed to find a sense of peace and calmness.  I needed to survive.

My first step was to move.  I was living in an apartment I hated with extremely horrific neighbors.  I hated going home.  I liked the rental price, the size of the apartment, and the location to work but it was slowly driving me insane.  I had to wear headphones just to hear my own television.  So I moved into a co-workers house.  Which turned out to be another bad situation.  Not as bad as the apartment but still it was not what I needed.  Luckily, I realized it at the right time and immediately found a house that belonged to my California sister’s friend.  Now I am in my dream house.  It used to scare me but now it is my real home.  It is a place of peace and serenity.

The next step was to work on my stress management.  With the help of my therapist and psychiatrist, I finally discovered my real stress triggers and what to do to overcome them.  This has been the hardest journey for me to take.  I really had to look within, at all of my faults, and learn to let go.  You can’t be a perfectionist and be stress-free.  The two contradict each other.  So enter Buddhist Meditation classes.  I admit that it felt really weird at first, and I do still prefer to do it in the comfort of my own home, but it helps to have someone instruct you on the proper techniques and guide you.  I have a rambling mind that will wander through all the crazy rooms that reside in my brain when forced to sit in a quiet room.  I really have to work on my focus.  But the breathing techniques have really helped me get through the day-to-day.  When something upsets me, I focus on my breathing to calm myself down.

For me, though, the best stress relief has been to help my students.  I have been teaching them my stress relief strategies.  Their favorite saying of mine is “forget one day at a time, focus on getting through ten minutes at a time.  Then reward yourself with a Skittle.  By the end of the day, you can enjoy a whole bag of Skittles.”  One of my girls was having a really tough time and I brought her a bag of Skittles.  Putting that smile on her face and giving her a bright moment in her day actually made me feel better about myself.  Helping others really does help you as well.  So when the Endo hormones bring on depression, I do something for someone else to give myself a purpose.  Gandhi was right when he said that the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.

My other stress relief technique is to dance it out.  Sometimes I make my kids dance with me at the end of the day.  Or I go home and play some of my dancing games on Wii.  Or I will just dance around the house.  Hot Dog used to tease me about my “dancing defense mechanism”.  I used to do it in front of him when we would fight.  I would put on my iPod and just start dancing to relieve the tension.  I know there are probably some scientific studies out there that prove that any type of exercise is good stress relief, a good way to relieve depression.  I just like to dance.  It calms me down.

I think we all go through moments/stages where life sucks.  We have our good days and our bad days.  We get depressed, we are sick, we are in pain, our heart is broken, and the grey clouds stroll in, hanging over our heads.  I feel that way today.  I have been sick for weeks and that has caused my Endo to act up.  Being in pain and getting Endo headaches and cramps makes being around loud teenagers unbearable.  I love my kids but when you have 40 of them in a room, it can get way too loud.  Plus I am also dealing with some financial stress.

So being sick and worrying about money means I need to kick in some of my stress management strategies.  I have my iPod and a bag of Skittles in my purse waiting for me.  I am taking it 10 minutes at a time and when I make it through the day, I get to enjoy a nice bag of Skittles.  Then I will dance around my classroom in triumph for making it through another day.

Posted in Life, Relationships, Spirituality, TV

Show Compassion for All

In response to last night’s GLEE episode, I feel that as a high school teacher I need to say something.  At first, I was shocked at where the storyline was going and then I was feeling a sense of Deja Vu when the “Adults” (why aren’t there more teachers in their high school?) were talking about how to react around the students and how nervous everyone is about “copycat” syndrome that often occurs after a student attempts suicide.  I sat through a very similar session just two weeks ago when a student killed himself at the high school where my best friend teaches.  Everyone in our school district is still dealing with what happened.  A young sophomore was picked on, pushed around and teased to the point where he felt the need to take his own life.  I personally never knew the boy but many of my students and friends did.  But what I do know is that he wasn’t even at the point where he could really live his life when he decided to end it.  No one should be made to feel like death is the only solution.

Bullying is a serious problem.  I have heard people from my generation talk about how they don’t remember Bullying being such an issue when we were in school.  The thing is that back then, we didn’t have the Internet.  If something happened, you didn’t usually hear about it.  Now, your cousins in Canada will know if someone at your school is gay or short or fat or a nerd or whatever, all thanks to the Information Hellway we call the Internet.  We didn’t have Facebook, Formspring, Tumblr, Twitter and the like.  We didn’t have cellphones that could text or go on the Internet instantly.  Rumors spread like wildfire these days and it is terrifying.  And the majority of the rumors are not even true.  It is the high-speed version of the Telephone game.  Information travels at light speed.  I knew about the student’s suicide before my friend, a teacher at that school, knew what was going on.  I had kids in my classroom crying 10 minutes after it happened.

And yes, as teachers we make the students put away their cellphones and stay off the social networks while they are in school but they are smarter than we are when it comes to high-tech sneakiness.  We used to try to figure out how to sneak out of our houses at night.  These kids know how to take notes and text without a teacher having any idea.  So if someone in class farts, the whole school knows about it within a matter of minutes.  We can try all we want but as a society everyone is addicted to their “Smartphones” and the kids today don’t know a world without them.  It is a battle we will never win.

I do love how realistically GLEE portrayed the instantaneous rumor spreading.  He came home and checked his Facebook to see what they were saying.  (Though if it were at my school, he would have checked his iPhone when he left the locker room).  It is sad but true.  The majority of kids see their friends teasing someone so they join in to be a part of the crowd.  So before you know it, hundreds, maybe even thousands of kids are participating in cyberbullying.  Many may not even know the person they are attacking.  So how do we make it stop?

As a teacher, I try to be someone the kids feel they can come to if they are having a problem.  Last year, I had a student come out of the closet to me and tell me about how they were being teased.  They were suicidal.  I followed procedure and instantly got them help.  I went to my administrator, the counselor and the school psychologist.  We all rallied around them to let them know that we all cared.  I found out about the Trevor Project.  They have experts that students can talk to and give the appropriate support.  We made sure that they knew they didn’t have to suffer in silence.  There are people out there that care and would be there for support.  There are people out there who would never judge them.

These kids need to know that life gets so much better after high school.  High School is full of drama and stress.  Everyone is in everyone else’s business.  They need to start thinking past themselves.  They have to learn what it is like to be in someone else’s shoes.  I always tell them, “treat others the way you would want to be treated.”  It’s sad that I have to remind them “how would you feel if someone was saying that to you” “or how would you feel if someone posted that about you.”

Teenagers are not zombies.  It is possible to get them away from the computers and away from their cellphones.  It is possible to get them to talk and to open up.  It is possible to teach them to have compassion for all.  But we, as adults, have to set an example.

We need to stop going after the gays in “the name of God.”  I don’t know what Bible they read but I remember Jesus saying he was dying for all our sins–not just the straight people.  Jesus said to love everyone and forgive everyone–right?  If Jesus, or God, was telling me to hate someone for any reason, then that isn’t someone I want to believe in.  We are all human beings and we should show compassion and respect to all other human beings.

I watched this great documentary by His Holiness, The Dalai Lama, entitled Compassion in Emptiness.  It is on NetFlix streaming and I recommend it to everyone.  In this film, His Holiness is giving a talk about Compassion.  He says that we need to stop looking at things from a complicated level.  We need to go back to basics where we are all just human beings.  When we start talking about race, religion, and sexual orientation, we are looking at the secondary level where things are too complicated.  Complications lead to strife.  So in order for us to achieve peace and happiness, we need to stick to the basic level of understanding, “we are all human beings.”  We need to show compassion to all human beings, even if we disagree with their life choices.

And we need to stop making politicians speak for us.  All politicians lie.  Trust me, I was in Public Relations.  They all have an agenda.  All they care about is winning and getting your vote.  They will say whatever you want to hear.  You can’t trust them.  Power is corrupt, ergo those with power are corrupt.  So why do we let them do what they do?  We seem to forget that they are supposed to be working for us.  And what kind of example are they setting for our youth with their campaign ads that are designed to “destroy” their competition.  The kids are taught at an early age to look up to our Senators, Governors, and Commander In Chief.  But when you turn on the TV, you see them bullying each other in ads and in debates.  What are we teaching our children?

There are many in this world who view the United States as a Bully.  If you are one of those people, I apologize.  I am an American but I am not a Bully.  I am a human being.  I am a teacher who goes to work every day because I know I have the chance to make a difference in the lives of my students.  I teach photography but my kids often say my class is “the real world” class.  I try to go above and beyond the simple practices of how to work a camera.  I don’t do it for the money–believe me, there is no money in teaching (which is why I have two other jobs on the side).  I do it for the kid who came to me for help instead of committing suicide.  It is about helping your fellow human being.

I once heard a woman give a speech about how we have two purposes in life.  One is to be a Student, learning all of life’s lessons.  The Second is to be a Teacher, teaching what we have learned.  I took it literally.

My story and the GLEE story had a happy ending–the kids survived.  But unfortunately it doesn’t always turn out that way.  It is sad that it often takes the loss of a young life to bring society to an awakening.  We need to open our eyes and see what is going on around us, see what our kids are seeing.  Start that conversation.  Stop saying “oh, it is just teenage angst.”  If you see a kid in pain, give them a hug.  Ask them what is wrong and LISTEN.  You have to become aware of the truth in order to make a difference.