On Meeting Robin Williams, Twice in a Lifetime

A sweet story of Robin Williams in the part of…an ordinary man. Hugs to this generous soul for allowing us to see the humble side of a genius.
………hugmamma.

Obzervashunal

Robin Williams memories As a remembrance to one of the greatest comedic minds of our times… R.I.P., Robin W.

I only just learned he passed. I found the news on a blog post and instantly recalled the two times I met the incredibly gifted artist, named Robin Williams.

The first instance was a chance meeting, me walking down an unassuming sidewalk at dusk stuck in my thoughts when a puppy jumped on my leg. I didn’t do much thinking, I simply bend down and started playing with him. The voice offering an apology was one I knew also without the use of my thinking apparatus, Robin Williams was saying sorry for his puppy… who couldn’t talk (I think!).

We actually talked for a few minutes, mostly about the puppy. I remember having the feeling he needed not to be recognized, but to be treated like a regular guy walking a friendly, cool puppy. …

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nurturing thursdays: shine the light…on the devil

I’m getting ahead of myself publishing a post for next week’s Nurturing Thursdays. However something has occurred which I’d like to write about now, while it’s still fresh on my mind.

A young woman committed suicide.

Alone in a big city.

Illness.

Cancer.

Incurable.

Like a death knell, she took the news hard. She holed up, alone, in her apartment for a week. And then she threw herself out the window onto the sidewalk below. Barely missing a person who’d just walked by. Traumatic for that person; the end of life for another. 

Family and friends kept reaching out, trying to keep in touch. But having suffered depression before, the young woman was still caught in its stranglehold.

Depression is the devil. Not to be toyed with. Not to be entertained, even fleetingly. The devil doesn’t play games; neither does depression.

Don’t go there. 

Hang on for dear life, with all the strength you can muster.

Surround yourself with only positive influences. 

There’s no place in your life for negativity. 

Say “no” to negativity…that’s a positive step forward…and upward.

Bask in the sunshine…even if you have to switch on all the lights in the house. I do…

A high electrical bill is way better than a hospital bill…or a funeral.

Fight to live the one life you’ve been given.

Despite the darkness you encounter without…and within…the light is your friend.

Let it in…let it in…please, let it in.

…you matter…because i care…

………hugmamma.

 

 

 

 

our daily bread…words to inspire

Came across the following quote on Picture Perfect Memories for Life at http://coreenkuhnphotography.com/ which I was moved to repost here.

Deep in their roots all flowers keep their light… Theodore Roethke.IMG_4352

Seemed inspirational for those suffering depression. 

A reminder that though flowers may wither and die…on the surface. Their lives continue unfettered…underground.

When the warmth of sunny days return to envelop the earth…the flowers begin digging their way out from beneath the dirt that buries them.

So too are we allowed to crawl back into a fetal position to refresh and renew and…begin again. 

Depression need not be the end.

Let it be…

………a new beginning…

………hugmamma.

Personal Story out of Darkness

Another story inspiring hope and self-help. It may take some time, but we do have it within us to make changes for the better.

………hugmamma.

Godly Stewardship

image

I had symptoms of mild depression for more than a year at one stage. I was grieved, felt like my world was just hopeless, life was meaningless and my future seemed bleak. I was disappointed and extremely discouraged.

I also remembered being sick for a very long time perhaps 3 months or so and I could not go to work at all. At the time I was very alone- my parents were interstate and they had no idea what I was going through I kept it hidden. I did not know either that it was actually depression, heck I didn’t want to admit it.

I thought I would be able to make it better by just avoiding the world. So I Isolated myself. What did I do? I cleaned the house- it was always spotless. The rest of the time- pitied and felt sorry for my self.

Perhaps cleaning was…

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a parent’s worst…nightmare

…or at least one of them…a child with a debilitating disease like…cystic fibrosis.

I’ve been trying to catch up with visiting other blog sites. After all, many so generously take time to visit hugmamma’s mind, body, and soul. You know what they say…”what goes around, comes around.” And I sure as heck like it when folks come around.

Once-in-a-while one post catches my attention, forcing me to pause and take a deep breath. Victoria’s “A summer of CF” did just that. 

How much is a parent able to give as a caretaker, especially for one’s own child, without succumbing to depression? I don’t know, not having been there myself. I can only think to offer up prayers for someone in Victoria’s position, and ask that you do the same…after you read what she shares at http://thevoicefromthebackseat.wordpress.com/2013/08/26/%f0%9f%94a-summer-of-cf/ 

…i’m sure you’ll be moved to say a prayer for this family…and be very grateful for the blessings in your own life…

Victoria, Australia - Great Ocean Road

………hugmamma.

depression and alzheimer’s…linked?

The Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There’s a stack of Wall Street Journals sitting in my husband’s home office. He keeps threatening to toss them into the recycling bin, unread. My immediate retort is “Don’t you dare!”

Hoarders

Hoarders (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m a pack rat, bordering on hoarding. Shhh!!! Don’t out me to “The Hoarders,” the TV reality show. I’m trying to change, especially after my bed/bath remodel is completed. I swear I’ll reorganize big-time. “Famous last words” is my husband’s response to my ongoing promise.

There are always juicy tidbits in the Journal that excite me into sharing the news with you. So bear with me as I post another which deals with 2 topics with which I’m keenly interested, depression and Alzheimer’s. I’ll bet most of us know someone who has one or the other, or both. And I’m just as certain that number includes many of us.

Because my mom died with Alzheimer’s, I’m always open to potential cures, given that children might inherit the gene. Avoiding stress is identified as a strong contributor to good health, mentally and physically. It seems reasonable to assume that stress-free would also mean depression-free. And according to the following article, as we age we should avoid the “big D” in order not to succumb to the “big A.” Makes sense to me!

Nederlands: Gezonde hersenen (onder) versus he...

Nederlands: Gezonde hersenen (onder) versus hersenen van een donor met de ziekte van Alzheimer. Opvallend is de ‘verschrompeling’ die is opgetreden bij de ziekte van Alzheimer, waardoor de hersenen in omvang zijn afgenomen. English: Healthy brain (bottom) versus brain of a donor with Alzheimer’s disease. Notable is the “shrink” that has occurred in Alzheimer’s disease; the brain was decreased in size. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Study Examines Depression and Aging Brain
by Jennifer Corbett Dooren

     People who suffer from chronic depression throughout their lives are more likely to develop dementia compared with people who aren’t depressed, according to a study released Monday.
     The study, by California researchers, sheds light on whether depression might cause dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, or if it is merely an early sign of memory loss and other problems associated with dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is the leading cause of dementia; the second-leading cause is impaired blood supply to the brain, resulting in what is known as vascular dementia.
     “It’s quite clear depression late in life can be an early sign of Alzheimer’s,” explained Rachel Whitmer, a study researcher and an investigator at the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Division of Research. “There’s a lot of debate whether [depression] is really a risk factor for dementia, or if it just shows up.”
     The findings, published in the May issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, add to the evidence that late-in-life depression is a likely early sign of Alzheimer’s disease and suggest that chronic depression appears to increase the risk of developing vascular dementia. Adequate treatment for depression in mid-life could cut the risk of developing dementia. The study is the first to examine whether midlife or late-life depression is more likely to lead to either Alzheimer’s disease or vascular dementia over the long-term.
     To look at links between depression and dementia, Dr. Whitmer and other researchers looked at 13,535 long-term Kaiser Permanente members who had enrolled in a larger study in the period from 1964 to 1973 at ages ranging from 40 to 55 years old. Health information, including a survey that asked about depression, was collected at the time.
     Researchers looked at whether the same people were depressed late in life, in the period from 1994 to 2000, and then looked at whether they were diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease in 2003. The participants’ average age in 2003 was 81 and 57.9% were women. The study found depression present in 14.1% of subjects in midlife only, in 9.2% in late life only and in 4.2% in both.
     Looking at those who later developed dementia, the study found 20.7% of study participants without depression developed dementia, compared with 23.5% of people who reported depression in midlife only and 31.4% of those who were depressed later in life. Among those who were depressed at both mid-and late-life, 31.5% developed dementia.
     Researchers then did more analysis to tease out Alzheimer’s diagnoses from the broader dementia category. They found people who were depressed in midlife but not late in life had no increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or vascular dementia. People who were depressed late in life were more likely to develop Alzheimer’s while those depressed at both mid-and late life were three times as likely to develop vascular dementia.
     Dr. Whitmer’s research focused on people’s health and how it affects brain aging. Previous studies she has conducted using Kaiser’s database of long-term members, have shown that factors such as smoking, diabetes, high cholesterol and belly fat increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and other brain diseases. A 2008 study looking at belly fat showed people who had more belly fat during middle age had higher rates of dementia when they reached old age. The finding held true even for people whose overall body weight was considered normal.
     Kaiser Permanente Northern California is a large, nonprofit health maintenance organization that provides health services to more than one-quarter of the population in the San Francisco and Oakland, Calif., areas.
     Dr. Whitmer’s most recent study, conducted with researchers from the University of California in San Francisco, was funded by Kaiser Permanente, the National Institutes of Health and the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation.

Don’t let life get you down. You could end up losing more than a good night’s sleep. And do-overs are always possible, when a new day dawns. More time to create memories…

Not So Much to Be Loved as to Love

Not So Much to Be Loved as to Love (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

…the highlight of our golden years…

………hugmamma.   

life lessons…from a ballerina

I’m always amazed by the wisdom of my ballerina daughter. Not that I should be, but she is after all, still a young ‘un at 25. I’ve no doubt that her personality and her chosen career have proven a winning combination.

For a long time I’ve maintained that my daughter is well-suited to her profession as a dancer. She’s selfless, always has been. Envy isn’t something that sits well with her. She battles the green-eyed monster every chance she gets. Granted, it’s not always easy. But my daughter chooses to like, rather than dislike, people. And that goes a long way in keeping her out of the clutches of “Mr. Green.”

Moms always want the best for their children. I’m no different. I’m worlds away from being a stage mom, but that doesn’t make me invulnerable to wanting everything for my daughter. She’s taught me that not every great dance role should belong to her. That’s not to say she wouldn’t love to grace the stage as the lead now and then…Juliet to her Romeo…Cinderella to her Prince Charming…Maria to her Nutcracker…or even the Sugar Plum Fairy.

Miyako Yoshida and Steven McRae as the Sugar P...

Image via Wikipedia

What my daughter has learned is that each dancer has her strengths and weaknesses. My daughter also understands that the artistic director is looking at the broader picture when he casts roles. She gets that he’s the boss and that what he says…goes. She knows she’s free to leave if she desires.

The greatest lesson my daughter seems to have learned is…balance. Keeping the scales of life evenly weighted. No obsessions…about roles…weight…what others think…or say…or do. What keeps her so grounded? Her unbreakable love of people. Her desire to be a good friend…colleague…and member of society.

Religion is still a mainstay of my daughter’s life. She attends church as best she can. Kneeling in God’s presence provides her solace…a reprieve from life’s rat race…time to be thankful…the opportunity to shed any negativity that has attempted to undermine. I’m sure my daughter gets to church more often than my husband and me. That’s quite an accomplishment for someone educated in public schools, while her parents were born, raised, and educated as Catholics.

My beloved daughter is living proof that depression is manageable, that it need not sideline her from living life to its fullest. Perhaps the disease in itself is a lesson. Perfection is an illusion…not to be touted…and not something for which she should strive. Being the best she can be, given the gifts with which she was born and those she’s acquired, is my daughter’s life-long goal.

Having been allowed to travel with my daughter as she’s journeyed toward a career in dance, I too have wised up to life’s lessons. Along the way…

…the teacher became the student…and i’m still learning…from my lead ballerina…

Eadweard Muybridge's phenakistoscope

Image via Wikipedia

………hugmamma.

they grow up…in spite of…

Having an only child, one who was born more than a decade after my husband and I were married, makes me extremely thankful that she came along at all. I believe in God, and I believe He sent her to us. I don’t usually ask Him for anything, but I might have prayed for her, or him. At 36 years of age, I wasn’t about to be finicky.

Mary and Jesus

Image via Wikipedia

It may sound corny, but I remember telling a close friend that I felt God had entrusted His child into my safekeeping…for a time. That like Mary, Jesus’ mother, I was just enlisted to care for my daughter’s earthly needs, while she was about God’s business…whatever that might be. Thankfully, my girlfriend didn’t laugh in my face.

As it turns out my daughter’s birth led me down the path to self discovery, self confidence and eventually…self esteem. Diverting attention from myself to her, meant investing most of my time and energy on being a really good mom to my daughter. That didn’t mean, however, that I was perfect. Far from it. I made mistakes. I got angry. I yelled. I cried. I reverted to childish ways. But I always returned to the job about which I’ve been the most passionate…being a mom…the best one I could be.

So when my 24-year-old daughter returned home to my husband and me in the Fall of 2010 because of depression, I felt helpless to fix her. We’d known she’d had bouts here and there, but nothing life-altering. And she thought it was pretty much because of her relationship with a former boyfriend, and some stresses with a former employer. While both tipped the scales, they alone weren’t to blame.

Because of my belief in Dr. Daniel Amen‘s work, we sought treatment for our daughter at his clinic. The psychiatrist with whom she worked discovered where her problem lay via a spect scan, a scan that tracks the blood flow throughout the brain. As a result he prescribed an assortment of natural supplements, including vitamin D, to correct her brain’s chemical imbalance. In addition, our daughter had a couple of sessions with a staff psychologist trained in life coaching. And for now, she remains on a low dosage of Cymbalta, prescribed earlier by another psychologist whom she’d seen.

My daughter returned to work in January of this year; her fellow dancers and the administrative staff welcoming her back with a tremendous display of love and support. A contributing factor towards my daughter’s getting better was the generous guarantee by the artistic director that her job would be waiting for her.

What I was surprised to learn from her treatment at Amen’s Clinic is that an accident our daughter had as a 7 or 8-year-old, might possibly have been the “seed” that sprouted her depression.

Twirling around as a last fare thee well to a fun birthday party for a good friend, my daughter fell flat on her face on a cement floor. This possibly resulted in a slight concussion which caused injury to her brain. At the time she showed no signs of needing emergency care. In the fall, one of her front teeth shifted. It was a fraction higher than the other. But visits to the dentist had both teeth eventually in sync again.

Cover of

Cover of First Time Parents

In hindsight, and after many family discussions, it seemed my daughter’s perception of life had altered after the accident. But as first time parents, with extended family living thousands of miles away, my husband and I were on our own in figuring things out. Unfortunately neither of us had a clue as to what our daughter was experiencing. However she soon became interested in dance, which seemed to turn her attention away from what seemed to “go bump in the night”…or at least in her mind.

My daughter has turned the corner in her depression with our help, and that of Amen Clinic‘s staff, and her friends and coworkers. That’s why she ‘s allowed me to speak of it now. She’s in control again, especially since she now knows that the problem is primarily a physical impairment. That it’s not all “in her mind”…but literally…in her brain.

Depression

Image by Hibr via Flickr

When I spoke to her about my writing this post, I suggested that it might help other parents who are dealing with depression in their own children. Studies seem to point to the fact that the disease affects more young people today, perhaps because of the world in which they find themselves…facebook, youtube, reality shows, bullying, unemployment, bad role models, immorality gone amok. How do parents counter this onslaught, short of encasing their children in a bubble?

I suggest that the answer is communication…an ongoing conversation…one that runs both ways…talking and listening, mostly listening. I tend to be verbose, no surprise to any of you who’ve followed hugmamma’s mind, body, and soul. But hey! That’s who I am. It often takes a lot of circular discussion, a lot, before I arrive at the conclusion that feels right in my gut, and makes sense to all involved. 

Cover of

Cover of Daughter

What I think I learned from my daughter’s experience with depression is that in parenting there’s another part to the equation. So busy trying to fix our children, parents often forget that children are also trying to fix themselves. We need to listen. We need to hit the “pause” button in our yada, yada, yada…and suck in our breaths while we allow our offspring to have their full say…as often…and for as long…as they need. Sometimes our years of experience is unneccessary baggage in a conversation about their lives. A hard pill to swallow…

but one we might add…to our daily intake of vitamins and supplements………hugmamma.       

“balancing action and inaction,” life

Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey

Image via Wikipedia

Today is Palm Sunday, signifying Christ‘s triumphal arrival into Jerusalem. A week from now we will be celebrating His resurrection from death. That is the pivotal point for all Catholics, when we are saved from eternal damnation. And so today begins the holiest week in the Catholic Church, and the busiest. Each day provides us an opportunity to participate in the ritual leading up to Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.

During Jesus life on earth this next week, Holy Week, unfolded as his own personal hell. He went from riding on a donkey, his followers waving palm branches as they honored Him, to being scourged and made to carry a wooden cross, upon which he would then be nailed, a sign over his head mocking Him as king of the Jews.

The Passion of the Christ

Image via Wikipedia

Actor/Director Mel Gibson‘s movie shown several years ago, was the most horrific representation of Christ’s suffering from the moment He was struck repeatedly with leather straps whose tips bore lead beads, to the crown of thorns shoved mercilessly into his scalp, to the huge nails that were hammered into his hands and feet. I was unable to watch most of the film, and I tried to muffle the sounds by shoving my fingers into my ears. I hadn’t imagined how overwhelmingly gruesome the depiction would be. That is one movie I will never be able to watch again. Never.

I find it difficult to fathom the suffering human beings can endure. After today’s lengthy reading of the scriptures, Father Brian launched into his homily. The contrast was jarring. Somber words one minute, near-shouting the next. A mimimum of movement one minute, bold, sweeping ones the next. He spoke of a friend with whom he visited in Bellingham, a town bordering British Columbia. It was almost as though Father was speaking of Job, the man who couldn’t get a break from the bad stuff life was throwing his way.

Andy, Father Brian’s friend, was married, with a baby on the way. At about the time he and his wife learned of her pregnancy, he was stricken with cancer throughout his abdomen. He was going through chemotherapy treatment, which left him depleted. Advice from friends and loved ones runs the gamut from fighting the disease with all of his might, to letting go and allowing God‘s will be done. Needless to say the ordeal has Andy wafting in and out of depression. Somewhere along the line, the doctors discovered that the cancer has spread throughout his spinal column.

Jesus calls Lazarus to Life

Image by Lawrence OP via Flickr

Wouldn’t it be nice if Father Brian had the ability to relieve Andy of the cancer, by performing a miracle? That’s what the non-believers taunted as Christ hung on the cross. If He was truly the Son of God, then why didn’t His Father rescue Him? That, as we know, was not God’s will.

While Andy’s situation exemplifies human suffering at its worst, Father Brian drew a parallel between his life, Christ’s life, and our lives. Though our challenges may not be as great as theirs, like them we vacillate between agressively promoting that about which we are passionate, to passively accepting our fate and putting our lives into God’s hands. We are constantly seeking the right balance. In doing so Father concluded that we should not only pray for guidance, but that we should also find someone with whom we can openly share our sorrows.  Both will enable us to shoulder whatever burdens we will bear throughout our lives.

a fine balance…this gift of life…hugmamma.   

 

“true you,” more than enough

Almost done reading True You: A Journey To Finding And Loving Yourself by Janet Jackson. Yes, she’s “the” Janet Jackson, sister of Michael Jackson. But I wouldn’t have read it for that reason alone. Interviews of her by Meredith Vieira, and then by Piers Morgan, piqued my interest. Prior to that, I really wasn’t motivated to know more about Janet. Other than her videos, songs and a couple of films, she wasn’t in the media, unless it was to do with her more famous sibling. The youngest Jackson, and second most celebrated, Janet favored living her personal life in the shadows. The reason, as revealed in her book, is that she has suffered low self-esteem her entire life.

True You is probably one of the best biographies I’ve read to date, although Janet doesn’t refer to it as such. She prefers to think of it as a spiritual and physical journey towards accepting and loving, one’s true self. The unique element about her story is its compassion throughout. There’s nothing narcissitic about the book, although the focus is obviously upon her. Janet bares her soul, but does so in relation to her commonality with all of us. We can all relate to her experiences. She’s one of us. And that’s where she seems most comfortable. She appreciates and is grateful for her position and wealth, but not at all like the other so-called “rich and famous.” While Michael remains my favorite performer, Janet is definitely my choice for BFF, that is if I had a choice.

One of the things I enjoy most is how Janet weaves anecdotes shared with her by others, whether personal acquaintances, or strangers who have written letters. Their stories are as poignant as hers, and she generously acknowledges this by featuring them throughout the pages of her book. I like that about Janet, her generosity and her humility too. Wish Michael could have been as balanced in his personal life. But his sister admits that it has taken all of her 40+ years to get where she’s at, and she’s still not done yet.

a lesson for all of us…True You …hugmamma.

dr. amen speaks

Am including this “page” as a post, since readers don’t often click on my pages, running beneath the pictorial header at the top of the blog. So it’s reprinted below so that you don’t miss the good information contained in the accompanying YouTube videos. Enjoy!

Wanted to keep Dr. Daniel Amen’s YouTube videos close by, for when I need a spiritual boost. Watching his animated presence, hearing his laughter, partaking of his great sense of humor, and being reassured that I need not be stuck with a brain that can go askew every now and then, makes Dr. Amen a cherished friend. I like having him on my side; so I want to keep him by my side. His words are not only food for my brain, but more importantly nourishment for my soul. You’re always welcome to visit, when you need uplifting…

a lot to digest, i know…feel free to stop by, often…hugmamma.

“affection, good for you,” experts

No need to convince me. I’m a hugger, and a “masher.” But maybe these experts will persuade those of you who need convincing.

The moment we indulge our affections, the earth is metamorphosed…Emerson

Talk not of wasted affection. Affection never was wasted…Longfellow

“You’re the first man who has hugged me since my husband died seven years ago!”…elderly woman to author Leo Buscaglia

“It’s like going home again.”…a man who exchanged hugs with author Leo Buscaglia

…arrive at a state in which all contact seems repellent, where to touch or to be touched means to hurt or be hurt. This, in a sense, has become one of the greatest ailments of our time, a major social disease of modern society that we would be well to cure before it is too late. It the danger remains unheeded then–like poisonous chemicals in our food–it may increase from generation to generation until the damage has gone beyond repair…Desmond Morris in “Intimate Behavior”

A simple caress has the potential of changing a whole life. The warm embrace, withheld at the vital moment when it is most desperately needed, can easily be the act, or rather the non-act, that finally destroys a relationship, or even a nation!…Leo Buscaglia in “Loving Each Other”

Hugging can lift depression–enabling the body’s immune system to become tuned up. Hugging breathes fresh life into a tired body and makes you feel younger and more vibrant. In the home, daily hugging will strengthen relationships and significantly reduce friction…Dr. Harold Voth, psychiatrist at the Menninger Foundation in Kansas

…when a person is touched, the amount of hemoglobin in the blood increases significantly. Hemoglobin is a part of the blood that carries vital supplies of oxygen to all organs of the body–including the heart and brain. An increase in hemoglobin tones up the whole body, helps prevent disease and speeds recovery from illness…Helen Colton in “The Gift of Touch”

We can all benefit by learning to express and meet our physical needs in a loving, caressing way. Thus, I give many of my patients a homework assignment: During the upcoming weeks, they are to get and give four hugs a day. I even write out a formal prescription that says simply, “Four hugs a day–without fail.” Don’t ever underestimate how powerful this therapy can be, and the role it can play in the healing process. And it’s a safe prescription, too. To my knowledge, no one has ever died of an overdose of hugging. However, as one of my patients told me, “It is addicting. Once you start hugging, it’s a hard habit to break!”…Dr. David Bressler, while director of the Pain Control Unit at UCLA

I’m living proof that hugging is the greatest form of therapy for whatever ails me, and very much habit forming. I couldn’t give up hugging if I tried. Hugging and outward affection are who I am.

sending you early hugs for a happy valentine’s day!…hugmamma. 

“tiger mother’s parenting,” minuses and pluses

In today’s Wall Street Journal, several responses to Amy Chua’s parenting methods were identified in “Letters to the Editor.” Here they are:

Winston Chung, M.D. of San Fransisco writes: While I am impressed by Amy Chua’s tenacious parenting…I am concerned with her black-and-white message. A Machiavellian approach to achievement and a Confucian-influenced parent-child dynamic may have contributed to rapid growth and prosperity in China, Japan and Korea, but it comes at a price. As of 2009, World Health Organization statistics indicate that China has the highest rate of female suicide in the world. Korea has one of the highest suicide rates in all industrialized nations and Japan is not far behind. Asian-American adolescent girls have the highest rates of depressive symptoms compared to all racial and gender groups. As someone who works in child and adolescent mental health in the largest Chinese community outside of Asia, I have seen some of the consequences of the relentless drive for success, and I encourage families to consider balance. We in the West could benefit from increasing our resilience and diligence in Ms. Chua’s manner, but it is just as important that Eastern parenting styles adopt values that include healthy social development and loving relationships as measures of success.

Kai L. Chan of New York writes: Although the way Ms. Chua raised her children may be typical of many high-achieving Chinese families, there are many Chinese families who live quite the opposite life. According to recent Census data, the majority of Chinese people grow up in low-income households, and within this group children typically do not play musical instruments or devote many hours to homework. I grew up in a very poor Chinese family in which none of my siblings completed post-secondary schooling. I was arrested twice as a teenager and dropped out of high school before eventually finishing at age 20. However, I did go on to earn a doctorate. Because the “superior Chinese mother” stereotype is so ingrained into society, few outreach programs target at-risk Chinese youths. Some of my childhood Chinese friends are now in jail or are drug addicts because people in authority always thought our households resembled Ms.Chua’s.

Audrey Lengbeyer of Annapolis, Md. writes : I, too, was not allowed not to play the violin or piano, was not allowed to be in the school play, was asked why I lost two points when I brought home a 98, and was grounded if I got any grades other than As. I was a nationally competitive violinist and enough of a math scholar to be courted by multiple Ivies and top conservatories. But at what cost? When my parents called me garbage, fat, lazy, selfish and myriad other tough-love names, I heard them loud and clear. I heard that my value was measured in my conformity to their preordained requirements for a cookie-cutter, high-achieving daughter. As an adult I have struggled to overcome the feeling that I don’t deserve love and loyalty unless I perform well. My relationship with my parents is still frigid and distant. Now that I’m a mother myself, of three joyful and unique daughters, I would be heartbroken if they grew up unable to turn to their parents in their most difficult moments.

Simmie Moore of Aiken, S.C. writes: Predictably, Amy Chua’s article will be received with howls of protest by the professional enablers of under-achievement and their minions. And the Western parents, trapped in their own extended adolescence, will be defensive and in denial. The truth is, raising a child to be accomplished and outstanding is much to be preferred to raising a “well-rounded” mediocrity leading a frantic life of desperation.

Tim and Betha Millea of Davenport, Iowa writes: Our heads are nodding enthusiastically in response to the recent articles regarding America’s “wussification” and the superiority of Chinese parenting philosophy. Although our Irish Catholic parenting approach was not as rigid, we spent many years knowing that we were “the only parents” who did not allow TV on school nights, videogames in the house or regular dating until the senior year of high school. Yes, there was angst and argument, but we all survived. Parental hidsight is not 20/20, but we have been quite content with being “the heavies” during our children’s formative years. Coddling does not prepare them for the real world, and the constant whine of “it’s someone else’s fault” is a psychological virus that infects them for a lifetime. High expectations for performance and behavior combine to help form a confident, focused adult.

I think most of us will agree that the Millea’s found the right balance about which Dr. Chung spoke in the opening response. Children need guidance for sure. Our 24-year-old daughter still looks to us, after weighing all her options, for that final, small nod of agreement. Values and guidelines instilled very early on, and maintained through adolescence, does indeed groom children for citizenship in society. Uncluttered minds make for organized lives, in the best sense of the term. Wending their way through life’s jungle can overwhelm, and undermine. So help them we must. But abuse them, physically, mentally or emotionally, we must not. They, after all, are US, not yet all grown up.

for balance in parenting, huge hugs…hugmamma. 

president bush, “citizen”

Was pleasantly surprised to see the human side of President George W. Bush on Oprah’s talk show yesterday. I didn’t follow his comings and goings while he lived in the White House, so I can’t say I had any inkling what he was really like, personally. Professionally, I saw what the mainstream media offered 24/7. As we all know, much is taken out of context, to support whatever viewpoint is being touted. And, of course, he wasn’t “my man,” although I did vote him into office (like others who thought he might do a good job…hmmm), so I wasn’t inclined to follow George W.’s every move.

Relaxed, congenial, smiling broadly and freely, citizen Bush looked like someone I’d vote for all over again. (Except now I know better.) I guess all Presidents stop aging at lightning speed, once their terms are over. Then they seem to drop 5-10 years off their appearances. Yes, even Clinton, with his full head of white hair. Maybe it’s the strict diet he’s been on, no meat, no dairy, only grains, fruits, and a little fish.

Both Clinton and George W. had their “moments,” which will be a major part of their political legacies, Monica Lewinsky, and the Iraq War which contributed to a near-Depression. As the years advance, such remembrances recede into the corners of our minds, where “cobwebs” form and other memories replace them. That is until some incident stirs up the media, causing them to troll the “archives,” digging up the dirt once more, causing another frenzy. That seems to be the way of the world, our human world.

Life has a way of moving forward, even after major strife, President Clinton faced impeachment proceedings, and in the aftermath of Katrina, President Bush faced unfavorable rhetoric for his failure to respond quickly. Now that both are “ordinary” citizens, we celebrate personal events with them, Chelsea’s recent marriage, and the familial love of the Bush family, as seen on video during Oprah’s interview.

In the “heat of the moment,” I too was angry with these Presidents for their failure to perform their jobs as I, and others, expected. But now I can appreciate them as men with loved ones, subject to human frailties, having done their best with what talents, and shortcomings they brought to the Presidency, Clinton’s womanizing and his stepfather’s alcoholism, and Bush’s alcoholic past. Perhaps we’ll be as generous, when we reflect upon President Obama’s time in office. I’m getting a head start, I already am.

bush gave oprah a huge hug; i do the same for him, and other presidents, past and present, huge hugs for their service…hugmamma.