I’m not a stranger to suicide. My mother’s first cousin took her own life, but the cause of her death was listed as an “accident.”

Three days before my wedding to my ex-husband, his aunt took her own life.  Didn’t know whether or not to cancel the wedding.  We went ahead.

My brother took his life on his thirtieth birthday. He stuck a hunting rifle in his mouth and pulled the trigger.

And so began my journey to try to understand why 44,000 Americans—more than 5,000 of them teens—decide that life is not worth living. I wrote a book about teen suicide in the late 80s and now some three decades later have written Dead Serious: Breaking the Cycle of Teen Suicide.



  1. We can never know for sure why someone chooses to end his life. We can make educated guesses, read the research, talk to suicide survivors. In the end, we are left with questions that will never be answered.
  2. There is never just one reason why a young person takes her life. It’s not just the breakup with a boyfriend. Or just academic problems. Or alcohol or drug abuse. Or issues faced by LGBTQ teens. Nope, experts say it’s some six to fifteen reasons why. (Not to be confused with the TV series “13 Reasons Why”).
  3. Talking about suicide does not make matters worse. What makes matters worse is not That may sound counterintuitive. But more than anything someone struggling with suicidal thoughts wants someone to listen, to show that they care.
  4. It is never your job to save someone from taking his/her life but to connect with a mental health professional who has the training and expertise to help someone who is considering suicide.
  5. It is your job to break the code of silence if a friend or child or student tells you not to share his feelings. It is always better to have someone angry with you than not to have that person around at all.
  6. Recognizing the warning signs of potential suicide is essential. This is not always easy with teens who can be moody and uncommunicative. Still, it’s important to be on the alert and to notice changes in behavior: eating, sleeping, social habits. And it’s crucial to plug into even more serious warning signs like a teen giving away his possessions, writing a will, crawling into a deep depression or severe anxiety, and an obsession with death.
  7. There are many myths out there about suicide. One of the most prevalent is that when a teen (anyone) talks about suicide they are just looking for attention. The truth is that most teens who take their own lives do talk about it. They make open threats that, sadly, are too often ignored.


Myth: Once a teen decides to take her own life, no one can stop her.

Truth: Even the most hopelessly suicidal person has mixed feelings about death. With help, even that person can be stopped and coaxed toward life.

Myth: Once a teen tries to kill herself, the pain and shame will keep her from trying again.

Truth: Of every five people who take their own lives, four have made one or more previous attempts. And of all teens who attempt suicide, one in three tries again.

  1. The importance of a loyal friend—a connection—who will be there no matter what can make a big difference between a teen deciding to choose life instead of the alternative.


“Winter, spring, summer, or fall, all you have

to do is call, Lord, I’ll be there, yeah, yeah,

you’ve got a friend. You’ve got a friend.”

“You’ve Got A Friend”—James Taylor









Planting Spring Bulbs in December

On December 26, to be exact, the temperature here in Chicago reached a high of 55 degrees!  It felt more like March when the snow melts (Hopefully!), the days get longer (Thank God!), and heavy parkas make way for lighter jackets.


My spring bulbs arrived late.  My fault: I ordered them from Holland and ordered them long after I should have.  I prayed that they’d arrive before the ground froze.  No such luck.  They made it here when I couldn’t move a handful of dirt, even when I gave the flower bed a good kick.  (I had a sore toe for 24 hours.)

So, I was stuck with a box of bulbs that cost me $42.  What to do?  I emailed the company and asked what the heck had taken so long and how I should proceed.  Planting them outside was not happening.  The return email detailed instructions for planting the bulbs in pots and putting the pots in a cool, dry place.  In early spring, when the freeze had broken, I was to plant the bulbs in the ground.

I bought potting soil, labeled each pot, and stuck the bulbs as deep as the bottom of the pots would allow.  Some of the “bulbs” were the size of peas; I didn’t count on them surviving the winter in the basement.  Besides, it was warmer there than in the rest of the house.  I said a little prayer to Mother Nature and hoped for the best.

The very next day (as I said, December 26), temperatures rose, the sun shone, the snow melted, the ground unfroze.

“Get out there and plant,” my friend urged.

“I just potted them.”

“Well, dig them up.”

It was late afternoon.  I had maybe 90 minutes before sunset.  I thought of all kinds of excuses why I should leave the bulbs in the pots: my back hurt, I’d ruin my manicure, all the gardening tools had been put away . . .  Besides, how would I find those pea-sized bulbs?

In the end, I grabbed a trowel from the garage, some newspaper to kneel on and then began the process of sifting through the potting soil to rescue all the bulbs.  I failed.  Those tiny bulbs got lost in the shuffle.  And short of running all the soil through some kind of strainer, I gave up and headed outside with the bulbs I could find.


Alas, by that time, I had no idea which bulbs were which—their size, their color, not even what kind.  Frustrated, I dug a bunch of holes and threw bulbs in willy nilly.  I may well end up with tall flowers in front of small, clashing colors and flowers that look awful next to one another.

I guess I’ll just have to wait until spring to find out.





Election and Baseball Fatigue

I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted.


Think next week’s election.  And for us diehard Chicago Cubs’ fans, think the World Series.

Now, I’ve tried my best to stay away from politics, to ignore sites like the New York Times, Politico, and Alternet.  I watch anything but the news. (Well, at least I try.)  I love HGTV and turn to it as often as I can.  But let’s face it: the formulas for shows like “The Property Brothers,” “Fixer Upper,” and “Flip or Flop” get too predictable, even for an addict like me.

I’ve ordered a few books from Amazon, signed up and paid my money to Rosetta Stone.  (I’ve been studying Spanish for the past six years and figured a different approach would help polish my skills and, more importantly, take my mind off of the “discovery” of new Hillary emails, Trump’s incompetence, and the Cubs’ poor performance in the World Series.)  Nothing has worked.

I wake up in the middle of the night, and my busy mind froths with fears of the election or the Cubs’ failure to get to a game seven.  I sit up in bed, rip off my CPAP mask, try to meditate and, when none of that helps me get back to sleep, I reach for the half of Clonazepan I have sitting at the ready on the table next to my bed.  I just renewed that RX and worry that I’ll “eat” up all the medication before a week from Tuesday.

In anticipation of students’ stress next Tuesday on election day, my yoga center is offering both a morning and early evening class to help us survive.  I’m considering taking both classes.   But I’m not counting on the down dogs or chants of “om” to do a damn thing.

Now I know I’m in good company, with millions of people just like me who have had it with this year’s circus of a presidential election.  This will be my eleventh election since turning twenty-one.  (Okay, you math wizards.  So now you know that I’m a senior who has seen more than my share of election shams, topped off by the “election” of George W. Bush by the U.S. Supreme Court.  (By the by, Al Gore never claimed the system was “rigged.”  He accepted the results and moved on. I wish we could expect the same democratic grace from Mr. Trump if he loses.)

If only all television, radio and print were hacked, creating a total news blackout.  Hey, if the Russians can hack the DNC’s emails, why can’t they go the extra mile and give us all a break.  And while they’re at it, maybe they can “fix” the last two games of the World Series and have the Cleveland Indians fold.