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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Too Many to Count

Ahh, Thanksgiving. One of the many days Americans find an excuse to feast. 

Doesn't it sometimes seem we miss the real point of a holiday? I was asking myself why I celebrate Thanksgiving, and I came to a frightening answer: for a chance to stuff myself with food. I mean, yes, of course I remember that today is a day for celebrating our blessings and giving thanks for them, but do I really do that to the extent that I should?

To whom much is given, much will be expected.

I've been given so much (starting with the fact that I'm alive), and it's about time I step up to sincerely thank the many people who played a part in the reason I'm where I am today. You already know about Lenny, so here are some others:

God. How many miracles have I experienced? Too many to count.

My parents. For everything (including suffering through my corny jokes).

My friends. For always being there for me.

Dr. Marc Newman. For transforming me into a speaker. I can't say enough about how he selflessly gave his time to help me effectively communicate hope to teens, their parents, and any audience. He gets it. If you ever need a pro-life speaker at your church or event, this is the guy for you--and he does so much more than that, too. Check him out:

Deacon Jim Walsh, Linda Areola, and Kent Peters
Kent Peters, Linda Areola, and Deacon Jim Walsh. For being like family to me and blazing the trail for a mental health network in the parishes of San Diego County! Their support and guidance have been invaluable, and their office is a second home to me.

Jeanne Roy. For being a District Attorney who doesn't use a cookie cutter approach to her cases. She genuinely cares about making a difference.

Riverside County Mental Health Department Parent Partners. Christine Lestage and Lori Lacey-Payne encouraged me to start a support group. They've always shown how much they believe that each life is precious.

And to all of you. For supporting me in my mission and being totally awesome! 

I was talking about fraternal love with my friends the other day, and I can honestly tell you (without it being weird) that I love you all and wish you the very best Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Upcoming Talks

I love speaking to audiences where I can make an impact. Love it, love it, love it. Especially to teens. But if you know of any groups that need to hear my life-saving message, I'd love to speak to them, too. Just fill out the contact form on the right or book me through CMG Booking. Here's a list of where I'll be in the next three weeks:

November 29, 2014
                          Our Lady of Refuge Catholic Church
                          Pacific Beach, CA
                          Family Conference on Depression 
December 1, 2014
                          Good Shepherd Catholic Church
                          Mira Mesa, CA
                          Edge Middle School CCD 
                          "Depression Confession" (age appropriate)
                          7:00 p.m.  

December 16, 2014
                          St. Pius X Catholic Church
                          Chula Vista, CA
                          Youth Group 
                          "Depression Confession"
                          6:30 p.m.

Whew! That makes 11 engagements from July through December. We've received many requests for 2015 already, so it's promising to be a busy year, too. Thank you to all who have heard me speak in person and for those who are currently attempting to book me for their organizations. My list of talks has grown, and I also offer specialized presentations upon request.

I hope that, one day, my message will no longer be necessary, but until then, I'll do my best to spread the word that every life is precious and can't be erased.

Monday, November 17, 2014

You Can't Pull One Over on Me

Three years ago, I stepped out of our van and onto the mountain where the teen boys' Advent retreat was taking place. As usual, my dad was helping the priest that December weekend and would be there the entire time.

I couldn't wait. This was one of the few times I would hang out with the "cool" kids I thought were my real friends. I saw them as my escape, the only way I could be happy and feel love and acceptance. It was from them that I learned cuss words, how treat the "good" kids with contempt, and to be as underhanded and secretive as possible. My unwell mind desperately wanted to find my self-worth, and I thought I found it with them.

You can imagine the self image I had of myself. I wasn't a bad kid, I was just trying to find some way to escape the pain of loneliness and despair.

But I felt so guilty.

I pushed the guilt away and told myself that I wasn't doing anything wrong, every teen does this, and those who don't are losers. If you want to live life to the fullest, you had to live on the edge. That's what I thought I believed. 
So we snuck away by ourselves at every opportunity. We'd watch videos my parents would never allow on the smartphones they weren't supposed to bring, light gunpowder on fire, and talk about sex. In general, we caused trouble.

After my suicide attempt, I realized how much that behavior hurt me, and I wanted to stay as far away from that crowd as possible. But even though I was changing on the inside, I still looked the same on the outside (except I had my curly locks shaved off). 

So my mom watched my back. If someone who wasn't good news approached me, my mom would tell me to check on my siblings or perform some other unnecessary activity, then she proceeded to have a pleasant conversation with the troubled teen. It worked. I just needed to keep my distance until I was strong enough to deal with them.

After a while, I finally told my parents that I was ready to face these teens and not worry about what they think of me or if they tried to include me in their misdeeds.

So far, it's worked. But if I feel the need to escape a conversation, I just say I have to go to the bathroom. After I go to the bathroom, I enter a different circle of friends. 

This year, I'm hitting the next level.

I'm attending the same teen boys' Advent retreat, but this time as one of the leaders, and I feel confident I can be a good influence on these boys, whether they're troublemakers or just immature. All the boys that attended as campers with me have aged out, so there's no past to bring me down. This is a completely new slate.

I hope that I will be able to reach out to these boys because, as I think back to my old group of "friends", it's clear that at least a few of them exhibited signs of depression, too, but they handled it much differently than I did.

I'll be looking for those boys who separate themselves from activities and others, who disappear during free time, and who seem uninterested in participating in scheduled events or prayer. Some of the adults might think they're just behaving like teens, but I'll look for those telltale signs of something deeper.

I'll spend time with them, befriend them, be an example to them. Many of the kids in the area know my story, but some don't--and it won't matter. If I have serious concerns, I'll discuss them with my dad and the priest, and maybe alert the parents.

I hope to forge bonds so these boys know they can ask me anything and I'll answer truthfully. Sometimes it's easier to talk to someone closer to your age than with your parents.

Overall, I hope that my almost-tragic experience will help me help others before it's too late for them. 

After all, I did everything I was told not to do at the camp and got away with it.

These kids can't fool me.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

You Want to be a Part of Starting Support Groups in San Diego?

Then come on over to the kickoff event at St. Micheal's church in Poway on November 15. It's free, and you should register, but you can walk in that day, too. I'll be sharing a short testimony, so I'll see you there!

One of the most frequently asked questions I receive is when support groups will be coming to San Diego. You can help make that a reality.

Monday, November 10, 2014

St. Margaret Mary Teen Talk

I was so blessed to spend this weekend in Oakland, California, to speak to the teens at St. Margaret Mary Church. We had time to attend Mass, share a meal, socialize, and play with a UFO (Unidentified Foil Object).
One of my awesome tour guides

I made many friends this weekend and was able to connect on not just a speaker level but as a fellow teen. I didn't want to leave.

A special thank you to the priest who celebrated Mass and to Valerie Burkhart, the Director of Religious Education, in addition to her son John, who both graciously gave us their time and took us on a tour of The Cathedral of Christ the Light and the Mausoleum below it.

A giant picture of Jesus made with natural lighting

The Mausoleum under the Cathedral

Flying over California

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Lenny's Baby--A Generation Preserved

Joshua Caleb Ross

Lenny Ross was the victim in a crash that resulted from my desire to end my life and stop the pain of major depression. I didn't intend to hurt anyone else, but we both could have died. Since that time, Lenny has been blessed with a baby! If I had killed him, an entire generation resulting from this new life would never exist. 

I know how hard it is to think beyond the darkness and pervasive thoughts that depression causes. But even if you don't harm another human being, the premature end to your life prevents the existence of innumerable people, who were never given a chance to live.

Here are Lenny's own words on the birth of his son (posted with permission): 

Joshua Caleb Ross decided to make his presence known at 3p.m. 10/7/2014. Weighing in at 6lbs.,13oz. and 19-1/2" long.  


There is no greater gift than the miracle of life--God's way of reminding us of how precious we all are to him. Thank you for all your prayers. They are as treasured and precious as our new son. 


Thank you, and may The Lord bless you all as he has blessed us... 

Lenny and Joshua

Monday, October 27, 2014

I Want to Be an Astronaut

Ever since I was a kid, I've wanted to be an astronaut. I read everything I could about how to be one, what it's like, and of course, all the sci-fi I could get my hands on. That was my dream. And when I was little, that was my plan. 

As I got older, I slowly began to realize how almost impossible my dream was, and I started to explore other options. But that love for outer space, aliens, and the whole shebang never left me. I still have that love today. And that's why dreams are so important.

Because whether or not you pursue them, they will stay with you, nagging you, giving you hope for the next day, month, or year. They're so powerful, and most of the time, we don't even realize it.

That's one of the main reasons depression is so debilitating. It takes all your dreams and tells you they're impossible to achieve. You'll never amount to anything. Your life is worthless and has no point.

And after hearing this for years from my own mind, I began to believe it.

An astronaut? Ha. I couldn't even see myself as running a business or writing, much more realistic goals. I thought I'd be flipping burgers for the rest of my life (though once in a while, I thought I could be a giant crime boss, but for many reasons I realized that would never happen). It was only after a great deal of time, healing, and recovery that I was able to once more see how big of a future I had in front of me. 

I know now that I can be anything I want. Nothing is holding me back. That's one reason I love going to junior college. I can explore everything I want to, without bankrupting me in the process.

I want to know how to work Photoshop? Take an Adobe class. What to get more exercise? Take a gymnastics class. I'm in no hurry to have a career and attend college to major in something I'm not even certain I want to do. But once I know what I'm being called to do (I'm sure this blog will have something to do with it), watch out. Because I'm going to live a joyful life fulfilling God's plan for me.

If you're feeling like you don't have a future ahead of you, telling yourself that you do have a bright future probably won't radically change your life. So I won't give you platitudes (or memes with ridiculous sayings), but rather one goal.

Hold on.

Focus on one day at a time. I know how bad the hurt and pain is. How hard it is to hold on. Heck, I failed big-time in that category, but no one ever knew how I was suffering, so I didn't have anyone telling me this. That's why I'm telling you now. 

Hold on.

It was only after a while that I was able to see a future ahead of me, and every day I made the decision to live another day. But with that knowledge of my future, came the realization that we all have a path ahead of us. Even if we can't see it. Now I can think clearly. 

My past does not define me.

My future is what gives me hope.

Hope in a future you cannot see.