Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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Estrogen Infusion

In September I spoke at a conference about 3 hours away. I was kind of dreading it because I was on the committee over the previous year and just wanted it to be over with. However, I had a great time and met some great women. I was surprised to hear myself say I didn’t want to go home.

In October, I went away with 7 of my girlfriends to our annual “Magical Misery Tour.” Some said it was the best year yet. We laughed, sang and danced. There was some intense grief being processed as well. The epitome of bittersweet.

This month, I went to Chicago (I lived there for 9 years) for a death doula training. I spent 5 days with some of my dearest friends, was educated in a very stimulating educational training, and met some super cool women. One of them articulated it perfectly. She said “I’m wholly unaccustomed to quick-witted, loving, likeminded people.  It fed my soul.” I REALLY didn’t want to go home this time. Here’s our crew:

It got me thinking. When Mom died in 2007, she was my best friend. She hated when I said that and would come back with, “Stop saying that! I’m not your friend, I’m your MOTHER!.” True that, but she didn’t have a choice. She was my favorite female in the world. The hole that she left in my life was astounding. I made a decision to find and nurture good female folks to bond with.

When I didn’t have a significant other in my life, I had to rely very heavily on my girls. Now I do have a significant other, I realize how deeply I can just appreciate them and my connection to them.

The last 3 months I have been so terribly fortunate to have those little trips away. Next month I am supposed to go to Florida for work. A friend of mine got me the job and she is on the team with me. I imagine that will be another great experience.

Yay for estrogen! I love my ya-yas, the old and the new. I’m so grateful for every one of you. Every single one!  


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Secular & Sacred

I believe that I have been approaching a crossroads. I am well aware of folks in my life who love and forgive me for mistakes I have made (and I mean big, hurtful mistakes!) I am also aware of a slew of folks that don’t like me. Some might even hate me. The ironic piece is that they are generally folks I have gone out of my way to be kind to, yet that has somehow been twisted in their minds.

In the church I have been recently attending, I have had my heart pierced again with messages of forgiveness, grace, freedom, which of course begins with God’s perfect love and sacrifice for us. I find myself lying awake at night wondering if I should be knocking on doors and trying to repair the broken relationships I have out there.

I went to see Scott, my decades-long therapist. He knows the history and story of most of these people that I am estranged from. Some of them he has even met. He gave me an empathic NO, I should not be knocking on doors of people who have pretty much abused my kindness because of their own brokenness. Why do I have such a deep need for everyone to like me?

He pointed to my missionary spirit. I even got a degree in it in college. I have a vision of love and healing and I am crushed when life doesn’t happen that way. Unfortunately, it rarely does. I walked away thinking that I do not need to assertively push my, “I’m finally walking away from your toxicity” quest, but I also most definitely do not need to assertively walk into a space where I am most likely going to be hurt or abused again. I can be open if they ever approach me with a goal of reconciliation.

Then I decided I wanted to chat with my pastor as well. Would she say forget the world’s wisdom? Give unconditional love and grace, turn your cheek over and over. That is God’s example to us – radical love. Doesn’t that feel more “right?”

She did not say those things. I was shocked to find that such an amazing woman also has “haters” in her life. She talked about God’s vision NOT being that of a doormat. She talked about working hard to accept that we cannot control other people’s response is to us. What God does call us to, is to be who we need to be every day when we wake up. A person dearly loved by God who continues to love and grow.

She then challenged me. What will it take for me to accept that kind of love from God? For me to believe in my heart what my head has believed for years now? To take my own passionate advice when it comes to supporting other people?

I think I have glimpsed moments of that in the last decade of my life. I think as I have aged I have begun to push back when treated badly. I have begun to seek reciprocity. Scott says to sink my energy into the people that love me and desire my company.

There was no big disconnect between the secular and sacred wisdom I sought out. They complemented each other.

I’m sure I will stay lay awake some nights and feel bad about the people around me who have rejected me and the efforts I made to be a good person to them. It will still hurt. But I am also going to seek to turn my energy away from that and focus on my own growth.

And be deeply grateful for the many truly wonderful people who have chosen to love me.


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GUEST BLOGGER: Natalie Jones

Natalie and her husband, Jason, recently bought their first home. She hopes to make the process of buying a home less scary for first-timers by sharing what she and Jason have learned along the way.

How Couples Moving In Together Can Save Money During the Home Decorating Phase

If you’re part of a couple that is cohabiting for the first time, decorating your new home or apartment is one of the first true tests you’ll face. You’ll have to come together, make sacrifices, and show each other extreme patience. What will certainly throw a wrench into all of this peace, love, and harmony is an overblown decorating budget. Here’s how you can save money during the decorating phase and put as little strain on your relationship as possible, whether you’re coming up with a budget or using a Crate and Barrel promo code.

First things first: Budget

As Vogue notes, moving in together often presents a “serious test for how well couples will work together in the financial realm. To avoid any financial surprises, map out a master budget for decorating your new space — and stick to it.”

Planning how much money you are willing to spend is a tried-and-true method for saving money. That’s what budgeting is on a large scale. When it comes to the still important but significantly less ambitious task of budget for home decor, be sure to estimate on the high end for every item. This will also help you avoid surprises.

Make use of coupons and other deals to acquire your basics

Major retailers like Bed Bath & Beyond or Kohl’s often offer coupons and other deals that serve a great purpose: filling your new living space with the essentials. Before you begin shopping for things like pillows, bath towels, and small appliances (like a coffee maker), be sure to check for online coupons and discounts so you can save as much money as possible. For example, if both of you love to shop at Crate and Barrel but you want to keep that cost as low as possible, find promo codes and savings to bring those purchases in under budget. Also, when you take advantage of the Crate and Barrel free shipping offer, you can even more money. There are also a handful of solid apps that allow you to set up alerts for price drops on certain items.

Take your time gathering furniture piece by piece

Hopefully, you and your partner will bring some of your own beloved furniture with you to your new living space, but inevitably you’ll need to populate your new home with new pieces. Patience is the key to saving money. You can’t expect to find great furniture for good prices all at once. Making a habit of thrift shopping on the weekends, for example, is a good way to save. Remember: it’s smart to shop for second-hand items in physical, brick-and-mortar stores and online (sites like Craigslist and others).

Embrace eclectic design

If your design aesthetic is all about matching decor, you’re going to have a tougher time saving money. The more eclectic your design style, the more freedom you have to incorporate decor of all different styles, with cost instead of style being your main determining factor. Eclectic doesn’t mean ugly or low-quality. It simply means having an open mind and being able to embrace alternative design elements

Prioritize multitasking when buying furniture and decor

HGTV calls it pulling “double duty,” but you may think of it as multitasking. You can save money on decorating by prioritizing furniture and other decor elements that serve multiple purposes. Think coffee and end tables that offer plenty of storage and convertible furniture. You don’t have to be trying to save space to opt for this sort of smart decor. All you have to try to save money.

Above all else, don’t forget this one important tip: communicate. Open communication between you and your partner is vital if you want the moving in and decorating process to go smoothly. Be honest about your wants and needs — especially your budgeting. Only when you take the time to develop a real strategy can you make your new home beautiful without breaking the bank.

Photo by Unsplash


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The Way It Should Be

This is the pamphlet from a church we visited recently. The service had the same feeling as its bulletin. Tim and I were both moved to tears by the end of the service. We know we are just at the beginning of a relationship with these folks, but I have no doubt that it was no accident that we found them just in the nick of time.

The church I attended when Tim (deceased) was dying had been my church home for 7 years. It indeed felt like home. I was heavily involved, sometimes volunteering and eventually as paid staff.

About 2 years before Tim’s illness, the church hired someone that turned everything around. Our staff was amazingly close and functioned like a relatively healthy family. Until then.

I’m not sure what personnel was thinking when they hired someone who openly said he was “not religious.” It was obvious this was a paid job for him, not a ministry. There was formal skill, but no heart.

He didn’t like the role I played in the church so he slowly but surely made my life miserable there. The details are not worth getting into, but let me just say there are many, many stories. He really turned the fire up when our minister went away on sabbatical just when Tim was diagnosed. It is quite unbelievable but unfortunately true. He did his best to undermine me while I was desperately trying to help my dying husband and family while still working at the church. I needed that spiritual connection.

Three months after Tim died, I resigned. It should never have happened. Had I not been grief-stricken, I would not have done it. And it should never have been accepted. There had been other resignations over the years that were rejected and mine, without a doubt, should have been. I was deeply involved, faithful even when in crisis, and dedicated to those people I ministered to. I literally had an impeccable work history.

The craziness that came next was lawsuit worthy. That is not my heart though, and I certainly did not have the energy to pursue one. Besides, where would that have left me if I had won? A church of worship and job where I had to sue in order to be treatly justly and compassionately.

Over the last 8 years I have tried every now and then to heal my heart. I reached out when my books were written. I reached out when the church started addressing end of life issues. No matter what I tried, the door was slammed in my face.

Finally this summer, the minister moved and a new personnel committee was formed. This was a long time coming but I finally had my chance to make peace. I reached out and asked when I could come in and meet the committee. I made it clear that I didn’t expect anything to be done. I didn’t ask for justice, although truth be told I certainly could have. What was done to me was inexcusable. I just wanted to be heard. I had been silenced as well as the rest of the staff 8 years ago. And what was worse, the church folks let the congregation believe that I was just a “grieving widow” and left. I couldn’t believe they would desecrate our sacred memories like that.

I just wanted to tell my story and I felt my heart could finally heal. Just hear me. That’s it.

I was more than stunned when I got the call back that the committee “wasn’t interested.” They are only interested in moving forward in the church. They weren’t “equipped” to hear me. Equipped for what? Listening? They are in more trouble than I thought if that is the case. He said they talked to the church lawyer who advised them to “forget it and move on.”

I couldn’t believe after such a long wait, the final door was slammed. I didn’t think the church could hurt me more, but they managed to do just that. I’m not sure what is going on, but that is most certainly NOT how the church of Jesus Christ is supposed to behave.

I’m dumbfounded.

My human side wants to attend there again. Make sure my story gets told to anyone and everyone that would listen. All these years I’ve kept silent in order to “be the bigger person” and remain professional. I want to create havoc for them the way they injured me.

But like my new pastor says, that isn’t my heart. It never will be. And besides, how could I possibly waste a Sunday morning going there when this warm and nurturing door has opened up for us? This is no coincidence.

Thank you, God for providing this new place, for however long we will be there. And thank you to those folks that understand the true mission of Christ and follow that call- the way it should be.


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Taffy 2

Taffy

I am happy to report that today we had to order another script of steroids. She is responding quite well and I have to keep remembering we are on borrowed time. I warned you I would be blogging more about her so I hope you don’t mind. I am thrilled this is NOT a memorial blog.

It is true that dogs become family members. It is true that sometimes we connect more deeply with them because there is never much to forgive. They just love you all the time. Being a Border Collie mix, she is a worker. It took me years to realize that I was NOT her mommy. Taffy is MY mommy. She clearly feels it is her job to keep an eye on me.

I mean look at this typical “mom” look. I spilled ice cubes all over the floor when in a rush. She is totally saying, “Really? Be more careful next time!”

Taffy

She’s no angel though. She is infamous for running away, although those days seem to be over. I will never forget the time the police called me after they found her. Does she not look guilty? She was actually in the back of the police car when I picked her up. Once in our car, she acted like, “What? Nothing to see here, move along.”

Taffy

But she definitely has won all of our hearts and we are continuing to enjoy her and attempt not to take her for granted.

Christmas- Darcy, Taffy, Dave, Louie

(Ok, she isn’t a fan of the hats…)


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Taffy

Our girl

Taffy is our border collie mixed with I-don’t-know-what. We rescued her so we also aren’t sure how old she is. Our best guess is about 12. I know she has been our family member 10 years.

I remember we got her on a Saturday. Tim had a wallpapering job that day. He had been a “no” for 8 years or so. No dogs. Absolutely not. Then that particular Saturday, he said, “I suppose you should have a dog or else you might get a different husband.”

He was barely in his car when I grabbed seven-year-old Frankie and told him we had to strike when the iron was hot. At the animal rescue, there were 3 families that wanted her. We were the lucky ones.

Over the years, she also had to bond with our other furry friends.

Taffy, Herbie

In 2015, we acquired Herbie and Matilda. Herbie clearly has always thought Taffy was her best friend. Taffy just found him particularly annoying. Taffy would lay on the floor and Herbie would want to spoon. She figured out quickly that Taffy wasn’t a fan so she would lay slightly away from her. Then he would stretch over and over until she had crept next to him. In about 30 seconds Taffy would move and the process would start all over again. But one of their favorite things was to hang out at the door and bask in the sun.

Matilda, Herbie, Taffy

Besides not cuddling with Herbie, Taffy was also not a fan of playing games and would do her best to stop it.

Taffy

Anyhow, my next couple blogs will probably be about her as well so I hope you are a dog lover.

Why now? Ms. Taffy is on steroids. We are all too familiar with those in our family. She has a degenerative spine. It also appears that she may have a cancerous tumor on her spleen. (The tumor is not a maybe, the cancer is most likely.) Yesterday I found myself thinking that perhaps we are wrong because she seems like her old self. Then I caught myself. Remember what the vet said about our cat Oreo. Remember what Hospice said about Tim. Steroids only provide comfort. Don’t let yourself be fooled. Your loved one is dying.

We are all doing our best to enjoy her company every day. We spoil her every moment we can. She deserves it!

Taffy


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Workaholic

I’ve been labeled a workaholic again lately. It’s not the first time in my life. Over the last handful of years, things had slowed down a bit. I spent a year and a half marketing my new services but it took that long to for it to take off.

Now I’m back in full swing. I know where the work stuff comes from. Straight from my upbringing. Dad never missed work and he was clear without saying a word that working hard was a very highly valued ethic to live by.

I was in a session talking with a woman who is facing that struggle so many of us do. How do you honor your instinct and gifts of helping others with taking care of yourself? How do you not over-extend and over-burden yourself?

Fine line to draw if you ask me. A very fine line.

I’m proud of my work ethic, but as I was mulling it over in my head, I thought I’m really more of a “responsibility-aholic” than a workaholic. My days are bounced back and forth between the several careers I am juggling, but also being a homeowner, a parent of a teenager (academics and sports), caring for an aging (and failing!) pet, being in a relationship and having a balanced social life. Yes, even having a balanced social life I consider a responsibility in order to take care of myself. You can’t help others if you are depleted.

I want to officially coin that term. Not sure if there’s a huge difference between work and responsibility, but it feels like there is at least a small distinction.

I’m on Step One: I admit I am powerless over “responsibility-ism”. Not sure if my life has become unmanageable. I can usually manage ok when my support systems are in place. (Although some of them suffer from the same disease so they aren’t always available.)

Just need to stop and smell the roses en route to my next thing. Today it was stopping to pet the cat for a few minutes when I was making the bed. She is a purring machine so I paused my “list” and enjoyed her joyful personality. Gotta do things like that more often.