Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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Varsity Hockey

Frankie is in his tenth year of playing hockey. Nine of those years we were anticipating finally being able to play at school. It has arrived and it is the first year that I dread going to the games and have been disgusted with the process.

A few games ago, we were at an away game and boo’d the ref a couple of times. Next thing we know, the “supervisor” for our section told us that she was instructed to tell us to tone it down. Who knew a section even had a supervisor? The real surprise was when a few minutes later a police officer was pacing behind the bleachers. I was shocked. Were they kidding?

Now that I’m paying attention, I’ve noticed that all the varsity games have police there. And I’m starting to understand why.

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Last night, we were approaching the end of the last period. We were losing by several goals so we knew we weren’t going to catch up. Once again, a fight broke out near our goalie. I would guess a high percentage of fights are around the goalie. Goalies are considered absolutely off limits. After the fight started, the circle around the players just got bigger. I saw the other team push our players from behind, another no-no. Then our players enlarged the circle again and pushed the other side from behind. On and on it goes. Frankie wasn’t in the mix, but I still felt sick watching it.

The punches started flying behind the net. It seemed to go on forever. I had a moment of panic when it occurred to me the refs actually might not be able to contain it. Literally, a riot could start before you know it. The refs eventually got it under control and six kids were in the penalty box, three from each team.

And that’s not the bad part.

At one point, I turned around to say something to our friends. There was a mother in the back row from the other team, kinda short, a little chubby. She says to me, “Did you just say something to me?” It was a bit pissy, but I really didn’t catch on at first. I just answered no and then we exchanged a couple more phrases. I realized she was antsy to start a fight with me. Hell, she would have kicked my ass. I’ve never been in a fight in my life.

Soon another parent from her team came walking by and summoned her. She was like, “Hell yes, I’ll come.” Off they went. Eventually, you hear all the stories from around the rink.

One parent from our team was standing behind the glass behind our goalie. He was trying to tell the refs a player was repeatedly elbowing our goalie in the head. He got kicked out. I’m not sure if the referee or the rink kicked him out, but you can’t yell to the referees, no matter what you are saying.

Secondly, the crazy woman from the bleachers by me was fighting at the other end of the rink with our goalie’s mother. It was something like, “Your kid was elbowing my kid in the head. I will press charges.” The other mom was like, “Bring it on, bitch” or something like that.

After a big scene on the ice, the refs and team captains take forever to sort things out. While that was happening, crazy lady came back to the bleachers. She apparently got tired of fighting with the goalie’s mom. It was time for the next victim. Next to us was the bleacher of high school kids.

I feel old when I say this, but they are obnoxious as hell. They are loud. They boo every time the other team scores. They yell every time our players check the other team. They give me a headache. But they are teenagers. It’s what they do. They aren’t doing anything bad, they are just loud and annoying.

Crazy mom starts yelling at them to stop taunting the players. The kids are yelling back but she starts threatening them. I see one of our kids say, “Are you really going to beat up a little girl?” By this time, my friend and I ran to get the cop. He saunters over which made me mad but he eventually got there. By this time, the mom was trying to climb over the bleachers and saying things like, “Come on you little bitches, I will kick your asses.”

The cop promptly kicked all the teenagers out without even asking questions. Two adults then got up and told the cop that it was the mother who was instigating. He kicked her out too.

At the end of the game, the other team’s parents were walking out laughing about their parent getting kicked out. I finally said, “It really isn’t funny for a parent to threaten a minor like that.” They just looked at me and that was the end of that.

Later, the player from the other team was laughing and asked the cop, “So where did you take my mom this time?” Yea, really funny.

I asked Frankie when he get home if he knew any of that happened. He said he doesn’t pay attention because most of those parents get drunk in the parking lot before the game.

The only thing I have to say is this:

WHAT THE FUCK?


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Not Fun To Write

This is not a fun blog to write and I’ve been struggling all week with how to word it. Let me start by saying that I do not blog with the intention of airing my dirty laundry, or anyone else’s. I write mostly for two reasons.

  1. Writing helps me to process what is happening in my life. It is for my own mental health.
  2. It appears to help other people process things in their own lives. Being able to identify with someone who is brave enough to voice their inward thoughts and feelings moves them along in their own growth. That is why I say all this work (the books I’ve written, blogs, my career path) are the lemonade I have attempted to make with the lemons I have been handed (mostly the deaths of the people I loved dearly).

Obviously then, the goal is to heal, not to hurt. I am completely aware that when you post anything on the Internet, you are making yourself vulnerable and subject to criticism. I’ve never been a fan of that but I understand it comes with the territory.

What I find disturbing, is when people use my writing to hurt me, or even worse my family. It has come to my attention that “people” (I don’t know who or exactly how many) have been telling my kids that I write awful things about them on my blogs.

The worst part of that is why the hell someone would do that? What motive do they have? It can’t possibly be for the good of my kids. It only hurts them to think the one that cares for them is not actually caring for them. And how could it be good to try to create division in someone’s home? The only motive that makes sense is that that reader doesn’t like me and wants my kids not to like me either. That is selfishness of the worst kind- hurting others for your own “gain” if you could even call it that. Or maybe the reader just wants to hurt me? If so, congrats! Hurting my kids is about the shittiest thing you can do. Any mother knows there is no worse pain than seeing your kids hurt.

What else sucks is that telling my loved ones that I trash them is completely untrue and false. I do write about the struggles of parenthood at times. I do write (rarely) about things my kids do that are hurtful. But the intent is not to bash, it is to learn and grow and heal from. Any parent recognizes the truth in that. When you look at the big picture of my writing, most things are positive when it comes to them.

When I was approached by one of my kids with this idea that I am “negative” about them, I responded with two things.

  1. I reminded them that a couple of years ago I had a SPECT image done of my brain. (Blogged about that, too.) It uncovered that I have “refractory depression” which means lifelong depression and also resistant to treatment. My “negative” slant in life (my ability to identify often with pain) is part of my hard wiring, not part of a plan to hurt the people I love.
  2. I read an excerpt from my PUBLISHED BOOK that spoke to the high heavens about how I feel about them and the deep love I feel for them, proving that I do not go around trashing them. It was obvious to them at that point, that the sources who were feeding them information had completely misrepresented me. Perhaps in the future, they will ask their “sources” to be silent, or maybe they will read for themselves before assuming the gossip is true.

Although I was surprised to even know that many people bother to read my blog, I do have a couple of things to say to those readers who are doing so in order to hurt my family. First, why don’t you contact me personally instead of hurting my kids? Or better yet, why don’t you post comments on my blogs and see what kind of reactions you get? Just because I share my rawest emotions, doesn’t mean it is easy to be that vulnerable for the world to see and criticize. It isn’t. So instead of attacking me behind my back, have the courage to speak up. If you can’t match my bravery, then stand down.

Lastly, shame on you. My family has been through enough heartache. Stop spewing poison. Whatever reasons you think you have, they are not appropriate. Our family may not be perfect, but we are all here together. We have been since Tim died. We have survived and we love each other. LEAVE US ALONE.


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God and Human Emotion

Image result for images of the bible

Last Sunday’s sermon had me crying through at least half of it. I’m not exactly sure why, but I have some ideas that might have contributed to my reaction. The message came from an interesting passage in Hosea.

It’s not one of those things that is talked about very often, but God was really ticked off at “His People” and sent Hosea to tell them so. In spite of God’s consistent and constant love and provision, Israel was going through the teenage phase. (Clue number 1 to my reaction.) Yes, I know that rebellion and separation are the developmental tasks of a teenager. I honestly believed mine wouldn’t go through it the same way because there was a time when we were incredibly close. Plus, I would give my life for him. Why would he rebel against that?

Anyway, back to God. He was done with them, finished. If they cried out for help again, He wasn’t going to help them. In fact, He was going to let them go to a place where they would be “devoured.” Pastor Debi asked if we have ever reached that point with someone in our lives. She didn’t really indicate that would be wrong, just that it happens. In fact, she said that sometimes you have to protect yourself from vulnerability from those who repeatedly harm you in some way. (Clue number 2.)

She said God’s heart was breaking. He was absolutely heartbroken. (Clue number 3.) I know what that feels like, but I wasn’t even consciously thinking of myself. It genuinely made me cry to think of God in that way.

No sooner had God thrown up His angry hands when He recanted. Of course He will come to their aid. Of course He will forgive them. God’s love is persistent. No matter what.

Debi pointed out that for those folks think that God is big, out there, and so far removed from us, we are actually made in His image. That includes the full spectrum of human emotions. That includes the phase of being totally pissed off.

I have often told clients that sometimes it is not about what we choose to do, but why we choose to do it. At one point in my life, it was my spiritual growth to stand up for myself. When I was in my twenties and just entering the therapy world, I was a nightmare for my family. Every word uttered became introspection for me and I needed to declare my conclusions to the world, especially if it was about them.

Later, I realized my spiritual growth was to stop judging so much. I tried to be the next Mother Theresa. No matter what, I would respond with love and kindness. Even if that meant being a doormat, so be it. It was what God called me to be.

Now I am balancing the two (I think). I am learning to draw boundaries with people who consistently hurt me. Even if it means walking away, I am doing it. But I am trying to remain open to whatever happens if they come back to me. I don’t think it will be hard though. I’ve always been like butter if someone offers me a genuine apology. I’m emotionally learning the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation, even though it’s a concept I’ve known intellectually for years.

It’s a half-baked thought, but I wondered if the entire universe/world/earth goes through the same phases. The Old Testament God is pretty tough to grapple with sometimes. There’s a lot of events like entire armies being drowned in the sea in the name of justice. Then the New Testament comes along and Jesus blows it all away in the water. He is one big heart. His biggest beef was with the Pharisees, the avid churchgoers and leaders. He hung out with the prostitutes instead.

Anyhow, lots of food for thought. Thanks again Pastor Debi for the push to keep growing.


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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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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.