Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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Huh?

I had to give a presentation in Williamsville. Silly me, I was pretty nervous about it. Williamsville is a bit upscale and I was being hosted by these supposed power-house women who have been published and herald themselves as specializing in helping women in business. I wanted my presentation to be perfect.

What a joke.

The stories are limitless but I will highlight a few. They created an event on Facebook and then kept pressure on me to promote it daily (or more) for over two months. Along the way, they seemed to forget their promise to promote it as well. Two days before the event, my neighbor tried to buy a ticket and found the event closed for sales. I contacted them right away and they fixed it, but I was surprised at their error considering how pushy they were about Facebook.

I sent my power point to them well in advance and specifically asked to check a certain slide where I linked to a YouTube video. It is often tricky and I wanted it to go off without a hitch. They assured me they checked and it was fine. You can guess what I’m going to say next. When I arrived it’s the first thing I did and of course it was NOT working, which left me scrambling.

Well, the second thing. The first thing I had to do was bring up three loads of boxes to their second floor office. I showed up in an air-cast boot. Their elevator was broken. (Isn’t handicap accessibility a law-thing?) The partner that was there offered me no assistance. One of the participants who was also a friend ended up bringing up my boxes.

No refreshments there like they do for other workshops they host. What’s that about? Not even water for the speaker. That’s a given usually.

About two minutes before I began she asked me how long I was planning on talking. I said 60-90 minutes and she made it clear she had only planned on an hour. Nice thing to throw at a speaker last minute. I had a lot of material to cover. She made the event invitation. Last time I knew (no pun intended), 6-7:30 pm was 90 minutes, not 60.

Through my entire presentation, she played on her phone. She didn’t interact or participate. When it was over, I went through the same nonsense trying to get everything to the car. I asked her outright for help which she said she would do but then ignored me. The participants carried my things to the car.

She told me in front of the group she would email me the evaluations in the morning. Several days later, I had to ask for them. I also was in the uncomfortable position of having to ask for my check. There was no charge for the workshop per se, but we did charge $10 for materials. Each person left with a 3-ring binder with the information that was presented.

Another few days later, I received an email that said they would send half the amount. I was enraged. I put a call in and was told that the agreement was that we split the money 50/50. There was no such agreement.

But here is the real kicker of it all. Why would they even think they would get material money when they didn’t provide the materials? Not only did they provide nothing, I reminded them that I asked them no less than 3 times to make copies for me because I am a one-person operation and their answer was NO. They wouldn’t even copy one piece of paper for me. Yet they wanted half the material money. I was in shock.

Her final answer? If you provide me with receipts, I will be happy to give you your money. I could have peed myself.

My friend that referred me to them sent an email with her disgust and they agreed to give me the money that was mine. How nice of them. But they also went on to justify themselves by saying I was the one not prepared and didn’t know how to use PowerPoint. Completely not true.

What a joke that I was worried about impressing them. I have never been treated so rudely or unprofessionally. My evaluations were glowing, and I know the participants were disgusted with their behavior as well. I guess that is good enough, but man, I still really can’t believe it.

Why do I still get surprised at this stuff?


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At 50?

I can’t believe at age 50 I feel like I’m back to square one. I know I’m not alone in this. Who would have ever believed that the big questions like career and partners would still be up in the air and a struggle when your life is more than half over?

I did a presentation this week about two hours away. A whole group of us participated in a death/dying conference like the ones we had done in Buffalo. It went great. Almost every speaker was dynamite and the audience seemed receptive and even enthusiastic.

I was the last speaker of the day which was tough because I knew everyone was tired. It went over extremely well though and I knew I had reached people by the feedback. The problem was, I didn’t make a penny.

So frustrating. I know I possess a good skill set. I can speak and I can write. I can do them both very well. The other panelists all came from companies or hospitals they represent. They are getting “paid” because it is part of their salary. I’m the only lone ranger in that sense so if there isn’t a speaking stipend (which 90% of the time there is not) then I can only hope I sell books.

I didn’t sell one book. I watched the woman next to me sell about 10 books. Same topic, different angle. Both of us good speakers. WTF?

This is not new. This is the scenario 99% of the time. I am well past the point of being able to write/speak simply because it is helpful to others. My heart is there, but my pocketbook is not. I am the sole breadwinner in my house. I have a family to provide for. And my social security is being cut in half in less than a year. Holy crap that is scary.

I’m going to have to reinvent my career and I have no idea what to do. Well, actually I have tons of ideas, but knowing which path to follow is confusing at best. Add coping with severe depression on almost a daily basis now, and it is beyond overwhelming.

What do I want to be when I grow up?

I thought that was settled years ago. I even had a brave moment this week and attempted to go on a date. I got stood up. I know it isn’t personal because we hadn’t even met yet, but cripes. Stick your toe back in and find out the water is frigid.

That’s was scary about being so depressed. You have to take risks in life and be proactive if you want to meet your goals. But if you are already down and out, you can’t afford to fail. At anything. What a freaking catch-22.

For the moment then, I will just stay stuck. Not sure what the heck to do with myself. I know I can’t stay this way, but I’m terrified to do anything else, with any of these areas of my life.

Maybe 80 is the new 50. Maybe I just have to wait another 30 years and things will fall into place. One can only hope :).


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Thanks, Lisa!

I have been thinking about how negative my thoughts (and therefore my blogs) have been lately, but honestly have had a hard time coming up with anything positive. Then I got this email today and cried my eyes out. Some of you may remember a blog quite a while ago that was written by David Breth. He wrote a very moving story about taking our Frankie to a hockey game while Tim was sick. I included it in the second book (which came out last week) with his permission. I joke with him all the time because his writing got more response from the editors than mine! Anyhow, I saw his wife yesterday and she bought the new book and sent me this incredible email and gave me permission to share it with you.

“I bought your book to give to David. I knew I wanted to read it too…but WOW! It is soooo good! You are AMAZING! I knew I would have a hard time reading it, but knew I would anyhow. I just didn’t think it would be so fast and I didn’t think it would be now, just seven days till Christmas! I started it last night during my daughter’s piano lesson and only planned to read the introduction…but I could not stop. I finished 38 pages during her 30 minute lesson! I should also tell you, I was looking forward to reading a book I had just renewed at the library, since I was just getting to a very exciting part of the book. So much for my plans. As soon as I started reading yours, I was transported back to those last few months with Tim, and the months after losing him. Not only do I remember reading the blogs when you first wrote them, I remember all those “moments” in your and Frankie’s life too.

I went to bed too late last night – almost ruined the surprise by telling David I wanted to go read more of your book, but managed to keep it hidden. Today I don’t go in to work till 1 pm and I got to stay in bed and read. Ok, so now I am starting at page 38 and you guessed it. I read David’s telling of the hockey game. Mind you I have read it before, talked to him and you about it, lived through it, and even laughed at how jealous you are of the way everyone calls attention to it. But I bawled my eyes out reading it! I can just hear him telling the story in his voice with all the crazy sayings and wincing yet again at his choice of the words about Frankie “chirping”… but it was so good. Thank you for including it and giving me the perfect gift for him for Christmas!

Keep in mind just yesterday I was trashing him (and all men) at work about how they do hardly anything at Christmas to get ALL THE THINGS done that everyone expects done during the holiday season. And how hard it is to get it all done while they sleep on the couch or chair each night! But in my heart, I know my husband is one of the GOOD GUYS and he will be responsible for all the special moments on Christmas day…and still continue to surprise and delight me and the kids. Thanks for reminding me of that.

I am so proud of him for “being there” for you and Frankie and so grateful you feel and know that! It is something that is so important to him and me that you all know that we as a family love and support you! Whether it is just listening when you call to just “vent” or taking you away on that tough weekend each year to be silly and crazy for a “MOM Break.” We are so grateful to be part of your family and support network. You have taught my kids more by just being you during the pain and loss, and moving on in grief than you will ever know. You CAN DO THIS! Because you are doing this! There may be stumbling blocks, and life is crazy, but you keep going with a smile on your face- and lots of warm hugs too! I am so amazed that you continue to find ways to speak about this to many others whether one on one or in your seminars… and do it so well. When I was a Youth Minister there was a saying- you may never see the garden made of the seeds you are planting, but it will be beautiful! It made working with moody and sometimes difficult teens a little easier. And since then I have been lucky enough to see some of the “seeds” I helped plant, make those same teens into wonderful adults and parents!

You are going to help so many more than just those of us lucky enough to be in your support network. Your beautiful and honest words of how loss and grief “SUCKS” will help so many. You are truly a “GIFT” to my family and me, and I look forward to hearing how much of a “GIFT” your honesty and bluntness will help so many others! The garden you are planting with the “seeds” of wisdom in this book is going to be the most beautiful garden ever…with a hummingbird watching over it!

SO SO Proud of you! This book is even better than the first! And sorry to tell you…I still think there will be more books in you. I know how you agonize over every word, the editing process, and Baby Coop Publishing, but it is worth it! It’s WONDERFUL!”

Lisa, looks like there are at least two writers in your family. I can’t thank you enough. This second book was a struggle and I second-guessed myself all the way through it, no pun intended. I am humbled, and grateful. And my blog readers are thankful for the boost in spirit :)!


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Good Stuff Happening

It’s been a good week. In spite of the cold!!

Last week I received flowers and chocolates from the group in Indiana that stayed at my house during the blizzard. What a lovely surprise. I have been receiving emails and posts from grateful parents. The warm buzz has continued.

Last Saturday, I was invited to the Nardin Academy’s Relay for Life. It was held at the Burt Fleckinger Center downtown. What a lovely event it was. The majority of the people were older teen girls. I was terribly impressed with the depth and warmth with which they displayed themselves.

There was karaoke and dancing. That was fun. But then the evening ends with the Luminaria service. There were at least a dozen young ladies lined up on the gym floor, along with myself and the other speaker. Each one of them has had a close encounter with terminal illness and/or death. Each one of them. At age 18 or younger. And each one of them wants to do something positive to fight back.

The biggest hero of the night was the last speaker. She is a junior at Hobart College and was a graduate of Nardin Academy. She is also a cancer survivor. At barely 20. She had a delightful, calm and gentle spirit. She told me that this was the first time she had ever spoken in public about her illness. She was a champ. She was the hero among many other heroes that night. It was truly a privilege to be a part of it.

Yesterday I was able to be on the air for just under five minutes on Tom Bauerle’s show. I was clued in by a former client who contacted me. It was a quick chat, but he has promised to visit my site and consider putting links on his. I am looking forward to working with him in the future.

The sun is shining today. It’s still cold as heck, but it seems promising out. I was put on the spot yesterday on the radio about where I am at three years later. There was much to say but little time to say it. I would have to say, life is still bitter and sweet. Life has it’s tough times. There are still times when my heart aches. But there is much, much sweet.

I still have amazing people in my life. While I already have more than one person deserves, I have new people in my life too. People that love and support me and care and make me smile. Honestly, who could ask for more?


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Corrections and Stars

Ok, first I have to print an apology/retraction type of thing. Last week I referenced a “prison guard.” I was politely told later that corrections officers don’t care for that term. They prefer the official term correction officer. I had no idea. I asked why and was told that their jobs are often misunderstood. They do much more than guard prisoners. They are trying to get a broader view and respect for their stressful and demanding work. So let me say officially, no offense intended. And thank you for the education :).

Secondly, I know many of you are anxious to hear about last night and how the star search went. This last October, Brigette got a star registered in Tim’s name in honor of the third year marker of his passing. But then she went the extra mile and located a planetarium in the area. She and the director spent the last three months putting together a presentation for us to teach us how to locate the major stars so we could locate Tim’s specific star. It was very, very cool.

It was definitely one of those bitter-sweet things. It was a positive experience and a joyful one. But I still found myself feeling weepy before we left. Frankie seemed unusually quiet, but didn’t open up with any of his thoughts or feelings. Just in the last couple of months, I’ve been experiencing new emotions. I’m not sure exactly how to describe them, but something along the lines of having moments of feeling weary from remembering.

I have now built a career around loss. I have always seen clients, which often times means working with grief and loss. But now I speak about it frequently as well, and every day I work on book two, which is also about grief. On the one hand, 95% of the time I am energized by it and feel more and more confident that I am good at it and have been reaching lots of people and helping them. On the other hand, I wonder how long I will be able to continue to do this. I have a sense that this whole thing has a shelf life in some ways.

Anyhow, thanks to Brigette for creating such a meaningful memorial for us. And thank you to all of you who attended. I am still consistently reminded that I have lots of people who love and support us. It is always, always good to have you by my side while Frankie and I are experiencing these things. Love you all!


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Perspectives

Sometimes, life/universe/God seems to bring a pattern of things to your attention. Other therapists have told me this happens to them too- suddenly your clients seem to mirror the same things you are personally going through. Sometimes it may not match my life personally but I seem to get the same topics thrown at me over and over. Sometimes though, it is just your perspective. It’s like when you buy a new car and suddenly you see the same make/model every time you drive somewhere. There really isn’t more of them on the road, but your own awareness level has changed.

This December has been one of the toughest months I’ve had in a long time. I decided my strategy was only to survive until a new year can arrive and bring new possibilities. Not every holiday has to be full of new memories and great moments. Sometimes you just need to survive them and that is good enough.

So I don’t know if I’m just projecting that on other people, but I feel like I’ve heard it from so, so many other people. Clients and friends alike. So many just seem to be trying to usher 2013 out the door, hoping that somehow 2014 will bring something better. I hear it over and over. Let’s just get this month over with.

Every once in a while, something or someone comes along to put things into perspective for you. When I am out speaking about my book, I am often that voice for others. They tell me all the time. But sometimes I am the one who needs a kick in the pants.

Enter Michele DeMeo. My brilliant Brigette found her somehow. We are going to meet her in person in January. She lives in Pennsylvania. My first phone conference with her, I asked her to just give me a background of who she was. She is autistic- the brilliant kind- and has ALS, brain cancer, bone cancer, bone marrow cancer, and has two broken legs. At this point, I interrupted her and said, “Other than that though, you’re doing ok?” She laughed and said the docs keep telling her she is going to die but she just keeps living for some reason.

She has written over 50 books. One of them was made into a movie, which is about her life. She is an inspirational speaker and has connections internationally. I am including this link, which is a fund-raiser for her next project: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/615222/emal/2032628 Check it out if you are interested.

She’s my kick in the pants. She’s my perspective. What the heck do I have to complain about? Thanks Michele, and we look forward to meeting you in a few, short weeks. In the mean time, to hell with 2013. We are waiting for 2014 and IT WILL BE FULL OF HOPE!!!
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