Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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Turning 50

Yesterday I was talking to a client and mentioned being 49. I gasped and said, “Oh! Crap, I forgot. I’m 50!” I’d been dreading turning 50 for about six years. Who knew that it would be one of the best birthdays ever?

For about a year, I have been trying to plan a trip away. I mean a real trip. Not visiting relatives or friends (although I love those trips too) but someplace warm and sunny. Punta Cana was the ticket. I had three friends go as well, all from different states. Closest thing to paradise I have ever seen. I was only gone Friday-Tuesday, and two of those days were mostly traveling, but I think we made the most of it.

My friends made sure most of the places we had dinner knew it was my birthday. The whole weekend felt like my birthday and it was a blast. First, there are the swimming pools with the swim-up bars. Who wouldn’t love that? img_20170203_151847232

Isn’t that ridiculously gorgeous?

On my actual birthday, there were only three of us left. We weren’t going to do excursions, but we decided to do the party boat so that we could go snorkeling. They take you out to the ocean and feed the fish so they are swarming. I didn’t really have anything to compare it to, but I was delighted. I obviously couldn’t take pictures of that part, but here we are on the boat. (By the way, there was plenty of music and dancing on the boat as well.)

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The surprise came when we headed back. I thought we were finished but instead they parked us in shallow waters with about ten other party boats. Everyone got in the water along with a raft floating in the middle with alcohol and food. It’s hard to see in the picture, but there were gobs of people all over the place partying IN the ocean!

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I mean, what a riot!

We got back to our resort exhausted, more than a little tipsy, but feeling like we had the time of our lives. As if that wasn’t enough, I went back to my room to shower and change for the evening and found this:

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I couldn’t believe my friends had brought all those things on the trip with them (balloons, banners, cards, gifts) and then somehow arranged to get into my room and surprise me. I was like a five-year-old again. I meet people all the time who aren’t stressed about their age. I’m not in theory, but in reality I do usually get depressed. I think it is because I am not where I think I was going to be. And unfortunately, thanks to depression and some unexpected hardships, I’m not always happy about where I am.

This year was a blast. I was literally in paradise with perfect weather, socializing with people from all over the country and world, and some of my dearest friends. This weekend I will not be in paradise, but I will be with many more of my dear friends celebrating and I’m sure that will be lovely as well. Welcome the big five-zero! Happy birthday was literal this year… happy, happy, happy. Love you all!


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Trouble in Tennessee

Last week we went to Tennessee for Thanksgiving. While we were driving, my niece Sara saw on-line that a bus of children were in an accident in Chattanooga. As the details unfolded, it appeared like it might have been on purpose. Now it is hard to tell. At the least, the driver had been complained about and six children are dead. Horrid.

At the end of the week, I drove to Chattanooga to meet my dear, dear friends that I wrote about last week. Melinda is a friend of my daughter Emily in Georgia. She was an amazing help when Emily had her time in the hospital. She has a fascinating life and history of travel and culture, but to me she seems like everything good that you think of when you picture a Southern mom. She is beautiful and charming, and she has raised five children. I haven’t met her son, but I’ve met her four daughters. Three of them came with her to meet me last week. Laura is 19, Mia is 17, and Lily is 14.

They say boys don’t mature as fast as girls do, but I can’t even believe that Lily is the same age as my Frankie. She is gorgeous like her mom and sisters. The other thing they all have in common is they are polite as hell. I love the “yes ma’am” thing they have going. When I was waiting at the table for them to arrive, Lily and Laura raced to see who would get to me first in the booth. They both hugged me hard and long and I just wanted to cry. I mean, I just adore these women. I can’t tell you how honored I am that they seem to adore me back.

The truth is, I was pretty sick that day. I kept trying to talk myself out of it because I was so damn excited to see them. Of course Melinda could not be fooled and she called me out during lunch. I had to admit I was fading. We decided she would drive my car to a drugstore, then to their hotel down the road. The girls would stay at the mall and shop, which is what we were supposed to be doing the whole day.

Melinda took excellent care of me and she acted like she didn’t mind one bit that her time with her girls and myself was turning into laying on beds chatting instead. We were surprised though when the girls got to the hotel shortly after we did. They told us an announcement came over the mall and they were locking down the stores. They were able to get out. It was a bit unnerving when the truck didn’t start right away but they got to the hotel safely. We had to wait for the story to break on-line and then on the news later. There was a lot of confusion, but the story we got was there was a shooting at the mall! We were in shock and scared out of our pants.

It turned out the incident was actually in the parking lot and thankfully only person was taken to a hospital. It was most likely a personal issue and not a mass anything. Not that it was a good day for that person, but until you get the correct information, it very well could have been another massive tragedy. The odd thing, is that before anything happened, Melinda and I were talking about Laura and what an amazing woman she is. She is a rock in a crisis. I told her that Laura is more mature and responsible than many women I know who are much, much older than she is. She is an old, wise soul. She just proved us right. Bad week for Chattanooga though. Holy cow.

And now there are those raging fires. I don’t mean this in a condescending way in any shape or form, but poor, poor Tennessee. That is a lot of hits in a couple of weeks. Let’s all keep the people there in our thoughts and prayers.

To Laura and her delightful girls: I owe you a REALLY fun time, hopefully very soon!


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Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving from Christiana, Tennessee.

Miracles do happen. The woman who works off her garage so she doesn’t have to drive has successfully driven 13 hours in two days to get to my sister’s house. Frankie and my niece Sara came with me. We were on the last few hours of the drive when we stopped to get gas and go through a drive-through at Burger King.

We were still in Indiana, but right on the border. I had gotten cut off driving several times that day so there was a lot of swearing coming out of my mouth, as well as comments about how dumb and thoughtless people are. I say politically incorrect things quite often at this stage in my life because my patience apparently got used up around age 46. A discussion about the South had come up. My traveling companions were both saying they were not impressed with the South in so many words. I was saying I love it down South. People seem much friendlier and polite. They were commenting on their accents and other stereotypes.

The drive-through line was very long so I had my niece jump out of the car to throw our bags of garbage in the trash. Next thing I know, this truck drives around me and cuts in line. I was like, “Oh no, you did-n’t” and Frankie quips with, “Yeah mom, people are so polite in the South.” The guy’s windows are open so Sara comes out with, “You know, there IS a line.” I drive up next to him and for some reason my mood snapped from irritation to playful. I put my fists up at the window and say, “Hey, you wanna fight for it?” He is flustered and says he thought my car had stalled or something. He said he had all day and I was more than welcome to drive up in front of him. I should have said, “So if you thought I was stalled you were going to drive by me rather than offer to help?” but instead I told him I was totally joking and that we had been in the car for days and it was fine that he went first. We kind of laughed and the moment was over. Or so we thought.

This is the point of the story when I was telling my other niece and she told me I was crazy. And lucky that guy didn’t have a gun in his truck.

We put our order in and then drove up to the window to pay, and the guy said in his cute Southern accent, “Y’all are all set. The guy ahead of you just paid for your lunch.” I couldn’t believe it. I beeped my horn and the guy in the truck waved. I waved back. He totally made my day. My week. I quipped back at Frankie, “HA! Southern people ARE polite!” I loved it.

This is also the point in the story where my other niece said, “You are supposed to pay it forward and pay for the person behind you.” And before age 46, I would have done that. But at 49, I didn’t even think about it. It was all about me. I reveled in it and was happy there are nice people out there and I was the recipient.

Tomorrow I am going to see my daughter Emily’s friends from Georgia. She is bringing her two daughters to come and see me. I thought of it when I said it was all about me. These three lovely women will boost my self-esteem enough to last for a month. They love me like crazy and it is so mutual. They say “yes ma’am” and they hug me constantly and tell me they love me over and over again. I am going to eat them up tomorrow. I just can’t wait. No patience required when I’m around them. I’ve always been a person with a very long line of critics in my life so these chicks that just unabashedly and unconditionally adore me are a breath of fresh air.

Even at 49 with a grumpy, menopausal mind, there is so much to be grateful for!


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I Got Sunshine

I am on the last day of my trip to Florida.

Day one:
Couldn’t be more perfect. Arrive at 4:45 AM and my friend and I go to breakfast. We drive to the beach and watch the sunrise. 20150413_071156_resized

Go back to her house and sleep for a couple of hours and then return to the beach. Spend less than two hours on the beach, smothered in sunblock and still get utterly fried. 20150413_134734_resized

Oops. (Later, other Floridians told me to never go to the beach between 11 AM and 3 PM. I guess my friend didn’t know that.)

Lunch at a cute little patio bar where I had amazing seafood. Oh yea. I forget I’m in Florida and am startled by the small lizards crawling around the floor. These were special. I took a picture and this old couple was cracking up. I asked if I thought they were doing what I thought they were doing and they said yes. Well, at least somebody is getting some action.
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Day two:
My friend goes to work for the day. Thus begins the comedy of errors.

When she said she had to work, I didn’t know she meant 13 hours. I have no car. Nothing is in walking distance.

That’s ok, I brought my computer so I could do work.

Her Wi-Fi doesn’t work on my computer.

She texts me the password to her brother’s computer. Yes!! Except he has no sound on his computer. After spending an hour researching solutions, I find out there are no speakers.

She texts me the password to her laptop. Yes!! Except I can’t find her laptop. Ok, it’s under the bed. Silly me. It works!! For a little while, then it completely dies.

Ok, I don’t normally watch TV but today is an exception. I try every remote and button in the house. Can’t get it on.

Ok, I don’t normally exercise, but there are bikes in the garage and I have a map of a bike route. Except I can’t get the garage door open. That’s ok, I will go out the side door. Nope, big boat there. Can’t squeeze by it, much less with a bike.

I can’t even figure out how to turn the light on in the bedroom.

13 hours. I decide I’m taking a taxi to the beach tomorrow.

Day three:
Oops, I realize I forgot to pack underwear. Great. (Ok. I wore sundress on day two because I was so sunburned and couldn’t wear underwear anyway. That’s why it took me til Wednesday to realize I didn’t pack any.)

I load “Uber” on my phone. What a great app! The driver comes within ten minutes. Sweet! Except the driver got lost. He was very apologetic and he turned off the meter, but no lie, he got lost. What are the chances? The beach is five miles from the house and we got lost.

Finally get to the beach. I had called ahead so I knew there was Wi-Fi. I get everything out of my backpack, plugged in, set up, and order a beer. Can life get any better than this?
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Then I realized the Wi-Fi doesn’t work. I pack up and try another part of the restaurant but no good. I finish my beer, pack up for the third time and try another place.

Success! I get my work done while watching the beautiful ocean. I have to stay in the shade but its gorgeous here.

Day four:
I’m at the beach. Now I’m an informed beach bum (perfect timing seeing as I’m leaving tonight!). I hit the beach by 9:15 smothered with lotion. It’s already in the 80’s of course. 20150413_125856_resized

Chat with a couple of girls and now I’m back at the pizzeria with my computer. Its almost noon so I’m out of the sun. A couple more hours and I will take a taxi home and shower for the plane ride.

Hundreds more stories I could write about all the “gone wrongs.” Comedy of errors, far from perfect. BUT I HAVE SUNSHINE :)!!!


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Julia Cameron: Freedom

Today’s gratitude card is “freedom: I cherish my freedom to act, think, feel, and choose as I wish. I celebrate the choice which lies for me in every moment. I accept the responsibility which comes with freedom. I embrace my liberty and use it to create an abundant and meaningful life.”

This is one of the those cards (well, let’s be honest; MOST of these cards this applies to) that is more like an affirmation I am saying, trying to will it to be true. This particular card has a twist though. I think it is true just as written for the most part. The problem with me has always been that I want everyone else to be happy with my choices too.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted people to approve of me. For as long as I’ve been in therapy, we’ve talked about this. And for as long as I can remember, my therapists have always thought I’ve been surrounded by a fair number of people in my life who don’t approve, or who feel quite comfortable making their criticisms known to me.

I suppose it is true that almost all human beings want people to approve of them. I think our particular personality type is what moves us along the intensity continuum.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve figured out how to seek more people in my life who do approve of me. I don’t mean they agree with me 100% of the time. But most of the time, they think I rock. Most of the time they trust my decisions because they believe I think through things and generally have a pretty good head on my shoulders.

It’s funny. Those people who know me on the deepest level, know that I am actually quite open to criticism and feedback. More than most, I seek out help and advice from professionals and from family and friends.

I like affirming my freedom and choosing to act. I even think I do a pretty good job of accepting the responsibility that comes with it. And I usually try to create a meaningful life, not just for myself, but also for others. My biggest problem is I DO give a rat’s ass about what other people think.

I don’t want to be the person that stops caring altogether. People who are like that, tend to be selfish and unaware of how they affect others. I don’t want to be a rock with no feelings. But I also don’t want to be the one who gets crushed like a bug so easily.

I am going to Florida next week. I decided I was going to crack if I didn’t get a break, if I didn’t get some rest, and mostly if I don’t feel some sun on my face soon. I found a reasonable flight and I just booked it before I could change my mind. I’ve been saying that I never do things like this for myself so I feel totally justified. But then I remembered that last September I went to Vegas for a couple of days. I need to stop saying I “never” do things for myself. I do. I am learning how to take care of me. And that should NOT be a bad thing.

One of my support people told me that people are going to be thinking that in their heads when I tell them about my trip- that I just went to Myrtle Beach in February. So I guess I’m saying they can think whatever they want. It was 25 degrees there the week we were there. It was very cold and I couldn’t walk on the beach without feeling sick. I need warmth. And I work my ass off most of the time so I’m going.

OH AND…

I don’t care if I eat too many carbs. I will work on that when I can. I will choose the best things I can day to day and that is good enough for me.

I don’t care if my schedule sucks because I try too hard to help other people. I will choose to do as much as I can every day to be the best person I can every day, and then I will complain about my legs hurting when I go to bed. That doesn’t make me a bad person because I’m exhausted at the end of the day.

I don’t care if I take too many vacations. I only go for a brief time. Sometimes I ache to see my grandkids. Sometimes I just want to not have to take care of anyone. I am ok with those choices.

Now I am working on not caring what you think about all that stuff. Now I am working on not caring if you disapprove or disagree. The truth is, I care deeply, but I am working on changing that. At the end of the day, I am looking to surround myself with voices that think I’ve been amazing even though I haven’t been perfect. The first voice has to be my own. The second voice I have to recognize is God’s. After that, I have to be selective.

This wasn’t one of my better blogs. I didn’t start out with a solid idea. It hasn’t flowed the way I want it to. My humor hasn’t shone like I like it too. But hey, maybe this is the start. I choose to write a less-than-perfect blog. And I’m fine with that. If you don’t like the tone, or the negativity, or the message, I’m fine with that too.

Well, not really. But I’m a work in progress! 🙂


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Just When You Think You Know Someone…

Last week I went to Chicago for a couple of days. My friend, Ann asked me to come and help her organize her papers/files. I got hit hard with a sinus headache and was in bed for a couple of days. I reluctantly went to the doc because I was pretty certain she was going to tell me I had to cancel the trip. Part of me wouldn’t have minded because I felt so awful.

Instead, she said that knowing me, my soul probably needed my friends and so she decided to shoot me up with steroids. I was skeptical because I couldn’t imagine feeling good enough to fly in less than 12 hours, but I should have known better than to doubt Grace. Holy crap! I love steroids!!

I really do appreciate that the airlines keep us safe, but honestly, what a pain in the rear. It is hard enough to get up early and arrive at the airport before 7 AM. But then, you have to basically start all over. Put your luggage down and pull out your boarding pass and driver’s license. Take your laptop out of your bag. Take your shoes off. (When you are wearing the hiking sneakers the doc insists you wear, that is no small task.) Take off your coat. By the time you are done, you have about 12 of those gray baskets with all your stuff in it. Then what? Reverse it all. Pack your laptop again. Put your shoes back on. (When you are wearing the hiking sneaks the doc insists you wear, that is no small task.) Put your coat back on. Arrange your purse, computer bag, and luggage so you can carry it all by yourself.

Last time I flew, I didn’t take my computer and I regretted it. I learned my lesson. I had a much shorter flight this time, but I wasn’t going to be bored. Besides, I got an email that said my flight had free Wi Fi so I was going to get a lot of work done. I boarded and asked the flight attendant and she looked confused. She didn’t know anything about that. Of course not. Why would they want to promote the free internet service? Now I have to find that damn email.

So I sit in my little seat and the plane is full. No elbow room. No spreading out. I swear, if anyone had videotaped me, I could have won on America’s Funniest Videos. I am already a clutz by nature without even trying. I set up my computer and look for that email. I was going to enjoy proving the staff wrong. Oops. Upon more careful reading, my bad. Free TV. Ha ha. Joke is on me. I decided to take the leap and pay the 8 bucks for the internet service anyway. I had counted on getting a lot of work done.

A notebook computer takes up the entire space of a small tray table. Where am I going to put the mouse? Very, very carefully on the edge. My computer bag takes up the space under the seat in front of me so I put my purse under my seat. Well, the guy behind me didn’t like that so he asked me to move it. I was cursing him under my breath. I finally get settled and the flight attendant says I have to put everything away until take off. Crap. Just let getting dressed and undressed at the airport. Put everything away.

Once I get re-settled again, I realize that I need my glasses. I’m blind as a bat now without my cheaters. No problem. I carry them in my purse. So I awkardly move the laptop to grab my purse. Ha ha. I forgot I had to move it so I grabbed that guy’s feet instead. I found out he wasn’t so bad because he and his wife and I had a pretty good laugh about the thrill I gave him.

Get re-settled. I figure out I need paper and pen. Also in my purse. What a fiasco. So now I have my glasses, laptop, mouse and pad, pen and paper, all in a two-inch space in front of me. Ridiculous. I’m a trooper though, and I manage it all. That is, until I drop the mouse under the seat in front on me. Soooooooooo stupid. Set all that stuff on my seat so I can crawl around on my hands and knees to find it, and created another round of laughter from everyone around me. Glad I could entertain them.

All in all, I did get a pretty good amount of work done, but holy cow. What a comedy of errors. It culminated in my trying to get off the plane without remembering to unbuckle my seatbelt. Amusement for all.

Ann and I got a lot of work done. We’ve been friends for years and years. But I tell you what, you learn a lot about a person when you go through their files. More than you want to know, sometimes. The best part was uncovering over $200 in cash she didn’t know she had. She promptly insisted on playing for my plane fare, which was awesome. But then, there was the color photographs of her colonoscopy that fit in the TMI category. Her husband’s esophagus wasn’t much better… lol!

I did get to go to an Ethiopian restaurant with my former boss and friend. I am not very adventurous with my food, but I had to admit it was extremely tasty. 20141023_193146

I was telling Ann’s husband about it and he says in the most straight-faced, serious manner, “I didn’t think they had food in Ethiopia. Why the hell are we sending them all that food?” Talking to my friend on the phone later, he also had a quick-witted response of, “Were you still hungry when you left?” All joking aside, it was great.

All too soon it was time to go back home. Ann dropped me off, and I couldn’t believe my luck. I got picked to go in the pre-check line. I mean, that never happens to me. I thought I was in heaven. And just to emphasize how lucky you are, they remind you the whole time you are in that short line. “Leave your laptops in your bag.” “Keep your shoes and jackets on.” “Keep your cell phones in your purse.” Life was sweet… until I realized that I forgot my cell phone in Ann’s car. Oh ****!

This really nice, young girl offers to give me her cell. I was momentarily stumped when I realize I have no idea what Ann’s number is because of course, it is listed in my cell. Then, thank God, I remembered to just call my own phone. She answered and said, “I’m turning around now!” All the way out of the airport and back to the curb.

Do you think I got lucky enough the second time to go in the pre-check line? Nope. I just had to laugh as I took off my damn shoes, unpacked my laptop, and blah blah blah. By the way, I decided to sleep on the ride home. No juggling this time :).

I’m ready for the next trip. Anyone wanna travel with me?


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Prayer

I’ve started talking to a new spiritual director. This is the first time I’ve worked with a male, although I’m not sure that matters. Anyhow, his name is Bob and he seems a bit more traditional. He gave me a booklet that he wrote about dozens of ways to bring prayer into your life. Last week, I went to Vegas for two nights with my friend Ann from Chicago. I started to read his book on the way to the airport and tried to implement some of his ideas.

The first was called the “flash” prayer. When people/ideas come across you (in any way whatsoever), just do a quick prayer. So I thought about that and found that it was pretty easy to come up with prayers at any second of the day. I boarded the plane and DUH! How about praying for the pilots? I’m sure lots of people do that when traveling in the air, but I have been out of the habit.

When switching planes, I was stuck in the waiting area. The TV was on and there were the repetitive stories about some of the NFL players and their recent problems with domestic violence. I had been watching the stories for days and had fleeting thoughts and comments, but mostly know what a terribly complicated topic it all is. Child and spousal abuse has been around since human beings have been around and it is hard to understand how it all happens. Instead of watching the footage yet another time, I decided to send up a flash prayer for all of them and their families.

What else is on TV these days? Isis. War. Again, concepts I can’t even begin to understand or offer any kind of intelligent opinion on to discuss with other people. I have zero idea on how to make all that madness stop. And again, it hit me. Why not just send out a flash prayer? I felt so much better after doing that. I can’t contribute anything meaningful to a solution, but somehow I felt helpful by offering up small prayers.

Completely unrelated to the prayer topic, I was sitting in the waiting area and chatting with a bunch of 20 something year olds. A woman was talking about seeing a very old woman get her knitting needles taken away at security because they could be considered dangerous weapons. That somehow streamed into a conversation about what happens to dogs and cats that travel on planes, which then somehow led into the idea that all the cats are probably in the cockpits with the pilots. It got sillier then imagining the pilots who are, of course, allergic to cats and sneezing while trying to fly the plane. Then one guy triumphantly announced how that explains the bumpy flights. “FURBULANCE” is the correct term, rather than turbulence. Ok, so we were all pretty tired, but it was funny at the time.

Back to prayer suggestion number two. That one was called “signal” prayers. The idea is to pick some sort of signal that you come across several times a day to remind you to pray. I came up with my text notification. I have it set for that little bell that goes off. My one client always says, “Tink? Is that you?” which cracks me up every time. So I figured that every time I hear the tinkle, I will say a flash prayer. Then I thought I was smarter than anything when I combined the two kinds of prayer in my smart, little head. I will say a flash prayer for whoever texts me! I was feeling proud of myself for that one.

What a timely thing to have happen. I got a text this morning that absolutely deserved a prayer. My son Colin is looking for a used car so he gave me the ads he had circled. I called the first one and the car was already gone. No surprise because it was a great deal. The second ad had a phone number that said it was for texting. So this morning I texted the number and I quote: “Do u still have the car?” While meeting with my spiritual director, I got a response back. It said, and I quote: “Stop F*****G bugging (me) you dumb A*S B**CH.” Whoa. I was shocked. Then I laughed. I decided not to respond, just say a little prayer. They paid for an ad to sell a car, put their phone number in, and then responded like that to a request. Holy cow. You gotta laugh, right?

If you have any good prayer stories, feel free to share them. And if you know of any good used cars for sale, send me a text. A nice one, please.