Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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Statistics and Numbers

Statistics was one of the hardest college classes I ever took. I passed it the first time. I passed mostly because I met one-on-one with the professor before every class. She had the patience of a saint.

Are statistics even helpful? It’s always been true, but especially now we have to ask if the statistics are even accurate or truthful.

One of the mantras I’ve adopted is, “It’s possible, but not probable.” In other words, just about anything – especially your worst fears – are possible. However, that doesn’t mean it is probable.

When folks struggle with anxiety, we talk about this over and over again as needed. The example I usually give is the possibility of a home invasion occurring while I am in my office (which is off my garage) seeing my clients. Yes, it is actually possible it is happening. It is also not probable. If I focus on the possible, I will go insane and have to quit work.

Believe it or not, this seems to help a lot of people. Statistics can help relieve our fears.

When you face a medical illness or diagnosis, the statistics can give us the hope we need to keep our spirits up. Such and such percentage of people recover with this treatment. Such and such percentage of people never progress to this level. If the numbers are good, we have more energy to cooperate and comply.

And statistics can be meaningless if your experiences go the opposite way. Statistics can destroy you.

Let’s say someone you love is given a terminal diagnosis. That’s bad news. But then the next round of tests come around and you find out they have the most common form of the disease. In fact, 99% of people that get treatment will respond and survive. Ninety-nine percent! Odds don’t get much better than that. Phew!

And then the next round of tests come back.

Their body is in the 1% of people who don’t respond. Their body isn’t getting better.

My God. No one gets in the 1%. Except that 1%. You can’t even believe it. You can’t even wrap around it.

And then you find out the patient is a beautiful, eight-year-old child.

Try and wrap around that.


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Control

Photo Courtesy of Author

Yes, I’m a bit OCD, but I feel like I put it to great use. First, there is my organizing business. Second, my house is in pretty good order. After dealing with a leaking roof, we took our already fairly organized storage rooms and made them even better.

There are worse vises to have, right?

I did see an online post that said, “You call it OCD. I call it put it back in its damn place.” Well, there was a harsher word than damn, but I cleaned it up for you. At any rate, it makes me feel better. Seriously, what’s wrong with being organized?

As the months keep going by, there is more and more that seems out of our control. I don’t know anyone that doesn’t think our world is a bit of a mess right now. Most of the time, there is nothing we can do about it. That’s why so many folks struggle with heightened anxiety.

Why not control what little we can?

I went away overnight to a friend’s cottage. I actually invited myself because I was desperate to escape for 24 hours. At one point, she and her friend went shopping and I stayed home.

It took about ten minutes and then the crying started. (This bodes well for the silent retreat I want to take soon.) I couldn’t describe it. The only phrase that came to mind repeatedly was, “I’m just not well.” I’m a depression veteran so I recognize it when it hits. There is some added dynamic I can’t pinpoint so I just credit the pandemic.

I’m not well. I’m not myself. I’m discombobulated. Thanks 2020.

A friend sent me a video that gently reminded me to access the greatest Power of all. It was talking about how “it depends on whose hand it is in.” You put a nail in your hand and it’s a tool. You put a nail in Jesus’ hand and we know that’s a different story entirely.

The ending message was to put your worries in God’s hands.

I’ve been trying to envision that regularly. I see God’s hands as these ginormous things. I hobble right into them like I’m trying to climb out of a pool. I figure to heck with putting my worries in God’s hands. I’m just plopping my whole body in there.

My entire self feels broken down and exhausted right now. God’s hands are big enough to handle it. Right?


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Masks

I’ve been feeling some of the weight of the pandemic quite heavily. I know some folks (especially introverts) aren’t finding it so problematic. Some even find it soothing. I actually have moments of that myself. A lot of the “noise” is lessened or gone.

I’ve been called a “tender heart” quite a few times in my life and I’m very aware why. When I go to a store and forget the 6 feet rule and get too close to the man in front of me, he refreshes my memory quickly. I get it. How long does this have to go on before I remember? But when I immediately step back and genuinely apologize, and I get back an unforgiving glare, that is when my heart sinks.

Of course, I do that thing where I tell myself that perhaps he is dealing with something extremely stressful which might make his demeanor understandable. While I know that might be true, I also know far too many people these days who are on hyper-alert and think anyone who is not is an irresponsible asshole.

We had an outdoor service at my church last night. I was so looking forward to it. They do on-line services every Sunday and from what I understand they have quite a substantial following. I don’t watch and I can’t even explain why. It just disturbs me rather than feed me.

I’ve had some intense weeks lately so I knew I needed the service. It was good to be there and felt nourishing to take communion and hear the message from my very gifted minister.

But there was also that underlying sadness. I hate when I don’t recognize someone because of the mask. I hate when someone doesn’t recognize me. I really, really hate that I can’t hug people I care about. I really, really, really hate that they can’t hug me.

Clearly, I am not the only one going through this. The universe is NOT picking on me. But I also know that just because we are all in this together, that doesn’t mean that each one of us doesn’t feel it intensely and personally.

And then there are the usual “joys” that come with life whether there is a pandemic or not.

The garage roof is leaking

The small kitchen fridge is making puddles of water inside and out of the fridge

The internet hasn’t been working for over two months. It has gotten so bad, it has hampered my ability to work, have Zoom meetings, etc.

I had to get a new used bike because the gears on TWO of ours were broken

Had a small fender bender with my car but big enough to require a trip or two to a body shop and/or mechanic

The tire on the riding lawn mower fell off

Algae stains in the pool; three weeks of treatment hasn’t quite fixed it yet

Heat rashes, earaches, a fall down the basement stairs (only the last 5), blah, blah, blah

And my clients are going through some of the most difficult, painful things a person can go through. They make anything I go through small potatoes. Seriously, their strength and resilience are impossible to describe. These are not situations you can close your work door behind you and separate yourself from.

After saying all that, I didn’t intend for this to be a downer blog. What I am trying to say, is that life can be incredibly challenging. And sometimes there is no end in sight.

But we get up every day and do it again. Sometimes there are moments of joy. Sometimes there just aren’t any. But we do it. We live. We do the best we can.

And that is not a downer!


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Afraid of Writing

It’s been almost a month since I’ve blogged, which is unusual for me. I blame three weeks of that on having my grandkids with me. There is some truth to that, but the bigger truth is that I’m scared to write.

I write from my heart. From my experiences. It’s always been that way. I’m not good at making stuff up or having someone give me a topic. It has to mean something to me.

I’ve had folks tell me to write and not post it. While journaling has been a powerful therapeutic tool for decades, I’m also an extreme extrovert. Things don’t mean half as much until I share it with someone.

I’ve learned over the years (the hard way) that when you put something out there, you invite people’s opinions whether you want them or not. Going public requires being willing to have people disagree with you.

In theory, I’m totally fine with agreeing to disagree with people.

Something is different now. I thought the last election caused a lot of division. But this pandemic makes that look minor. As if that wasn’t enough, the protests and riots started. (I’m not commenting on the necessity of it, just the unfortunate timing.)

Talk about division.

I tend to try to find truth on every side of a situation. I think the way you talk sometimes is more important than the content (sometimes). I’ve been preaching about communicating without being divisive for quite a while.

Something is different now.

I wonder if it’s just my perception, but if my fear is coming out these days, it’s the aloneness I feel because I don’t know how to connect with people like I used to. Even people I’m close to.

It seems like the polar opposites have moved miles further apart when I didn’t even think that was possible. No matter what I would say, I know people I care about will be pissed off or offended. Side A. Side B. And the worst would probably be saying anything remotely in the middle.

I think that would be hated most of all.

So I haven’t blogged.

I hope it’s ok to blog about not blogging.


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Fun at Physical Therapy?

I’m not any different than anyone else during this pandemic. My only outings every week are to physical therapy. I’ve gotten into a routine now with two other patients. They space us out but there is a brief time we overlap together. At the end of my session, I usually beg Nancy to let me stay longer. Don’t send me home!

Nancy is a very talented therapist and we all know it. She also has a sense of humor so we can give her a hard time because we KNOW she is great.

One of the men obviously has more pain and a longer road to go down than I do. He is usually in a separate room but we crack jokes back and forth. He calls PT “premeditated torture” instead of physical therapy.

Nancy has this streetlight analogy she uses. It drives us crazy. A green level of pain is preferred because it means you are still ok. I did tell her that it’s not easy being green. She thought that was funny, but it turned into bigger laughter when it was quiet and I started playing Kermit singing that song on my phone.

This man has two canes to walk. I can hear and see when one of them falls. I yell out and ask if Nancy has knocked the cane out from underneath him again. He says of course she did. I told him he was lucky because she usually kicks me.

Today was out of control. We exchanged the usual banter and were really proud when a therapist who wasn’t usually there said she wanted to stay in our unit. We are much more fun than other therapy rooms.

I was balancing on the balls I’m supposed to walk on and I look across the room. It was the first time I had seen this guy on the bike. And it was the first time I realized that he had a prosthetic for a leg.

“Oh my God!” I yelled louder than usual. “Nancy, you’ve gone too far this time. The poor guy’s leg fell off!”

Raucaus laughter. I wondered if I had gone too far but he said he has loads of jokes. One time in a hospital he put his leg on backward to freak people out. His sister is making him a t-shirt that says, “Don’t pull my leg. Seriously.”

Later in the session, Nancy asked him how he was doing. “How the hell do you think he’s doing, Nancy? His leg fell off!”

Then it got really bad.

Two of us are laying on tables and our guy is still on the bike. Nancy yells over to him, “Do you need help getting off?”

I couldn’t stand it. I burst into laughter, which started everyone else. The other woman was telling me she had it under control until I had to go and laugh. Leg-guy says the same thing. Nancy says, “Was the only one who didn’t get it?” The three of us say yes in harmony.

Eventually, it was almost time for me to go. By now, Nancy really does have to help him off the bike. The two of them are standing together and she asks him if he needs help. “Getting up?” he says. And the raucaus laughter starts all over again.

Nancy says the redness in her face will probably last forever.

The woman next to me says we really need to get out more.

You said it sister.


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Two Steps Forward

And then one step back. Literally. That is the nature of foot surgery/injury and the healing process. Each time I hit a new landmark I get excited, then get reminded that a new place means new adjustments for my body again. Instead of feeling better, it usually feels worse first.

First week was total bed rest. The original bandage stayed in place. I wore the aircast boot 24 hours a day, even when sleeping. Of course, no driving.

One week later, I was able to get up. I could take the boot off at night. During the day I used two crutches and the scooter when I could. My body was quite sore from both of those aids but I eventually got used to them.

Another week and I was able to take the bandages off for good. Then I had an ace bandage for another week. Then that came off.

Today I had my one month after surgery appointment. I was released to drive, thank goodness. And for the first time in four weeks, I could wear a sneaker. I bought a new pair online and saved them for today. The doc loved them and said they were really good for what I needed.

I’m still supposed to use the scooter whenever I can. I realized that I can actually wear a pair of jeans now. I’ve been wearing sweats for a month. So much I should feel better about.

Now I get to start physical therapy twice a week. And he did mention something about a possible six months more before we know if the surgery was even successful. Ouch.

But the biggest ouch is that my foot has hurt more today than it has in a while. That boot really protected my foot and kept it immobile. I’m sure it will take a few days for it to start to feel better while wearing the sneaker. Instead of celebrating, I’m going to take some Tylenol and then grab a long nap because I’m wiped out.

I have to say, some good life lessons come out of it. Patience for one. I’m also learning a bit about our society and how they treat folks with handicaps. Some people are so thoughtful and kind, others make sure they validate that you are indeed an annoyance with all the help you need from others. I hope I stay sensitive to the people around me once I am not the gimp I am today.

And hey, I am still supposed to avoid stairs when I can. That means no laundry duty for me!


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Grace Guest House

I had the privilege of visiting Grace Guest House this week. My friend told me to check them out and now I know why. In a world filled with a bunch of nonsense, there are still inspirational things to counter them.

It is one of those beautiful, restored homes in South Buffalo, with embroidered signs and other pictures that warm your heart and calm your soul.

This sign pretty much sums up who they are and what their purpose is. Anyone that is in treatment in a medical facility is welcome here, including any supportive family or friends. Often, family comes in from out of town while a loved one is being treated somewhere, or living out the last days of their lives. Grace House gives those folks a place to stay.

Perhaps family doesn’t live out of state, but lives far enough away that it is a strain to visit regularly. Grace House gives those folks a place to stay.

Perhaps you are the one getting infusions, chemotherapy or some other treatment. You are exhausted and find the transportation back and forth cumbersome and additional, unneeded stress. Grace House gives you a place to stay.

If you have ever been in any of those circumstances, you will know how life-changing it would be to hear, “Rest awhile.”

There isn’t a way to capture the serenity in this place, but I can show you some of the rooms. It’s not a hotel, it’s a home. And they have tried to think of everything to provide convenience and comfort.

Keeping up with meals is a pretty taxing process when you are in a medical crisis. There is a homey dining area with a fireplace that is quite lovely. Cynthia Battista, president, tells me that folks get to know each other and often pull the tables together to enjoy a meal. Did I mention that Grace House can cook for you? No, you didn’t misread that.

For those who find comfort in doing their own cooking, there is a pantry stacked with food, and a lovely kitchen for use. When I was there, a mother was making homemade rice pudding. The room had an aroma of cinnamon. Rice pudding was one of my dad’s favorites. My eyes filled with tears of happy memories.

Then I noticed on top of all the kitchen cupboards, there is a display of sparking angels looking down. It certainly felt like they were overseeing the lives being lived there and sending their blessings down.

There is a chair lift to the upstairs rooms. Grace House is continuing to make adaptations for further handicap accessability. They also provide washing machines and dryers for the convenience of the families.

The cost for all of these things are unbelieveably affordable. For a shared room, it is $40/night. They have access to bathroom facilities nearby.

This is a shared room with a couple of the staff (who are mostly volunteers, by the way). They couldn’t be more pleasant to be around. There are suites available for $60/night that are private. The bathrooms are private. For exceptionally large groups who need to be together, there is a large parlor area off the suite where the doors can separate them for privacy.

Grace House lives by grants and donations. While I was there, several cases of toilet paper arrived from a local business. All of their supplies are given by gracious donors.

Obviously, I was incredibly impressed. The space is somewhere that feels like home away from home. When you are going through some of life’s toughest challenges, there is no way to describe the value of how that touches you.

But mostly it is about what this quote from Mother Teresa says. The love and generosity are felt everywhere. The picture reflected in the mirror is the family that inspired Ms. Battista to create Grace House. You can’t talk to her for more than a couple of minutes before her kind and loving heart send its energy to you.

There is a wish list for them if you, your church, school, or agency would like to contribute and be part of this service. Students and adults alike can volunteer their time.

I look forward to when I can help a client family by providing them this resource. Thank you Grace House, for this desperately needed service, and for providing it with such grace. You have done your name justice.


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Guest Writer

Welcome Kris Louis of parentingwithkris.com . Her blog is self-explanatory. As a “clutter cleaner” by profession, I can certainly attest to the importance of her message. Enjoy!

Photo via Rawpixel

A Stress-Free Guide to Selling Your Home as a Parent

If you’re a busy parent with a home on the market, you’re probably feeling more than a little overwhelmed right now. Between prepping your home for sale and keeping it spotless for showings, the cleaning and decluttering projects never seem to end! However, selling your home doesn’t have to be as stressful as it may initially seem. Some careful planning and a good maintenance plan will help you keep mess to a minimum and ensure your home is always sparkling clean when potential buyers pop by for a visit.

Be Prepared for Last-Minute Showings

When buyers are on their way for a showing, you might have just 30 minutes to tidy up and get everyone out of the house. Be ready for these frantic cleaning sessions with a cleaning to-do list. For example, Old Salt Farm recommends a 20-minute cleaning plan that involves shining the kitchen sink, sweeping the floor, picking up clutter, and emptying household trash cans. If you have the time, try to vacuum high-traffic areas to give your home that extra “wow” factor. A stick vacuum, many of which are lightweight and cordless, can make all the difference. Before you purchase anything, take some time to check out reviews to find a top-notch stick vacuum. Eventually, you and your family will have this procedure down to a science!

Deep Clean Everything

Before you even put your home on the market, give it a deep clean from top to bottom. You’ll find it much easier to control everyday messes when you start with a clean slate. Scrub down every inch of the bathroom, wash the kitchen cabinets, spot-clean carpet stains, wipe the baseboards, vacuum under furniture, and organize every storage area in your home. A good deep clean will help you tackle stains, odors, and built-up grime once and for all.

After everything is clean, get in the habit of tidying up as you go about your day. Put the dishes in the dishwasher after every meal, wipe down the counters immediately after cooking, and make the beds first thing in the morning — and get your kids to help!

Reduce the Potential for Mess

What’s easier than cleaning all the time? Preventing mess from occurring in the first place! One of the best ways to reduce the potential for mess is to declutter as much as possible. Remove knick-knacks from tabletops, dressers, bookshelves, and coffee tables, and get your kids to pack up some of their toys until after your move. You may even want to rent a storage unit to get excess furniture out of your house. Not only will this make vacuuming easier, but it will also help your home appear bigger and brighter.

If your kids tend to destroy every room that they set foot in, consider blocking off certain areas of your house. Clean any rooms that your family doesn’t need to use every day, like your second bathroom or home office, and tell your kids that these are off-limits. This way, you won’t have to clean your house top-to-bottom before every showing!

Stick to Easy Upgrades

Certain upgrades can help your home sell faster and for more money, but don’t go overboard. Do some research into your local real estate market to find out what kinds of upgrades other sellers are making to their homes. If you’re in a seller’s market, NOLO suggests that you might not have to do much to impress your potential buyers.

Stick to simple, quick upgrades, like replacing the hardware on your kitchen cabinets, refreshing the grout in your bathroom, hanging a new shower curtain, and giving your front door a fresh coat of paint. Placing a couple of flowerpots on your front porch is a great way to improve your curb appeal without investing major time into gardening and landscaping. If your children’s rooms are painted in bright pink or lime green — or any other crazy color — consider repainting with a crowd-pleasing shade of light blue.

Selling a home with kids isn’t as hard as it seems. Declutter, deep clean, make a few simple upgrades, and be prepared with a last-minute cleaning plan. While you may run into some hiccups in the beginning, your family is bound to develop an efficient cleanup system by the time you find a buyer for your home.


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Empaths

Are you hoping for a better 2020 than 2019? I can’t prove it, but I feel like every January I say something similar. Last year was tough, here’s to hoping for a better new year.

I’ve heard it described that sympathy is feeling bad for someone’s pain. Empathy is feeling someone’s pain with them. One isn’t bad and one good, one isn’t healthy and the other unhealthy. They are just two things that are distinct but closely related.

I’m definitely an empath. That is probably the single most important thing that makes me an effective counselor. I call it being fully present. When you are in my office, you have my full attention and I am empathic. But if an empath doesn’t want to sink into the abyss, they have to also know how to detach when they exit the other’s presence.

Even when you can detach in a healthy way, there is still residue. I wouldn’t be human if there wasn’t. I am aware of the good things in life. I’m not oblivious to them and I’m grateful for the good things in my own life. But I’m also painfully aware of the crazy stuff too. Not only does it make me incredibly angry, but it also breaks my heart. There is so much suffering, and there is also so much injustice. Virtually every system in our country is broken. Some have minor issues, others are profoundly broken.

It is a privilege to witness suffering, an honor when someone lets you see. It also blows my mind sometimes. Sometimes I can’t even wrap my head around it.

For example, the legal system that claims to protect children, but repeatedly favors giving parents an endless amount of chances to get their kids back. I wonder if they have any idea the havoc it wreaks on the foster or biological families that pick up the broken children month after month, year after year. The case where the parent overdoses on drugs, sometimes in front of their child, sometimes not. They can repeatedly get arrested and have literally dozens of court cases in front of them and it doesn’t matter. The kids can show every sign of regression from seeing their parent and it doesn’t matter. How do you comfort that family?

The 17-year-old son who lost his mother to cancer and then his father takes his own life? I lost my father at age 51 and I was devastated. How do I even wrap around the thought of being completely parentless, facing the rest of my life trying to figure out how to be an adult without them at age 17?

The mom who finds herself riddled with alcoholism and in relationships with men who beat her. She keeps trying to break the pattern but finds herself back in it, even when she kicks the drinking.

A step-parent who spends decades helping his adult children become more responsible humans but all he gets in return is to be berated, ignored, accused, and have his grandchildren kept from him. How do you comfort him?

The family that loses their pregnant daughter in a tragic car accident?

The parent who has a child who tries to hang himself. Another child that douses himself with gasoline and lights himself on fire. The parent finds themselves crying repeatedly and can’t figure out why because these events happened years ago.

The stories go on and on. I want so badly to help. I want to make the kind of difference where patterns actually change. Where I can make systems do what they are supposed to do. Where I can make people behave the way they should.

But of course, I can’t. Not even close. So I stay present, try to detach. And every once in awhile I just have to scream out loud because the unfairness is so maddening I literally want to rip my hair out. (I would punch things but I’m a baby and don’t tolerate physical pain so well.)

I’m NOT talking about not holding people accountable for their choices. I’m NOT talking about creating a victim mentality. But please offer sympathy to others when you can. Please offer empathy when you can. And for God’s sake, pray for these people, and pray for those of us that are empaths on the front line. I wouldn’t trade it for the world but I need to keep my oxygen mask on.


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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…)