Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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Unexpected Answers

I was talking with my friend Gary and discussing the way that God/life/universe works things out in ways we don’t expect. He joined Match and has not met the love of his life. BUT… he met someone who inspired a novel that he wrote. Then he met me and was inspired to take the book to publication. Then he met someone else who ended up being a connection to his editor or publisher (or someone like that). So he joined Match for one purpose, but found other needs met that he hadn’t expected. (If you haven’t checked out his book, you should. It’s called “The Flockless Shepherd” and you can find it on Amazon.)

I have been talking with Brigette for over a year now about Baby Coop Publishing. We have been “successful,” but not profitable. Four books have been published, two of which I have authored. I have been on radio, TV, had several newspaper articles written, been published online, and had over 60 lectures across the area. But we still haven’t produced income.

And income is a tricky topic. I actually can only make x amount of dollars before I start losing Social Security. But in less than four years, I will be losing half of that anyway. In less than six years, it will all be gone. I have often thought about how I may have to go back to work at an agency to make ends meet. Not what I prefer, but I will have to do what I have to do.

So we swore 2015 is the year. We are going to make money. We are going to turn our “success” into financial reward as well.

I suddenly found myself taking a turn this week that I wasn’t really expecting to. I have added yet a FIFTH job to my plate. I am officially a college professor! I have been pleasantly surprised at how excited I am to be able to say those words. Teaching was not something I had aspired to do someday. But neither was writing a book. And neither was being a public speaker.

It’s perfect, really. I will be an internship supervisor at Medaille. It is only every other week in person, and the rest can be done via telephone and email. The structure is such that there is some guidelines, but it is mostly interactive with the students. That is right up my alley. Even when I lecture, I much prefer venues where there are questions from the audience.

It started to hit me that my prayers are being answered, just not in the ways I thought they would. This really is about the book. I made my connection at the college by doing lectures about the book there. One professor was especially impressed and passed my name along to the department head. If this goes well, when I need to make up the lost income, it may be in a venue like this rather than in the agency type I thought I would have to go to. It’s all very exciting and unexpected.

So the moral of the story is to keep your eyes peeled and your mind open. If you put yourself out there, it might pay off. It might be in a totally different direction than you expected, so be flexible enough to go where the winds of change might take you!

I wanted new life to be breathed into my home. It certainly is happening. We have two new, energetic kitties, a beautiful granddaughter that will be here once a week, and I have another new job (this one actually pays money. What a concept!)

I know lots of you are struggling. Hang tight. Your day is coming.


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And Whiskers on Kittens…

For those of you that have followed my blogs for a while, you know that last year right before Christmas, we lost another cat. It was the fourth one, with three of them being just since Tim was diagnosed. We decided as much as we love kitties, our hearts couldn’t afford to be broken anymore.

This year I was having a more difficult time than usual knowing what to get Frankie for Christmas. All he wanted was gift cards. That’s fine, but I didn’t have any gifts for him to open under the tree. I started thinking about how a new kitten might make life a little brighter in our house. We have been a bit “dead” the last few months. Plus, I have been struggling with my distant relationship with Frankie and having a kitten downstairs would probably draw him out more. Maybe getting a kitten rather than a cat might make a difference as far as health and longevity. I would still rescue one from a shelter, but maybe get a young one…

Then I would talk myself out of it. I know Frankie would love it, but who am I kidding? I will be the one to clean the litter, feed her, take her to the vet, etc. I can barely keep up with laundry so why add more work?

But I went to the shelter anyway the day before Christmas Eve. Funny how things work out. There was no one in there with us but the volunteers. Turns out I had met her before when selling my first book. She remembered me. A gray kitten caught my eye. But then the one underneath kept batting at us. We got them both out to play.

I asked her how people ever decide. I wanted to take all of them home with me. Then she made the death statement. “I will give you two for one today.”

Damn.

I could barely talk myself into one. No way I can take two of them. People tell me that cats do better in pairs. They keep each other company and all that jazz. Then I even had the morbid thought that if one of them died, at least the other one would be there. Turns out, Frankie made that exact statement to me later. But the truth of the matter is, it didn’t really have anything to do with that. I just couldn’t bear to leave them in their cages. Besides, who am I to argue with a bargain?

While I was filling out the paperwork, about 15 people literally started filing in to look at cats and kittens. I guess it was meant to be. If they had been in there earlier, it probably would not have even crossed my mind to adopt two. But there wasn’t another family in sight while I was deciding.

Christmas Eve after church, we were driving home and I told Frankie he was getting a gift early and it was going to be a surprise. Not knowing was killing him. He pounded me with questions but I led him down the wrong path and let him guess in the wrong direction. I had Colin videotape his reaction when we walked into the living room with the babies.

Now, for you conservative and reasonable parents, you may think this next part was awful. But I got it and it cracked me up. Frankie was stunned. Then he slowly said, “H..O..L..Y S..H..I..T!” He was delighted. And thrilled.

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Meet Matilda (on left) and Herbie (on right). Not my choice of names, but Frankie is the boss on this one.

We had a big windstorm during the night. Taffy (our dog) freaked out all night. Between him and the kittens, no one but my dad got a wink of sleep so we were exhausted Christmas morning. If I wanted to change the dynamic of the house, I was most certainly successful. But they are precious!

As I’m blogging, I am in the hospital with Matthew and his wife. My daughter-in-law is in labor with their first baby. No action yet, but I will be sure to keep you posted. The winds of change are blowing…


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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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December Madness

Who doesn’t have a bit of lunacy in their life during the month of December? I know I’ve been burning the candle at both ends. This morning I woke up and thought I must have burned my proverbial fingertips from doing it one day longer than I could handle.

Thanks to Snovember (actually, my friend said it was more like Snopocalypse) the last couple of weeks have lots of added time spent in cleaning up the messes. Trying to clean up frozen leaves and repair frozen lawn patches was pretty much futile. The inside of the house has been chaos. You know how it is when you are doing repairs. Drop cloths, pans, brushes, sanders, blah blah blah are everywhere.

While I was looking for supplies, I realized I had about two million paint cans in my basement. In all my brilliancy, I thought it was a perfect time to get those organized and patch up all the spots around my house that I’ve ignored. I patched about 10 nail holes in my stairway, sanded, patched, sanded and was finally ready for painting. Yippee. But then I discovered the paint had dried up. Now I have big patched spots that can no longer be ignored.

That’s ok though. An organized, Type A like me has dutifully kept a computer record of every freaking paint formula that has ever been used in my house. I just dreaded making my 60th trip to Home Depot for the week. Guess what? They have changed over paint systems. Doesn’t matter how much information you have, the formulas and names have all been altered so there is no way to re-create the color. Are you freaking kidding me?

Poor Colin had to dig through the garbage and find the can. While I was out doing other fruitless, dead-end errands, he brought the old can to Home Depot for me. When I got back there, I found out they were able to dig up enough old paint to do a color match. Still haven’t done it even though I have the paint now. I can’t believe how the days fly by. I am busy from 6 AM til 10 PM every night but the list never seems to get smaller. Can you relate?

That’s just one story. I could write about a dozen more. So on top of Christmas shopping, having Christmas at my house this year, repairing the house and yard from storms, and owning four businesses, I also am trying to release my second book. You may wonder why I would time it for now. Am I glutton for punishment? Well, considering that my original release date was in March, I’m just a tiny bit behind the eight ball… LOL.

The graphic artist is changing the last five errors I found now as I write. Still hoping to get it downloaded before the 5 PM Friday deadline. Otherwise, they are closed on the weekends so we are looking at next week.

But hey, I am an expert on cutting and pasting, so all is not lost. I have very long to-do lists that I know how to cut from today’s date and paste them on tomorrow’s date. Is that skill marketable?


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Sisterhood

One of the perks of writing a book, is getting to meet some amazing people. I guess I need a stronger word than “perk.” It’s one of the things that actually makes it worth it. I think at some point I have blogged about my new friend, Trish. She read my book and then sought me out. She is my age, was widowed not long after I was, and has six kids. She also is a multi-business owner.

She always calls me her hero and I just laugh. Other than writing a book, I don’t see much to call me a hero for. At least not for HER to call me a hero. I call her MY hero. In fact, I call her that in the next book that I wrote. I have four kids. But I met three of them when they were 13, 16, and 19. I didn’t raise them from birth. Now I have one adult living here, and one 12-year-old. She has SIX. Like I said, she is MY hero.

Because her husband was self-employed, I get about three times as much social security benefits for my one minor I am raising, than she gets for all six of her kids combined. And I worry about money?

We had lunch this week. We’ve been talking and texting about things that we feel like no one else understands sometimes. She recently had a person close to her lose a loved one. She was worried that she didn’t feel the compassion and sympathy she normally would. Boy, did I get that. I think we are just already tired out from death and dying, even though some time has passed. Living with the fallout from death and dying continues to be exhausting, probably even more than caretaking was.

She met a great guy. She was ready to give up on the dating scene, just like most people who are in the dating scene are. Then she met him on Match and he seems great. I listen to her talk and I’m amazed. He actually seems to really love her and WANTS to help out with the kids. He is ready to take on what it might mean to be involved with all six of them. He hangs out when her family comes to town, even though he doesn’t “have” to. I’m envious, but I am happy for her. She deserves it. She absolutely deserves it.

Even with that support in her life, she still struggles. It’s a reminder to me that meeting someone like that won’t take all the pain and stress away. It helps immensely, but life is still hard. And I’m sure they have lots of adjustments and changes down the road to get through.

When we hugged goodbye after lunch, she said something about how much she enjoys getting to spend time with me. I laughed. I sincerely laughed. I asked her if she was kidding because we had spent the majority of lunch with me down in the dumps, teary eyed (like I am several times a day) feeling hopeless and stuck. I can hardly stand my own company and she actually expects me to believe she ENJOYS me? I wasn’t trying to be dramatic. It was just a genuine reality check moment for me, like “Hey, I know you love me, but let’s be honest. I’m not exactly fun to hang out with.” I didn’t say that, but I think she knew what I meant.

About 15 minutes later, I got a text that said, “I just want you to know I do love being with you! I wish I could make it all better for you. You will be ok. I know it!” I texted back, “Back at ya, sista!”

She really is my hero.


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Wise Words

Today I met with Tim’s doctor from Hospice. She has agreed to read my second book, “Life After Death on This Side of Heaven.” My hope is that she will write a blurb for the back of the book, or even better, write the foreword. She is an amazing doctor, her experience lies with helping to usher people into the next life, and she also has lost her husband.

I remember when we were facing some medical decision and I asked her my standard question when I am out of the realm of my knowledge. “What would you do if this were your husband?” Her response was, “This was my husband, three months ago.” And that is how I found out she was a new widow herself, and yet fully present with us on our journey.

It’s amazing to me that she even remembers me after three and a half years, but she absolutely does. She asked about how we are all doing and I asked her the same. Then she tossed out this little nugget: “A mother is only as happy as her saddest child.”

I don’t know if she made that up herself or if she read it somewhere, but I thought it was brilliant.

We talked a little bit about my dilemma. In my case, my kids seem to be adjusting much better than I am. Frankie is going to be 12 in a couple of weeks. He had a 95 average in his first year of middle school, played hockey, and had one of the leads in the school musical. He and his brother Colin hang out all the time like two bachelors living the dream.

The only problem is, I feel like I am living a life separate from them. When I try to bring us back to the middle, that is when the conflict starts. We don’t have much in common anymore. Some of that is totally natural, but some of it is because our family got radically changed in October of 2010. As the head of the household, it’s my job to figure out to recalibrate and renegotiate a new structure that works for us. I haven’t done such a great job with that.

I know all four of the kids still grieve and remember their dad in their own way. My oldest, Emily, struggles with depression and angst-type feelings at times like I do. Overall though, the kids are doing really well.

I have to figure out how to be as happy as my happiest child. Kids are resilient and mine are no exception. I’m a tough cookie as far as survival goes. I know that. But I live with this sense of feeling like things are just not right. It creates more of an anxiety thing vs. a depression thing, but it is there. I don’t know what to do with it, so for now I just live with it.

And I will keep trying to connect with my kids. In spite of their protests, I will keep trying to be a family, even though we don’t have a dad anymore. I may not have the answers, but I won’t give up.

My thanks to a very special doctor, who has made a mark on our lives that isn’t forgotten with time. I wish healing and peace for her on the journey she is on.