Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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Blended

Are you an Adam Sandler fan? We are all fans here in our house. One year for Christmas, Tim got me every Adam Sandler movie he had made so far. I love most of his stuff, but I don’t really ever buy videos because I keep things simple when I can. I appreciated the thoughtful gesture, though.

My favorite duo is Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. I really like “The Wedding Singer” and I absolutely love “50 First Dates.” It is one of my all time favorites and one of the few movies I have watched repeatedly and never get tired of.

I discovered the pair of actors have a new movie out called “Blended” so we went to see it this week. Man, I am such a drama queen. Most people watch movies and relate to parts of it, and get the nuances of what is being conveyed. Me? Well, I lived every second of the movie completely immersed in the characters from the first moment until the last.

Drew’s character (Lauren) is a divorced, single mom with two boys. Dad is creepy and not involved. The boys are a handful and we see several scenes of her struggles to just barely keep up with the pressures every day, much less have the energy or wisdom with how to actually help her kids solve their issues. The funniest parts are every time she tries to carry her son to bed after he falls to sleep. He is too big and she is clearly not strong enough. She constantly bumps into walls with him and you have to wonder if half of the kid’s problems are due to traumatic brain injury… lol.

Adam’s character (Jim) is a single dad with three girls. Guess what? His wife died of cancer. He’s a great dad, but oblivious to the feminine needs of his girls. One of them is having particular grief issues and we get to see scenes of him looking helplessly at his daughters, knowing he has no idea how to really help them.

It is laced with humor, but I was just sick to my stomach watching. I got it. And it’s so so so horrible to be a single parent sometimes and feel so terribly inadequate. Even though they were overall great parents, their kids were still suffering. And when your kids suffer, you suffer.

Lauren and Jim meet and hate each other. Then through a series of odd, quirky events, they consistently keep bumping into each other. And you know how things like this happen in real life- they somehow end up in Africa together at some week-long retreat for helping blended families adjust to their lives together. Completely ridiculous, but the story works. I completely related to the blended family piece too. Our family had super-sized struggles when Tim and I first got together. It took YEARS for things to get better.

One scene I just broke down and sobbed. (Thank goodness Frankie and his friend sat a few seats down. I would have never heard the end of it.) It was a scene about grief and healing where Lauren does something for the girls their mother used to do for them. Jim heard it from behind the door. The look on all of their faces was so moving. I got it.

In the end (of course), they realize they are madly in love. I don’t care if it was unrealistic or not. I cheered them on every inch of the way. Jim’s daughters so desperately needed a mom. Lauren’s sons so desperately needed a father. And suddenly, they fit. They just fit.

It put me in a funk the rest of the day. I loved it and love when I get moved like that. But there was an underlying sadness that I can’t deny. I know that I need that “fit.” I know I can’t settle for less than that. Not perfection, but that understanding that happens when a man not only loves me (which is hard enough), but also gets that my son desperately needs a father (in spite of how much he appears not to). It’s a beautiful concept but it just hasn’t happened yet.

The sad part is the flashback to the scenes where you watch the struggling single parents. Living life while you are waiting for something that may or may not happen, is difficult. I know several of you who read this blog are single parents and seem to handle it much more gracefully than I do. My hat is off to you. I will keep trying to do my best. That’s all I can do. I know I’m a decent mom and doing a decent job. But I have the “carrying my son who is too heavy for me and I keep banging his head on the wall in the meantime” problem that I just keep pushing through. In the movie, Jim suggested Lauren get her son a helmet.

I hope I didn’t ruin the movie for you. You should watch it and let me know what you think. In the meantime, I guess I will keep doing my best and go helmet shopping!


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Anger, Chapter Two

I had a few days like my old self. I recognized it when I was running errands and being pleasant to people in line, to people behind the counter, etc.. It really isn’t hard to be nice and people really appreciate it. Seeing their smiles is worth the small effort you put in.

But then, the new, angry me came back with a vengeance.

My friend was driving in the Home Depot parking lot and accidentally pulled out in front of someone. We made all the usual “I’m sorry” gestures to apologize because my friend realized it was her fault and felt very badly about it. I had to get out of the car at that point and walk by this guy’s car. He had the window open. So I went the extra mile and apologized again to him for almost causing a fender bender. He said it was okay, smiled at me, and I knew it was worth the effort.

Wrong.

He started yelling at me. He went on about how we lacked basic driving skills like “pay attention to the road” and “look where you are going.” He was nasty. Old me would have shook my head and thought about how sad it is that people let things like that ruin their day. Everyone makes mistakes and most people don’t make them on purpose. But the new me snapped and screamed back at him. “We just F*****G apologized to you. What the hell is wrong with you?” He basically told me to shut-up and drove away. I was furious. There was another lady that witnessed all of it and she had a few choice names for the guy, too. But I was so mad I was shaking. And I didn’t stop shaking for about an hour. What is the world coming to when you can’t even offer a sincere apology and have it mean anything?

This week, I had some new grief anger, too. Out of the blue, I had started to cry. I looked at this beautiful 8 x 10 glass frame I have had for years. It holds the picture of our last Father’s Day together in 2010. It is the photo that ended up on the back of the cover of Bitter and Sweet. It is Tim and I and the four kids. I wanted to pick it up over my head and smash it into a million pieces on the floor. I was shocked by this. I have never felt that or ever had urges to be destructive.

And I didn’t even know why.

I didn’t do it, but it got me thinking. I’m mad that Tim left us, that he left me a widow. I look at the four kids and think about how well they have all done. They grieve and are sad sometimes, but they have all done an excellent job in their own ways with their own personalities, in moving on. They seem well-adjusted. I am so grateful for that. Thank God.

But what about me?

I remember when Frankie was a newborn, the first couple of weeks I was in a daze of exhaustion and complete chaos internally. I remember distinctly staring at my computer screen and saying, “What is wrong with you? You have a Master’s Degree. You own a business. You can figure this out.” And I did. And it didn’t take me long to get my bearings.

It’s the same feeling I have now. I know I’m smart. I know I’m strong. So why can’t I figure this out? I don’t feel like I’ve adjusted. And it’s going on four years now.

I’ve been talking to my F-bomb friend a lot lately. I told him he’s the local anger expert so I keep asking him to help me understand what’s going on inside me, and what I’m supposed to do with it. He asked me if I’m angry that I’m a widow? Or just angry that I’m alone? I thought it was an excellent question. I decided it’s both.

If I were divorced, there would be another parent out there that would still be responsible. If I were divorced, I could sit around and blame myself (or him) for failing at the marriage. But this? No one to blame but cancer. I was a good wife, a good mom, and a good step-parent when the kids made life hell for me. So why?

I’m just mad. Mad, mad, mad. I told my girlfriend I might go postal someday. She said, “Please just don’t shoot me, ok?” I told her she better not piss me off then. We both laughed.

BUT…

Just so you don’t completely give up on me or think I’ve lost my marbles entirely, I will give you a classic Darcy story.

The boys got me flip-flops for Mother’s Day. I wear them constantly. I went to get some groceries this week, and as I was walking out of the store, my ankle twisted and I was forced to step out of my flip-flop. What the heck? Somehow- and I have no idea how this is even possible- my flip-flop got wrapped around the wheel of the shopping cart. I mean totally wrapped. It took me several minutes to figure out how to remove the thing. Once I finally figured it out, it was so warped I had to throw it out when I got home. But just picture me squatting in the grocery store, wrestling with my shoe in a wheel, and you should end this blog with a chuckle. 🙂


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Going Out Ain’t What It Used to Be

The other night, I went out to an event at a bar with my friend, Karen. Now Karen is a really pretty girl. Really pretty. She is blonde and has a great figure. So I know when I go out with her, I am going to spend most of the night watching men hit on her. I can’t go if I am having a low self-esteem spurt because it would push me over the edge. We get there, pick a table and within minutes some guy saunters over and asks to sit next to her. And so it begins.

Shortly after that, a guy with a fun, outgoing personality plops himself down in the empty seat at our table and announces he is going to join us. I immediately like him as he livens things up. Within minutes, he assesses the situation. He tells me how one of his closest friends is tall, blonde and great-looking. He says when he goes out with him, he just assumes the role of “side-kick” and that’s how the night goes. I’m surprised at his sizing-up skills and think about how that’s a good description of my role as well.

It’s not that I think I’m ugly or unattractive. But I’m realistic. I am actually okay with my assumed position and settle in for the evening. It turns out to be a fun one, but what ends up being entertaining to you as you get older changes drastically. Here are some of the highlights of the evening.

Because Karen is heavily sought after, she usually doesn’t have to buy drinks all night other than the first one. And because she is heavily sought after, men will sometimes offer to be the side-kick drinks too. And because Karen is awesome, if they don’t, she asks them to buy me one. Bonus. One of the sexist parts of society that I actually take advantage of. Letting a man buy you a drink. Cool. And when they aren’t hitting on you, there are no expectations.

Next highlight is more interesting than entertaining, but it stood out. We are wearing name tags and I walk by this table of people in their sixties or so. (I’m guessing.) There’s this big, tall man with a tag that says, “Mr. Darcy” so I stop and say, “Hey, I should marry you. Then I could be Darcy Darcy. That would be awesome!” The table cracks up and he tells me Darcy is actually his first name, but he calls himself Mr. Darcy because of the character in “Pride and Prejudice”. I come back with, “Ah, damn. Well, wait! That would still be great. We could get married and just be Darcy and Darcy.”

One guy at the table says that he can’t believe it. He was just telling everyone how that at his age, he never met a Darcy in his life until tonight. Now he meets two. What are the chances?

I ask the other Darcy if he knows what our name means. He says, “Yes, ‘Dweller in Darkness’.” I’m like, “Yeah, doesn’t that suck?” He agrees. I tell him I know its weird, but I wrote a book about death and dying and now I lecture about it everywhere. How fitting. He tells me he can top that one. He says I won’t believe it but his last name is “Mourn.” He topped me. Totally weird.

The next highlights fall into the peeing category. Now every girl in the world knows that you try not to “break the seal” until as late as possible, because once you do it never stops. I have no idea if that’s true for men or not, but it is for us girls. I try not to wait too long though, because if you go to the bathroom and there is a line, well that could get ugly. Accidents happen the older you get. I go to the bathroom and this woman mercifully tells me I have toilet paper stuck to my shoe. Big, long piece. Thank you, girlfriend! That would have sucked.

A little while later, I’m in the bathroom, waiting in line again. Again, I’m thinking I waited too long to start this process. I start chatting with this woman who is a little older than me. I tell her the toilet paper story from earlier in the evening and we crack up. (Things getting funnier later in the night due to fatigue and increased alcohol content.) Well, I’ll be damned if while we are talking a woman walks out of the stall and has toilet paper stuck to her shoe. I let her know immediately, of course. We laugh at the coincidence and I thank the heavens out loud for the chance to pay-it-forward so soon in my life and get my karma going in the right direction. Phew.

Now it’s getting later. I go to the bathroom yet again and sure enough, the same woman I chatted with earlier is in there again. Now we feel like old friends. The line is much longer, it’s much later, and there’s more alcohol involved. I look at her and tell her it’s time to check the men’s room. She knew exactly what I meant. Men’s rooms never have lines. So sometimes, a girl just has to use that room and have someone guard the door for a minute. Off we go. Uh oh, the men’s room is packed. We get a few comments about being welcome to come in anyway, but of course, we don’t.

She looks at me and tells me we should just pee outside in the woods. I don’t usually meet women crazier than I am, but it sounds like a good alternative to me. Karen walks up just at that moment and decides to go with us. The three of us exit the building, go over to some trees (it is dark out) and think we successfully and discreetly take care of business. But then we start to walk in the building and I realize I’ve lost my sweater. Uh oh. We go back to the scene of the crime and sure enough, there is my sweater on top of some stranger’s car.

We head back into the building but the bouncer stops us. He says, “Are you one of the women that just peed outside?” I decide he is probably NOT flirting with me (I’m pretty smart) and I just look at him and try to decide what to say. This female bartender is there having a smoke and she jumps in and says, “No, that wasn’t her. She’s okay.” So the bouncer lets me back in the building.

Later in the night, I am at the bar and I say to the bartender, “Hey, did you save my butt back there?” And she explains that some women had peed outside and the bouncer thought it was me so she let him know it wasn’t because I would never do that. I confessed and told her it indeed was me and that I appreciated her saving my butt. Literally. She laughed. We weren’t trying to cause trouble. Just couldn’t hold it and at least there was no toilet paper to get stuck to our shoes.

The rest of the night was spent singing “Don’t Stop Believing” or “Sweet Caroline” with the band, the whole middle-aged crowd knowing every word. We would have held up our lighters if we had any. It was a fun night. It’s amazing though, what ends up entertaining you when you’re older. Bonding with women over bathroom issues, not getting kicked out, hearing music you can still understand the words to. Super great night 🙂


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Guest Blogging

So leave it to Brigette. With her expert researching, she found an excellent contact in California. She is a medical expert, involved heavily in writing, blogging, and connected everywhere regarding issues related to end of life. Frankly, she appears to be quite brilliant :).

Anyhow, I will be on her blog next week and we are looking for many more opportunities to work with her and her numerous programs. She suggested I post the same blog here. I know it is information you already have read several times, but I will include it anyway. I was terribly honored when she had this to say about my entry submission: “This is probably one of the most moving accounts I have ever read. Thank you so much for sharing your amazing story. Your husband is proud of you.” Her comments made me cry.

Stay tuned as Brigette will be posting the links to Dr. Monica Williams-Murphy’s sites and connections. (Her blog is called “ok to die” which is a great title!) Here is my entry:

The name of my book is “Bitter and Sweet, A Family’s Journey with Cancer.” Here is a brief summary. In April of 2010, my husband Tim began to have some strange sensations in his side. On May 7, we found ourselves facing stage IV gallbladder cancer rather than a simple gallbladder removal as planned. Five months and one week later, my husband died. Those five months were the most difficult and horrifying time of our lives. It was also an extremely beautiful time for us. We found ourselves using the phrase “bitter and sweet” so often during those five months, that it was an obvious title choice.

Our lives had been full of paradoxes. How do you fight for your life and yet accept mortality at the same time? How do you maintain optimism, which is necessary for health, and prepare for your death and get your affairs in order? How do you understand God’s love and compassion, and yet experience cancer and suffering?

It’s a sad story, but I promise you, our story is also filled with humor, tender moments and hope, alongside the ravages of a cruel disease. When life hands you lemons, you can pucker up and make a sour face, or you can make lemonade. I think we did both.

Tim and I had a tough marriage. We spent the entirety of our ten years together in counseling. We made progress, but happiness was always a struggle. After diagnosis, we actually worried that kind of stress could be the end of us. Tim was a “glass half empty” guy and I thought for sure he would be angry and buckle under his prognosis. Boy, was I wrong. What I witnessed instead, was the total transformation of a man, a woman, a marriage, a family, a community. While things were obviously horrific battling a vicious disease, we also experienced the most amazing bond and love that we had spent our lives hoping for.

For the first time, we read together, appreciated each other fully, and reprioritized what was important. We started walking our dog together. When Tim got too weak, we took the wheelchair. When I got pneumonia, I would push him halfway and then we would switch positions and he would push me back. I will never, ever forget those moments.

Even the most simple things had greater meaning. Tim would talk about enjoying a hot shower and feeling the sensations of the warm water on his body. He would walk around our yard and come in with tears in his eyes and talk about the beauty he was able to take in. For the first time, he went into work late on our son’s first day of school because he just didn’t want to miss it. New priorities, new appreciation.

When you stare mortality in the face, it is amazing how quickly things can change. The things that you spend your life worrying and fighting about are suddenly rendered ridiculously less important. The housework isn’t so important. Money isn’t the biggest stressor. And I had the joy of watching Tim rekindle and reconcile family and friendships that had been forgotten or stuffed away in a corner. Sometimes that meant confronting painful things. Tim was a peacemaker and avoided conflict. But I saw him stand up for me in ways that I had not seen in the decade we had been together. Why? Partly because he saw me grab a hold of fighting for his life, his comfort and well-being in a way that he had not seen either, but that he was clearly worthy of.

Why do I continue to respect and admire my husband three years after his death? Because in spite of his fear, he faced his ending and he did it remarkably well. He chose his cemetery plot and designed his headstone. He wrote birthday cards for his eight year old son until he turns 18. He wrote wedding cards to this three unmarried sons so he could share his love for them on their big days. Amazing.

So many others were changed as well. We learned to be receivers, to let people help us and the results were astounding. People brought 90% of our meals, cleaned our house, ran errands, entertained our son, put up a fence, helped with yardwork, and even did our shopping. The benefit was that we were able to concentrate on Tim’s appointments and sneak in those walks or spend time with our kids. The benefit to everyone else? The church learned how to rally around their people. The community rose to the occasion. Here is what people said: “Please don’t rob us. We WANT to help. We can’t do anything to stop what is happening to you. What we CAN do, is provide a meal.” It was actually truly and genuinely important to other people, to feel like they were contributing to our lives. That is powerful.

I want to share the last paragraph of Bitter and Sweet. It is actually what I wrote for the bulletin at Tim’s funeral.

“While cancer is a cruel and clever disease that wreaks havoc in your life, my husband and I were able to find and experience so many gifts, treasures and healings in our lives. Since his diagnosis, we have truly been transformed, as individuals and as loving, lifelong partners. Our spiritual lives blossomed and grew in ways I would not have thought possible. And so much of that happened because of the loving, compassionate, strong hands, arms, and feet of the people of God. No one would deny that we are truly the luckiest people on earth, even with the loss we suffer. Few others could boast the kind of dedication and support we have felt poured out upon us. ”

I will never tell you that the cancer path isn’t hard, difficult, gut wrenching. But I will always say, there is a gift in every challenge. Your life can be profoundly blessed and changed in spite of your difficulties. Facing mortality can have a positive, profound impact on your life, if you choose to let it.


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Surprises

If you have ever struggled with depression, you might understand that guilt is also an emotion you sometimes feel. Frankly, you feel guilty for being depressed. Truth be told, I have very little to be depressed about. I have an amazing life.

Turning 47 last week was great when we did the star thing for Tim. We had about 14 people show up, and then several of us went out to dinner afterward.

As if that wasn’t enough.

Brigette told me about a month ago that the Saturday after my birthday she was taking me out. I wasn’t going to know where, but I was to tell the church that I probably wouldn’t make it to church in the morning.

Frankie had a hockey game at 3:00. One of the things I usually whine about is having to go to games by myself. It’s not so much that it’s awful, but there is something about being around all those families that makes me sad. Colin is always there but he stands at the ice rink and doesn’t interact with me.

I’m pretty slow on the draw these days, so it took me quite a while into the game before I realized that it was no coincidence that so many people came that day to see Frankie’s game. I think there were 14 people there. I finally got that Brigette had arranged it all. My brother even came and he hasn’t come to a hockey game in the four years his nephew has been playing. Only Brigette could pull that one off.

It was amazing. I was so happy for Frankie to see all those people there too. We got in the car and Brigette explained that she wanted to find something meaningful for me and she knows how sad I get when I go to his games alone. I thought it was an excellent surprise. She truly got me, and she knows me well. It was extremely meaningful.

As if that wasn’t enough.

Then she told me she was taking me to dinner. Anyone that knows me, knows that food makes me very happy. We had reservations somewhere at 5:00 but again, I had to wait and see where we were going.

We went to a nearby restaurant and headed to the banquet room. Brigette said she was planning an event for someone else and wanted to check out the room before we ate. Made total sense to me.

Again, 100% shock to walk in and find a room full of people there for a surprise party for me. I could have fallen over. I kept saying, “But I’m only 47” and they all kept saying, “You get nothing when you’re 50 so enjoy it now.” Couldn’t believe it. I was astounded.

As if that wasn’t enough.

Brigette had several of my friends and family who were out of town call throughout the night. They obviously couldn’t make it in person, but they let me know they loved me and wanted to part of the special night.

As if that wasn’t enough.

A few of us then moved upstairs where there was a band playing. It was one of those nights that we were the group everyone was looking at. People- men and women alike- came up and said happy birthday. They bought me drinks. The band sang to me. The band had me come up and sing a chorus with them to a song because they had been told that I sang. And once the guitar player gave me the guitar and I plucked out “Jingle Bells,” the only song I know. Everyone laughed.

It was amazing. Who has friends like that? I do. Lots and lots of them. Trust me. I don’t take them for granted. I know how lucky I am. And I shouldn’t ever feel sad if I could just bask in that love all the time.

But I do struggle with depression. And I do feel it in spite of all that goodness. Today though? Today I choose to just remember the love and the special day and night I had. The day I felt like the luckiest queen in the world! Thanks to all of you…


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Opinions and Such

The older I get, the more I feel like there is very little I know. I’ve been saying that for a few years now. The paradox is, I’m more and more sure that I’m not sure about much of anything. The more I live life, the more aware I become that there are very few formulas in life about how it should work and how it should be.

I’m a therapist. Relationships are my “specialty”. And yet I am more and more convinced that what makes a relationship successful and happy is unique to each couple. There really are few “rules” to follow. One couple can do things similarly to another couple, and one ends up together and the other ends up divorced. Why? Who knows.

I become more aware every year that my role as a therapist is not to provide answers, but to provide company on the journey. I help people sort out their own way.

When I do a speaking engagement, I often talk about how spiritual growth can occur through learning to hold opposing and conflicting thoughts and feelings at the same time. Relationships are not really any different.

While my entire life is dedicated to understanding relationships and how they tick, there are sometimes spurts in the intensity level of how that happens. The last few months, I have had countless philosophical conversations with people- males, females, singles, married people, clients, dates, family, friends. All kinds of sources.

Dating today is so different than it used to be because of the internet. And yet it is still exactly the same. Personally, I found dating difficult when I was in high school. And college. And as a divorced woman. And as a widowed woman. No matter what age or set of circumstances, dating is a difficult endeavor. I don’t think I’m alone in that. How many people in your lifetime have you heard say “Man, I love this dating thing!” ?? Not many I bet. Heck, my father is in his eighties and it hasn’t been a picnic for him either!

Hindsight is a dangerous thing. I find that people are very confident offering their opinions and advice after something goes sour. If a relationship ends, it’s easy to say that whatever choices were made, obviously something else should have been done. But I think that is dangerous. When you think that, you just create another set of “rules” that you think apply to everyone.

Match.com is a fascinating social phenomenon. I swear there is a book to be written about people’s experiences. Again, I hear and listen and feel so many things that all seem true, but yet they are contradictory. How can that be? Well, because it just is.

For example, let’s take pace. Most people would say that there is a certain time frame that should occur for relationships to be healthy and successful. I admit that in years past, I would have my own internal judgments if I was working with a couple that moved “too fast.” You hear the history and think, “Well, of course you are having problems. You started living together two weeks after meeting.” But you really can’t say that.

Have you ever met someone who experienced love at first sight? I have not personally ever felt that, but I have met people who have. And they are happily married for years and years and years. There are plenty of divorced couples out there that dated for years, got engaged, and followed all the social “norms” for relationships. And yet the relationship failed.

Just in the last couple of weeks, I have talked personally with people who moved in with their partner within two months of meeting. Both couples are very happy, seem very healthy, and have maintained their relationships over an extended period of time. So they end up being “smart.” And lucky. If their relationship went up in flames, then we would be quick to say that they were unwise and impulsive.

One person on Match talked about how they were learning what they liked and didn’t like. They get a sense almost immediately of whether there is a spark or not. They don’t want to waste their time or anyone else’s so they cut things off as soon as they know. I listened to him explain all that and I thought “Right. That makes total sense. Seems wise to me.”

The next week, I talked to a person who said they were frustrated sometimes with the Match process. He said that it seems like people don’t know how to work on relationships anymore. If there is not immediate magic, there is no effort to get to know someone. No chance to spend some time and seeing how things might develop. I listened to him explain all that and I thought “Right. That makes total sense. Seems wise to me.”

So the moral of the story is, I don’t think there is just one right way. Or one right pace. There are all kinds of ways for people to connect. And disconnect. And reconnect. Who is to say? Perhaps we should hold our judgments.

Do your own internal inventory. Do you have opinions about how many days you should wait after meeting someone before you call them? Should women call men or should men always initiate? Who should pay for dates? How long do you wait before a kiss? How long do you wait before having sex with someone? The list goes on and on. And most of us have our opinions about what we think the answers to those questions should be. If someone doesn’t behave the way we might, then there is often judgment.

Kids are another issue where people seem to know what is the ideal way to handle dating. I used to be one of those people too. When should your kids meet a potential partner? Many say not until you are almost certain about your relationship. Some say their kids are a deal breaker because they are part of the whole package. So why not get to know them right away? How do you get “solid” with a person if you don’t know how they interact with your kids? And I can personally say that it is much more difficult to navigate that as a widow because your kids don’t go off every other weekend with your former partner. There is no alone time or off duty time. Ever. Yet the collateral damage can be worse for them. Your mom breaks up with a boyfriend you like, you can always rely on that relationship with your biological dad if your parents are divorced. But what if there is no other dad?

This is another area I’ve had to admit that I just don’t have the answers to. I honestly think that a huge part of the equation is the personality of your kid(s) and how they handle things.

Do you only date one person at a time? Or do you date several people at the same time? Again, I have heard well thought out arguments for both sides of that. I have heard well thought out criticisms of the other side of the fence. And they all have good points. So what to do? Personally, the only “rule” I’ve figured out for myself is that I have to be honest with whatever it is I’m doing. You have no control over whether the other parties in your life are honest back, but you have to hope they are.

So… no answers. Just lots of opposing ideas that all seem to contain truth. I will venture out though and offer some unsolicited advice. 1. Try not to judge other people. 2. If you have a relationship, work hard at it. It’s not all that easy to start over. The grass is definitely not always greener on the other side.

I’m sure I’ve said things you agree with, disagree with, or may have infuriated you. I am just figuring the world out like everyone else.


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Cheating

I’m cheating this week on the blog. I just got done writing a letter to Frankie’s teacher at his request. In a million words or less, tell me about your son. I kind of liked it when I was done so I thought why not blog it?

September 2013

Thank you for your interest in my son, Frankie. Feel free to share this with any of his teachers. How do you sum up an entire person in a paragraph or two? So thanks for giving me a million words!

In kindergarten, Frankie wrote a story called “The Kite and the Snowflake” that his teacher caught in his writing journal. She entered it in the Reading Rainbow contest and he came in 2nd place with over 700 applicants. It was a beautiful and poignant story and it put him on the map at school. He was asked to read his book to the entire school and also to the Board of Education. He was told there that he would probably be the President someday. (I hope not. I have bigger dreams for him than politics.)

At the end of first grade, Frankie’s father was diagnosed with stage IV gallbladder cancer. We started a blog on CaringBridge that his teachers, social worker, principal, etc. all followed in order to know what life was like for Frankie at home. The support was overwhelming.

At the beginning of second grade, Frankie’s father died in October. The principal actually was the one who brought Frankie to Hospice that day. She describes the ride there as one she will never forget. The school and staff continued to be amazing. In second and third grade, Frankie attended a grief group at school. In fourth grade he told me “it’s time to move on” and he stopped attending.

Frankie is amazing. He has my emotional drama so he is sensitive when you least expect it. He is also very silly (like me) and has taken great pride in being dubbed the class clown. He is confident and expressive which led him last year to dress up as Cinderella for Halloween, wear nail polish for a week, and color his hair pink for a day and wore a “breast cancer awareness” shirt.

He is smart as a whip. His passions are sports, especially hockey. He can truly hold a conversation with any adult regarding sports. He was even “hired” this year as a fantasy football coach for a draft pick by a very serious guy. He can recite a ridiculous amount of information about ANY NHL or NFL player, not just the Buffalo teams. His dream is to be a general manager someday. He plays hockey for our town team.

He also can sometimes be lazy. Because he is so smart, he doesn’t have to work very hard. Last year he was FAILING social studies. Why? Because they were all open book tests and he assumed he didn’t need to bother to open them.
This year he has been exceptionally independent. I haven’t been checking his planner and he just responds with “I’ve got it covered, Mom”. I will trust he knows what he is doing unless I am informed otherwise by any of his teachers. He has the capability of getting straight As, but in spite of what he might tell you, I do not expect that of him. I’m much more interested in him becoming a well rounded human being.

Just an FYI- Scott (the school Social Worker) has been our family therapist for over ten years. He has been through all of our blended family trials, through Tim’s sickness and death. Frankie prefers NOT to go to counseling, but you can always talk with Scott at any time about anything at all. He knows our family extremely well.

Overall, Frankie seems very adjusted. His half brother Colin is 29 and still lives with us. You will no doubt here about him quite often. He only works part time so is around a lot. They are inseparable. I am now the bread winner and work a lot. Colin cooks most of Frankie’s meals and usually does his homework with him. I suspect Frankie’s adjustment to his life without a dad would be much different if Colin were not here.

I love to be involved. If there is ever anything at all that I can get my foot in the door with, please allow me the chance to do so. If it’s reading, parties, making copies, doing computer work, whatever at all, I find having some sort of presence in the school is very helpful with Frankie and with knowing his friends.
Thanks for taking care of my boy. He’s a handful and a challenge and a delight.

Darcy Thiel

P.S. I will also shamelessly promote the book I wrote called “Bitter and Sweet, a Family’s Journey with Cancer” that came out last March. If you want to understand Frankie, myself, and our family, it’s a great book that has gotten excellent reviews. I have copies or it is available everywhere on line.