Saturday, November 30, 2013

Family On Air Force Two

Black Friday for me was all about family. 
I have a cousin who is a major in the US Air Force and he and his wonderful family are stationed at Andrews Air Force Base which is about a 45-minute drive from my house.  He invited family members to come to Andrews yesterday and he conducted a special tour for us of Air Force Two and a number of other VIP jet planes.
We had three generations of family with us and we spent a different kind of day together, hanging out, catching up and learning something new about our cousin's important job flying jets for Vice President Joe Biden and other government officials and also never missing a chance to ham it in front of our cameras and pretend we too were VIPs.

Love, respect and making fun.  Isn't that what family does best?
Me With Family Members Posing By Air Force Two

Me on Air Force Two Pretending to Conduct Business


Friday, November 29, 2013

Nothing More -- The Alternate Routes

After a day spent counting our blessings and giving thanks, today we are full of gratitude right?
To keep that warm and fuzzy and wonderful feeling of kindness going, here is a song introduced to me by Hannah Donnelly (a Jesuit Volunteer Corps alumni & my son's girlfriend) that I know I will be singing or humming to myself today or whenever I feel my patience starting to wear.  It is a beautiful song, offering hope and I think it fosters the spirit of giving.
The song, "Nothing More" was written specifically for Newtown Kindness ( and is performed by a band called The Alternate Routes. 

Please listen.......For it's all in the heart:

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Giving Thanks!!

Today is a day when I pause to give thanks for all of the incredible gifts God has sent my way and also it's a day when it's okay to eat too much.
I am lucky to have wonderful friends and family and to be able to visit some of them today.  I know that during the hustle and bustle of this holiday that I will scan the room and think about the blessings in my life.  I never take what I have for granted for I know how quickly a person's life can change.

I also am thankful for my readers.  It means a lot to me that you stop here and read my posts and I hope that in some small way I am able to help you for your support truly helps me.

Happy Thanksgiving!!


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

20 Things We Need To Say

Today is about something light and healing because lots of people will be traveling so that they can spend Thanksgiving Day with those they care about.

I love Kid President and his ability to make me and many, many others smile and laugh about the crazy things that happen in the unpredictable world around us.

He's irresistible!  I hope you agree!
Kid President
This new video is particularly cute (especially if you like corn dogs) and timely as Kid President reminds us of 20 things we need to remember to say more often to each other because these words repeated on a regular basis could make life go a little smoother for everyone . . . . . especially on Thanksgiving Day.

Here goes:

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Buddhist Rice Bowl

It's Something To Think About. . . .

"In Zen Buddhism, there's a concept called 'zen mind,' or beginner's mind.'  They say that the mind should be like an empty rice bowl.

If it's already full, then the universe can't fill it.

If it's empty, it has room to receive.

This means that when we think we have things figured out, we're not teachable.  Genuine insight can't dawn on a mind that's not open to receive it.

Surrender is a process of emptying the mind."

                                  ~ By Marianne Williamson, "A Return To Love,
Reflections on the Principles of A Course In Miracles
Photo Courtesy of Josh Bulriss

Monday, November 25, 2013

Nate Berkus Moves Forward

When I share stories on this blog about my travels with grief over the past several years, I do so in the hopes that it will help others cope with their losses.  Grief can be isolating even though I believe most people want to connect with others and especially those who have been where they are when they experience a loss.

I think everyone wants to feel that someone, anyone gets what's going on with them; especially at this time of the year.

One of the ways I found a connection was through reading.  In the beginning of grieving the loss of my husband, I read everything I could get my hands on about what this whole grieving thing was about.

I was hungry for information about the particulars of grief because no one I knew had lost their husband at a young age and was also trying to raise a child.  I wanted to know how long would it last, would I always feel so full of pain, would I ever stop crying, would I ever laugh again, how was I going to get myself going again.  And these were only a few of the urgent issues swirling around in my head at that time.

I have since learned that every loss is unique, that each of us grieves in our own way and what helps one person doesn't always work for another person.  That is why I am always searching for stories about how other people have handled their loss and what helped them to find meaning in their life once again.  You never know what's going to click.

Nate Berkus
Enter Nate Berkus.  Yes, Nate Berkus the designer.  Nate Berkus, the talented cutie who you've seen on television as he goes into people's homes and beautifies their rooms with new design solutions and a refreshing down-to-earth attitude about design, living spaces and life.

You may not know this but he's also the same Nate Berkus who in 2004 survived the Indian Ocean tsunami.  Tragically, his partner, photographer Fernando Bengoechea, Berkus' did not survive.  They were traveling to a small surfing village in Sri Lanka when the tsunami hit.  Nate Berkus shared with earlier this year his wisdom about how his loss affected him and how he went about  processing it.  I just discovered this story and felt Nate Berkus' answers still resonate with help for all of us. 
Please read Nate Berkus' insights about moving on with your life after a loss in the following link:

Friday, November 22, 2013

50 Years Ago In Dallas

On November 22, 1963, I was 9 years old and off from school that day because I felt sick.
I was under the covers of my parents bed and watching the black and white television they had in their bedroom.  For some reason my Dad was home that day and he come upstairs to see how I was when the television programming stopped and the unbelievable and shocking news was announced that President John F. Kennedy has been shot in Dallas and died.
I had never seen my father cry before and I didn't know what to do.  He went over to the window and raised his left arm up against the wall and pressed his head into the crook of his elbow and starting crying.  I silently watched his shoulders shake for a few minutes.  I pulled the sheets up to my face and started to cry too because I knew, even though I was only nine years old, that what was happening was bad, really, really bad.  Bad in a way that I knew was different from anything else I had ever known.  Eventually, my father turned around, wiped his face with his hands and stared at the television as the awful news continued to be announced over the airwaves.

President John F. Kennedy & First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy ride
in the Dallas motorcade moments before shots were fired.
Photo Courtesy of Reuters/STR
I don't think anyone turned the television off for days.  Our whole lives revolved around what was being broadcast and no one moved from where there was a television from the moment the news broke of the assassination to the burial at Arlington National Cemetery and even for days after.

The loss was, and still is, profound.  People were in shock and deeply grieving for the young and charismatic president and felt the immediate need to reach out to offer support to First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy and her two children, Caroline and John.  This was a president who spent a lot of time on television and Americans felt that they were a part of the Kennedy family's life.  At least our family did.

There were no computers in those days so people sat down and expressed their feelings of grief and sympathy the old fashioned way:  they wrote heartfelt handwritten letters. 

The White House said in the weeks following President John F. Kennedy's death that it received more than 800,000 condolence letters, 45,000  of which were received on the Monday following the assassination.

People seemed to instinctively know that one of the most important things you can do for a bereaved person is to acknowledge their loss.  Don't ever be afraid to acknowledge another person's loss.  When in doubt of what to do, it's best to push aside your own anxieties and please keep it simple.

In this tragic instance, it was a loss for the whole nation, as our President was killed right before our eyes.  And while Kennedy was our President, he was also a husband and father and uncle and brother and it is those other human roles that Kennedy filled that also were acknowledged in the days following his death.

And so we take a moment today to remember.

In the words of Monica Lehner-Kahn, "Condolence is the art of giving courage."

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Star Night Star Bright

I am one of those old school people who still have a daily newspapers delivered to my house.  During the work week when I go outside to get the newspaper, it is dark and the moon and the stars are still shining in the sky.
It's a great time to collect my thoughts for the day.
This morning I took a moment to stand still on the sidewalk, take a deep breath, and say a prayer of gratitude for a new day and whatever it might bring.  As I gazed at the quiet beauty of the moon hanging in the early morning sky and the stars twinkling about it, I was reminded of the saying and unfortunately I don't know who wrote it:

I saw a star slide down the sky,
blind the north as it went by,
too burning and too quick to hold,
too lovely to be bought or sold,
good only to make wishes on
and then forever to be gone.

Safe travels today!!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Holiday Party Questions

Hi there!! It's me again and I am back today with what I hope is timely information to help you deal with the topsy turvy happenings of the holiday season.

You will, and probably already have, received invitations to holiday parties and you may or may not be looking forward to going.  If you have recently lost a loved one I am very sorry that this personal tragedy is happening to you.  Socializing while in the throes of grief can be a bit of a high wire act.
I say it's a delicate balance because you don't want to isolate yourself because that is unhealthy for your broken heart and sometimes isolation makes you feel worse about what is happening to you.  However, you also don't want to be accepting every invitation that comes your way because answering all of those unfiltered questions and comments about your loss  is emotionally draining.

What to do?

A guy I knew in my widowed persons support group handled it this way:  he took his calendar and opened it to the months of November and December and wrote in capital letters the word "NO" across the dates.  He said he did this because he didn't want to lie to his friends about his social mood, so when someone would call him and invite him to some party or funtion he would say, "Let me look at my calendar.  Yup, just as I thought, my calendar says 'no' I won't be able to make it."

While that might not be the most gracious way of accepting or declining an invitation it worked for him and the group gave him credit for thinking ahead and coming up with something to help himself.
Every effort does not always hit the mark.  Boy do I know this!  I went to a very large Christmas party by myself a number of years ago.  I knew some of the people there and tried to join in the festivities but after about 15 minutes I felt overwhelmed and went to go to the host and hostess and thanked them and explained that I had to leave.  I was an emotional wreck!

To help you decide what kind of social events will or will not work for you as you recover from a loss, AARP suggests you ask yourself the following questions:

--Is this event a "must do," and do I like doing it?

--Is it observed only our of habit or for reasons that no longer fit?

--What are the consequences of skipping the event for now?

--Is there another event we would all enjoy more?

--What would we like to do differently?
There is no rule book for healing after a loss.  I just know that it can't be rushed and that we must respect the process others go through to find their own path to processing their pain and trying to do it during the holiday season can make that precarious journey a lot more unpredictable.
Hugs to all!!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Kris Carr's Golden Ticket

I recently wrote about some of the good things I learned about surviving a personal trauma in the ten years after my husband's death (No Lifeguard On Duty).  After that post was published, many people told me they found it helpful to know how things feel ten years after a loss.
No matter how crazy and afraid you feel after a loss, it's essential to keep trying to find the support you need until you discover a different way to live.  Even though change is the last thing you want to do, change is possible.  It feels as though nothing will ever go right for you ever again, but that my friends, is a feeling that eventually will pass if you give it some time.

There is always hope.
The idea of changing and rebuilding your life, working on personal development or sustaining a lifestyle change over a ten years period is so interesting to me.  How do other people do it?  What keeps them committed to their new way of life?  I was Googling to see if I could find out more about how others mark their personal benchmarks of change when up on the computer screen popped the name of one of my favorite inspirational people: Kris Carr.
Photos Courtesy of Kris Carr
Kris Carr is truly amazing to me.  I have written about her many times on Cry, Laugh, Heal and never tire of her enthusiastic, original and generous way of approaching life as a person diagnosed with a Stage 4 cancer. 
Kris Carr is a New York Times bestselling author and wellness activist who brings you to the idea of change in a best girlfriend, let's do this together kind of way.  Whenever I am in a rut or feel the need to kick myself in the butt to get motivated, I either pick up one of her books or read her blog, Crazy, Sexy Cancer (  Kris Carr recently went in to the doctor's for her ten year check up and talked about it on Oprah's amazing weekly program called Super Soul Sunday.
Please watch this short YouTube clip and listen to Kris Carr talk about her changed life ten years after being diagnosed with the Big C:

Monday, November 18, 2013

Holiday Mash-Up

In music, mashups are when a performer or group combines the instrumentals of one song with the vocals of another song and then the mashup, or blending if you will, is played as a new song.  Sometimes it works and sometimes it flops.
In retail, this is the time of year for practicing what I think of as a huge marketing mash-up.  Stores no longer wait for one holiday to almost happen and then stock the shelves with the decorations or products for the next holiday.  There is no longer any retail restraint with regard to holidays; it's just throw it all out there at any time and let the calendar be damned.
I guess if I made a living in retail I would understand this "go for broke" philosophy.  Most stores are counting on shoppers during the holiday season to help them rack up profits for the year but the holiday marketing mashup makes it awfully hard for those who have lost a loved one and are using all their strength to emotionally keep it together.
Christmas decorations are on the shelves in October, Thanksgiving table decorations are on sale in September and Halloween candy can be found next to August's displays for school supplies.  It's confusing to know what time of the year it is if I'm using stores as a seasonal guide.
Since most of the retail rules got kicked to the curb, I'm suggesting a few things for those who are particularly emotionally vulnerable the holiday season.  If you are able to embrace the holidays in all their magic and wonder then good for you!! I congratulate you on your good luck and I hope that no matter what holidays you celebrate that you have the best holidays ever!!
But for people who are newly widowed or have lost a child, a relative or a friend, the holidays are filled with memories and expectations.  And this is where the marketing mashup causes problems.
Memories, yes, are wonderful, and I feel blessed to have some great memories of my late husband but I know from personal experience and also from conversations with those who have experienced a loss that as much as you steel yourself for the celebration of religious and traditional holidays, you only have enough emotional energy to deal with them one at a time.  Holiday reminders thrown at you all at the same time can put you into emotional overload which is not what you want at all.
Your life has changed and it's important to take care of you.  There is no requirement that you celebrate your holidays the way that you always did when your loved one was alive.  If you haven't already, talk to your family and friends about what you want to do over the holidays.  If traditions and time honored routines give you comfort, then please continue with the ones you feel you need and want to keep.   If you want to create new traditions, then you should feel free to celebrate in a new way.
Holidays are a highly charged time of year and you deserve to find a healing zone within these months of eating, drinking and making merry. 

Trust your  instincts.  It's best for your mental and physical well being to take the holidays at your own pace and celebrate in your own way, not a mashed up, commercial version of what Madison Avenue thinks you should do.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

No Lifeguard On Duty

If you had told me ten years ago that it would take me this long to navigate my conflicting feelings of loss and truly come to grips with the fact that my husband died, he's not coming back and I'll never see him again, I would have thought you were smoking something and totally out there.

In the beginning, I was just trying to survive which meant working a full-time job and raising a thirteen-year-old boy by myself.  I honestly didn't think beyond the day I was in.  That's all I could manage.  I constantly told myself that other women have done it with more children and younger children and I could do it too.  But still it took all of the energy I could muster.
Photo By Sheila Hayes
Day by day, slowly, I put one foot in front of the other, sometimes falling, sometimes crashing, but always finding a way to get back up and put myself out there again.  There were times when I felt  as though I were swimming without a lifeguard on duty.  That I was screaming "Help" as loud as possible and no one heard me.  No one was there to jump in and save me if you know what I mean. 
And so I find that in between the making of daily decisions about working, taking care of the house, the car, and all of the other pressing responsibilities of motherhood and adulthood, somehow ten years happened.  Ten years of soul searching.  Ten years of living fully to the max. 

What did I learn?

         -- No one is going to do it for you.  You are allowed to wallow in the unknowns and unfairness of your situation for a short amount of time but then you have to stop.  As the saying goes, there comes a point where you have to pull up your big girl pants, take a deep breath and just go out there and live.  As screwed up as you feel, you just have to keep going and trust in yourself.  You are responsible for yourself and you will find your way to recover.  You will!

         -- Don't have regrets.  If it's not worth your energy, then push it aside and move on.  But if you have something to say to someone, then say it.  I'm not suggesting that you be mean or abrupt but if you have a point to make or a compliment to give then do it.  Don't wait around for a reason to do something.  You can't be afraid to try something new.  You are already living in uncharted territory.  You can make it happen.

         -- Nothing happens the way you think it will.  I don't know why it happens that way but it does.  That can be a good thing and it can also be an incredibly frustrating thing.  I worked on shifting my perspective about certain parts of my life and then sometimes ended up being pleasantly surprised.

         -- You have to take care of yourself; physically and mentally.  You need to get lots of sleep, eat well and definitely, definitely exercise.  Exercise is my saving grace.  On many days when I felt like everything was melting down I forced myself to get on the stationary bicycle, go outside and run or take a walk.  Sometimes I would walk with a friend and other times I would put the trusty ear buds in my ears, turn up the music, and try to work through some of my feelings that made me think I was constantly screwing up and that life was a mess.

           -- Reach out.  Definitely reach out.  Yes, your family and friends are more than uncomfortable with what has happened to you but you just have to keep talking and hoping that you can help them see what it feels like.  Strengthen your emotional support system.  Find a support group or volunteer to help a cause you are passionate about.  I think you will find it hard to make good solid progress if you try to push your feelings down inside yourself.  They will not go away on their own.  I know you think that you can ignore the chaotic emotional mess that's churning around inside of you but guess what?  You have to push through to the other side of the pain.

Ten years of hard work later, I feel I am in a better place and I have made huge strides in rebuilding my life.  I am writing this today in the hopes that I can lend a helping hand to others who are also on a journey to heal their hearts.  Cry, Laugh, Heal is here to let you know you are not alone in the emotions surrounding the loss of a loved one.
Perhaps more than anything, even as everything hits the fan, I have learned to try and stay positive and hopeful, to keep my heart open to all kinds of love and good times and the wonders of living a full life. 
Our loved ones would want us to find happiness without them and even though life doesn't feel the same, there is always, always the possibility for a different kind of life.  It may not be a life you had initially thought of for yourself but you are talented and special and deserve to find joy and inner peace . . .  and maybe even fall in love again.

Anything is possible!!!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

10 Years

Dearest Tommy:

How can it be 10 years?  I miss you!!


Friday, November 8, 2013

Way To Go

It's Fabulous, Fantastic, Friday and I know you are as happy about this as I am!
By the end of the work week, everyone needs a nice pat on the back.
Try saying one nice thing, one kind thing to someone you know or even a stranger
 and see what happens...............


Thursday, November 7, 2013

With A Little Help From My Friends

Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends,
Mmm, gonna try with a little help from my friends. . .
                                        ~ The Beatles

Whether it's alcoholism, gambling, overeating, drug addiction or grief, I believe that others who are traveling the same unpredictable path as ourselves can often offer the greatest amount of inspiration.

It may seem slow and incredibly painful but I found that when you sit and share your story with others facing the same issues, there is a sense of relief that you have finally found people who understand the depth of what you are feeling and how hard it is to handle.  In searching for a way to begin healing, support groups offer safety because you find you are not alone in your emotional turmoil.

In my grief support group, I was particularly inspired by a middle-aged woman who had lost her husband and an adult child.  I would listen to her and be amazed that she somehow had found a way to carry on with her life.  Given the same circumstances, I'm not even sure I would be able to get up, get dressed and get out the door of my house.  Seriously.

Laying bare your pain, guilt, shame, anger or even desires sounds like it would be a humiliating experience but I never found it to be.  In support group meetings, I was totally vulnerable but I wasn't afraid to talk and share because I had found an atmosphere of support and understanding.  There was no criticism or censoring of any kind. 

And that kind of support can take you anywhere you want to go.

In Boston, it took Marty Walsh all the way to the mayor's office.  Walsh's background is as a state legislator and a labor leader but the other part of his amazing story is that he also believes in extending a helping hand to those with addiction problems. 
Walsh, a recovering alcoholic who still attends AA meetings after 18 years of sobriety, was elected Nov. 5 to the city's highest office, the office of mayor, with the help of many former drug addicts and drinkers who worked on his campaign staff and also volunteered canvassing door to door to get the word out about Walsh.
Walsh said the support from former addicts was invaluable to him not because of the political rewards that came out of their work but because of the personal and emotional rewards of watching people find hope, get involved and work for something they believe in.
"They give me the emotional strength to keep moving," Walsh said in an interview with The New York Times.
And that, my friends, is the essence of why support groups work.
They give you the emotional strength, the strength you so desperately need, when you are adrift in a sea of hurt.
Congratulations Marty and good luck to you!!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Compassionate Care

I write about the subject of hospice care today because November is National Hospice Care month.  I don't usually pay attention to the themes of specific months but in this case I saw a tweet about it and wanted to draw attention to the incredible people who do this important work.

I have the greatest respect for the people who do hospice work.  The time and endless amounts of energy poured into this work of providing compassionate care to those diagnosed as terminally ill is critical to the patient and the families trying to do their best as a loved one reaches the end of their life. 

Each year in the United States, more than 1.58 million people with a life-limiting illness receives care from hospice care givers, according to a report by the National Hospice & Palliative Care Organization.  Most hospice care is given at home, allowing people to be surrounded by their friends and family in the last stages of their life.
I was told by my husband's doctors that the best time to learn about hospice care is before you need it.  No one really knows when and if that time will come but it is wise to prepare.  As hard as it is to think about the possibility of using hospice services, hospice care organizations have decades of experience and are invaluable to family members who need a break from the physically and emotionally exhausting work of trying to do all of the caregiving by themselves.

My husband did not need hospice at the end of his life but just in case it became necessary to have hospice come to the house to help me, I met with a one of their nurses.  She was very calm and reassuring about what happens when hospice becomes involved with your loved one.  She emphasized to me that hospice care is not about giving up; it is more of a focus on comfort and care and respect.  It gave me strength to know that hospice would be there should I ever need it.
For myself, I find it hard to imagine doing this work if you don't know the person who is ill.  Taking care of someone when you don't know them and know that they aren't going to get better requires an immeasurable amount of faith, inner peace and compassion.  This is only a few of the reasons why the people who do hospice care are so special.  They embrace the patient and their family and are honored to take care of your loved one and to try to enhance the quality of their life in the time they have remaining.
Ladies Home Journal recently ran an inspiring story called,  "It Doesn't Have To Be Sad: The Life of A Hospice Nurse."  It is a revealing story from a nurse's perspective about being with terminally ill patients and what it feels like to help dying patients through their final days.  Here is the link:

Monday, November 4, 2013

Changing It Up

It is never too late to make changes in your life.
You can be 22, 42, 62 or even 92 and suddenly decide it's time for a change.

But you have to want it.  You can't do it just because others want you to.  You need to make changes and take care of yourself for yourself.
I was thinking about this because a wonderful friend of mine was discharged from the hospital this past Saturday after having her gall bladder removed on Friday.  It all happened very quickly and it was scary for a short time because we weren't sure that it was going to be a straightforward surgery.
In the end, that bad boy of a gall bladder was removed and hopefully her health issues are gone forever more.

We are all quite thankful that she is at home and resting but she also has to make some changes in her diet.  Which is where the changes I was talking about in the beginning come into the picture.
When good health is the issue, sometimes we have to stop eating some things and start eating other things that are better for our bodies.  I know how hard this can be because I was very sick and hospitalized about 11 years ago.  I was told by my doctors to stop drinking alcohol and eat a low fat diet that was practically a non-fat diet.  And I did it.  I didn't like it but it slowly became a way of life.  It took a lot of mind changes on my part and rethinking about the food that I ate.
I was constantly reading food labels and I think for the first couple of months I existed on homemade soup, baked salmon, non-fat yogurt, fat free chocolate pudding and salads with no-fat dressing.  That meant no desserts, no chips, no fries, no cheeseburgers and especially no pizza.
I got myself back into a state of good health and felt a lot better and stronger after changing things up.  It is no exaggeration to say that if you have good health, you have almost everything.  Good health is not to be taken for granted.

The state of your health is your launching pad from which the rest of your life flows.  If you don't have any energy, how can you work to make your dreams come true?  If you are sick, then you are spending money on hospitals and doctors instead of on your own business or your home or your family.
Please don't get discouraged if you know you need to make changes and you have tried many times and it didn't seem to work for you.  Please try again.  If you aren't in great shape right now, you can change it.  It is possible!!
Take a walk.  Turn on some music.  You can get up and move and groove.  Think about what you're eating.  You can make better food choices and build up your immune system.  Change is always possible.
It's never too late to make changes to improve our health and live more vibrant lives.

Let's start today!!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Soul Talking

Just because someone isn't with you doesn't mean you can't talk to them.......right?

People have imaginary conversations all the time.  In the shower.  While shaving or putting on your make-up.  In the kitchen.  Taking a walk.  Jogging.

It's not weird.  At least, I don't think it's weird.  I think of it as collecting or organizing your thoughts to make sure you explain yourself exactly the way you want.  Or sometimes it's venting your emotions to the only person who might really get what you're feeling.

So what if the person is no longer here on Earth? 

It doesn't matter to me because I truly believe with all my heart that those people we have lost to Heaven or whatever you want to call it, can hear us talking to them.

Today is All Souls Day and I bet your loved ones can't wait for you start yakking away.  Go ahead and try it.  I bet it will make you feel better.  Usually I'm at home when I have my talks, but sometimes I'm in the car when I go on about what is happening in my life to my husband, my grandmother, and many other friends and relatives whose souls are peacefully resting in the great beyond.
I am not alone in my talking to departed loved ones.  Yesterday a great friend sent me the below story by Mary Schmich, a wonderful writer and columnist for The Chicago Tribune.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!!!!!! 

This is a Week To Speak To Our Departed Souls

By Mary Schmich
Chicago Tribune
October 30, 2013
I talk to the dead.
Whenever I'm startled by the shapes and colors in the sky, I talk to my brother Bill, an artist who loved to paint the clouds.
Some days I talk to my friend Steve, usually along the lines of, "Where the bleep are you, Daley, when I and a whole lot of other people need to talk to you about the idiocy of politics?"
Every now and then, while having tea in one of the dainty china cups I inherited from my Aunt Mary Louise, I feel moved to say aloud, "I'm sorry I didn't come visit you more."
I often talk to my mother, just to say her name.
To some people this will seem kooky, though the rest of you understand. You talk to the dead too. And if there’s any week when we’re licensed--practically commanded--to commune with the dearly departed, this is it.
There’s Halloween (Oct. 31). All Saints’ Day (Nov. 1). All Souls’ Day (Nov. 2). And, spanning the first two days of November, there’s the celebration known as el Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead.
Each day, in its own way, prompts us to connect with lives that, to steal a poet's line, have slipped the surly bonds of Earth.
In our culture, Halloween is the one that makes the biggest bang. With its candy corn, Batman outfits, naughty nurse costumes, ghosts, goblins and periodontally challenged pumpkins, it's a day when pop culture meets the pseudo-occult.
I prefer the other days, not on religious grounds, though they're rooted in religion, but because they encourage a more genuine reflection on death and the relationships that we retain with people who are gone.
In many places, the days of saints and souls matter as much as or more than Halloween. From New Orleans to Mexico to France, they're the days for rituals that connect the living to the dead.
Clean up the family graves. Build a little altar to the deceased. Picnic in the cemetery. Pray that souls in purgatory be released. Party with a transcendental purpose.
As a kid, growing up Catholic, I was particularly fond of All Souls Day. It seemed less celebrity-driven than the day dedicated to the saints, more about the little people.
But that wasn't why I liked it. I liked it for the word "soul."
What was a soul? At the age of 7, I knew exactly.
A soul was a little dog bone planted in the center of a person's chest. When you were born, the dog bone was as white as snow and as smooth as polished stone. When you committed small sins (hitting your brothers, saying bad words), little stains like ink marks appeared on the white dog bone. A big sin (murder) turned the whole bone black.
Confession could clean the dog bone, but wherever it had been stained by sin it would remain forevermore rough and porous, like pumice.
I have no idea where the vision of the soul as a dog bone came from. From something a nun said? From the primal recess of my child's mind?
At any rate, on All Souls Day, I imagined all the dog bones of the departed rising, winged, from the Earth and fluttering free for a while, an image that has endeared the day to me ever since.
For Catholics and members of some other faiths, these days have specific, profound meanings. But even for people without those faiths, this week is a good excuse to pause, here in the first chill and fading light of autumn, to feel your connection with your departed people.
I no longer know what a soul looks like, but in the past few years as more of the souls I've loved have vanished from view, I have a keener sense of what one is, and that they're still here.
A trick of the mind? Could be. I just know that I feel those souls around me, and I like it, and I like the occasion of this week to think about it.
It's not all about the candy corn.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Taxi Dad

Today's post is a shout out to all of the men out there who have lost their wives or partners and are working hard to juggle the never ending responsibilities of working a paying job while raising their precious children.

I think that women in this situation tend to receive more attention than men due to the sheer numbers of women who find themselves widowed with young children.  But men are also out there too doing their part and running around -- as all parents do -- trying to keep all the plates in the air.
I was reminded of this earlier in the week when I jumped into a taxi and had a casual conversation with the young driver.  It was one of those casual chats that starts out as nothing but then it became more.   We were talking about the cost of living in Washington, DC and the price of gas and then it evolved into stories about our children and life's priorities.

The taxi driver had two children, one who just started college and the other who was around 10 years old.  He tapped the dashboard to show me the picture of his younger child which he had taped by the driver's wheel.  "This is the reason that I don't work on weekends even though that's the time I could make a lot more money," Taxi Dad told me.  "My wife died in 2009 from cancer so I am doing it by myself, you know?  I don't have time to go crazy and spend money and time on other things.  Do you know what I mean?"
Yup, I told him, I did know what he meant. 
I have been a single parent for ten years and being a single parent, just like being a parent with a spouse or partner, is a lot of hard work.  It's also incredibly rewarding and sometimes heartbreaking.  Many times I found myself in uncharted territory in ways I never imagined and sometimes I got through the day by just going with my gut instinct as I tried to be both Mom and Dad.  Whether it's something that happens at school, a decision to be made about a friend's party or sharing the car, I second guessed myself a lot.
Instead of saying, "I don't know.  I'll have to talk to your father about this," I would try to buy some time on making a decision by just being honest and saying, "You have to give me some more time to think about this."  Sometimes, I would call a friend and sometimes I would call one of my sisters but you definitely need someone you can talk to whose judgment you trust because you need parental feedback and I didn't have anyone else to help me figure it out.
I think widowed Dads probably learn to set up their own support systems and find other guys or family and friends to help them navigate the surprises of trying to work a job and raise children by themselves.
Taxi Dad is just one of thousands of Dads out there who try to arrange their work schedules to support their children's needs just as women do. 

As my ride and our conversation ended, it felt good to share our stories about how we handled our losses and connect for a short time with another parent who had also lost a spouse.  Me and Taxi Dad are doing our best and that's all we can ask of ourselves.
Here's to the Dads who man up every day and make it work!