Thursday, May 29, 2014

Come On Over

Dear Resilient Readers:

I am excited to tell you that www.crylaughheal.com is open for business and I am now posting on this new site.
 
As I mentioned previously, I recently took a blogging class and discovered that Blogger had outlived itself and I needed to transition to WordPress as a publishing tool.  Let me tell you, it has been quite a learning experience and I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I initiated this change.
 
But I can now report that it's all good and I'm rebuilding the site and adding pieces almost every day. 
 
For my fabulous readers who received my posts by email, I expect to have a new gadget for email signup added soon to www.crylaughheal.com.  This BlogSpot address and site will continue to exist but I won't be posting new content to it anymore.
 
When you get a chance, come on over to www.crylaughheal.com and check it out!
 
I'll see you there!  Let me know what you think!
 
Thank you for all of your positive support.  It has really meant a lot to me!

Mary Kate







Friday, May 2, 2014

My Patient Readers



Dear Patient Readers:

For over three years, I have been using Blogger to communicate with you and for me the process of posting Cry Laugh Heal to the internet was working out nicely.
 
From the beginning, my goal was to try and help others who lost loved ones and were searching for resources that could help them find a way to carry on without their precious person.  At Cry Laugh Heal, I  write about my experiences with loss and resilience but always with others in mind.  I draw strength from the stories of other people and I'm sure you do too.  It's about support.  No one should ever feel alone and without hope.
 
So when I recently discovered that my blog was difficult to find from a teckie-internet-google-search engine kind of way, I was told I needed to change to another software and thus also change the look of Cry Laugh Heal. 
 
It has been one big frustration after another and I am writing to apologize for the inconvenience of technological problems on my blog site.  If you have recently logged on to www.crylaughheal.com, you discovered for yourself that the site is changing.  I didn't know that you would be able to see the ever changing look of Cry Laugh Heal but there it is.

It has been very difficult for me to navigate this process and find someone to help me transfer more than three years of blog posts and pictures from Blogger to Word Press and then take the Word Press content and work it into a new template but I finally found a great tech guy.  Unfortunately, it's taking longer than I thought.

I miss my writing routine and communicating with all of you on a regular basis but I am also excited for the new Cry Laugh Heal site to be born.  In the meantime, I am tweeting at @crylaughheal and I have a Facebook page that can be found at https://www.facebook.com/crylaughheal?ref=hl.  You are welcome to join me there and I hope you do!!

Here's to a new and improved Cry Laugh Heal that I hope will see the light of day very soon and give you the helping hand you may be looking for as you work through your loss and embrace your new journey.

Peace.

Mary Kate

Thursday, April 24, 2014

South Korea Ferry Disaster

When the unimaginable happens, it is common to ask "Why?" "What if?" "What next?"

Watching the media repeatedly air stories about incredible disasters and accidents, it is understandable that after about a week of constant exposure to the never ending details of these stories that people begin to feel detached and almost numb to the tragedies that have occurred.
 
I'm not saying that the depth of the tragedy isn't felt by others because it is and many immediately respond with aid and help.  I think it's more that the disasters are overwhelming, just too much to take in or process. Two recent tragedies, the sinking of a South Korean ferry killing over a hundred people and the missing Malaysian Airlines flight which disappeared about a month ago over possibly the Indian Ocean while carrying 239 passengers and crew members, are the kind of disasters which instantly spring to mind as incidents that can cause media burnout. 
 
But when the media moves the focus of the story from the bigger explanation of how the accident happened to the more intimate personal story of those victimized by these accidents, the fragility of life and our connections to each other immediately comes to the fore.

Our common bond of vulnerability is exposed.
 
Yesterday the Wall Street Journal ran a touching story about a South Korean husband, Choi in-soo, and his painful efforts to try and understand the raw reality of losing his wife, Choi Soon-bok, in last week's ferry accident.  This is the kind of story that hits me.  When the person is still in shock and at the same time is trying to describe how it feels to discover that a loved one has died and they will never see that person again.

We all hold on to the last precious moments.  The last picture. The last text message.  The last voice message. The last email.

"I'm sorry I'm traveling without you," Mrs. Choi told her husband by phone when the ferry departed on Tuesday evening.  "That was the last I heard from her," Mr. Choi said. 
 
Here is the link to the Wall Street Journal story:  on.wsj.com/1mBI1gn 

Choi in-soo shows a photo of
his wife, Choi Soo-bok, on his smartphone.
Kwanwoo Jun/The Wall Street Journal

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Listening to Easter

All about me are signs of renewal.  Easter is here and with it are the always hopeful signs of rebirth: the arrival of a new season of Spring, Christ's Resurrection, plants and flowers bursting forth in bloom and the feeling of being refreshed; of being given the opportunity to start over.
 
I still make and hide an Easter basket for my young adult son full of chocolates and jelly beans and multi-colored Peeps.  It's a tradition that we both enjoy and these days I laugh as he searches through the house for his hidden basket as I watch and say "hot", "cold" or "warm" depending on where he is in relation to the basket that has sometimes been hidden in places such as the shower, the dryer and the stove.


As my Easter unfolds, the Easter basket search always takes me back to my rambunctious childhood and also to the Easters when my husband was alive.  I know that Easter, and other holidays, are times of great celebration but also are emotionally difficult for those who have just lost loved ones.
 
I know of a woman who just lost her husband last month to cancer after a long and tough fight.  She has two young sons and my thoughts are with them today.  I know that her family and friends will do their best to make sure she and her boys are included in Easter activities but sadly there is no getting around the pain they all are feeling.
 
I think people are aware of others who are dealing with feelings of grief during the traditional holiday season of Thanksgiving and Christmas but holidays in general, whether it is Passover, Easter, Memorial Day or the 4th of July, all tend to carry their own little hidden emotional minefields.  Grieving is stressful all by itself and then when you add the pressure and expectations of holidays, it can add up to unexpected meltdowns because it hard to escape the old sights and sounds associated with these special days.
 
I found these helpful tips from the Hospice Foundation of America and thought they might be good to share:
 
-- Be aware than an approaching holiday might be a difficult time for you.  The additional stress may affect you emotionally, cognitively and physically; this is a normal reaction.
 
--Take care not to drink alcohol (a central nervous system depressant) in excess, overeat (which brings fatigue), or overwork.
 
--Recognize that holidays won't be the same.  If you try to keep everything as it was, you'll be disappointed.  Doing things a bit differently can acknowledge the change while preserving continuity with the past.
 
--Be careful not to isolate yourself.  It's alright to take time for yourself but don't cut yourself off from the support of family and friends.
 
--Talk over your plans.  Decide what you want to do and what can be avoided.

Do what is comfortable for you.  May you find what works for you.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Respect The Tech

I recently took an excellent class at a writer's center in suburban Maryland and learned that my blog, Cry Laugh Heal, needs a technological overhaul.
 
Today's title, "Respect The Tech" is wise advice from my savvy and humorous teacher, Mary T. McCarthy, who currently is an editor at Splice Today (www.splicetoday.com), and founded and writes for her own popular humor website called Pajamas and Coffee (www.pajamasandcoffee.com).  She's the mother of four children and I'm not sure where she finds the time or energy but she also has a book coming out this summer called "The Scarlet Letter Society".  Whew! McCarthy is one busy and very smart dynamo.
 
Basically "respect the tech" means to get your blog or website set up correctly and technologically right.  And if you personally can't get it right, then you must find someone you can trust to keep you on the tech straight and narrow.  The tech is too important to be ignored.  Take it from me, ignoring it brings unwelcome consequences.  I didn't mean to ignore it, I just got overwhelmed by it and other things going on in my life and I thought everything would be okay. NOT!
 
I think I was spending so much time on the writing and the writing and the writing that I took my eye off the tech.  I am now trying to catch up as best I can and I hope you will be patient with my project currently under construction.



The software I have been using is woefully out of date and there are many, many updates that need to be installed.  Patience and calm are my current watchwords as I transition from one site to another and I must admit that I am learning a lot which is a good thing right?
 
I'm not going to go on and on and about what I need to do but I would like to give my wonderful readers a heads up that change is in the making and I am busy trying to make sure that all is in place before I launch a new and improved Cry Laugh Heal.

Any feedback you want to send me is definitely welcome.

Thank you!!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

This I Believe -- Book Excerpt

"This I Believe" is a fantastic book that keeps on giving inspiration to me.
 
I recently discovered this book quite by accident.  I was in Richmond, Virginia with my son and his girlfriend and we came upon a local non-profit that was giving away books for free.  I couldn't believe it.  Free. Books.
 
Free books are irresistible to me.  This would be similar to offering the editor of Vogue free clothes and accessories.  A room of tables full of all kinds of books just waiting for someone to come along and adopt them and take them home.  Where do I start?  I immediately wondered how many I would be able to carry to the car.
 
Early in my book grab, I found "This I Believe" and I snatched it up right away because the subtitle of the book said it was about "The personal philosophies of remarkable men and women"  and is also based on the NPR series of the same name.  "This I Believe" features 80 essayists, some famous and some unknown, writing to complete the thought that begins the book's title.
 
 
 
I decided I didn't want to read the essays in order; that jumping around from famous to unknown and back again would make the book more interesting.  One essay, titled "The Making of Poems" caught my eye because beautifully written poetry expands my viewpoint of the world.  Quickly, I found that the essay is really about resilience, one of my favorite topics to explore and talk to others about for never ending periods of time.
 
I love to find out how a person has pulled themselves back together after a personal crisis and what has kept them going.  What fuels their inner strength?  How did they learn so much from the pain in their life?  I think the answer is as varied as the billions of people making up Planet Earth but in this case, let's focus on author Gregory Orr's resilience and his remarkable essay which begins here:
 
The Making of Poems
By Gregory Orr
 
I believe in poetry as a way of surviving the emotional chaos, spiritual confusions, and traumatic events that come with being alive.
 
When I was twelve years old, I was responsible for the death of my younger brother in a hunting accident.  I held the rifle that killed him.  In a single moment, my world changed forever.  I felt grief, terror, shame, and despair more deeply than I could ever have imagined.  In the aftermath, no one in my shattered family could speak to me about my brother's death, and their silence left me alone with all my agonizing emotions.  And under those emotions, something even more terrible : a knowledge that all the easy meanings I had lived by until then had been suddenly and utterly abolished.
 
One consequence of traumatic violence is that it isolates its victims.  It can cut us off from other people, cutting us off from our own emotional lives until we go numb and move through the world as if only half alive.  As a young person, I found something to set against my growing sense of isolation and numbness: the making of poems.
 
When I write a poem, I process experience.  I take what's inside of me -- the raw, chaotic material of feeling or memory -- and translate it into words and then shape those words into the rhythmical language we call a poem.  This process brings me a kind of wild joy.  Before, I was powerless and passive in the face of my confusion, but now I am active: the powerful shaper of my experience.  I am transforming it into a lucid meaning.
 
Because poems are meanings, and even the saddest poems I write is proof that I want to survive.  And therefore it represents an affirmation of life in all its complexities and contradictions.
 
An additional miracle comes to me as the maker of poems: Because poems can be shared between poet and audience, they also become a further triumph over human isolation.
 
Whenever I read a poem that moves me, I know I'm not alone in the world.  I feel a connection to the person who wrote it, knowing that he or she has gone through something similar to what I've experienced, or felt something like what I have felt.  And their poem gives me hope and courage, because I know that they survived, that their life force was strong enough to turn experience into words and shape it into meaning and then bring it toward me to share.  The gift of their poem enters deeply into me and helps me live and believe in living.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Seeing Clearly






"Give yourself the gift of time in coming to answers for your life. . . .
 
It takes time, and a lot of introspection and soul-searching,
 
to get clear about what you really want to manifest in your life."
 
                                       ~Author David Emerald

Monday, April 7, 2014

Farmer In The Dell

I love farmer's markets.
 
Everything about them fascinates me.  I slow down and totally lose track of time as I enjoy walking from vendor to vendor and talking to each one of them about the unique products they are selling whether it's veggies, fruits, honey, cheeses, breads, soaps or food being cooked to order.
 
Yesterday it truly felt as if the weather had turned a corner and while it was a bit chilly the sun was bright and increasingly warm as the day progressed.  People with their children and dogs and friends and neighbors strolled and chatted each other up at the weekly farmer's market held in the Palisades section of Northwest Washington, DC. 
 
Everybody was just so darn happy to be outside and enjoying the nicer weather!  You could feel the relief in the easy manner of people greeting each other and the slower pace of checking out the market's wares whether it was sampling apples, biscotti, or asking questions about the young herb plants.
 
 
It's kind of similar to everyone having their own lemonade stand and making a go of it with their best products whatever that might be.  Making time for activities you enjoy can be one of the steps you take when rebuilding your life after a loss.  For me, farmer's markets create a healing feeling.  They reinforce for me that we are part of a larger community focused on being supportive and giving back.  Creating extra special karma if you will.
 
That might sound kind of fruit and nutty to you but I like the idea of people making things with their hands whether it is farming or sewing or jewelry and then coming together to share their talents.
 

People selling at farmer's markets always take a lot of pride in what they've made and much of what is sold at farmer's markets is organic or at least pretty close to it and I feel I'm doing my body and brain a favor when I buy healthier more natural foods that are closer to the sources of where they were grown and in my small way I'm also helping an entrepreneur who is trying to run a small business.

I was especially happy to find a vendor selling peach blossoms which are some of my favorite blooms to have in the house during spring and I also bought a few young lettuce plants for myself.

Score!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Dance Walking

I don't know about you, but now that the weather is getting a little warmer and I'm shedding my layers of winter, I'm feeling way out of shape.

Too much time spent sitting in front of the computer.  Too many afternoons noshing on comfort food.





A new season means moving is the name of the game for me and I think this You Tube video below showing how to Dance Walk is the perfect way to kickstart some outdoor motion and burning off those almighty calories!

Even if you don't need to tone up, check out this Dance Walk video because it's fun and we all need to find something that makes us feel fabulous by the end of the week, right?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Snapshots of Caregiving

Helping to care for someone, whether they are young or old, is a time to step up to the plate and show how much that person means to you and many times it also turns out to be a time of personal growth.

I have taken care of lots of babies and toddlers and I have also taken care of elderly relatives.  Until you do it, you really don't realize how much time and energy it takes to properly care for another person.

For me it is instinctive.  I see the need and I want to help.  There are few things in life that can make you feel as good as when you help someone else just because you love them, not because you are getting paid.  As my generation of baby boomers ages and my parents generation lives longer than the previous one, millions of Americans today find themselves providing unpaid care to an elderly person or young child.

To be a healthy caregiver, you must also make yourself a priority because extensive caregiving is harder than you think.  If you don't take care of yourself than you really aren't in good shape to take of another person.  You can easily burnout if you let it become all encompassing.  It can be a physical and psychological drain on a person's resources.  It requires a lot of patience and a lot of flexibility.  Caregiving can be isolating and we need all the resources we can find.

The Washington Post recently ran a special section on March 5 about the demands and rewards of caregiving and I thought it would be helpful to share some of the excerpts from it:


Troubleshooting, and tailoring how you help
By Rosalynn Carter
Former First Lady

There are four kinds of people in the world: those who are currently caregivers, those who have been caregivers, those who will be caregivers and those who will need caregivers.

There are going to be many, many more older people.  We are living longer.  There's the baby boomers.  There's also the veterans coming home with physical problems, mental problems, PTSD, traumatic brain disorders.  Somebody's going to have to take care of them.  There's a dearth of geriatric professionals and those who know how to care for people with mental illness.  There's going to be a greater need for them.

We (care experts from the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving) go into the home of a family.  We ask them to name five problems they have and then we work through the problems.

For instance, there was one woman whose husband had Alzheimer's.  He wouldn't go into the bathroom.  But he loved plants.  And so when our trainer, our care coach, was working with him, one day they decided to put a plant in the bathroom.  And he went in and watered it.  Now he goes in and gets in the tub.  He takes a bath and goes to the bathroom.

You have to tailor how you help.

The elderly don't want to be a problem
By Alene Moris
Women's Rights Leader

Right now, we see the elderly as a problem.  Why don't we look at the elderly as a resource?  We want to help.  We don't want to just be trying to keep ourselves busy.  I hate that.  There are important things to do in life and we need to be able to continue being useful.  I'm a great believer in being useful.

We've got all these healthy "young old" people who go into retirement from 60 to 75 (years old) -- and what do they do with themselves?  They want something meaningful to do.  I think we need to look at ways in which they go into caregiving.  They understand it.  They're close to it.  They see it.  They know that they're going to be there.

Finding Help
By Monica W. Parker
Assistant professor, Department of Medicine, Emory University

Many people who are working can't afford $17 an hour for a caregiver for eight hours a day.  If you're too rich to be poor -- and too poor to be rich -- you're in a no man's land.  You can't get somebody to come to your house to take care of you or assist you.  Maybe there isn't an adult day-care program near you.  There needs to be more services available for working families to help them care for retired workers.

There's a growing acknowledgement that many of us are caring for our relatives and we do need assistance.  It's affecting everybody.  The people I come in contact with feel a lot better when they know where to go for help.

Monday, March 31, 2014

The Good Wife Grieves

Television doesn't always get it right when trying to show the raw emotional effects a person experiences after learning of a death but Sunday's night's episode of The Good Wife came very close.
 
As is true in real life and acted in The Good Wife, everything instantly changes as each character finds out that attorney Will Gardner (Josh Charles) has been shot in a courtroom shootout and killed by his own client: the look on a person's face, the tone of their voice, the way they carry themselves.  Something gets turned off.  There is a dazed and dull feeling after being jolted with the sad news about Will.
 
The changes are especially dramatic for Alicia Florrek, who is sensitively played by the wonderful actress Julianna Margulies.  When Alicia is told at a high profile public appearance that there is a telephone call she must take, she is hesitant to take the phone.  As the shocking news of Will's death is tearfully delivered to her, Alicia says the sentence that I have heard so many people say and it's a sentence I have found myself saying when receiving the news of a person's death: "But I just saw him yesterday."
 
Or I just saw them an hour ago.  Or I just spoke with them.  Or I just had lunch with them.
 
It's as if the act of just seeing, speaking or eating with a person is a kind of shield that protects them from death.  I know that's not the case.  It's illogical.  But I think it's human nature to blurt out that they couldn't possibly be dead because you just had contact with them.  It's just not possible you say to yourself as you try to wrap your brain around the unthinkable news.

 
 
What does active grieving look like?  After every person on The Good Wife receives the tragic news about Will, you then see they are focused on holding on to anything relating Will: a memory, a conversation, any information about what he said in his last minutes alive.  No one wants the connection to be broken, no one wants to deal with the idea that they will never see Will again.  Alicia goes to the courtroom to talk to the judge and to see the crime scene.  She needs to know what happened to Will in the most graphic way possible.
 
But this is the thing about death.  Even though your mind knows that the person is dead, you continue to imagine seeing that person appear before you wherever you may go and this is also what happens to Alicia in The Good Wife.  She leaves the courtroom and goes to the hospital where Will was brought after he was shot and as she stands at the nurse's station she sees Will smiling, making a joke and talking to her.  These kind of imaginary sitings really happen in real life too. 
 
She flashes back to different conversations that she and Will had; conversations that reflect their complicated relationship of being lovers and ex-colleagues of the same law firm.  Alicia recalls Will's anger when he found out that she was starting her own law firm and he then accuses her of stealing his clients.
 
If only she could have one more conversation with him then they could to straighten everything out.  Everyone always wants to have one more chance to talk to the beloved friend, spouse, child or friend and Alicia also longs to hear Will's voice.  She checks her phone and then discovers a voice mail from Will left on her phone that was recorded before the shots were fired in the courtroom.

She carefully plays the voice mail over and over, listening to his voice and taking in each of his words. The voicemail is a part of him and she doesn't want to let it go because if she does then it will be true that he is dead and that is too much for her to bear.  Too painful to think about.  Too confusing.

Alicia's journey is just starting.

Family Time

It's that time of year in my family. 
 
Time to celebrate the birthdays of my parents who are in their 80's.  My Mom and Dad's birthdays land on the calendar exactly a week apart so in the last few years my siblings and I have started celebrating their birthdays together in the interest of harmony, world peace and all that is holy.
 
 

We know we are blessed to have our parents still with us and we definitely don't take it for granted.  Not for one minute.  But sometimes it can be tricky in making sure that each birthday receives the same amount of attention, if you know what I mean.  The healing part of this family get together is that it's great to have a happy reason to gather and just straight out enjoy ourselves which usually means retelling childhood stories, imitating each other and a lot of jokes.
 
One of the presents that was a huge hit was a box of Ole and Lena fortune cookies that one of my sisters had bought at a Scandinavian store.  I had to Google the names of Ole and Lena because I didn't know who they are or why they are funny but apparently they are the central characters to jokes made by Scandinavian Americans particularly in Minnesota, Wisconsin and the rest of the Upper Midwest region of the US.  The humor is rather folk and really silly.
 
Happy Birthday Mom and Dad and we all wish you many, many more!!
 
Mom &Dad Celebrating Their Birthdays In Party Attire
My brother, Tom, and sister, Theresa
My sister, Sheila, and brother, Tom
 
My sister, Maureen, and me in a selfie

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Friday, March 28, 2014

A Younger Point of View

Just to briefly, and I do mean briefly, follow up on yesterday's post about the ever changing dynamics of going online to share grief and loss experiences, a friend sent me the below link to a fantastic New York Times story addressing this very topic.
 
I loved this story about Millennials and hope you do too because it introduced to me some new websites I enjoyed discovering plus it highlighted the thoughts and feelings of a younger generation in the midst of trying to figure out the best way to deal with their grief their own individual way while helping others who are also trying to do the same thing.   

Here's the link to the New York Times story:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/23/fashion/an-online-generation-redefines-mourning.html?_r=0

I'm glad it's the end of the week.
I'm beat!
P.S.  Yesterday I had a lot to say and the words got away from me.  So sorry lovely readers for going long on yesterday's post. 
 
Have a great weekend I hope you get to do something fun, relaxing or outrageous!!
 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Internet Loss

Have our electronic devices separated us from each other so much that it's now normal to text people about a loved one's death?

Has it become routine to attend the funeral of a friend or a loved one and start snapping selfies?

Why would someone let their cellphone ring during a funeral service and then answer it and continue talking?

We are in a strange state of communications today.




The first time I saw a selfie taken at a funeral I have to say I was really shocked.
 
I didn't know the young girl in the picture but she tweeted a picture of herself and a couple of her friends at a funeral and it looked to me like they were more at a party than at a funeral service to pay their respects to the family of the deceased.  Her selfie felt sad to me.

Call me old fashioned but I think taking pictures at a funeral is way over the line.
 
But I also realize dear readers that not everyone feels the way I do.  Please share your thoughts on these situations if you would like for I'd love to hear what you have to say.

The anonymity and global reach of the internet has helped people open up to exercising a new kind of dialogue about grief and loss but that dialogue is not without its' extremes.  I must include myself in this online grieving movement because I have been blogging and writing Cry Laugh Heal for almost four years because I wanted to help others and add to the ongoing dialogue and I also visit many other sites where people freely discuss many private aspects of experiencing a loss.

I have found most internet sites to be very helpful in making me feel less alone in my feelings but I only discovered them by accident through my own research.  My support group didn't suggest any web sites and when my husband died ten years ago it would never have occurred to me to go to my computer for comfort. 

At that point, my life and the life of our young son was turned upside down and inside out and I never thought about going online to find a grief chat group or even to begin blogging about my thoughts concerning loss or developing resilience.  I'm sure at that time there were people who were blogging about grief and loss but I just didn't know about them and didn't have the energy for trying to find them.

I was totally consumed with just trying to keep it together.  I went back to working full time after taking about ten days off to arrange the funeral and burial of my husband and our son couldn't wait to bury himself in schoolwork so that he could forget about his father's death.  
 
Today online discussions about grief seem to everywhere with scores of websites and blogs focusing on many different kinds of losses: the death of a spouse, a child, a friend, a partner, a parent or even a pet.  I think this is a great development; a healthy and wonderful thing because for decades people never discussed the emotional effects of their abrupt losses, the shock or trauma they felt seeing their loved one die or what they did to help them get whole again after their loss.

However, our electronics can sometimes serve to disconnect us and a very sad event this week in the news brought this to mind.  As friendly and open as the internet can be to unfettered dialogue about loss, it can also be cold in its execution. 

I still find it hard to believe that Malaysian Airlines chose to text the relatives of the 153 passengers aboard Flight 370 to tell them that no one on board survived the plane's mysterious disappearance.  What happened to exercising some human contact and compassion?  The airlines should have had a room setup with grief counselors and put someone in charge of personally giving them such tragic news.

While it did not look as though anyone had survived the strange crash, no one gives up hope until there is evidence to do otherwise.  Texting the information was cruel.



Cellphones ringing in church?  This has happened a few times at my parish during Mass and it never ceases to surprise me that people act casual while the phone is ringing and they don't seem to be in a rush to turn off their phones.  Instead, people let their phones (no matter what the ringtone) continue to ring during Mass or a funeral service.  It's plain rude.  What about when people answer the phone during a funeral service and continue to make conversation?  "Hey! How are you? Yeah I'm at a funeral right now.  Um, I think I'm okay.  How about I call you later?"  Turn it off before you get into the service.  Put it on silence.  Please.  It's not that hard.

Our actions with electronic devices and our behavior on the internet only requires some thought about how our decisions will affect others.

Let's be careful out there.


 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Ripple Effect

Something To Think About. . . . . . .
 
 
 
Every little thing you do adds up,
 
and before you know it,
 
you've created your life.
 
And how you create your life
 
ripples out and effects everyone
 
and everything that crosses your path,
 
known or unknown to you.
 
                   ~ Kathy Freston

Monday, March 24, 2014

Old Movies

When Sundays are overcast and chilly, as yesterday was, I love to gather the blankets on the sofa and watch old movies.  At first I feel a little guilty about laying on the couch, vegging and doing nothing but then I remind myself that I'm not really doing nothing.
 
 
I work very hard during the week at my full-time job, plus I have other family responsibilities that I'm always trying to squeeze in here and there.  So when I find a day to watch a movie from beginning to end, I try to stop and enjoy it for the healing luxury that it is. 
 
Yesterday as I was surfing the channels I found a classic from 1966 that took me back to my younger days: Trouble With Angels starring Hayley Mills and June Harding as two troublemakers who are sent to an all girls convent school to get straightened out.  Rosalind Russell plays the Reverend Mother (the person in charge of the school and the convent) perfectly!  She never misses any of the girls tricks!
 
Here a short clip from Trouble With Angels:
 
 
 
As you can see it's worth it to watch the movie just to see the style of clothes and hair from the mid-1960's and laugh at the silly havoc that the girls spread through the school which these days will seem mild to most people.
 
Having gone to a Catholic elementary and high school, I find the movie to be hysterical and also I must say I identify with the girls always getting trouble because that was my experience with the restrictive but instructive structure of Catholic schools.  In hindsight, I see that I received an excellent education even if I wasn't always receptive to everything that was being taught to me and I admit there was something about being told that I had to do it the nuns' way that made me want to break their rules.
 
Not very smart I know, but I had a lot of fun and made a lot of great friends and have many hysterical memories of that time.
 
Just as Hayley Mills and June Harding find it hard to think of the nuns as women who had other lives before they donned their long black habits and veils so did I.  I look back on those days when my friends and I made it so hard for some of the nuns and I cringe.  
 
I think the movie glosses over what living in a convent is really like but that's okay because after all it's just a movie and it's supposed to be a comedy not a documentary.  I'm sure that in every convent there were nuns who were great friends, nuns that you felt deep respect for and nuns that drove you up the wall.

Just like the people you meet in real life right?

I hope you did something relaxing this weekend and that those good vibes follow you through this week!
 

Friday, March 21, 2014

A Happier Friday!

Something as simple as the day of the week can make me happy.

I didn't even work five days this week because Washington, DC got so much snow on Monday that the federal government shutdown, the buses weren't running and I had the day off.
 
Still, today is Friday and that feels great.  The grind of this week is almost over and the weekend is within sight.

 
 
Friday evening is one of the best feelings in the world, don't you think? You've just finished working through one work week and now the whole incredible weekend is in front of you.  Have you ever noticed how happy everyone is on Friday evening when they are leaving their offices?

It's as though the principal rang the bell at school and announced "Recess!" I swear if I could bottle that Friday evening feeling I would make a ton of money. 
 
So embrace your fabulous Friday feeling and, better still, keep it going as long as possible.  Maybe you have plans to do something today you wouldn't do on any other day of the week!  Lighten up and spend some time playing.

Friday.  As Pharrell Williams sings in his infectious hit song, "Happy," I feel like a room without a roof. . . .


Thursday, March 20, 2014

L'Wren Scott

One of my sisters and I were talking on the phone the other day about the tragic news that fashion designer L'Wren Scott had been found dead in her New York City apartment at the age of 49. 
 
We talked about what the news stories were reporting -- that she had used a scarf to hang herself, that she designed such beautiful, beautiful clothes, that she was so glamorous herself and that she was the longtime girlfriend of  Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones.
 
L'Wren Scott and Mick Jagger
More importantly, we reiterated to each other that no matter what was happening to us, we would always know that we could call each other in case of a personal trauma.  That there should never be the feeling that anything could be so utterly hopeless.  That if we found ourselves in a place that made it difficult to reach out that we could depend on each other to intervene and help. 
 
Of course we don't know L'Wren Scott personally and all that we know about her is what we read in the newspapers and see on television but there was something about her that came through in the pictures taken of her that gave you the feeling that she could be one of your friends and if you did meet her in person you would like her and probably go to lunch with her and have a lot of fun.
 
The way that her life ended just seemed so incredibly and heartbreakingly sad.  The idea of someone being alone, feeling that they were so very alone, desperate for a way to deal with their life at that point and to take their own life brought home how vulnerable we as human beings can be in the midst of our problems and especially how life can sucker punch you when you least expect it.  No suicide note was found in her apartment but reports have speculated that she was having financial problems with her business and was possibly as much as $6 million in debt.
 
Dark thoughts can sometimes creep into our psyche but we have to be on guard to fight them and make sure that they don't overtake our feelings and actions.  We also need to make sure we talk to others about our fears.  Suicide is particularly difficult to come to terms with and is much more complicated than the way I am writing about it today but it's hard to imagine that there wasn't someone out there who could have helped her; it goes against our instincts to think that suicide is even an option.
 
We may never know for sure what drove her to that isolated place that day.  We live in an highly competitive and fast-paced society that can take a toll on the sensitivities of some of us.  I choose to think that if she had confided in someone about her anxieties that they would have offered her a strong and helping hand.

Please rest in peace L'Wren.

  

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A Changed Life

Aging.  Knowing that it's happening to all of us is not very consoling.  I see the effects of the years of living on myself, especially when someone takes a picture of me.  I definitely don't like it and I wonder how I arrived at middle age so quickly.
 
I know that sounds so cliché but it's true.  I see those grey hairs working their way out of my scalp and for now those bad boys get dyed.  I also see lines starting to form on my face in places where I don't want them but I don't hate them so much that I would get botox injections or go under the knife.  Too scary.
 
As my mother says, "Every year is just a little more maintenance, and then a little more and then suddenly it takes you an hour to do what it used to take you ten minutes to do."  Okay Mom.  I am working to accept it for I know it's inevitable. 
 
That said, I do try to take care of myself and work hard to stay in shape and minimize the effects of the sun and other bad health decisions on my body; particularly my skin.  My personal theory about getting older is that it's all about your physical and mental energy: walking with a purpose, thinking good thoughts and approaching each day with a certain amount of zest!
 
I'm thinking of this subject today because a friend emailed me a recent interview NPR did with British author Penelope Lively (love her last name!) about her new book, Dancing Fish and Ammonites, a book that 81-year-old Lively says is about her "view from old age," a place I don't think about much because it once seemed to be a place so far, far away.

British author Penelope Lively
In particular in the interview, Lively talks about how it felt like to adjust to the unfortunate death of her husband, Jack, at 69-years old from cancer and her keen observations on how women and men adapt differently to going on with life after the death of a spouse.

Lively also notes that she is part of a new demographic in the Western world: for the first time, there's a large segment of the population over 80 and she notes that the effects of the additional time and attention it takes to care for such a large population of older people on the rest of society are yet to be seen.

Here, for all to read, and also listen to if you wish, is the link to Lively's NPR interview and pages from her insightful book:

http://www.npr.org/2014/03/17/290855933/author-penelope-lively-shares-the-view-from-old-age

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Commiting To Heal

When committing yourself to begin healing, you are taking an important step.  You are in effect looking around yourself and saying that today's situation isn't working well for you and you are choosing to change.

I have found that it's a decision that can make you feel two contradictory emotions at the same time. On the one hand, you are feeling brave to decide to open yourself up to change but on the other hand, the act of opening yourself up to something new is scary and nerve wracking because it's unpredictable.
 
We all react differently to the loss of a loved one or a trauma in our lives.  It's okay.  You are in new territory but you aren't alone.


Isn't it funny how you can feel strong and scared in the same moment?  But you can't allow that push-pull moment to overtake you and possibly stop you.  If you think about change too much, then it might slow you down.  It's much more important to keep the momentum going; to keep moving forward.

Simplifying can be the way to go when big things in your life are about to change it up. 

Tell yourself that just for today you will not be afraid.

You will not be afraid to enjoy what is beautiful, what makes you laugh, what brings you peaceful feelings.

As you give to the world, so will the world give back to you.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Happy St. Patrick's Day

If it's March, it must be that time of year again when everything green is up for grabs and my family is never embarrassed to wear as much of it as possible.

Happy St. Patrick's Day to all and I'm sure you're planning to do it up proud!

My large and boisterous family gathered yesterday before the snow hit the Washington, DC area to celebrate our Irish ancestry and all the stops were pulled out for a grand time.   
 
So in the tradition of my Celtic tribe, it was an afternoon of irreverent jokes and imitations, lots of food and drink and unspoken but deeply felt connections from heart to heart.

My niece, Kathleen, and her husband, Ryan

 
Clydes' Tower Oaks
 
 
Me and My Dad


Sunday, March 16, 2014

Baby Steps

Ugh.  I feel as though I have been stuck in a lot of life's drama lately and it is distracting me.
 
Big drama has been happening to me on all fronts of my life and I just thought I would let you wonderful readers know the reason why I haven't been able to post on my blog as much as I would like.  Not that you are hanging on to every word I ever post but I thought it would be nice of me to give an explanation for cutting back lately.
 
I can't and don't think it would be fair to talk about all the nuances of the Big D that is overtaking my life but I have faith that some parts of it will be short lived.  Sometimes I think that life's problems will resolve themselves if I give it enough time to unscramble but I am finding that a hard part of healing can be the times when you have to roll up your sleeves and confront the situation yourself.



Until then, I remind myself to take baby steps, for baby steps will get me where I need to go.

Peace.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Not To Worry

Why is it that I think that worrying about something will affect the circumstances of the thing I'm  worrying about?
 
It's as though the more I worry about it, the more I think I can push the situation to go the way I want.

My siblings and I talk a lot about worrying and why we worry.  Like A LOT.  As in a couple of times a week.

It's a good thing I come from a family of six children so we can rotate our calls to each other and no one ends up being burnt out from the constant chatter of one person over and over.  What do we worry about?  Besides our children, most of whom are now young adults and tell us not to worry about them, we worry about our wonderful parents who are in their eighties.  We all live within a hour or two of where my parents live and only out of love do we wonder if they need more of our help.

To say that my parents are independent and free spirited is an understatement but that is also what makes them so charming and so resistant to our offers of help.  I'm sure your family is much the same as ours where aging and illness are issues that are now at the top of the worry list.  It's a bit of a  juggling act trying to know when to offer assistance and when to leave it alone and let it work itself out.

Lots of people say that worry is a waste and I suppose that's true but it doesn't feel that way when you are actively worrying about people you care about.

Worry Beads
Usually worry starts with my thoughts and then as I start thinking about a situation, I unfortunately let myself get ahead to something that hasn't happened yet and maybe it won't ever happen but I still think to myself "What if that happens?"  Do you do this too?  Or am I in a class by myself?

When my thought process starts going round and round, stuck on a thought, I find I have to apply the mental brakes on myself and distract myself with some other activity.  If I don't stop thinking about the "what if's", then the worrying will affect my mood; as in getting a very intense headache.

At that moment I realize the negative effects of worrying: all that thinking, all that concern, all that energy focused on a certain situation, doesn't change whether it will happen.  Not one little bit.  In the meantime, I've made myself a an awful wreck.  Not. good. at. all.

Just as the repetition of handling the beads on a string of worry beads can be calming and healing so does saying positive affirmations to yourself.  Affirmations can help guide you to inner peace.  Sometimes I say; "Worry is a waste." "Worry is a waste." and other times I repeat "Resist worry. Resist Fear."  or "I am safe."

Most of the time my affirmations go a long way to making me feel better about whatever is going on and when they don't I know I can always grab my trusty phone and know that an understanding sibling is just a call away!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Dorothy Flies Over Kansas

If I live to be 92 years young, I hope I am as adventurous and free spirited as Dorothy Ellis! 
 
She is fearless!

Dorothy was in hospice care when she told her family that she wanted to fly over her home in Kansas in a powered parachute that she had watched many times in the open sky as she gazed from her window.



Her family and her hospice nurse put their worries about her age and her health aside and to their credit they made Dorothy's wish come true!  I love her reaction at the end of the flight!  Sadly, she died six weeks after flying in her parachute machine but think of the great time she had up there in the bright blue sky. 

Here's the inspiring video her family shot watching her fly on a beautiful sunny day in Kansas!  I first saw this video on the Facebook page of JT Morriss & Son and I'm so happy they shared it with all of us.

So today let's all follow Dorothy and go for broke:




Monday, March 10, 2014

Lea Michele & Cory Monteith

Songs are touchstones; expressions of personal thoughts, emotions or memories.  An outpouring of experiences.  Songs can transport and inspire and also energize.  Songs can also help the writer and the listener process emotions of loss or grief.
 
Actress and singer Lea Michele had been working on her new album, Louder, many months before the tragic and sudden death of her boyfriend, actor Cory Monteith, who died from a toxic mixture of heroin and alcohol.  Michele and Monteith also connected professionally, playing high school sweethearts on Fox's award winning series, Glee.

With the recent release of Louder, Michele is giving candid interviews about Monteith and she recently recounted that Monteith had privately listened to and critiqued many of her new songs and he sent her notes about his thoughts on the album as she continued recording.
 
Naturally, Michelle's work on Louder stopped after Monteith's death on July 13, 2013.  While mourning the loss of Monteith, Michele searched for songs to add to the album that would reflect her feelings of spinning out of control and songs that might explain to others the depth of what it felt like to be without Monteith, how much she loved him, and how scared she was to go on without him.
 
She found a song titled Cannonball; a song she said she plays over and over because it helps her feel emotionally stronger and hopeful about the direction of her future.  "Grief is a scary thing," Michele says.  Yes, it is Michele, very scary and that's why it's so great that you are talking about it.  Sadly, we don't truly know how scary it is until it happens to us.  You are brave to share your feelings and thoughts, letting others know that they are not alone in their grief journeys.  I am so sorry for the pain of your loss. 
 
Below is the story TV Guide recently published about Michele, her new album and tragedy of Monteith's battle with his addictions.
 
Lea Michele
Lea Michele: "Grief Is a Scary Thing"
Mar 6, 2014 10:08 AM ET
by Liz Raftery

TV Guide
Lea Michele says writing and recording her new album Louder helped her overcome her grief after losing her boyfriend Cory Monteith last summer.

"I had this experience happen to me [and] decided to write about it," the Glee star tells the Los Angeles Times. "That's what felt organic."

Monteith, Michele's Glee co-star and boyfriend of four years, died in July from a toxic combination of heroin and alcohol.

The album's first single, "Cannonball," is about new beginnings. Michele recalls hearing the song for the first time:  I just literally keeled over because grief is a very scary thing, and there comes a point where it can really take you down," she says. "['Cannonball'] lifted me up. It was what I needed to get through my difficult situation."

Rather than avoid the topic, Michele decided to address Monteith's death head-on on the record, which was released Tuesday. "A lot of people don't know how to touch this situation. It's like walking on eggshells," Michele says. "I felt 'Cannonball' ... puts it all out there. It's like this is really hard, we're not denying that it's hard. We're gonna get through it."

Another track, "If You Say So," which Michele co-wrote with Sia Furler, is a reflection on the last conversation she had with Monteith. "It's something beautiful that came at a very difficult time," Michele says of her record. "If I've learned anything from this past year is that you have one life. ... You have to love as hard as you can love and live as hard as you can live because we just have one life. I feel like Louder really expresses that."


Friday, March 7, 2014

40 Ways To Lose The Clutter

No matter how hard I try to keep my stuff under control somehow it doesn't behave.
 
Day by day I try to throw out papers, mail, and other stuff that has outlived its welcome but still there is always more stuff to deal with or organize.  Not all of it is important stuff, but still it's stuff that I don't want to buy again.  Here's my fear and maybe you can identify with it: once I throw out certain things, I'll find I immediately need it.
 
Sweet readers, what is a person to do?  How do you deal with your stuff? Or maybe the stuff that a loved one left for you deal with?
 
I guess I am emotionally connected to my stuff.  I admit it.  And I know what I'm supposed to do to stay on top of my clutter game.  I'm familiar with most of the tricks for getting rid of my unruly stuff: donate it to someone who can really make use of it, give it to a friend or relative, take a picture of it, or sell it online or at a tag sale.
 
 
 
But I can't always get myself to do those things.  One of my great friends must be a mind reader because this week she sent me this timely post from a blog, White House Black Shutters (www.whitehouseblackshutters.com) about decluttering and within the story is a link that takes you to a schedule you can print out for 40 days of getting the stuff out of your house (one schedule has dates and one is blank so you can make your own schedule).
 
I like Ann Marie's idea of keeping track of when and how much stuff you are throwing out because then I (or we) can go back and actually confirm for ourselves that yes indeed we did get rid of a lot that was hanging around and causing trouble.  Simplifying is the name of the game; not just to make room in our homes but also to set ourselves free from the burden of having too much stuff.
 
I think we've all had it with winter weather and we're  ready to open the windows and let the slightly chilly yet fresh air in.  Decluttering isn't fun but I think it can be rewarding for it helps me find more space, and light and order which is always a good thing.
 
As Ann Marie says, you could fill 40 boxes, 40 bags (of any size) or 40 trashcans but it really doesn't matter whether you hit the target of 40 or not.  Forty days of focusing on different areas of the house and really focusing on sweeping it out will take us right into Spring, which traditionally is always a time of renewal.

Good luck and here's the link to the White House Black Shutters post on 40 ways to lose your clutter:

http://www.whitehouseblackshutters.com/40-bags-in-40-days-2014/