Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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Good Stuff Happening

It’s been a good week. In spite of the cold!!

Last week I received flowers and chocolates from the group in Indiana that stayed at my house during the blizzard. What a lovely surprise. I have been receiving emails and posts from grateful parents. The warm buzz has continued.

Last Saturday, I was invited to the Nardin Academy’s Relay for Life. It was held at the Burt Fleckinger Center downtown. What a lovely event it was. The majority of the people were older teen girls. I was terribly impressed with the depth and warmth with which they displayed themselves.

There was karaoke and dancing. That was fun. But then the evening ends with the Luminaria service. There were at least a dozen young ladies lined up on the gym floor, along with myself and the other speaker. Each one of them has had a close encounter with terminal illness and/or death. Each one of them. At age 18 or younger. And each one of them wants to do something positive to fight back.

The biggest hero of the night was the last speaker. She is a junior at Hobart College and was a graduate of Nardin Academy. She is also a cancer survivor. At barely 20. She had a delightful, calm and gentle spirit. She told me that this was the first time she had ever spoken in public about her illness. She was a champ. She was the hero among many other heroes that night. It was truly a privilege to be a part of it.

Yesterday I was able to be on the air for just under five minutes on Tom Bauerle’s show. I was clued in by a former client who contacted me. It was a quick chat, but he has promised to visit my site and consider putting links on his. I am looking forward to working with him in the future.

The sun is shining today. It’s still cold as heck, but it seems promising out. I was put on the spot yesterday on the radio about where I am at three years later. There was much to say but little time to say it. I would have to say, life is still bitter and sweet. Life has it’s tough times. There are still times when my heart aches. But there is much, much sweet.

I still have amazing people in my life. While I already have more than one person deserves, I have new people in my life too. People that love and support me and care and make me smile. Honestly, who could ask for more?

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Another Layer

I went to Aldi’s to get groceries this week. I was paying the cashier and noticed an 80 something year-old man behind me with a bouquet of flowers. I said, “Ah, who are those beautiful flowers for?” He smiled at me at said, “For my special lady.” I said, “Well then, she’s a lucky lady.”

He paused a minute and then said, “She’s not with me anymore, but I still bring her flowers all the time.” I paused a minute and then said, “My husband passed away too. I try to go to the cemetery but I’m not very good at it. This winter everything has been buried.” He said, “I don’t really go to the cemetery. I have a little shrine in my house and I bring her flowers there. The kids love it.” I smiled and waved goodbye.

It was amazing timing for me after the week I’ve had. I thought about what a lovely man he was and how tender of him to love her this way. The irony is, I’ve often talked about how there is no shrine of Tim at my house. For some reason, that seems like it would be a bad thing. I guess it’s different for an 80 year-old remembering his beloved than a 47 year-old who is trying to move ahead.

I have been working on the dating chapter in my second book. That, along with several other conversations I’ve had over the last few months, has gotten me thinking about lots of things.

If you have ever read “The Soulmate Secret,” the author talks about how you need to create space and energy for your soulmate to come into your life. For me, I feel like we’ve had a pretty healthy level of balance. Talking about Tim has never been taboo around here. But we talk about the future too.

But what if it’s time to look at the next layer? What if it’s time to move to an even deeper level of healing and growth? You get used to things around you, so I started a very intentional walk around my entire house. I was surprised at how much “Tim memorabilia” is around. How much is a healthy level for going on year four without him? How do I help Frankie remember without holding him back either?

Not easy questions to answer, but I’ve given it my usual over-analyzing, critical eye. I’ve made some small changes around the house and have a few more to make too. The other thing I discovered is that I have a lot of gifts from others- plaques and such that talk about remembering our loved ones. I have lots and lots of hummingbird things now too. I love them all. But it is ungrateful to say that I have enough of them? I don’t ever want to hurt anyone who is kind enough to remember we are still grieving here, but I think having too many permanent things around can be tough.

In true dramatic form (my specialty), all of this introspection and change occurred around March 18th. That is our anniversary. This week was my fourth one since Tim has been gone. Four. That sounds like so long but it still feels so fresh sometimes.

Some of you may remember one of the gifts Tim left me. On my computer, he set up a yearly message on the 18th of March that said, “Happy Anniversary, honey. I love you!!!!!!!!!!!,” only I think there were even more exclamation points. I saw it Tuesday morning and had some silent, aching moments watching the screen. And then I did something I haven’t done the last three years. I deleted it.

I decided there is nothing wrong with remembering every year that once I was loved very much by another human being. That comforts me, especially when I don’t have another man in my life who loves me like that. It is more than ok for me to be reminded that I am deserving of that kind of love and Tim gave it to me at the end of his life.

But I also know I will never forget that message. I may be able to delete it from a computer, but I won’t delete it from my heart. There is room in my heart for more love, for the future, for hope. But my heart is also comforted by knowing that I tasted true love, even if briefly. And that is a good thing to have while I wait (impatiently) to be loved like that again.

So here’s to another layer of healing. Growth hurts. It’s been a tough week, I won’t deny it. But I think it’s been good and right.


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Blizzard Bliss

I’ve been pretty cranky lately, just want to sleep and complain. I think it’s common these days with all the cold, snow and lack of sunshine. Then we get news of a coming blizzard. Great. Good things come in strange packages sometimes and this time God used a blizzard to knock some sense into me.

For those of you that read “Bitter and Sweet,” you may remember Ann, who wrote some journal entries for us when Tim was in the hospital. I also talked about going to Chicago to see her after Tim got diagnosed. Anyhow, Ann and her son were taking a trip from Indiana to Troy, NY (near Albany) for a robotics competition. We don’t get to see each other very often so we were trying to figure out a way to work in a Buffalo stop. The problem was, there were sixteen other teenagers and eleven other adults on this trip as well. I am just crazy enough to offer to fit 29 people in my house for an overnight if needed. However, the group decided to rent a full-sized bus instead which would enable them to drive straight through so the suggestion was dropped.

Fast forward to yesterday. Ann and I promised to talk a lot on the phone if we couldn’t see each other so we stayed in touch throughout the day. They were encountering terrible weather and had to stop a few times to keep the windshield wipers going. They witnessed thirteen semi’s and thirteen other vehicles off the side of the Thruway. It was getting scarier. (And what is with the number 13?)

Then my other friend told me that the Thruway was closed off just past Rochester. The blizzard conditions were supposed to continue for several more hours. Suddenly, the idea of them stopping in Buffalo was back on the table. Frankie heard me on the phone and was a bit panicked. Was I kidding? How would he have any peace in the house with that many people in here with us? I told him it probably wouldn’t happen, impolitely called him a “prince” and apologized for disturbing his world.

By 5:00 PM, the decision was made. They were coming! By this time, my mind had changed the number to seventeen people. Probably some sort of unconscious self-protection. Seventeen was crazy enough, so who would have agreed to 29? Well, only 27 of them were total strangers :). Those of you that know me, would know that of course I was crazy enough. In fact, I actually was excited.

I had 90 minutes to spring into action. First, I hit up Colin and Frankie. I asked Frankie if he preferred I find him a sleepover somewhere but he said he could handle it. Good boy! With no notice, they both pitched in. They shoveled the driveway (which they had already done earlier to no avail with the snowfall continuing). They also had to vacuum the entire house- all three floors. There was no way I would want anyone to sleep on those floors. Kudos to the boys for being good sports.

Next, I walk over to the neighbor’s house. I keep thinking that eventually they are just going to lock their doors when they see me coming. I feel like I am always wanting something. I explain the situation and they offer me several blankets, sleeping bags, pads, and a large blow up bed. Of course, I couldn’t figure out the blow up bed so he had to come over and do it for me. Thankfully, he needed to borrow my snow blower so at least we could exchange favors. Just neighbors being good neighbors.

Next, food. For 29 people. Ann loves Metzger’s Pub at the end of my street. She loves their beef on weck. They don’t have that in the mid-west. Half of the stuff in the neighborhood is closed due to the storm. So I drive there and go inside. I speak to the owner. I tell him a bus with 29 people is coming in an hour. Will they stay open and be able to feed them? Sure they will and sure they can! Great!

Next, breakfast food. The closest grocery store is closed. I drive to Aldi’s. It’s not very far away, but it is blizzard conditions on the road and I’m not even sure they will be open. I pull into the parking lot, and I see one of two Aldi’s employees outside. I find out later his name is Eric and he is shoveling some person out who has gotten themselves stuck in the parking lot. I offer to help and he says he will yell if he needs me to push.

I go in the store and try to figure out mentally what I need. Pop, chips and dip. That’s enough snacks. For breakfast, several boxes of cereal and milk. A box of pop tarts for good measure. Cinnamon rolls and a danish. Sausage and ingredients to make French toast. A case of water. We don’t drink coffee at my house, but I assume most adults do so I grab some of that. Orange juice is a good idea.

When I walked in, I had told the only other employee there what I was doing. We were chuckling about what a crazy thing it was to have happen. So I’m in her line and I ask her to think through the menu with me. I’ve done pretty good. Plenty of food, but not over the top.

Then it hits me. Aldi’s only takes cash. Shoot. Shoot, shoot, shoot. Only I probably didn’t say shoot. I am fourteen dollars short. They don’t take credit cards. They do take debit cards. I don’t have one. Oh, but the company does. I quickly run it through my head and think I can use it, but I just won’t mark off the expenses on the business. I scan the card and enter my PIN. It doesn’t work. There is no way I can run home and get back with more money with the roads being the way they were and the time crunch I was under. This young cashier says “That’s ok, I’ve got it covered.” She tells me she thinks it’s very cool that I am helping out a bus full of people and she wants in on the deal. I was shocked. And grateful. I told her I would bring her back the money but she wouldn’t tell me her name. I look at the shoveling machine and he tells me her name is Jackie. I told Jackie she made my heart warm and thanked her for reminding me that people are good.

I paid for my groceries and went to load the car. The next thing I know, Jackie and Eric have both come outside in the continuing blizzard weather to help me load my car. I could have cried. I told them it may be a weird gift, but the only thing I could offer was to give them both a copy of “Bitter and Sweet.” I explained quickly what it was about and that the message was about community and paying it forward and I thought they both embodied that sentiment. They actually seemed excited and impressed that I had written a book.

I drove away embarrassed by all the complaining I’ve done the last few weeks. I called Ann and told her what happened. I knew this was all meant to be. Her group promptly posted it. They had over 860 hits on their site yesterday with people following their trip. It started a lovely flurry of people thanking us for keeping their kids safe and warm and fed.

Up the bus came and they all unloaded into the house. The first woman off the bus asked me if I was an angel. I’ve never met such a great group of people. I kept asking the adults where the real teenagers were. These kids were not like teenagers are supposed to be. There was no attitude, no cockiness. Just super polite and very grateful young men and women who made me feel like gold.

We walked down to dinner where most of the staff had called in due to the weather. (Surprise!) One bartender, one waitress, one cook, and one assistant. Thirty people plus a handful of other customers. It took forever, but all those hungry and weary adults and teens had the best attitude. And do you know what that poor waitress said? She said she wanted me to know that she lived in her mother’s house and it wasn’t hers. But if she was the owner, she would be offering to take half the bus to help out. Another warm moment.

I still can’t figure out how the heck everyone slept here. But everyone did. We were up at 5:30 AM cooking breakfast and the bus pulled out at 7:15. I felt like I had a boatload of new friends. I was the one who got paid back a hundred fold. I sold five books too, which I haven’t done in ages. And they all promised to read the blog and post my book info all over their sites!

We got talking last night and one woman told me about her husband’s physical ailments and his inability to continue working. Their lives have been turned upside down. But she has a mission in life to promote positive community. People in their town try to share responsiblity across the board and help each other out.

One of the teen girls shared with me that her little brother has a tumor. He has had surgery already and is doing chemo. At her young age, she already gets it.

Please, please check out the group’s site. They say they have lots of pictures posted from their adventures here in Buffalo and the rest of their trip. Their site is: http://mcrobotics3936.com/ and their Facebook page is: https://www.facebook.com/mcrobotics3936. The facebook page has photos of them at our house and posts about their saga getting here. Check them out!

By the way, I went back to Aldi’s today. Eric was working but Jackie was not. I asked to speak to the manager and told her the whole story. Guess what? She wasn’t going to let me pay back the fourteen dollars! I insisted, but I gushed about her employees. She told me how to contact the corporate office, which I did. They were thrilled to hear some positive news!

Remember, there is much, much good in the world.

P.S. Everyone knows now not to ever mess with Ann or I. Obviously we are strongly connected to Mother Nature and She made sure we got together :)!


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Crab Legs

Dave eating oysters at Myrtle BeachIt’s Thursday. It’s blog day. I’m blank. Brigitte says to take a walk in the sunshine because it will inspire me. I take a walk in the sunshine. I’m still blank.

I say to Frankie, what should I blog about? He says crab legs and clams. He LOVES crab legs and clams. He won’t eat a hamburg like a normal kid, but he loves those slimy seafood. Oysters too. Yuck.

But he got me thinking about things I am crazy about. It is definitely not slimy food. But food in general? Yep, that’s totally me. Love, love, love to eat food.

I’m not a lazy person by any stretch of the imagination. When it comes to food though, I do NOT like to work for my food. Crab legs aren’t slimy, but they are a lot of work. So is lobster. Too much work for me. I want instant gratification. That’s why buffets are NOT good for my waistline.

I was walking in the woods today with Taffy and ran into a woman walking her two dogs. I recognized her but don’t know her name. She tells me how sick she is of the cold and that she has gained six pounds. I laughed and told her I finally weighed myself on Monday and found out I had gained six pounds too. She said she had fifteen to lose BEFORE the winter started. I laughed again and said that I did too. Not that we really thought it was funny, but what are you going to do? Crying is the only other option.

So after the Monday weigh-in shock (although why I was shocked I have no idea), I started to more earnestly try to eat more healthy. I know exactly what to do, I just need to focus and be disciplined.

That’s all it took. Just a mental decision to try to do better. Since then, I have felt hungry all the time. I want to eat constantly. I went and bought fresh fruits and vegetables, but I crave ice cream like I was pregnant or something. Or chips. Or cookies. Or bread. Or any kind of carbs. Or any kind of sugar.

Ridiculous. My jeans are tight. They actually cut into my skin. That’s enough to motivate anyone, right? So I’m going to keep trying. Right after I eat that one ice cream bar that is left in my freezer :).