Maribeth Doerr

Shades of Healing ~ Creating a Wholehearted Life

An Invitation to Celebrate

Life is full of surprises. Sometimes those surprises bring us to our knees, and we wonder how we’ll ever recover. Later on, (whether it’s weeks or many years later) you’ll probably find yourself shaking your head at the memories, proud that you survived. Somewhere along the way, you rediscovered the natural resilience you were born with and found a way; it’s what we all do eventually.

Today, I invite you think about what something difficult in your life and how you’ve learned from it, or found something positive in it, or how you’ve DONE something positive because of it. And I invite you to celebrate it, today, in the midst of the holidays/holidaze/hellidays.

Why today? In 1982, my beautiful son, Mark Adam Pruett, was born. He died 5 1/2 days later. I CELEBRATE his life every December 11, and I invite all of you to celebrate with me by remembering something difficult in your life that you turned into something positive in some way. It’s 6 degrees F as I write this, and thinking of Mark and his great big life makes me feel warm and radiant. Mark has been my greatest gift. I am so grateful I got to be him mom. He taught me more about life and myself in 5 1/2 days than anyone else ever could. I am a better person and definitely a better mother than I otherwise would have been. I grieve his death but I CELEBRATE his life. His loss was a gut wrenching experience that began a chain of more loss in my life. I didn’t think I would survive; I almost didn’t . . . but I did. I rediscovered my natural resilience and I moved forward while always keeping him in my heart; I chose AND and I continue to do so every day, even when it’s painful.

So, what’s your story? I’d love to hear your reversals, rediscoveries, and reinventions. Here’s a toast to Mark Adam; I hope you’ll please celebrate with me today.

Mark Adam Pruett 1st Picture - December 11, 1982

Mark Adam Pruett
1st Picture – December 11, 1982

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Looking for Beauty

December has always been a difficult month for me.  I talk about it a bit in this video.  This year, we have the added shock and horror of the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings.  With so much ugliness and sorrow, it’s very easy to forget there IS, there truly is, beauty in this world.

Because I’ve been sucked up into a pity party pit lately because of my health (and yada yada yada), I went on a mission to find ways to feed my soul beyond my usual morning meditation and afternoon yoga.   Music tends to work wonders so blasting the tunes while I’ve been painting and scraping in my future ZenRoom helps a lot.  But I really needed some visual beauty – and then I found this:

If you actually watched that (and listened), you might have a new view of “Oh my God!”  Beautiful, isn’t it?  Worthy of a deep healing sigh . . .  If you skipped over the video, give yourself a 9+ minute gift and enjoy it.  I KNOW you have 9 minutes to do it and it’s worth it, trust me.

From my heart to yours, blessings this holiday season.   And if you have an extra minute, tell me where you find the beauty in this challenging world.

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Healing Gratitude – It’s Easier than You Think

Definition of gratitude from dictionary.com:
Noun:  the quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful.

Definition of grateful from dictionary.com:
Adjective:  warmly or deeply appreciative of kindness or benefits received; thankful

In the United States, November is the month of Thanksgiving, a time to celebrate our abundance (usually in the form of eating too much).  Many of us don’t even think about it the other 364.25 days of the year.  So, since it’s the season of thankfulness, let’s take a few minutes to consider how gratitude merits more consideration than just one meal or one day per year.

If we’re honest with ourselves, it’s easy to take things for granted. So often life gets in the way and it hampers our ability to see all our blessings, especially the smaller ones.  Research proves, however, that gratitude can shift your focus in powerful healing ways.  Thinking about the blessings in your life (the glass being half full) shifts your focus away from what you don’t have, and how many of us are so consumed and worried about what we don’t have?!  We don’t have enough . . . (fill in the blank).

I don’t have enough money . . . I don’t have enough love . . .  I don’t have enough friends . . . I don’t have enough time . . . I don’t have enough shoes . . . I don’t have enough tv channels . . . I don’t have enough nail polish . . . I don’t have enough . . .

That voice telling you that you don’t have enough can be rather insidious!  Let’s give that voice a rest.  Let’s shift our perspective a bit.  When you think about what you DO have, you stay in the present moment.  Robert Emmons, Ph.D. is a positive psychologist and the author of Thanks!  How the new science of gratitude can make you happier.  He explains how important and even liberating staying in the present moment is: “By appreciating the gifts of the moment, gratitude frees us from past regrets and future anxieties.  By cultivating gratefulness, we are freed from envy over what we don’t have or who we are not.  It doesn’t make life perfect, but with gratitude comes the realization that right now, in this moment, we have enough, we are enough.”

Read that quote again and let it sink in.  Doesn’t that feel good?  Dr. Emmons’ research shows that people who cultivate gratitude are 25% happier than those who don’t.  That may not sound like much but who doesn’t want to be 25% happier?!  Happier people are healthier people.  Happier people are resilient people.  Resilient people tend to experience less depression and stay physically healthier.

We’ve all heard how stress can ruin health.  I’m the poster child for how stress can wreak havoc on your body!  Practicing gratitude is one of the best stress busters.  Remember that 25% happier stat?

Cultivating and practicing gratitude isn’t difficult.  Most gratitude experts recommend keeping a gratitude journal.  Since I’ve been keeping a gratitude journal consistently, I’ve noticed the changes in my attitude and as cheesy as it sounds, in my heart.  Every night when I go to bed, I write down five things I’m grateful for that day.  Sometimes, they’re big things but most often they’re small things such as . . . My heater is working tonight when it’s so cold outside.  Or . . . I’m grateful my husband cooked dinner.  I’ve even written, “I’m glad this day is finally over so I can start fresh tomorrow.”  When I’m feeling especially blue and thinking I have nothing to be grateful for, I grab my journal and thumb through it, reading all the things I’ve been grateful for.  Even during my darkest days (I’ve had a lot of them in the last year), I manage to find something, however small, to express my thanks for in my little gratitude journal.  Some days, it might take me 15 minutes to think of five things to write down but I always get there.  I’ve even mentioned the color of a rose in my front yard that I love!  It doesn’t HAVE to be a big thing.  Being grateful for the little things is a perfect way not to take anything for granted.

No matter what life has tossed out at you this last year, a little thought will uncover something, someone, or someplace to be thankful for. Cultivating gratitude is one way of noticing everything.  Beauty and joy becomes more vivid, and as this gladness starts to grow in your heart, you’ll start to notice the healing (yes, healing!) that gratitude brings.

Start to cultivate your gratitude attitude during this season of Thanksgiving.  It’s a great way to plant that seed and keep it growing through the holiday season and on into the new year.  Let go of the lack mentality; your glass really is half full.

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Creating Compassionate Community – How to Support Baby Loss Parents

Loving Mark Adam who taught me more about love, life, and myself than any other person in the world.

One in four pregnancies result in a loss of some type which means nearly a million babies in the United States alone are lost.  If you haven’t experienced a loss, it’s very likely that you know someone who has.   As widespread as pregnancy/infant loss is, it’s a very misunderstood experience and frequently swept under the rug.  Baby loss parents often feel very alone, even shunned.   I know I did, and I know many parents who have felt the same way.

Since October is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month in the United States, and October 15 is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day in several countries, it’s the perfect time to focus on awareness for both baby loss parents and their friends/family.

Why is pregnancy/infant loss ignored?    

As a culture, we tend to compare ourselves with others (and compare our friends with other friends), and this, unfortunately, includes grief.  Most people have a ranking list somewhere in their heads of what the worst possible loss would be for them, followed by the next worst loss, etc, until they get to the bottom of their list.  This is their hierarchy of loss list, and everyone’s list is different.  The lower a loss is placed, the more a loss is minimized.

With pregnancy/infant loss, many people rank their lists by how far along the pregnancy was when it ended.  The further along a pregnancy was, the higher the loss is placed in the hierarchy.   Early miscarriages are then seen as an unfortunate experience to be forgotten as soon as the bleeding stops.

The perception of these types of losses is further diminished by the simple fact that no one else but the parents knew this little person.   We grieve because we love, and it doesn’t matter to us how old a person was (or how far along a pregnancy was).  However, for friends and family to make sense of the loss, they try to lessen the loss by lessening the attachment (and love).  Unfortunately, the ways of trying to do that are often the most hurtful.

When a baby loss parent hears . . .

  • You should be over it by now (even if it’s only been a few weeks)
  • What’s the drama?  It’s been XX years or “it” was just a mass of cells
  • At least she wasn’t 5 or 15 or (fill in the blank).  That would be worse.  You didn’t have time to get to know her.
  • Maybe you weren’t meant to be a mother.
  • You wouldn’t want a defective child.
  • You’re young; you have plenty of time to have another baby.
  • He was incomplete.  What’s there to grieve?
  • You have three healthy children.  You have to move on for them and stop feeling so bad.
  • When are you going to stop grieving for a baby?  You’re ruining Christmas for everyone.
  • Everything happens for a reason.  Accept it and move on.
  • It was for the best.
  • I know how you feel.  My dog/cat just died.
  • You need to get back to the happy person you were before.
  • God is punishing you for your sins.
  • Next pregnancy, don’t exercise so much.
  • Your baby died because you’re vegetarian and you starved him to death.
  • At least you know you can get pregnant.

.  .  .  when a parent hears these comments, s/he feels SHAME.  These comments imply that they’re grieving incorrectly, that they’re broken  .  . .

I really don’t think anyone truly wants to hurt a bereaved parent, and most of these shaming comments are meant with good intentions.  My mother said some of the MOST hurtful things to me after my losses, and I know she never intended to inflict more pain.  She wanted to help and didn’t know how.  Nevertheless, her comments HURT as do all of these comments no matter how well intentioned they are.   By the way, all of those comments above are real comments said to real baby loss parents.  And they are all incredibly hurtful!

So, before you say something to a baby loss parent (and yes, they are still parents even if they do not have living children!), stop for a bit.  Take a deep breath and really listen to what the parent may – or may not – be saying.  Note their body language.  It could be that the only thing needed at that moment is a hug, some physical contact with someone who isn’t judging or proffering advice.  Listen with your heart and put aside what you think you know about baby loss, grief, and the grieving parent.  Meet them where they are at, not where you are at.

Please remember this . . . a baby loss parent doesn’t want you to fix them.  They aren’t broken, and there’s nothing for you to fix.  Please don’t try.  They are grieving, and that is a normal reaction to losing someone you love.

Some of the BEST things to say:

  • I’m sorry.
  • I don’t know.   Or, I don’t know what to say.
  • I love you.
  • Talk about the baby by his/her name.

I love this bit of advice from a baby loss parent – keep it simple.

Just be there.  Just listen.  Just love.

Some of the WORST things to say:

  •  Anything that starts with AT LEAST.  That little phrase negates a grieving person’s feelings no matter what you say after at least.  Strike it from your vocabulary!
  • Anything that sounds like a comparison whether it’s to your own experiences or someone else’s.  You will NOT make a baby loss parent feel better by telling them about your friend who lost a baby in what you think is a more horrific way.
  • Anything religious unless the baby loss parent is deeply religious.  Please keep your religious views to yourself.  Let the baby loss parent lead the way in this area!
  • Anything that suggests how the baby loss parent should feel.  You aren’t walking in their shoes and you really don’t have a clue how they “should” feel.  Telling them to move on or cheer up, etc. is so incredibly hurtful and not a bit helpful.

Some of the worst things to do:

  • Avoidance – either avoiding the bereaved parent or avoiding talking about the baby.
  •  Don’t ask how they’re doing if you really don’t want to hear the truth.
  • Don’t try to explain the loss or how they should be feeling.

As I mentioned before, we grieve because we love and that love doesn’t die when the baby dies.  Bereaved parents need permission to grieve.  You can offer that in such a loving way.  When grief is acknowledged and accepted, the bereaved can learn to live wholeheartedly again.  And what bereaved parents need most is compassionate community – not shame, judgment, criticism, and shunning.   They need your love and understanding.

To learn more about supporting a grieving parent, particularly a baby loss parent, please visit these resources:

Written in memory of my babies Andrew John, Mark Adam, M.J., Summer Rose, and David Gregory.  We will forever feel your presence and love you always. ♥

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A New Challenge and Gratitude Revisited

If you’ve followed my blog for the last year (or tried to – I know the postings have been sporadic), you’ve been aware of a very stressful period for my family along with my deep-seated need for gratitude. Now, 12 months since my mother’s death and 8 months since my father’s, I’m finding myself looking towards gratitude with almost a sense of desperation . . . It’s my light, here in the middle of the tunnel, where the end isn’t really in sight yet.

I am still working on closing my parents’ estate. It’s been complicated by many factors that I’ll share at another time. My husband hasn’t earned any commissions since August 2010, and my business income goes down every month. How can a business thrive with such a lack of attention? In short, my family has been caught up in a lot of STUFF that sounds rather like a bad country western song. We ALL have a lot of STUFF from time to time; I’m certainly not unique in that but it’s been a year I don’t care to repeat!

And then when I felt like I was about through that tunnel . . . I woke up one night in mid May feeling like I was having a gallbladder attack. My gallbladder had been removed 8 years ago so obviously that wasn’t the source of the problem. It was painful but I didn’t get sick and it didn’t escalate. I was that way for two weeks. Just as suddenly as it came on, I woke up one fine day with NO pain, NO bloating, and an amazing joyful attitude. I was thrilled because I had planned a little retreat for the upcoming weekend – 4 days and 3 nights on the beach at Lake Tahoe. I haven’t spent more than one night away from home in over 12 years!! Waking up that morning feeling great meant I could really jump into catching up my business work and home chores so I could go on my getaway without any guilt. Oh the cheap thrills that gave me! I started answering emails and updating content, feeling SO productive . . . and then I started to feel some pain. I ignored it and kept working. Within 30 minutes, I was in so much pain I couldn’t sit still. I asked my son to call my husband. By then, I was moaning and starting to cry. By the time my husband got home, I had one terrified son and I was screaming. It’s a good thing the hospital is only 10 minutes away from us when the lights are all green.

I had lots of tests, the doctors had lots of theories which were all disproved by the tests, the massive amounts of medication they gave me irritated my liver and made me sicker, and they sent me home three days later with no diagnosis and a prescription for heavy duty pain medication. It’s been two months, and I’m still having pain attacks followed by days of nausea and vomiting as my body works out the pain medication. It’s a vicious cycle. I haven’t been able to work very much, and that is ruining my little business of 16 years. I feel exhausted and nauseated much of the time while trying to cultivate patience with myself and those who keep nagging me to update this or do that. I’m sorry StorkNetters . . . I’m really doing the best I can and I am SO grateful to the many many of you that understand and tell me to take care of myself first! I’m a staff of one and I don’t have the funds to hire the work out so . . . it is what it is.

That’s a lot of whining and complaining, isn’t it?! And that is why, in the midst of this additional upheaval in my life that I have to remember what’s good. It would be so incredibly easy to get sucked into depression right now. I don’t need that on top of being sick.

To keep me reminded of my gratitude attitude, I decided to take this year’s November gratitude month and make it into a separate website. I had the domain name picked out and when I went back to register it two weeks later, it was taken. So what did I get? What I most need now – healing and gratitude. So sometime this fall, look for healinggratitude.com! Thinking about and working on this website will help me focus on what’s good in my life, and there are many things.

Truly, there are positive things arising from this challenge as well, and I’ll be talking about them soon. It’s an amazing learning opportunity but I won’t lie – I’d rather not go through this. The pain attacks suck the life out of me, I’ve lost 30 lbs, and not knowing when the next one is coming is scary. I’d rather be caught up with my StorkNet work, starting my creative grief coaching practice and spending time with my family this week enjoying Reno’s Hot August Nights classic car festival. But as I said before, it is what it is and I have a tentative plan as I take my health into my own hands. My business work will all get done at some point. The timing isn’t really up to me so as I cultivate patience for this, thank YOU for being patient with me.

He who knows patience knows peace. ~ a Chinese proverb

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Gratitude Month 2011 – Week 4

November is flying by and yet I feel stuck in a time warp of hospitals and nurses and delirium . . . Life sure does throw you curve balls and fast balls. It’s Thanksgiving week and I admit, writing a gratitude for each day is truly hard right now – at least thinking of a gratitude beyond my basics, namely my husband and sons. Oh, I have a lot of basics, and I know I’m blessed, but when you’re doing through a difficult situation with no end in sight, it’s so very easy to forget how blessed we are. I just want this stressful situation to be over . . . NOW. And it’s not up to me . . . it’s another lesson in letting go and letting God.

November 22 ~ Keeping My Sense of Humor

Laughter really is the best medicine and I’ve talked about it a lot in this blog. Today was so distressing that when I came home from the hospital, I told my husband that I wanted to go somewhere where people were laughing. I wanted to hear people having a good time! We took our sons and went to Applebee’s where babies were laughing and flirting with us, and everyone had a smile to share. Listening to a baby’s giggle will cure almost any melancholy! Thank you sweet babies for reminding me how sweet life can be even in the midst of chaos.

I have a list of cheesy movies I watch to get me laughing. Spending time with my sons gets me laughing. Attempting to hula hoop always sends me into hysterics because I’m SO bad. Putting on 80’s dance tunes and shaking my booty makes me laugh. And when I forget what makes me laugh, my husband or sons will always remind me. Laughter is first a physical release and then the nervous system calms down. It’s certainly my medicine of choice these days, even when I think laughter isn’t possible. 🙂

November 23 ~ Your Prayers

We’ve been so blessed since my Dad’s accident with the outpouring of prayers from friends, family, and even strangers. Even my Dad’s doctor today told me she is praying for him. I am so grateful for all of you and your support during this incredibly difficult time. Thank you!

November 24 – Thanksgiving Day – Enough to Eat

It’s Thanksgiving Day, normally my favorite holiday of the year. This year was very different without my mom, and my dad is still in the hospital. My little family of four pulled together, and we went out to eat. We had a wonderful time. Today, I’m thankful not only for my little family but that I have plenty of food to eat (way more than enough). There are too many people in this world who don’t have enough; I’m one of the lucky ones. (As a second gratitude, I didn’t have a gazillion dishes to wash after dinner!!!)

November 25 – Dad Recognized Me!

For the first time in 9 days, my dad knew who I was when I walked into his hospital room. The day went downhill from there but the psychotic delirium is over! PROGRESS!

November 26 – Quiet Day

I am so grateful for a lovely quiet day without drama, without added stress . . . a day to chat with family and curl up on the couch reading. It’s exactly what I needed.

November 27 – My Feet

Do you take your feet for granted? I do. They get me where I need to go but I really don’t consciously think about my feet. For the last 25 days, I’ve trekked across the hospital parking garage, over a long bridge from the garage to the hospital, and then through the hospital to the back end where the elevators are to my dad’s room. It’s a long haul! Multiple times a day! And my feet are getting me there without complaint. After seeing my dad’s feet strapped into boots to keep his heels from dropping, not to mention the countless people I’ve seen in wheelchairs with broken feet and even missing feet, I’m REALLY grateful that I not only have feet but feet in good condition. Sounds trite? Maybe, but life is easier with healthy feet and that’s something to be thankful for!

November 28 – My Mom

I lost my mom on July 30, 2011. We just went through our first Thanksgiving without her. Thanksgiving was a special day for the two of us. We shared my kitchen for years as we cooked and chatted the day away. I miss her so much, but as I sit in the hospital day after day with my dad, I’m glad she doesn’t have to experience this heartbreak. I’m grateful that I got to have my mom for 52 years, I’m grateful for all she taught me (however unwittingly), and I’m grateful how involved she was in my boys’ lives. They truly miss her too. Thanks Mom!

November 29 – My Health

This is another one that may sound so cliche but after spending the month in the hospital and seeing all sorts of ill and injured people, I am so grateful for my health. I’m not the healthiest person on the planet and that is mostly my own doing by not taking good enough care of myself, BUT I have the option of changing that and a lot of people don’t. This experience is teaching me not to take my health for granted and to take it into my own hands!

November 30 – A Doctor Who Gets It

Today I had a long chat with my dad’s doctor. Ironically, this doctor is the one who saw him originally in the ER after his accident. He was called in to take over his case a week ago and we saw each other today. He wanted to let me know that he hadn’t forgotten Dad but he was in a quandry over what to do next. I so appreciated him at that moment for admitting he was stumped, that he didn’t have all the answers. I asked a lot of questions as I’ve been wondering what to do next as well. He mentioned that they are trained to do everything possible to save lives but there are times when that isn’t necessarily in the patient’s best interest and he felt that’s where we were with Dad. I agreed and I’ve been worried that we were simply prolonging the inevitable. At the end of the chat, we both felt better knowing we were on the same page and could proceed with Dad’s best interests at heart. ♥

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Gratitude Month 2011 – Week 3

Week 3 already and I know these daily gratitudes are certainly not what I expected to be posting this year. I had lofty expectations and honestly, I’m just grateful I’m getting some of these days with my sanity intact.

November 15 ~ Family Time

My husband and two sons took me out to dinner tonight. It was a wonderful time for the four of us to be together and reconnect during this crazy time. My husband was especially pumped – he sent me his first text message ever and trust me, this is HUGE for him 🙂 and he chose a restaurant we’ve never been to before. The man is stepping outside his comfort zone! The food was great, the company even better and for that 90 minutes, all seemed right with the world. I’ll be ready to tackle some big decisions tomorrow. Thanks guys!

November 16 ~ Embracing My Shadow Self

I believe in the importance of living in gratitude. It’s a huge part of my heart and soul, but today, I just don’t want to do this. I want to whine and kick and scream about how unfair this all is. Today was just awful.period. I’ve seen too much of my shadow self lately, and she scares me. I also believe it’s time to thank her. I know; it sounds nuts, but in the last two weeks, I’ve spent countless hours at the hospital, had a dirty bedpan thrown at me, been slapped and called names, flipped off, and been yelled at for not doing whatever Dad wants. I want to curl up in a ball and wait for this to just go away – but it won’t just go away. There’s no one else to do this. That shadow self, scary as she may be, is taking care of me right now and giving me the fight to go on so I don’t curl up in a ball. I’m thankful to her and that I survived this day with my sanity 🙂

November 17 ~ Nothing Serious

Dad was sent to the rehab hospital next door to the main hospital yesterday. After we got him settled in, we noticed his urine looked like motor oil or the color of eggplant. Freaky looking. Honestly, I didn’t think he was ready for this transfer but I’m not a doctor. The nurse called the doctor and didn’t hear back for hours. Eventually, they took him to the ER around 2am because he was in serious pain and was bleeding quite badly. He was at rehab less than 10 hours when he has a problem requiring the ER. The diagnosis? A urinary tract infection. Nothing serious. He’ll be transferred back to rehab in a few hours and treated there with antibiotics while working on his physical therapy, speech therapy, and all that fun stuff. I’ve been up since 1:30am when they called, scared awake, but I’m grateful that this was nothing serious, easily treatable, and hopefully won’t set Dad back much.

I’m also thankful that I wasn’t injured when my 21-month old German shepherd plowed into me in the dark backyard last night and completely knocked me off my feet. My wrist and neck are sore but nothing major. I landed on my behind and that’s nicely padded 😉 What.a.month!

November 18 ~ We’re Safe!

Never boring in Reno! A firestorm swept through my area. We were woken up at 5:30 with a call that a fire was in our area and we may have to evacuate. My sister-in-law had been evacuated at 3am, and the high winds in our area were spreading the fire like crazy. It was a very long day, we lost our power under 3:30am Saturday morning but we are safe and the fire has blown away from our immediate neighborhood. It really was close! My thanks to the firemen who are still working as I write this to fully contain the fire. My prayers to those who lost their homes in this disaster.

November 19 ~ A Patient Nurse

My dad didn’t last long at the rehab hospital. He was transferred back and admitted to the regular hospital late Thursday night. He’s in a different unit and not doing well. We’re dealing with a whole new nursing staff and his primary day nurse is beyond patient with him. She’s asking me several questions, asking other people questions to get help for Dad, calling in staffers from other units who have more experience, and I’m grateful for her. He probably won’t be in this unit long but it’s been wonderful feeling comfortable leaving the hospital when I need to because this nurse, Sarah, will take good care of him.

November 20 ~ Snow!

It sounds crazy to be grateful for snow but I was grateful today for the “picture” of snow. It was a lousy day at the hospital – again – and in a fit of frustration, I looked towards the window and was gifted with the most beautiful view. Dad is on the eighth floor and the view is incredible. The clouds were low and it was snowing heavily. I’m sure on the ground floor, the view was meh because the snow was melting when it got that low. From the eighth floor, it was gorgeous. When I looked over at the window and saw it, my frustration melted for a bit. The cleaning lady came in and went to the window with me while we both laughed at how cool it looked. Cheesy – sure. But at this point, I’ll take anything that shifts my perspective from this neverending angst. It didn’t snow long but it was enough!

November 21 ~ Hot Water

Sounds like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? When you hop into the shower and you have beautiful hot water dancing over your body, do you ever say a word of thanks? I don’t; I just get in and do my thing. This morning, I was the third person to hit the shower and we were rather low on hot water. I had shampoo in my hair still to be rinsed and in need of conditioner when the hot water ran out. UGH! I needed a hot shower to get myself prepared for a long day! I danced through the lukewarm stuff to rinse out my hair just before the cold water hit; no time for conditioner. Just a reminder not to take things for granted so thank you hot water (and I’ll have to remember to hop in the shower before my men do on Monday mornings!).

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Gratitude Month 2011 – Week 2

It’s already the second week of November. It’s been a week since my dad went missing, and he’s been in the hospital for six days now. Honestly, it seems like November is a month old given the stress and my long days of being at the hospital. I worry about what’s to come and how we will ever care for him when he’s released. Some serious decisions have to be made and I wish someone else would just take over and make them. Having said that lament (whine, snivel, moan, fret) I know that whatever happens, we’ll cope with it and do what needs to be done. One of the biggest gifts we’ll take away from this experience is learning to ask for help!

November 8, 2011 ~ Improvement

Today, I’m grateful that Dad’s physical status has improvement greatly and he’s more alert and cognizant of what’s going on around him. He will need a lot of physical therapy to get up and around again, but he did sit up in a chair for a bit today and that’s the first time he’s been out of bed since the accident. YES! He still cannot eat or drink and has to be tied to the bed when I’m not there but today was a vast improvement on many levels.

November 9, 2011 ~ My Taxi Driver

Dad had a huge step backwards today and after spending 7 hours at the hospital, I called my husband who served as my taxi driver. I did have a car at there but Hubs drove over anyway, picked me up, took me to a loud happy place for dinner and took me home. I didn’t have to think or make a decision and that’s exactly what I needed.

November 10, 2011 ~ Sweet Sleep

I finally got a good night’s sleep last night. I feel so much more human today and ready to take on whatever is tossed our way. It really is those small things that get you through the big things!

November 11, 2011 ~ A Busy Person’s Concern

When I’m not at the hospital, they keep my dad’s wrists restrained to the bed so he doesn’t pull out his tubes (he’s yanked out the NG tube twice and the cathether once). He’s been having swallowing issues so the NG tube has been a problem; he’s not getting enough nutrition and yesterday, he didn’t want to eat what they were feeding him (has to be watched when he eats to be make sure he swallows everything completely). He’s losing strength, not breathing with his entire lung anymore . . . in other words, he’s at that point where being in the hospital is exacerbating some of his problems but he’s too weak to leave.

I’ve been spending hours and hours at the hospital. One of Dad’s best nurses was also the one who would make comments when I’d leave for the day about how she hoped he didn’t go berserk again because of the restraints and he had to be restrained when I left . . . I’d feel SO guilty that I would sob all the way home. Wednesday, he was restrained anyway when I was there and getting mad at me because I wouldn’t bring him the wall . . . yes, it can be overwhelming.

Dad’s neurologist travels with an entourage; she commands attention. She asked me how he was doing saying I’d know more because I was with him all the time when she only saw him for a few minutes a day. I appreciated that comment – she trusted my opinion and asked for it. She listened to me – really listened. When I was finished, she asked me if I was sleeping at night. I was so taken aback that I just stared at her. She expressed her concern for the amount of time I was at the hospital . . . this incredibly busy woman was making sure I was taking care of myself.

When she left, the PT who was working with Dad’s roommate came over and said he heard the conversation and was also concerned. We had a very long chat (Dad slept through all of this), and he made suggestions for getting out even if it was to sit in the hospital healing garden outside for 10 minutes a few times a day.

When I left for the day, my husband told the nurse he was “busting me out of there” and she said GOOD! This particular nurse has never made me feel guilty. It felt so wonderful that people were expressing their concern for me. I’m truly grateful for that TLC; it makes a huge difference.

And one little tip – LOL – if you’re stuck at the hospital for days on end, read a classic. I’ve been reading Anna Karenina which has been noted by nearly everyone. It says, “I have a brain and I can communicate with you so don’t treat me like a child.” No one has talked down to me the entire time we’ve been there, and this used to be a problem for me. There are times when I need to read a chapter over (they’re very short in Anna Karenina) because my mind gets preoccupied but it’s a great read for me through this, and I’m enjoying it. Just a little tip from me to you 🙂

November 12, 2011 ~ Safe Sons

My sons coach a baseball team of 14 and 15 year old boys (my sons are 22 and 24). They had a tournament this weekend in Sacramento. When they got 45 minutes away from home, the engine on the car seized up. They were able to push it off the highway and into the parking lot of the Boreal ski resort. They were rattled but uninjured. This happened in a good spot instead of at the summit or in one of the canyons with horrible weather and far away from help. It will a very expensive fix and the car still has to be towed back home, but my boys are safe, and that is absolutely the most important thing – BIG GRATITUDE!

November 13, 2011 ~ A Little Trip

My husband and I drove up to meet the tow truck and push our stranded vehicle out of the snow bank. While we were waiting for the tow truck, I hiked up to the observation point and watched the skiers and snowboarders enjoying the snow. The sun was shining, the sky was a brilliant blue, and there was no wind. It was a bit brisk but the perfect day for skiing. It felt so good to be outside watching people have fun. I got to enjoy my husband’s company during the ride (we put a moratorium on hospital talk) and it felt wonderful to get away for a few hours. It was a quick trip but it certainly warmed up my heart. Sometimes it’s the simple things that do the most!

November 14, 2011 ~ Soccer Therapy

I’m blessed to have a 21-month old German shepherd named Rolf. He can actually kick a soccer ball with both front paws. When I need a nature break, I go outside to my backyard and play soccer with Rolf. He doesn’t care if I kick like a girl; he just wants to play. I can kick the ball with everything I have, and he’s in seventh heaven. Today was one of those days that it was either have a breakdown or kick the soccer ball all over. Thank you Rolf for getting me outside for some exercise and love!

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Gratitude Month 2011 – Week 1

It is November already and that means it’s gratitude month. For the last two years, I’ve publicly announced a daily gratitude during November. To be honest, I really really don’t want to do it this year. My plate is full, and I’m emotionally spent; adding one more thing to my day just doesn’t appeal to me. And that’s why I know it’s even more important that I do it.
Here goes . . .

November 1, 2011 – My Support Team

I absolutely have to start my gratitude with my support team. My mom died July 30 and we’ve moved my 87 year old dad in with us. He has some dementia and was born with a grumpy egocentric attitude that hasn’t mellowed with age. My life has changed dramatically in the last three months, and I would not be doing as well as I am (and trust me, I still have moments of utter darkness) without my support team.

At the top of the list is my husband who is the one who suggested my dad move in with us. He helps as much as he can, he listens to me when I need a shoulder, and he holds me when I think I can’t go on. My sons are also incredibly helpful whether it’s helping out with Dad or making dinner – or especially making me laugh. The four of us were a very tight family when Dad moved in and we’re taking good care of each other through this experience. I wish everyone could have three such men in their lives!

I need to add my brother-in-law to the list because he’s the one who listens to my husband when he needs to vent!

My Halos711 soul family and Inner Child soul family have also all been there for me, without judgment, and with so much love. Wow!! I love you all!

For those of you who have called, sent cards, notes, and emails – thank you! It helps to know I’m not alone.

It’s such a gift to know that when I need something (or someone), I just have to ask. It’s such a gift and a blessing to have a support team. I know that I’ll get through these challenging experiences because I have you all there to help and cheer me on. THANK YOU ALL!

What are you grateful for today and this month? ♥

November 2, 2011 – A Roof Over My Head

Not speaking for anyone here but myself, I have a tendency to take some things for granted such as having a safe and warm place to live. For anyone who lives in Reno (or any other place hit hard by the economy), a short drive around town will show you how many people don’t have a safe place to call home. For today, I vow to think about all those things, big and small, that I take for granted and having a roof over my head is a big one. I don’t have a fancy schmancy, spotless house, but I have a place to hang my hat that keeps us safe, warm and is filled with a lot of love. That is much to be thankful for!

Hope your November gratitude list is filled to the brim already! Mine is. ♥

November 3, 2011 – Police and Hospital Support

On Wednesday, November 2, my dad left to go to the grocery store at 3:30pm and never came home. Two hours later, I was getting frantic and by 7:30, when my family had gone everywhere Dad would normally go, we called the police and the hospitals. By 11:00pm, we filed a missing person’s report with an officer who was beyond kind and took us seriously. It was a LONG night. Early in the morning, a woman from Reno PD called and got all the information needed to put a flyer together for the news media. She gave me her private number. I called the hospitals again, and one hospital was over-the-top fabulous, encouraging me to call every hour until he was found while another hospital hung up on me.

The lady from Reno PD kept in touch (and I hate that I don’t remember her name) and finally, she called closed to 1pm saying he’d been found by the California Highway Patrol nearly 100 miles away. She was beyond kind, giving me the information needed. My husband called the contact with CHP and he was beyond kind. My dad had crashed his truck and rolled it down a 50′ ravine into a creek and was semi-conscious. Once the had him extracted from the truck and out of the ravine, CHP called again to tell us Dad was being careflighted to the trauma center in Reno. Reno PD also called to tell us.

As soon as the helicopter landed at the hospital, a social worker from the hospital called and everyone there has been fabulous. This kindness and going the extra mile for us has made a very frightening experience bearable. I am so very grateful for all of them and of course, to God as well because it’s a miracle Dad was even found in the remote location he was in – and with no broken bones or serious injuries! He has hypothermia from being in the truck overnight in freezing temperatures and water (core temperature was 84 upon arriving at the hospital).

Thank you Reno PD, California Highway Patrol, Nevada Highway Patrol and Renown Medical Center for being so incredible at your jobs!

November 4, 2011 ~ My Sons, the Chefs

I’ve spent a very long very difficult day at the hospital with my dad. My husband and I are spent. We just came home and my sons have cooked dinner for us. Shopped (paid for it themselves) and cooked! What a gift! Yes, the kitchen is wrecked but I could use the clean up time to decompress. I have the best sons in the world! Thank you Eric and Chad!

November 5, 2011 ~ Nurses at Renown Medical Center

Today was another difficult day at the hospital. The nurses taking care of my dad, both RNs and CNAs, are incredible. He is nasty to them and very difficult to take care of and they handle him with dignity. They take the time to answer my questions, reassure me that I’m doing the right thing (even when I got upset with dad), and I just rest easy when I’m not there that Dad is in good hands. They take a huge load off my mind and that is absolutely something to be grateful for right now.

November 6, 2011 ~ Fresh Air

This might sound like a nutty one but I feel half nuts at the moment. 🙂 After being stuck in a hospital most of the day, it’s a joy to go outside and breathe in the fresh crispy Fall air. It smells good, it feels good, and after a long stressful day, it felt wonderful to experience this change in perspective. Thank you Mother Nature for this gift.

November 7, 2011 ~ Dogs Who Know

Today, I came home from the hospital absolutely spent. I crawled into my bed with all my clothes on and started to sob. Within a minute or two, my 21 month old German Shepherd jumped up on the bed and laid against me – spine to spine. He let out a great big sigh that made me giggle. He knew I needed comfort and he was there, giving it in the best way he knew how. All we really need when things get challenging is to know that we are loved and he reminded me. He didn’t fix anything, but he helped me shift my perspective and that’s how we keep putting one foot in front of the other through these challenges. Thank you Rolf! ♥

First Week of Gratitude Month Recap

What a week – certainly one I didn’t expect. I’m very grateful for all of your prayers and well-wishes. My dad has a long tough road ahead and I don’t know how this will turn out, but I am very grateful that I don’t have to walk it alone. Thank you all so much!

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Mind-blowing Contrast

According to Wikipedia, “The Holmes and Rahe stress scale is a list of 43 stressful life events that can contribute to illness.” In the last year, my husband and I have racked up quite a score. It’s almost frightening to think about – ALMOST. It’s true that the last year has been a wild ride, but it’s also been a most precious year in some ways. Through this turbulence, my husband and I have become much closer and our little family of four is closer as a result. I wouldn’t trade that for anything. In fact, I would have said on July 29 that I was as happy as I’d ever been despite the serious financial stress we’re under. I was absolutely confident that that situation would be resolved and resolved soon; I was content in a way I hadn’t ever been before.

On July 30 I was sitting on the couch working through a lesson in Andrea Schroeder’s Creative Journal Magic course (BTW, I HIGHLY recommend this course!). I had broken through a big block and was really rocking the class. I was getting to know myself and loving the possibilities before me. All that was shattered with the news that my mom had died. Within minutes, I had to call people, make snap decisions, plan a funeral, make decisions for my dad who has early dementia and unable to do any of the things people do when there’s a death . . . including moving him into my home while emptying out his and disposing of my mother’s things. I now have the responsibility for an 87 year old man with early dementia; it’s like having a spoiled preschooler with ADHD and my life has changed so drastically, I almost don’t recognize it. I’m trying to figure out a work schedule and coming up short. I’m a “fly by the seat of my pants” girl and my dad has had the same rigid schedule for years that my mom catered to. At 87, changing that schedule causes tantrums. It’s a lot harder to cope with your elderly parent’s tantrums than it is your toddler’s! This role reversal has thrown me for a loop and yet I often feel like that little girl with knots in her stomach because Daddy isn’t happy.

Is this the worst thing that’s ever happened to me? No . . . but it’s certainly thrown a monkey wrench into that delicious peace and contentment I was feeling on the morning of July 30. The contrast is seriously mind blowing.

My emotions have been all over the place today and that really is typical of the grief experience (as well as a woman in perimenopause!). I’m experienced enough with this process to know that the best thing to do is roll with it, acknowledge the feelings at the time and let them go. I’m so much better at “letting go and letting God” now than I was as a younger adult, and this is such a blessing. There can be joy in these challenges if we open up to the possibilities. This is when my gratitude journal keeps me grounded and reminds me that this new tsunami is temporary and doesn’t define me or my life (even though it feels like it quite often!).

Today’s gratitude journal entry will be about Eric (my 24 year old son) trying to recreate a fabulous grilled cheese sandwich that he purchased from some kind of food truck over the weekend. As the smoke was billowing through my kitchen, we laughed ourselves silly and I thanked God for the gift of this child in my life. There is ALWAYS a blessing if you just look for it. ♥

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