Maribeth Doerr

Shades of Healing ~ Creating a Wholehearted Life

Identity Crisis?

Last fall, we found ourselves in a major upheaval (aren’t all upheavals major?) when we needed to sell our house quickly to avoid bankruptcy.  We did, thankfully, and in the process had less than 30 days to sort through 26 years worth of junk possessions.  What do we toss, sell, donate, store, take with us to an apartment 1/4 of the size of the house we were leaving?  Where can you go when you can’t buy right away and your bad credit score prevents an apartment complex from accepting six months rent in cash?  We did it though even when someone told us they didn’t want to rent to “people like us” (from the place where we offered to give them 6 months rent the day we moved in when we closed escrow).  We did it even though we lost our beloved German shepherd the day we moved.  We did it!  We did it with broken hearts over our Rolf and we did it with glad hearts for a fresh start in new digs.  We did it even though our last remaining child at home moved elsewhere and we became empty nesters (even emptier without our dog).  We did it even though we didn’t like each other very much through the process.  We did it even though it was embarrassing.  And we survived.

Once the fog lifted and it was time to get back to business as usual, I had a shock.  A few days before my blog name (domain name) expired, I tried to transfer it away from WordPress to my usual registar so my whole blog could be on my VPS.  Wordpress blocked it (supposedly for my protection) and through a comedy of errors on both their part and mine (being that I was preoccupied with the above), when the block was removed, I didn’t realize it and a Japanese lingerie site (soft porn!) took over MY NAME.  My domain name was my personal name which I’m not typing here because I don’t want you to go there and give them any traffic.  But people, MY NAME dot com!  I am not a soft porn site and oh the agony and embarrassment.  I’ve spent four months trying to fix this.  I’ve spent those same months trying to get my first name dot com and they never respond.  So this blog has hung in limbo as I’ve tried to sort out what to do.  In short – a bit of an identity crisis.  It’s turned into a long process and the links to my name dot com are everywhere so using my name dot net isn’t going to be helpful – people will usually go to a dot com.

It’s time to move on.  Until I figure out if this blog even needs a name, I’ll be hanging out here at



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The Unmentionables . . .

Sean, Chad, & Eric

My 3 Amigos

Today is Harry Potter’s birthday!  Did you know that?  As a Potterhead, I always thought it was cool that Harry’s birthday is the same as my nephew’s.  Like Harry, Sean was full of magic and fantasy.  His heart was bigger than his head and like Harry, he had a lot of inner demons.  Today would have been Sean’s 37th birthday but unlike Harry Potter, he wasn’t the boy who lived.  He died exactly four months ago.

Sean’s cause of death is officially recorded as peritonitis from a perforated ulcer.  You’d be right to wonder how something like that could happen in 2014 in someone only 36 years old.  Sean had been an alcoholic since his teens.  He’d been hospitalized for bleeding ulcers four years before he died.  He was told then to stop drinking before it killed him.  He couldn’t – or didn’t want to, even though he knew what would happen.

I share this with you today for two reasons.  A death like this is often referred to as a high stigma loss.  There’s a lot of judgment surrounding deaths related to addiction as if the person deserved it or was somehow less than. Why didn’t he just stop? (As if it were that easy and even recovering alcoholics have said that to me.)  Why didn’t the family do something?  He must have been weak-willed.  Oh what a waste.

“Alcoholism is a disease, but it’s the only one you can get yelled at for having. Goddamn it Otto, you are an alcoholic. Goddamn it Otto, you have Lupus… one of those two doesn’t sound right.” ~ comedian Mitch Hedberg

You don’t blame someone who has Lupus but as a society, we certainly blame someone with alcoholism.  And when someone dies from alcoholism, fingers point everywhere.  (Those of you who will quickly say he could have killed someone driving need to know that Sean never drove and never had a driver’s license.)  The end result, we don’t talk about it . . . which leads me to the second reason for sharing this today . . .

People truly don’t know what to say to a bereaved person but after a high stigma loss, it’s even worse!  We all have a “big book of grief rules” where we rank losses based on some kind of inner metric that tells us how much compassion we give to someone based on where the loss ranks (and everyone’s book of rules is different and arbitrary).  For example, a 6-week miscarriage falls at the lowest rung for most folks and the murder of a 6 year old child is probably at the top.  But, you don’t know what that woman who had the 6-week miscarriage went through to achieve that pregnancy or that she may have lost 10 babies before that one and will never have another pregnancy.  We can’t know all the ripples of loss in any bereaved person’s life to fully grasp how much someone will grieve any type of loss.

So, for me to lose a nephew (as opposed to someone I birthed) to an alcohol-related death (as opposed to cancer) is probably on the low end of anybody’s compassion meter.  But this nephew wasn’t some guy I saw now and then.  This was a child who spent a lot of his growing up years with my family, who was a brother to my sons, who lived with me as an adult and cried as hard as I did when my mother died.  This was a funny, talented, magical person who understood me in a way no one else did and I’m sure he’d say the same about me.  This wasn’t just a distant relative. He was like my little brother, especially when my brothers died and then my parents.  And it matters not to me how he died because I choose to remember all those funny goofy memories we shared (and thankfully there are MANY!).  I will always be pained that I couldn’t save him (as if I had that kind of power) and having people suggest that I’m making too much of his death adds to that pain because he IS worth remembering.

Please, rethink your big book of grief rules.  Please, don’t disappear from someone who has experienced a high stigma loss (it’s really not contagious).  Ditch the platitudes . . . I heard things like, “Well this isn’t a surprise.”  Why do people say that? Is that supposed to lessen my sorrow?  Please . . . Hug a lot, listen a lot, and talk about the dead.  Remember the funny and special memories with me!

Sean was a talented writer and was beginning to get his work out into the world of fanfic.  We encouraged each other in our writing because no one else in the family did.  And now, I’ll use his legacy as my “big why” for writing.  I know he’s cheering me on because he was an awesome cheerleader.

Happy birthday Seanie!

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A Personal Tsunami

Since February, I was concerned about my parents’ living situation. Mom was tired and not able to wait on Dad like she used to. She was frail, not feeling well, and refusing help. Dad’s memory issues were more apparent, and we had taken him to the hospital on Father’s Day night with either a mild heart attack or a gallbladder attack; the doctors were never sure.

Shortly after that, my prayers were answered when my parents’ pastor got involved, and we all had a meeting to discuss assisted living options. Everyone was so kind, and I was filled with more hope than I’d felt in months. Mom told everyone Dad was resistant to the move, but honestly, it was Mom. Dad would have gone wherever she did as long as she was with him. Mom didn’t want to leave her condo of nearly 20 years. She struggled with the huge change such a move would be and she thought maybe hiring a weekly cleaning service would be enough.

My youngest son had always had a special relationship with his grandma. He and I were planning to visit Mom soon while Dad was golfing so we could speak privately. We thought perhaps we could convince her to move in with us, and my two sons could move into their condo – just swap places. The boys were excited since the condo is closer to their college, and my parents would be safe and looked after. I knew I was in for a battle because every time I mentioned their moving in with us, Mom would adamantly refuse. “You don’t know what you’d be getting into!” she’d say over and over. She was so fiercely independent and hated to ask and receive help.

Chad and I never got the chance for that discussion. My mom died in her recliner chair, apparently while napping, on July 30. Dad was napping upstairs and came down a few hours later to find her. We had recently disconnected our landlines and Dad couldn’t find our phone number. He managed to call 911 and handle all of that alone. When they took Mom away, he drove to my house with a man from social services following him. They wanted to be sure he got here safely and that he really did have a family because he obviously couldn’t live alone.

When Dad came in that day, he just blurted it out . . . “Your mother died this afternoon.” My mind was thinking she was ill and in the hospital or something else but not the D word. It was a shock and yet it wasn’t. She was SO tired and frail. Both of my brothers have died, and my sister-in-law died this past February. Mom was brokenhearted and weary. As Pastor said at her funeral, she was “soul weary.”

So now it’s nine days later, and we’re moving Dad in with us. We slept in my house for the first time last night, and he was up at 4am looking for something but he had no idea what. He’s upset about the change in location of his medication and his breakfast items. He couldn’t figure out where his clothes are in their new locations even though we tried to create his new set up like home. Hopefully it will become familiar soon but such changes are so traumatic in people with memory issues.

All we can do is try our best and call upon help when necessary. I learned a huge lesson from Mom – ASK for and be willing to receive help!

I’m writing this in a Starbucks while Dad golfs. It’s still too early for phone calls to figure out his prescriptions so I’m taking a bit of “me” time. The workers are all laughing, and it sounds so nice! I cleaned out my purse and found a little feather so I know my angels are with me, as hard as this is.

And I’m struck by a question in the midst of all this chaos . . . when will I have time to grieve for my mom? She was the only female in my daily life surrounded as I am by men (I have no sisters or daughters), my confidante. Dad’s needs have to come first right now and my life has drastically changed . . .

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#reverb10 – Action

December 13 – Action.

When it comes to aspirations, it’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen. What’s your next step?  (@scottbelsky)

I hate the word “aspiration.”  It makes me think of my son’s arrival into the word with aspirated amniotic fluid and meconium that almost killed him.  His neonatologist told me Eric was too stubborn to die, that his will to be here saved his life, not the medical care he received.  Then he asked me to remember that when Eric became a teenager – that if he hadn’t been born stubborn, he wouldn’t be here at all.  That advice served me well during the teenager years and still does even though he’s 23.  I’m a Taurus so I understand stubborn – good thing for Eric! 😉

I digress . . . what’s my next step?  Showing up.  Every.  Single. Day.  Staying stuck in depression or procrastination or fear is the cement shoes of my life.  By showing up, I keep the cement from hardening.  Forward progress becomes not only possible but probable.  Action isn’t possible without showing up, so for me, that’s my next step.  What’s yours?


#reverb10 – December 1-10

Per the authors, Reverb 10 is an annual event and online initiative to reflect on your year and manifest what’s next.   I’m jumping in a bit late but jumping in I am.  Here are my responses for the first ten days which are short and probably not so sweet.

December 1  –  One Word

Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word. Now, imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2011 for you?

Awakening. There really is no other word to describe my year that comes as close as awakening.  After being in a pit for three years, I spent 2009 putting aside my fear to climb out of that dark place.  During 2010, I not only woke up to my surroundings but my essence came back to life as well.  I’m not sure what my life path is yet, but I KNOW I’m on that path and I’m content and curious to not know exactly what’s ahead of me.  That’s a huge part of my awakening – not being fearful of not knowing the next step!

The word for 2011 – that stumps me a bit.  My theme for 2011 will be self-trust but I’m not sure that I can pick a word to describe how 2011 will unfold yet.  What I’d love is for those reading this now to return a year from now and say “BRAVA” for whatever it is I’ve accomplished.  I don’t expect to save the world or cure cancer in 2011 but I intend to show up every single day with love in my heart , hope in my arms, and light in my eyes.  If I can do that, then BRAVA will be my 2011 word.  Brava Mari!

December 2 – Writing.

What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing — and can you eliminate it?


Can I eliminate it?  Yes.   I know why I procrastinate—fear and feeling as though I don’t deserve the “play” time to write.

As to the fear—I’m making progress there.  I like to “metta-fy” that fear as the incredible Janice Lynn Lundy would say.

May I feel safe; May I feel strong; May I feel happy; May I live with ease.

Remembering to metta-fy my fear is the key.  I’m planning to create a ritual before starting to write that includes the Metta.

Not deserving the play time—that’s simply absurb and a nasty weed thought.  I’m replacing this weed with a seed thought:  I work hard; I deserve to play hard as well!

December 3 – Moment.

Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors).

This one is for us sappy women.  You all love puppy stories and if you know me at all, you know I got a new one this year.  We lost my sweet Sandy in August 2009.  I never knew you could be so connected to a dog as I was with Sandy.  For the first time in 19 years or some astronomical number, we were petless, having just lost the last of our Homeward Bound crew.  I knew it wouldn’t be fair to a new dog to get one too soon.   About four months later, I put in an order for a new German shepherd puppy with our Steffi who had died 8 years ago (the matriarch of the Doerr Family Homeward Bound crew).  I know – sounds nuts but bear (or is it bare?) with me.  I asked Stef to send us a sweet sable colored German shepherd who wouldn’t be too high drive since we were a lot older now and wouldn’t be able to keep up with a typical shepherd puppy.

It took another four month before that “perfect for us” puppy came into our lives.  He was exactly what I ordered except for the HE part.  I am so surrounded by testosterone!  That “moment in time” came when we drove out to the farm to look at the pup.  When we pulled up, the entire family (and the entire family of dogs) were sitting on the front porch.  One puppy came barreling off the porch to sniff my shoes and that was our Rolf.  The theory is a German shepherd always picks you, rather than vice versa.  All these dogs and the only one for sale was the one who happened to run over to check me out!  The tears came (told you this was a sappy puppy story) and even though I’d wanted a female, we brought this little boy home.  He sat on my lap for 2 hour ride (and at nearly 15 weeks, he was more than a lapful!)  and I buried my nose in his fluffy neck and inhaled.   Joy.  Pure and simple.

It’s seven months later and Rolf is joined at the hip with my husband.  Go figure.  He chose me but he’s now daddy’s boy.  ♥

December 4 – Wonder.

How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year?

This will be short and sweet . . . my mantra for aging is never ever lose your sense of curiosity.  Once you do, that’s the day you get old.  With that mantra, I never have to cultivate a sense of wonder; it’s always with me.  Hmmm, perhaps that’s one of my gifts?  Make note of that Mari.

December 5 – Let Go.

What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why?

I’m a work in progress on the topic of letting go . . . fear, procrastination, people who don’t get me, clutter, self-doubt . . . and I think the why is obvious.   So there – another short and probably not so sweet one.  I hope to have quite a tale of letting go this time next year.

December 6 – Make.

What was the last thing you made? What materials did you use? Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it?

Joy.  I make joy every single day and the materials use was a smile and a positive thought.  It’s easy; try it.

I’d also like to finish the 12+ quilt tops I have stacked in a closet.  I need to make the quilt sandwich with the batting and backing, then quilt them finished.  But I have issues with procrastination and quilts . . .

December 7 – Community.

Where have you discovered community, online or otherwise, in 2010? What community would you like to join, create or more deeply connect with in 2011?

I’ve discovered some beautiful community this year with Jen Louden’s Comfort Café (actually, that was last year but I have to mention it), The Love More Project on Blog Talk Radio, and I’ve made some incredible Twitter friends this year.  For 2011, I would like to continue with my BTR community and continue meeting and connecting with Twitter friends.

December 8 – Beautifully Different.

Think about what makes you different and what you do that lights people up. Reflect on all the things that make you different – you’ll find they’re what make you beautiful.

As Karen Caterson would say, I’m a square-peg person.  If you read my 51 Things, you’ll see some things that make me different.  I don’t own a cellphone let alone a smartphone.  I don’t watch TV except for sports and the weather channel.  I hate shopping.  I thought my boys were amazing teenagers.  I don’t like romance novels.  I refuse to talk politics or religion with anyone, and I’m neither Republican or Democrat.  While I’m deeply spiritual, I don’t connect with any one religion anymore.  I talk to angels and trees (most plants actually).  I’ve been married to the same man for 25 years (as of December 28) and we’ve lived in the same house for 20 years.  I’ve have constant chronic tinnitus.

I don’t know that any of that lights people up though!  It doesn’t even light me up.  My husband would tell you that the light and twinkle in my eyes lights people up.  I do tend to smile a lot and almost always, people smile back at me.  I’m a good listener, and if you have something to say, I love to listen.  I’m a good cheerleader and love to give rah rahs.

I love to learn new things and don’t presume to know it all so part of what makes me a good listener is that I will learn something new from you J  I think everyone has something amazing about themselves to share and finding out what that amazing thing(s) is/are is a source of joy for me.  But that describes what lights ME up more than how I light people up.

December 9 – Party.

What social gathering rocked your socks off in 2010? Describe the people, music, food, drink, clothes, shenannigans.

I am such a homebody!  I can’t think of a social gathering that rocked my socks off because I can’t think of a social gathering I went to that didn’t involve family.

December 10 – Wisdom.

What was the wisest decision you made this year, and how did it play out?

This is rather personal, dontcha think?  I could list a few here but they’re not ready for primetime players so I’ll just say getting the new dog was a wise decision, even though it’s been a hugely chaotic experience.  My husband hasn’t worked in four months other than making the rounds each morning looking to get a contract or two.  He has, therefore, spent a lot of time with the puppy—training, playing, and getting outside.  It’s really helped with his stress level and he’s enjoying life again with the little monster.  Yes, truly a wise decision overall!


Gratitude Month – Day 6 – ZZZZZZZZ


I admit it; I enjoy sleep. Sometimes I don’t sleep well, and then I’m a zombie the next day. Between my husband and puppy snoring the night away, I frequently wander out to the quiet living room and comfy couch in hopes of grabbing some zzzzzs. I’ve always needed a full 8 hours of sleep to feel human. I thank God that my boys were good sleepers from the time they were 6 to 8 weeks old. Yes, I know; I’m really blessed with that!

Sleep, my darling, I love you. ♥


And so, tonight, I’m very grateful we get an extra hour of sleep thanks to turning the clocks back (hey! another reason to be grateful for Fall!) . . . provided my puppy will allow us to sleep in. He’s a 9 month old German shepherd with a very accurate body clock. I’m just hoping with the darkness in the morning, he’ll just snooze for an extra hour. I can hope right?

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Gratitude Month – Day 3 – They Raised Him Right

Since I’ve been on a roll with gratitude and family, I’ll toss one in here that I probably wouldn’t have considered at various times in my long marriage – my in-laws. There’s some ugly family history that doesn’t need to be remembered any longer and for that I’m grateful. Simply put, without my in-laws, I wouldn’t have my husband or my sons. Also, given the fact that my in-laws were good parents, my husband is a wonderful man with a deeply ingrained sense of family which he has been able to pass on to our sons. This is so incredibly important in today’s dysfunctional society. My sons have grown up with all four grandparents involved in their lives, and who have been married to each other for eons. That’s a rare thing these days!

So here’s to my in-laws without whom I wouldn’t have the three most important people in my life! THANK YOU Paul and Jo!

And what are you grateful for today? Do share . . . ♥