This week’s tip you’ll find in detail if you head on over to my author friend, Laura Munson’s blog, These Here Hills.
Laura is the author of the New York Times bestselling book, “This Is Not the Story You Think It Is,” a memoir about adopting an attitude of non-suffering. It’s wise, funny and absent of anything Pollyana. It now sits on my shelf next to Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert and Kelly Corrigan’s, The Middle Place. A coveted spot indeed.
Laura was gracious enough to let me write a guest column for her November newsletter about quieting our inner critic.
To read the entire piece, head on over to visit Laura. She’s a terrific virtual hostess and tell her I send ya but first, how do you quiet your inner critic?
And now, a sneak peak at I am the Ultimate…
When I was in eighth grade, about fourteen years old, I feel in love. Not with some young, strapping, adolescent fresh-faced boy with peach fuzz perched over his top lip.
Not even with a human.
I fell hard and fast for a word, a word when said out loud made me pitch over like a fainting goat. It had an air of pretense and yet consciously I despised pretense because it did precisely to me what it is designed to do-foster inferiority. This word, however, strung together with seven perfect letters, relegated me to the likes of a Marcia Brady type-the Marcia who pined away for Davy Jones from the Monkees.
The word was ultimate and when I prefaced it with the, I decided we should declare our love publicly.
“I am The Ultimate,” became the signature phrase I used to announce my triumphant arrival into a room. Arms open wide, forming a big Y over my head; I made a grand entrance afterschool one afternoon when I greeted my Mom in the kitchen.
My Mom came from hearty Irish stock and as my Dad says was, “a real lady.” My father embraced his self-appointed role as God’s laughter lieutenant and gravitates to the spotlight. My Mom, in contrast, preferred to play the part of a spectator. She raised the five of us to embrace humility and while she found us entertaining she went to great lengths to be sure we knew our place.
She canned applesauce every fall from the apples she and my aunt picked at our local orchard and taught us about the birds and the bees without one euphemism. On winter Sunday afternoons, she curled up in the crushed orange velvet recliner in her bedroom and soaked in the sunny spot by the sliding glass door. After reciting her daily rosary, she wandered off into the worlds that lived inside the stack of books resting on her glass-top table.
That fall afternoon, she must have had enough of my shenanigans and found my love affair with the word ultimate no longer tolerable or appropriate.
Still dressed in my Catholic school uniform, I hiked up my skirt and with my white blouse inching up over my belly I hopped up on the countertop and reached for a glass.
“I am The Ultimate,” I repeated; poking around in the cabinet propped up on the laminate, marble countertop.
Just as I found my favorite glass, my Mom tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Steffi, stop saying that.” She lent me her hand to get down. “It’s not very becoming.”
Click here to read the entire piece.
Where did the weekend go?
It’s Sunday already and now thanks to the time change, it’s dark when my day feels like it’s just getting going. I loathe this time of year.
I live in a part of the world that gets dark, cold and still for months and I don’t like it. My problem isn’t with autumn, it’s that winter follows it and hangs around like a relative who doesn’t know when he’s overstayed his welcome.
Sacred Sunday posts will force me to take notice of the mason jar moments that twinkle in life in spite of the bleak winter days.
This Sunday Sacred Sunday comes to you courtesy of my husband, to whom I refer on this site as The Bird (for any newcomers….WELCOME! Hey, did you subscribe yet? Go, ahead, sign up, I’ll wait. Top right hand corner and it’s free, free, free!)
The Bird works really, really hard and on Friday evening, after a long work week, he arrived home with a spring in his step.
“Hey Steph, I brought something home for you.” He moseyed into the kitchen holding a white paper bag. Read more
Oprah has a column in her magazine titled, “What I Know For Sure,” and the first time I came across it, it made me take pause.
What did I know for sure? What had I discovered in my own life that I could securely hang my hat on?
My list is evolutionary but more often than not I find my mind wanders to the things I still DON”T know or understand.
Those answers might never come in this lifetime but rest assured, I’m seeking high and low for some sort of reasonable explanations. In the meantime, this past Saturday evening I had an experience that landed on my list of what I know for sure.
This tip is for Dads- buy your daughter(s) flowers.
When I was six years old, our door bell rang. It was February 14, 1973 and my twin sister and I were first-graders.
Just off the school bus, Gee and I were in our room peeling off our parochial school uniform jumpers when my Mom stood at the doorway and said, “Did you hear the door bell? You girls might want to go see who’s at the door.”
Our home was perched on Nectar Lane, a cul-de-sac in an early 1970′s suburban subdivision in bucolic Chester County, Pennsylvania. Growing up a knock at the door or chime of the doorbell was a quotidian occurrence. We didn’t lock our doors, the kids played outside long after the sunset and in the winters we ice-skated on the two neighborhood ponds. When the door bell, rang, Gee and I figured it was either Doree, Dayna or Lori, our childhood friends, sporting rosy cheeks with ice-skates slung over their shoulders anxious to ask, “Can the twins come out to play?”
My Mom rarely displayed a sense of urgency, so when she suggested we go see who was at the door, Gee and I ran around the hallway corner, pulling sweaters over our heads. To this day, I’ll never forget what greeted us when we got to the end of the hallway and made the sharp right passed the iron railing toward the front door.
There with two long white boxes with bright pink ribbons tied around them, stood my Dad. Leaning on the top box, he signed a piece of paper and offered a hearty, proud thanks to a delivery boy bundled up in a black peacoat standing outside on our front stoop.
I remember being slightly confused. The whole scene felt foreign but the grin on my Dad’s face spoke of a seminal event.
He slammed the door shut, turned and handed us the two foot packages. “For you girls. Happy Valentine’s Day!”
The four of us walked into the living room and there on our wool, orange serpentine couch, Gee and I tore open the boxes. Inside on a cushion of baby pink crepe paper were a dozen delicate pink roses. The buds barely peaked open. Resting on top of the bouquets were small, furry grey squirls with red bows tied around their necks and a sign that read, “Be mine.”
It’s one of the first times in my life I ever remember feeling like I mattered.
“For us, Daddy?” we asked. My Mom responded because my Dad was too teary to talk. “Daddy wanted to be the first man to send you girls flowers.”
Gee and I kept those squirrels and the pink bows from the long white boxes tied around our canopy beds well into our teenage years. I’ve been a lucky girl to have been blessed with many a flower delivery over the years but every time I’ve answered the door to a delivery man, I am reminded that my Daddy was the first.
When is a time when you felt like you mattered?
When I groaned at turning the ripe old age of thirty-five, my Mom, Doris, (God rest her soul *making the sign of the cross*) said to me, “Honey, birthdays are a good thing. Just consider the alternative.”
On September 23rd my Dad will celebrate his ninety-sixth birthday and like my Mom said, it sure beats the alternative, no matter how old you get.
In deference to my Italian female predilection toward melodrama, this birthday is without question, cause for both celebration and concern. Read more
This Sunday is sponsored by one of my Godsons and his identical twin brother; both who share their first names with my husband and his identical twin brother. Italians really only have a few standard first names we use when naming our children. We use them from generation to generation, from family to family, from sea to shining sea.
Thursday evening, after I finished up with clients, my best friend, Stef, called and asked us to swing by to hang out with her and the kids before the kids’ standing evening date with the sandman.
We piled in The Bird’s navy blue Ford pick-me-up truck, as he affectionately calls it, and drove the half a mile over to Stef’s. The garage door was up and before I could shout, “Guess who?” when I walked into the kitchen, the twins in their Sponge Bob pjs with freshly washed noggins, accosted me, smiles so big their faces had to hurt, waving pictures they drew. Read more
If you’re Catholic, like me, you probably know that Sunday was the Feast of the Assumption.
Did you put your feet in the ocean?
Growing up we spent our summers at the Jersey Shore, long before there was ever a “Snooki” or any sort of a “Situation.”
In cars bursting with all the summer essentials, and trunks my Dad called “footlockers” tethered to the roof of each car, my parents picked up my identical twin sister and me on the last day of school. Bound for Wildwood Crest, New Jersey, we didn’t head back north until Labor Day.
Some of my fondest memories of our summers at the shore are the mornings when my Mom and I would bike the twenty blocks to daily Mass at our parish, The Assumption.
On our early morning jaunts, we peddled passed my Grandmom’s bright pink, stucco duplex and through mouth-watering ribbons of fresh bacon and eggs that escaped from inside the homes on Seaview Avenue.
My Mom relished the early morning hours, when the sun was just yawning. Me, I preferred to wait until most of the world was on its second cup of coffee. But every year on August fifteenth, I rose early enough to join her for Mass. Read more
Ever feel like, “Gee whiz?”
That’s how I feel as I write this post.
My Mom reserved that expression for times when there really wasn’t anything else to say.
Times like the day I called her to tell her I that I had been struggling to get pregnant, and the time when I was visiting my parents in Florida and my husband called to tell me that our dog, Bella was so sick they weren’t sure she was going to make it. While I sat in tears on the powder blue lazy boy, my cell phone in my lap, she kissed me on the forehead, sighed and said, “Oh, Steffi. Gee whiz.”
Today, if I called her to tell her the “bitter” of my week, I’m sure she’d say, “Oh, Steffi, gee whiz.” Read more
This evening while winding down, a commercial for the movie Eat, Pray, Love, based on the wildly popular New York Times bestseller of the same name came on.
The commercial stirred inside me the kind of nostalgia that comes from daydreaming about your first kiss. Read more
Seven years ago, when my Mom passed away, I stood at her bedside with my Dad, brothers and twin sister, both heartbroken and relieved. The relief came from knowing she would no longer suffer the depravity of cancer. Her last breath released her from its vicious vice.
The heartbreak, well, that’s obvious I’m sure.
Regardless of how old we are when our parents die, (I was thirty-seven years old) I’m here to tell you it hurts. It can hurt- a whole lot…for a long time.
Sadly, our grief as adult children mourning the loss of our Moms and Dads is often disenfranchised.
It seems “natural” for our parents to die when they are elderly- true. Somehow though, natural is considered (by many) as directly proportionate to how long an appropriate mourning period prolongs, or worse, if it’s appropriate at all.
My own father is 95 3/4 years old. Trust me when I tell you, I will mourn his loss for as long as I-that’s I-need to-and it won’t be the standard expected three days I assure you. He is my Dad, (sometimes I still call him Daddy-we’re Italian what can I tell ya) his presence in this world is the bedrock upon which my sense of safety rests (as was my Mom’s).
In my practice and in my work at hospice, I’ve seen many adult children struggle. They have friends and co-workers, etc who remark, “Oh your Mom/Dad lived a good long life. God bless ‘em.”
These same well-intentioned people go on to shrug their shoulders, pat you on the back and move on AND often expect you to do the same in a very short time.
Parental loss for adult children is disenfranchised grief at it’s finest.
Lois Akner, in her book “How to Survive the Loss of a Parent: A Guide for Adults” (William Morrow and Co.), speaks on this idea of disenfranchised grief for adult children whose parents die.
“If you lose a child or a husband, there’s an enormous amount of support. But if you lose a parent, you get two weeks to grieve and then you’re expected to be back to yourself.”
There are many factors that influence the grief and mourning process. One of the most important is the relationship the bereft shared with the deceased. If they were close, then the grieving period will be longer. I’ll be writing a post about each factor in the coming weeks, so stay tuned.
Dressing my Mom for the funeral director to take her was a gift. Along with my brother we dressed her and kissed her. It was our last tender act as her caregivers.
Notwithstanding the tender side of her death, her dying catapulted me to a place overgrown with unfamiliarity and shrouded by a pervasive dark fog of sheer uncertainty.
What scared me was the sudden realization that everything as I knew it had now changed. This is the theme of my memoir but a few months ago I came across a quote that articulated with precision how I felt that cold, February night. (I’d give credit if I knew to whom it went but I don’t).
There are times in a life
when we come to a trapeze moment….
It’s that moment in time
when what we’ve known
will no longer hold us-
and what awaits us
has not yet appeared.
Losing a loved one, at any age, most certainly can find us suspended in a “trapeze” moment.
Death leaves us with a loss of our former assumptive world. Often people go on spiritual quests, seeking for a way to make sense out of the world again-to restore a sense of safety & security that the death left shattered.
This takes time and in her book, The Five Ways We Grieve, author Susan Berger talks about the five different types of grievers. Indeed, some of us are seekers. (I am a pure seeker).
So, my dear friends who know the pain of losing parents, rest reassured your grief is legitimate. It might very well lead to a trapeze moment and if so, you’re in good company according to me and Susan Berger.
Have you lost a parent? I’d love to hear your experiences.
*To comment look for the “add a comment” in the box below the post with the other blog tags. Click on “add a comment” and share away. Comments are a great way to support each other on this topic.
If this was helpful please hit the “Tweet this” button at the top of the page of feel free to share it on Facebook. Just click on the share icon at the bottom of the post. Thank you!
Suggested Resources on this topic:
How to Survive the Loss of a Parent: A Guide for Adults, by Lois Akner