A story of hope worth sharing

I normally don’t post links to actual stories I’ve written in the Chicago Tribune, but this is an exception I think worthy to do so. This story (link below) is about a group of young guys who by many folks’ standards might be considered common delinquents, people many would write off as never going to do well or be productive members of society.

In my work I typically read and write stories about young people -even older people- who are alcoholics and drug addicts either dying from their addictions, stealing to support their addictions or killing another person in the process of their addictions.

But this story is quite the opposite of all we have come to know about young people abusing drugs and alcohol. And I am so proud and happy that I stumbeld  up on this story and was blessed with the opportunity to tell their story.

These guys also will be on Bill Moller’s WGN radio show Saturday Jan. 26 to share their story of recovery and outreach to  help others. Please click on the link below and share the story with others. And I hope you see, as I have, that even in the darkest places there is always a glimmer of hope, and people can change if they truly want to.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/suburbs/crystal_lake/ct-met-sober-nightclub-20130120,0,2130477.story

Until next time love each other!

Recovery, humanity and celebrity

Hi friends – what a cold week it has been! I hope you all are keeping warm.

Please click over to Bittersweet and read my latest blog on true recovery versus celebrity (so-called) confessions. Please comment, click and share Bittersweet!

See you soon!

http://www.chicagonow.com/bittersweet/2013/01/true-humanity-in-the-face-of-recovery-not-celebrity/

I’ve added a new adventure! Won’t you all join me?

 

Well it’s a new year (in a few hours) and I have a new adventure!

I am now writing for ChicagoNow under the name of Bittersweet. On this new site I will share thoughts and spin words as I see fit in the moment. I do hope you all will follow me over there and keep this adventure we call life moving along together! I will not be canceling this site as it keeps my work all linked up and tidy!

For my first blog in the new location I shared thoughts on the old year and the new year. (I know not very original on this day when writers everywhere are covering this topic, but we all have had different experiences and will likely have different angles to discuss and share.)

Happy New Year to everyone. Stay safe and well.

Love each other!

Visit me at this link below and let’s keep our friendship going!

http://www.chicagonow.com/bittersweet/

Merry Christmas, this is what I know

As I sit here in our warm home on the eve before Christmas Eve, with a fire burning in the fireplace,  the yummy smell of food being prepared for the next couple of days of holiday celebrations, and  presents all wrapped up and under the Christmas tree, I think about what I’ve learned or was reminded of this Christmas season.

People I love are invaluable, irriplaceable. (This may sound mundane, but really take some time to read this and let it soak in.)

Life’s most important lessons are not complicated.

My family is wonderful, precious, sacred. (Again see info in parentheses above)

Even though our family is not perfect, I really miss my mom and dad who are far away from me this Christmas.

I learned that I should never live as if I know everything about what is going to happen next. Meaning that there are plans in the works and I will not ever know all the details. So, I should always live as if the next thing around the corner is going to be awesome!

I learned that I too matter to others.

I was reminded that there is a certain type of wicked evil in the world, but there is also way more goodness and kindness than there is this evil.

People are all capable of good and evil. It is a choice on how you want to exist in this world.

I learned that I can help other people with simple acts. There are things I may unwittingly say or do that will change a person’s day for the good -or the bad (I’m not perfect). This reminds me to be aware of how I interact in the world as to never make someone’s day worse.

I was reminded that no matter how hard we try, we simply cannot protect our children from all forms of harm, cruelty, hatred. We must show them even more love and kindness inside our homes to make up for what  they see out in the world, in school, on TV.

I learned that, although I do like to get presents as does everyone this time of year, there really is nothing I really need or want this Christmas that is not inside this house with me at this very moment — Tony, Emily, Abby, Minnie, Maggie and Lucy — and the people outside this house whom I love more than words or things can express. That’s a very long list!

Sometimes when I think this is the best it will get, and there is nothing better to come into my family, home, work – something else wonderful happens! This is the fun part of life!

Oh, and the most important lesson – I  was once again reminded that when Kohl’s screams at me from my TV to get into the store for this one and only and final “One-Day Sale!!” they are lying! There are One-Day Sales at Kohl’s every day! (Lying liars!)

What did you learn in these last few weeks.

Merry Christmas. Love each other.

(PS I’ll soon be blogging for ChicagoNow, I’ll keep you posted. Thank you for all of your support!)

Airplanes, bullets and broken promises

I read an article in the Chicago Tribune today about a number of airplane crashes in the Chicago neighborhoods surrounding Midway Airport. Many people have been killed by airplanes literally falling out of the sky. The story went on to tell of tales people shared with newspaper reporters at the time.

They shared stories of deep anguish and heartache searching for loved ones only to find pieces of them and bloodied remains. One story told of how some died from an airplane falling from the sky and crashing through their homes. People died as they lay asleep in their own beds. A young mother was thrown from an airplane and died while her two daughters lived.

On Saturday, I attended a funeral of a 47-year-old mother of two children. Her husband came home from work and found her dying in her chair. At the funeral, five days later, doctors could still not explain why she died. She was fine, her husband said. He spoke to her on the phone just ten minutes before he got home from work and recalled the last thing he said to her was “I love you.”

A friend of this woman’s said she read her Facebook post on Sunday, the day before she died. It read that she was hanging her laundry outside and enjoying the beautiful weather on a lovely December day. She was just living her life, hanging her laundry, enjoying the oddly warm weather.

And, once again the news reported stories tonight covering the countless numbers of shootings in the city. The senseless deaths of many young people who have yet to even know what their future could have been. Many simply found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Something came to mind today with all these stories bouncing around in front of me.

A couple of years ago this friend of mine named Gina contacted me out of the blue on Facebook. We had not talked for nearly 20 years. At one time we saw each other every day. We had such a great friendship but then life changed and I went one way and she went another. So, when she found me on Facebook I was thrilled. She asked to meet for lunch and we met and had a wonderful conversation about the last 20 years of our lives. We laughed about silly things and talked about old friends and funny moments.

She asked me why we had stopped being friends and asked if she had done something to ruin our friendship. I said of course not. And I recall now having to have to reassure her that she never did anything wrong or hurtful to me.

She also told me that she was dealing with breast cancer, but said that she was at the end of her treatment and was recovering. She really downplayed the whole thing and led me to believe she was on the upswing.

We parted ways that day with a big, warm hug and promised, for sure, we’d see each other again soon.

Well we never did keep that promise.  We never even talked on the phone, not even on Facebook.

About a year later, another friend called me to say Gina had died.

The next time I saw her was at her funeral.

There are so many people I think of often. Friends who I truly love and care about and miss, but don’t see or even talk to as much as I’d like. The reasons are  real and common – they live far away, or have the details of life keeping them running in a thousand different directions each day. And I too have a full schedule of life obligations.

But stories like planes falling from the sky, bullets flying through the air and unforgiving illnesses unexpectedly stopping the beating of a friend’s heart, remind me that I need to do better.

So for all my dear friends who read this, who I have not spoken to lately, please know I love you and I will try and do better. For those of you who do not know me, but have friends you have not seen or spoken to in a while, maybe this story will remind you to do a little better too.

Because when I got that call that Gina died, and realized that we had not kept our promise…..  . It was just too late.

Share, like, comment. See you next week.

The Bad Celebrity and Facebook

I have to say what I am about to post this morning is not anything I was considering writing about. But I read this on Facebook this morning and my heart sank for this stranger and it just didn’t feel right to ignore the feeling.

How would you feel if you woke up this morning and read this on your Facebook wall?

 “***** you are a piece of excrement…feces…the lowest form of life possible. You are the result of pedophile rape, a nasty bloody discharge on a Kleenex nobody wants. There is no lower form of like than your nasty, disgusting black a**. I hope you suffer a horrendous death from sickle cell, AIDS, or some other painful demise which only you could deserve. Rot in f****** hell (person’s name deleted here) you filthy piece of s***……”

This is an actual comment I just read on some celebrity’s page. I don’t know this celebrity or his/her work at all. I am not exactly sure what they  have done that has drawn out this sort of hateful comment.

Whatever happened to what we learned as children? “If you don’t have anything nice to say, say nothing at all.”

I deleted the name for this person’s privacy, respect and out of pure empathy and sadness for whatever this person, the target of this anger, is going through. They are clearly not in a good place and this ugly comment, which I pray they never read, is only going to sink him/her deeper into his/her own self-loathing.

Then there was this on the same person’s page:

“I am praying for you (name deleted)…..that’s real talk. Some of your (work) is on some deep conscious and I can appreciate your mind ……God is able to do ALL things……ALL things.”

And there was this, though these types of comments, I’ll admit, were hard to find:

(Name deleted) “… hang in there where ever you are.”

I saw one incident that this person committed and it was ridiculous and mean. Absolutely, I am not excusing the bad behavior. But,  I could see from the video there was something wrong with this person. He/she is clearly troubled and in need of some help, support, love. I think their behavior is the outside expression to what they are feeling inside about themselves and their life.

It can be hard to love or care about people like this person. I know.  But truth is there are so many more people like him/her out in the world than those who are confident, loving and vested in themselves and others.

Truth is, we are one super large community and when one of us is hurt we are all hurt. And we all show our hurt in different ways. Some have people to love them through the hurt and pain so they don’t lash out against others, but more often, many do not. Many are alone with their personal demons and self-loathing.

I don’t even know this person, but the hateful comments are not going to help them to become better, more loving. They only confirm what they are already feeling about themselves. He/she does not feel loved, worthy, cared for, valued. These are the greatest gifts we can give to another human being.

When we see people down, ugly and nasty as they can be, let’s remember at one time they were someone’s little, gentle, innocent infant. That baby was only needing love and kindness. Maybe this person, this celebrity,  is who he/she is today because he/she never received that love and kindness. Who knows.

This person is young, there is still a chance they will realize there is a better, more loving way to go through life.

I do hope he/she reads more of the positive messages on Facebook, though as I said they are hard to find.

So, then what does that say about the authors of the nasty comments?

I know it’s hard, but we need to love those who seem the least deserving, or even accepting of love.

I think when people are in the worst stages of their bad behavior, they are truly begging, screaming out for our love.

They are like infants again and all they need is a warm, soft place to fall.

Please, let’s all do better.

Like, comment, share and see you next week!

Never Land

Unfortunately, we don’t live in Never Land, and they grow up.

This was quite a weekend.

My oldest daughter, Emily, turned 17 on Saturday, Nov. 17, her golden birthday! And she spent her birthday on stage playing an Indian in Peter Pan. She was on stage on her birthday and I know she would not have wanted to be anywhere else on this planet. I was so happy for her.

Peter Pan, about the boy who never grew up, the three children, Wendy, John and Michael, who trusted this boy and without any sense of fear, flew away with him to a mysterious land, danced with Indians and fought Pirates.

And the mother of the three children waited in their bedroom near the oversized window from which they flew into the night sky with Peter. Oh how she longed for their return. From the way the story goes it seems like it was years that their mother faithfully waited for her children to return. The children’s flustered father went to close the oversized window one night and the mother snapped! She commanded him to never, ever close the window because one day her children might return home. He promised to never, ever close the window.

Emily is about a year and a half away from leaving home for college. Abby is just a few quick years behind her. After college they will likely be on their own in their own homes or an apartment somewhere…… They will both someday, in a sense, fly away to some mysterious land, fight with pirates, dance with Indians, and hang out with some young man.

I will be like the mother of Wendy, John and Michael.  I’ll never close the window just in case they come back home. Our window will always be open and I will always be here for them to return, no matter how far away they fly, and I know they will fly far.

Share, like, comment. See you next week!

My glimpse of heaven

The view down to the Valley where all of the week-end wedding events occurred.

I think I went to heaven this weekend.

No, not a scary near-death experience, but I traveled with my family to a place that I cannot describe to truly make you feel the awesomeness of its beauty.

I was with people – many of whom I had just met and others I knew, but had the opportunity to get to know a little better.  Everyone was kind, sweet, beautiful …. authentic.

There were very few electronics, aside for folks taking pictures and sharing them on social media. There were lengthy, meaningful conversations, not just quick one and two word answers. But real conversations among people, many whom were meeting for the first time. People sharing stories of their lives, feelings and experiences. People really talking and laughing and genuinely engaging with one another. People from all sorts of backgrounds, ages, education, careers and places.

We were at a family wedding in N. Carolina. We stayed on this beautiful farm surrounded, almost protected, by the Blue Ridge Mountains. I felt so removed from the rest of the world.

It felt like no wrong could be done here. It felt as if we were all safe on this preserved, mosaic patch of earth. We were all there because we were selected to be there, through the love of the kind and generous couple being married.

Nicki and Ben stood in front of us all, about 140 people from all over the country– as they have made dear friends in every place they have traveled in their lives. She was glowing in love and lace and the anticipation of her new life path with her handsome young groom. They stood near a babbling brook (yes it was babbling) and a dear friend married them and she spoke of love and kindness. So many people present and all you could hear were their words exchanging loving self-authored vows, the trickling river, birds and the breeze.

I felt the spirits of those loved ones who had passed on too soon, including the bride’s own parents, my father-in-law and the groom’s relatives. They were there. They were protecting us all, bringing a warmth and burst of sunshine to the day, all in the name of goodness and love. They wrapped their arms around the bride and groom.

It felt as if not one person among us was a stranger. We all came together for this sweet couple and we all became friends. Nicki and Ben made a promise to each other while committing us all, if only for this one beautiful weekend in heaven.

I think this weekend was a glimpse into what God intends for all of us, in every nook of this world, not only on a given weekend for a special occasion, but always.

I’m home now, back in the hectic suburban duties of work, kids, house cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping, and noise and cars, lots of cars…. But I still feel the love and goodness that created this weekend and that I was so lucky to have been able to witness and absorb. It reenergized me and my own relationships and reminded me that there is so much good in this world. And I have so much to be thankful for.

Thank you Nicki and Ben.

Nicki and Ben share their vows with one another.

Have you ever felt you were in heaven, surrounded by natural beauty and the kindness of strangers who turned friends?

Please share, like, comment. See you next week!

Me and the family tree

I love a good, full, strong, colorful tree.

Whether it be a light early summer green, or an August deep forest emerald, a fall-kissed yellow, orange or red.

I love watching the change of each and every tree and its leaves outside my kitchen window, year round.

You know the ones that have an intertwining bunch of branches, or those with the super large trunks you only see out in the forest preserves?  The way they shoot strong, fearlessly into the sky. I love the trees out by my friend’s lake house in Wisconsin. Just watching them on a summertime visit, so deep and green and prominent in the summer sun as they silently dance, glide in the summer breeze…. It brings me peace and serenity like nothing else.

And as the season’s change those leaves morph into a multi-dimensional display of changing colors. I love that each leaf of any and all trees is completely different. And I marvel at how any leaf you focus in on becomes a completely different leaf, depending on what time of year it is.

Like people, there are no cookie-cutter trees, leaves, branches, twigs or trunks. Like people, each product of nature is unique, special and intentional.

And I stand in awe of the older trees, like the Red Woods on the West Coast that I have only seen in pictures. They are gigantic, heavily defined and have twisted bark, their wide trunks, and long, multiple branches are intentional, committed, everlasting. Some families are like those trees.

As seasons change the branches, either turn in new directions seeking the warmth of the fading sun, or those that are not strong, mature or sturdy enough to survive the seasonal elements, simply fall to the ground. They break away from the efforts to survive because it just become too difficult. They seek their own, singular path. They break away from the original, shared path that at one time was committed to. Instead, they do their own thing. They quit.

When my daughters come home from school and ask about our “family tree” because they are doing a school project, I cringe.

After I cringe, and swig a sip of my cocktail, I turn the girls right over to  my husband. He knows his family lineage with such certainty. His family tree has long, strong, sturdy branches, that stay together, and leaves of the same proud, bold colors. I admire his family and their family tree. He knows  exactly who is connected to who and what nationality everyone is. He can tell you what boat his father’s Italian family came over from Italy on. He knows his grandparents’ and his great-grandparents’ names. They stayed together through the whole life cycle, as they promised to God that they would. That then led him to me.  That then gave me my beautiful daughters. That then gave me my life. A new tree to grow.

My family, which I have long referred to as not a family tree, but  broken branches and fallen leaves, presents a cluster of uncertainty, questions that will never be answered, sadness, disappointment, disfunction, shame, guilt and regret. My weak branches are like those that have drifted to the ground on a windy day.

My leaves, however, are bright, multi-colored. They are, at times feared, avoided, yet desired. Some of my family branches are like fragile twigs, too afraid to be who God meant for them to be, while others are strong. But those left this earth far too soon.

For me, I am only trying to grow into a new, strong, proud branch with a multitude of colorful leaves to share with my daughters, who will one day add on to my small tree. Though small, my tree will be complete for them. As I promise to grow from what comes from love, truth, honesty and goodness.

I think that my girls will have an amazing and colorful family tree that will withstand the winds of change, embrace the sun in the summertime, dance with the blowing wind, while embracing each and every unique leaf, and stand strong in the winter months as the ice and snow weigh heavy upon each and every branch.

I have learned in my life that nature is more beautiful the more unique it is, the more different it appears.

So in my life, my tree with its broken branches and fallen leaves, is beautiful, strong, ever changing and everlasting.

I do hope my daughters see the perfect blend of their father and I and our very different families’ trees, strong branches, broken twigs and fallen leaves as gifts – gifts that I believe God intended for them all along.

My tree, their tree, will from today forward grow in strength, honesty, love, and reach for the sun season after season. No longer will my tree’s branches, their tree’s branches, break away and fall to the ground. And their tree will have no sadness or shame only love and promise.

 

Tell me about your family tree.

Please comment, like, share.

The furry pieces of our heart

Last week went straight to the dogs!

No, seriously.

I worked on a number of stories last week and three of them had to do with dogs.

I worked on these stories while two of my own pups, Lucy and Minnie, rested at my feet. Awesome working conditions, huh?!

One story had to do with one man’s search for the link between dogs, humans and cancers. 2 Million Dogs raises awareness of the possible environmental links between dogs, humans and cancers. This mission was started by Luke Robinson after suffering the loss of his beautiful Pyrenees, named Malcolm to cancer.  He later put to rest another furry buddy named Murphy. He said he wants to know why his best friends-and zillions of other dogs, cats and humans die from cancer. (This full story will appear in Health and Family section of the Chicago Tribune Wednesday Oct. 10)

The other story had to do with how pet owners can learn a dog’s parentage through DNA testing. By learning exactly what breeds your dog is made of will help in knowing what illnesses, common injuries and other important information to watch out for. (The test cost about $150 and is available at most vet clinics, full story will be out next month in the Chicago Tribune)

The third story was  about  Shakira, a beautiful Siberian Husky with piercing blue eyes who disappeared from her family in Georgia five years ago. It’s unclear where she was for that five years, but she eventually was sent from a shelter in Georgia up to Harvard Illinois to a Siberian Husky rescue.  While at that shelter, she was scanned and an identification chip was found under her skin. The family back in Georgia was finally notified. The last time they had seen this beautiful dog was when she was just 1. They never knew what happened to her, but they  likely never stopped thinking about her or loving her.

So after receiving a call from the shelter that their dog was alive and well, Shakira’s human mamma drove 14 hours, straight through the night, to get her back. The reunion was swift and they turned around and headed right back home to where three children were waiting to reunite with their dog.

Wow!

Where was she all that time? Why was she not scanned by the shelter in Georgia five years ago? Or, if she was not at the shelter all that time, where was she? And how did a shelter in Harvard Illinois, more than 700 miles away from Georgia, get involved anyway?

Many questions went unanswered because the dog and her owner left so quickly after their reunion and Shakira’s owner never returned my calls for the story.

But on the important side, the family is reunited. In the photos provided by the McHenry County shelter,  the dog looked beautiful, healthy and her human mamma, she looked so happy, relieved, and well, tired.(story and photos on-line at ChicagoTribune.com)

Again, what was learned, what was observed here in this last week?

Well, first off, I can say that I for sure, without  a doubt, have the very best working conditions, the most attentive and loyal assistants.

When a human loved one or a pet gets cancer we want to know why. We need to feel that we are  doing what ever we can to learn how to save them. We fund studies, create organizations, participate in walks, to find the answers as to “why” and learn “how” can we fix them.

When we really love another person– or a pet– so much, we want to learn everything there is to know about them. We want to know how best to care for them and keep them with us for as long as possible.

There is no love like the love a parent has for her child —or for her pets. As if a child were lost to us, emotionally or physically, when a dog is lost, no matter how long he or she is away, or how far they travel, they never stop being part of our family.

And  when we love a pet so much -as we love our two-legged children- and suffer their loss only to learn they are still in this world with us, there is no distance too far to travel to retrieve that little furry piece of our heart.

Let’s see what this week’s news brings. See you next Monday!

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