Different is okay…

  • Hiya Everyone!This week, I am writing from Florida! Thank you to my nephew Jordan for his generosity, we are spending 8 days in Kissimmee.

    One of the things I realized this week, is that we are all very different. Today, I know that different is okay.
    In some ways it’s not real noticeable, in other ways, it’s extreme.
    While unpacking our groceries, I almost felt the need to defend our purchases! While there were a few grimaces and wide eyes… our food choices were not to far off base.
    We realized right away that Tom and I are the “in between” people! We aren’t totally “real food/clean eaters”, but we also aren’t the average American shopper, either.
    We try to buy organic vegetables and meat, whole grain or sprouted bread, but we also buy creamer for our Starbucks coffee, coconut oil, real butter, sour cream, Greek Yogurt, organic popcorn and sometimes even pizza and Cheetos!
    So sorry for anyone who had an image of me in your mind- I am sure that I totally blew it- right? You probably thought that I ate salads and rabbit food all day, did Yoga, meditated and read spiritual books… Nope. Well, not today, anyway. (Although I did eat an amazing salad at Millers Pub for lunch today!) I have done one Asana Practice in five days… But… I have thought about it a lot- that counts- right?
    Social media allows us to showcase the highlights of our lives and to illustrate through pictures that our lives are so much more than they are.
    So for anyone out there who looks at someone elses life and thinks you know what’s going on… You may want to think again.
    This vacation has included three sick people. (Both cold and flu-like/food posoning symptoms!) Uber eats for smoothies. Cold cut wraps. Burgers. A surprise for me- my daughter and two grandsons, were able to join us! (Thanks again Jordan) Golf for the guys. Homemade pasta and potato salads. Uber eats for Pizza. Hot tub. Dice game. A little sunshine, a couple of nice walks, a good book, several hours of homework. an online class, a bunch of just sitting around chatting and some HGTV!
    Do you want to know what my idea of a perfect vacation is? Sunshine, falling asleep at night with waves in the background, ten minutes of daily sunbathing, five really good books, an umbrella to shield me from the sun so I can read those five really good books… and fresh guacamole. (If you could wave a magic wand and throw in a massage and pedicure- that would be the bomb.)
    You may not know this about me… but, I am not someone who drives when we go on vacation. Rarely do I get behind the wheel when we are out of town… driving in a city, anything larger than Traverse City- scares me. That being said… I love to go on long drives and am the best navigator you could ask for! I have GPS on my phone and will tell you what lane you should be in and how far before your next turn. I am a good co-pilot!
    We love long rides and exploring! We find the best little restaurants and unique places. On this trip, we found the “Historical District” of Kissimmee and a wonderful little Indian Restaurant!
    One of our other favorite things to do is to drive around neighborhoods using the “Realtor App”. We dream of owning a home in every new place that we travel too… it’s our thing.
    (So far, we can’t afford any… not even Sanford- near the airport!) We are amazed at the prices in Florida- 189k for a small simple style ranch home… in a rundown neighborhood!
    So, back to my original point of being different.
    As with any family vacation, people will say or do things that we don’t agree with. Maybe I will correct your child, maybe you will drink the last of the coffee… what ever the real or made up scenerio is… just imagine it now…. Okay- so my made up scenerio was that someone was mad at me.
    I know… hard to believe- right?
    Anyway, I sat for a long time in my head with my imagined version of what they must be thinking… After a little while, I realized that I had better things to do with my time. I honestly don’t know much time I had spent in that negative self talk. It was ridiculous. I imagined their response to my question… the jab… even my comeback to the jab…
    I am human.
    When I realized what I was doing… I made a decision to change. I made a decision to look at the situation with a new lens. Thank God for my 12 step program, it has taught me so much about looking within.
    When I am on guard or taking everything personal… something is wrong… With me.
    A wise woman told me- “Denise, you’re entitled to one asshole per day. If you bump into two, Go look in the mirror, there is always a third!”
    I am usually the problem.
    So.. how do I adjust? How do I not take it personal? What does that look like? Well, I usually try to see things from the other persons perspective and I create a story that allows, me – to not be wounded by the outcome.
    Here are a few examples…
    If I am upset with a contractor for leaving a mess? Or the guy in traffic for cutting me off? Or the waitress who rolls her eyes? I imagine them speeding home to meet the school bus, or to take care of a sick child. I imagine them just getting bad news about a loved one. I imagine her just getting yelled at by her boss or another patron… In short? I show the person- Grace.
    Grace is the easiest way to realign my head. It’s the easiest way to remove my old hurts from any scenario and to be a better human.
    Also… Being different is okay.
    We are all different.
    We communicate different.
    We eat different foods.
    My normal looks different from your normal.
    We all had different upbringings, so its normal to not be the same.
    And you know what? It’s all good. There isn’t a right way. There isn’t a wrong way. It’s all good…
    Different is okay today, I don’t need to swing everyone to my thinking, I don’t need to convince you that my toast is better, and I don’t care what laundry soap you use. If roller coasters and big water parks are your jam, party on. If you drink your tea sweet, I guess that’s okay too.
    There is a place for each of us. Period. I won’t take it personally if you don’t like mornings. I will use earplugs if you’re a night owl. I will order my own pizza- without pineapple, and I will pop popcorn on the stove for anyone who wants to join me.
    If you’re struggling to find what works for you, that’s okay too. Sometimes our normal no longer suits us. Sometimes we need to see what works for someone else and try that on for size. That has been the best way for me to grow and to change… I watch what works for you- then I adapt it to work for me. How am I ever supposed to know it’s possible? If I don’t see it in action? Thank you for allowing me to see you. I appreciate your vulnerability.
    Until next time… Breathe Deeply. You got this.


Friends don’t just fall away…

I have a BFF. Her name is Mary, and I call her Mar- pronounced like Mare. We became friends when her son dated my daughter in high school. I admire this woman… she was always dressed up, looked so professional and so put together. I had this whole story about who she was and what her life was like. (Please tell me that you do this too?!)

So, Mar and I have been friends for a few hundred years. Over the years, we haven’t always seen eye to eye. As a matter of fact, there have been some rough patches. I want to talk about those rough patches a little, to show you what is possible. Friends don’t just fall away…

During a track meet, where our kids were running, I noticed her in her vehicle sitting alone. I walked over and introduced myself. She asked me to hop in… so I did. Holy wow. Her vehicle was a mess. I mean- like trashed! She was such a busy woman that she lived out of her briefcase and her car. (I realized immediately that what I had perceived by her physical appearance, wasn’t what or who she really was… hmmm.)

I liked her immediately!

Her oldest son graduated a few months later, and I offered to help her set up and plan. I drove to their place and dug in. I realized that the image in my mind, once again was totally off! I am not a saver, I don’t like clutter or memento’s… Mar does.

She had graduation invitations from the previous year in her stack of “save items”… when she wasn’t looking they went on the big blue tarp! (I had set up a tarp in the middle of the dining room floor of things to throw away or burn.) We laughed and I talked her away from the edge several times… “No, it’s not a bad thing to throw away a picture… No, you don’t need that either… No, that magazine won’t get read- it’s already two years old…”

At a basketball game, a few months later, I introduced my new friend to my sister Kim. Mar told Kim how lucky she was to have two sisters! Mar grew up with three brothers. Kim shrugged her shoulders and said- “You can have Denise!”

And so it was… I became Mar’s sister. (We call each other Sista)

She introduced me to an old ex of hers, and I dated him for over five years. She said, “Wouldn’t it be great, if two of my best friends got together and made each other happy?”

In 2003, she and I opened a business together. It was a little coffee shop in our town… I adored this place. It was a cozy little place with brick walls, old hardwood floors, freshly painted walls, tin ceilings that were at least 12 feet high… Gosh- it had great energy. It felt old, yet not in a stuffy or dusty sort of way… it was comforting.

We played local music, had live music whenever we could and became groupies and followers of the “Earth Works Harvest Gathering”. (We had no idea who half of them were… but in our minds they were all of our friends!)

We were Strong Christian women with a dream to open a friendly little spot for our kids to work and our community, to gather. I was a Mortgage Loan Officer when we started the planning and she had a great job in management. During the planning phase, I lost my job. (I couldn’t keep up with the volume requirements at the loan office, and they were downsizing they let half of the staff go.)

We decided to continue to move forward and both agreed that this was a “God Thing”, because now, I could manage the place. We opened the doors in the early Winter months and had several months to work out the kinks of owning a business.

Things went south, immediately. We thought we could be different. We thought that our hearts were in the right place and we wouldn’t be like everyone else. **There is a reason that friends don’t go into business together. Whenever money is concerned, it’s not a good thing.

I remember firing her son, taking her off the schedule… and having very heated discussions about who was right. She worked very hard at her other job, and I worked very hard at the coffee shop. It was tough for her to hear all of the good stories and “feel goods” that I was experiencing and to not be a part of it. We struggled in every way.

Financially it was not going well. Emotionally? We were both a mess. Physically, we were both thin and stressed. I would feel like I wanted to throw up, have diarrhea, scream and cry… every time she walked in the door. I heard from several of our staff that she was talking about “our business” around town and in her church… I was secretly losing it.

I went to my parents and asked for advice. They had loaned me the money to get it started, and I needed someone in my corner. My dad asked me why I wanted to own a losing business? My mom said “Maybe it wasn’t God’s plan for you to own Baked Beans, long-term. Maybe his plan was for you to just help get it going.”

Okay… I could live with that.

I ended up walking away from the business in 2005. I couldn’t do it anymore. We had tried mentoring, counseling and had so many rough days. I remember telling her to get on that big old white hypocritical horse of hers and ride on out…

I walked away. Before I did. I wrote a letter to our staff. I told them that our friendship meant more to me than the business and it was time to just release it…

We remained friends. It wasn’t easy… but we worked through it. I even helped her the next summer by working for her! (I was not a saint here either… I had my circle of people… it was an ugly lesson.)

There was another time in this season, that I walked away… it was something silly regarding my relationship. I just felt like she wasn’t being supportive or that she didn’t have my best interest at heart. I told her that I didn’t think that friends should judge each other and I walked away.

Her husband refers to this time in our friendship, as the time that I broke up with her.

Then, my Grandma Clara died. I sang amazing grace at her funeral. I looked up with tears rolling down my cheeks, knees shaking… and there she was. She knew I needed my Sista. That’s what friends do… when it comes down to the nitty-gritty… they are there.

When Paul died, my fun friend came to the house one day when I was working. I had to paint, clean, and pretty much gut the house… Mar showed up in her usual happy way and announced that she knew, that I didn’t need her at this time… there would be a time soon, when I would need her and her hyper self… and she would be there.

I was crushed.

What the heck?

Several months later when we were driving to see our friend Kearney’s band play, I told her how much those words had hurt. I explained that I understood how much my sadness and grief was affecting her. I knew the reason she couldn’t be there for me- was that she had her own grief to work through and couldn’t bear to see me, her rock… hurt.

We cried. I asked her if the tables were turned, how would she have wanted me to respond to her grief? She said that she would’ve wanted me right straight up her ass.

I told her that’s right… that’s what friends do. I was sad that she didn’t even try to see if she could be what, I needed.

She understood. She thanked me for being honest. We remained friends.

Mary got a divorce a few years ago. She called and shared the whole messy story. I told her that my door was always open. We became roommates for a few months. It wasn’t easy- we had our moments… but it was wonderful to have her support in my healing, and to be a part of her healing as well.

One of our obvious differences, is that I am always early- and she is always late… We have tried to stay in contact and make girl night dates- but it’s not easy with two very busy people. Time is precious for us both.

We made plans for dinner and movies one weekend, Mary had to drive South for a meeting the next day- so my place was a good in between place… and we could have Sista time too! Dinner was going to be ready at 6:30… she text me at 6:20 and said she was just leaving work. I was so mad. I text her back and told her to not bother. I felt like she just took me for granted and was always running late or had no regard for my time. She heard me. She apologized and thanked me for letting her know how much it affected me… She has not been late since.

Things get sticky and hard… nobody wants to have these conversations. But, they are soooo necessary. I am a firm believer “We teach people how to treat us… If we don’t talk about the things that bother us… we are saying that it’s okay.” My friend Kitty, taught me that I can own my own power and speak my mind. It doesn’t have to be in anger, it doesn’t have to be loud. I can hold my ground, speak my mind… and it feels good.

A few years ago, my mom had a significant birthday. (70!!) We planned surprise party, and I invited my Sista Mar. She said would be there… then she didn’t come. I was so upset. I text her and told her that I was tired of always feeling like she wasn’t there for me. (Apparently I was still holding some residual resentments… It happens when I am not willing to look at my own part in a situation. If I am just bitching behind someones back… this is a good indication that I need to do some work.)

Mary asked that we have lunch and meet face to face. She said this was not the type of conversation to have with text or email. She was right.

I wanted to cancel so many times… but I didn’t. We sat across from one another over lunch and we talked. We cried. (not sure if she did… she is not the crier that I am…) It was so uncomfortable. I hated it. I didn’t want to listen to her reasoning. I just wanted her to see my pain. (Imagined and real!)

Mary shared something with me. She said every month, on her schedule is her “Sista time”. Nobody- interferes. Each month, she comes down for a massage and a sleep over. Her kids know better than to ask her for anything- this is her sacred time with me.

Her bible study groups know that if they plan something, they have to clear it with Mar and her schedule first.

I never knew this.

I didn’t know how she valued me and our time. I never knew how much she looked forward to our time. Gulp…

I told her that I was sad, I told her that I was mad. She understood. She told me that she has a problem with overcommitment and it was very hard for her to tell people, no. It happened that my mom’s party was the same weekend of one of her bible study groups outings. She couldn’t cancel them because they always clear the date to not interfere with her Sista time… I didn’t know this.

These are jewels… real precious jewels. We don’t get them, if we aren’t willing or able to work through the uncomfortable times tho…

In Dec of 2012, I had a hysterectomy. It was overdue, but I am not someone, who “Doctor’s well!”

My Sista Mar showed up at the hospital with this.


She walked in the room and said- “Sista, I got you a new Beaver!” Seriously… who does this? Mary does… that’s who.

Mar and I are still friends. Real friends. We listen. We comfort. We share. It’s not always pretty, but the things that are worth it, usually never are.

My friendship with Mar is unique… it’s special. I have learned so much from this friend and from our friendship… I am grateful that my sister Kim gave me to her….

Love you Sista!

Until next time,



The New- Old me…

Hiya Everyone!

Today is the first day of writing/blogging without the story of Paul. For those of you who are just joining my blog, My name is Denise. I am a daughter, sister, recovering addict, mom, Massage Therapist, grandma, Yogi, self-proclaimed foodie, widow, artisan, wife, writer, Health Coach, and friend.

My path to blogging was an outlet to tell my story of healing. It now continues… just as the healing continues.

I lost my husband to cancer in 2012. I have since, remarried, became a Yoga teacher, stopped teaching Yoga, and am settling into a new life of semi-retirement. Yup… at the age of 53, I am now working part-time as a Massage Therapist and making jewelery.

I started writing at a young age, I wrote poetry and used writing as an outlet. I am the first person to admit that my grammar isn’t the best. My spelling is close behind… I write like I talk, and if you want to criticize me for it- that’s on you.

I want to use this blog to tell life stories. To share things that really mean something to me… I want to share love, frustration, hope, shame, ego, more love, and even more love. The world needs more love.

I am a survivor. I was sexually abused as a very young child. I used drugs and alcohol to escape my life. I started drinking at the age of 12. My life wasn’t/isn’t horrible, I have some very good memories. I also have some not so good memories.

I got my first DUI in 1993, my last one was in 1999. (There were several alcohol related arrests, I am not a felon, but I am just one drink or drug away from that too…) My journey into recovery was through a 12 step program. I was court ordered, and have been clean and sober since. 1/14/1999 is my clean date anniversary.

I surround myself by people who believe in me, I have learned that everyone that should be in your corner, may not have the ability or the tools to be in your corner. Today, I get to choose who I let in.

I am motivated by pain. When life hurts, I look for a solution. The scale isn’t as drastic as it once was- I get moving a lot quicker than I used too! It no longer takes an orange jumpsuit and handcuffs to make me stop hurting myself.

A dear friend of mine taught me a valuable lesson. Stephanie B is her name. We were at a nice restaurant in Grand Rapids with a group of wild women. We were sober, but we were having a good time. We were loud. Laughing and talking over each other… you know how that sounds- right? I began to get uncomfortable. People dressed in their Sunday best, were staring at us and they began to whisper and nod towards us.

I leaned over to my friend Stephanie, and I said “Shhhh… people are starting to look at us.”

Stephanie leaned back to me and said “Don’t ever shush me. I am perfectly capable of owning my own guilt, shame and embarrassment.”


I just sort of slid back and pulled inward. Then it dawned on me… she was right. Why would I be embarrased because of someone elses actions? I wasn’t loud. I wasn’t shouting or laughing hysterically. (I realize now how much I wanted to be that person tho…)

That was one of the most valuable gifts anyone has ever given me. Freedom.

I no longer have to own someone elses shit. Ever. That means that I can let you dress how you want, act how you want, talk however you want. I can let you cut people down, I can let you correct every little thing about those in your life… AND- I don’t have to own any of it. None. Zip.

What a relief! That was a turning point in my life.


One. Of. The. Best. Gifts. I. Have. Ever. Been. Given.

So… if you have been living your life trying to please everyone around you, trying to conform, trying to shelter your friends and your family from shame, guilt or whatever… Let-That-Shit-GO!

Thank You Stephanie… I owe you a lifetime of happiness, for that pearl.


Until Next time…




Chapter 38

*** If you are just joining the blog, you may want to read a few of the previous posts to catch up,  this is a healing journey.

This is my story as I walked along side of my husband Paul, during his battle with cancer. The journey began in 2011- these are the emails and journal posts that I used to keep all of our friends and family in the loop.

This began as a way to update everyone and soon became my therapy. You may notice that I jump around a bit, or that my grammar sucks… it is what it is. My Yoga teacher told me a few years ago… “How we do anything, is how we do everything” ***


Well today is Fat Tuesday… I just want to go sit at the Meijer Bakery counter in hopes of seeing my friend Frank. Frank was one of my biggest supporters (from my gym family) during Paul’s illness and after he passed. I had many… but my friendship with Frank was so cool. We would banter and joke- and he told me his weakness was donuts. Especially Paczki’s…

He prayed for me and told me that when he woke in the middle of the night and couldn’t sleep… he would pray some more. He worried for me. When I came back to work at the gym- Frank and I shared some tears. He told me how concerned he was… I smiled and told him what I had learned many years ago- If you’re going to pray- why worry- and if you’re going to worry- why pray? Frank said that he felt like he was lightening my load. He felt that if he worried with me, and for me… that he could take away some of my pain. I miss Frank.

A part of my healing since Paul’s death has been forgiveness. I didn’t want to admit that I was angry with God. Who would? I also didn’t want to admit that I resented people whose life didn’t revolve around me and my sadness. I had to acknowledge this anger and these unknown feelings before I could begin to heal them. For me, that has been a process. It didn’t happen all at once. It still happens today.

I have always believed myself to be an open-minded person. What I have realized over the past two and a half years- I am open-minded… if you believe like I do, or you’re not trying to convince me to believe like you. Wow. Big stuff.

I have many Christian friends. I also have many gay friends. I have single friends and I also have many married friends. I have some who are agnostic and some who are self-proclaimed Atheists. Some of my friends are religious and some are spiritual. Why does any of this matter in the healing process? Let me tell you why… People will support you with whatever their belief is. Period. People will offer to you- what they know best.

My belief is not relevant at this time. Your belief is also not relevant to this story either. My point is that we want people to offer to us- what we would offer to them. When I need a massage, I want my massage therapist to give me- “my kind of massage”.  (The one that I give to my massage clients…) When I have my heart set on ice-cream and I look in the freezer and there is none… French toast is not a substitute.

What I have learned is that sometimes what I want- is not really what I need. I have learned how to be flexible. I have learned to trust the process. I am gracious and appreciative for ALL of the support that is given to me.

If I remain open and teachable, sometimes I find a new way. Sometimes my path would have led me to the exact same spot… but maybe it would have been at a later time. Maybe your path is the one that I need, right now. How do we know which path is the right one??? People listen to me carefully… you will also know.

If I am struggling to make things happen and doing everything in my power, to create my desired outcome… it’s me in control, not God. If I am doing my best to just get by, tripping over each and every day- then it’s me that’s running the show- not God. When I dig my heals in and “KNOW beyond a doubt” that this is what I am supposed to be doing… and I am not feeling fulfilled… I need to sit quietly and look at who is calling the shots.

Healing Denise looks different each day. I am a work in progress.

I have worked really hard to be a better version of me. But here’s the deal- I have old stuff that prevents me from healing stuff from today. Say what?? You heard me. Old hurts. Old wounds. Old resentments. These are the things that keep me trapped and unable to see a solution today.

How do I know these things? How can I let go of these things? How is it possible to heal stuff that is so old- I am not even aware that it’s holding me back??  For me- I rely on the pang in my belly, close friends, and a conscious that I have developed over the years.

If I am doing the same things over and over- and not moving forward- chances are I am hauling around some old junk. If I am bringing people into my life and learning the same lessons over and over- chances are… it may be time to let some of that old stuff go.

God will keep bringing those old wounds back around with a new bow, a big new beautiful package, new wrapping paper… until I am ready to look at them. He will keep showing me new ways to heal those old hurts… and when I am ready. I will work on them. God will keep bringing them around… until I am ready.

Recently I shared a story with a friend and told her about how I was able to jump forward directly into the solution. I was able to see my path clearly and I was able to share it and teach her while I was actually living it. A wise woman once told me this… You can teach- while you are still learning.

As I have prepared this part of my story… I have read back through some of the old posts and journal entries… It has seemed like not much progress was being made at times. It also seemed like I was throwing myself a pity party, many times. It wasn’t like that all of the time… but those are some of the times when I chose to write.

I am motivated by pain.

As I read through some of my writings- it seems like a very sad story from a dear old friend. I can say today that I don’t hurt for those memories.

I am a better person because of the journey. Sometimes when I read an entry… I cry and think- wow- how sad for her… It’s almost as if I am reading another person’s life. I often think back and wonder if I should have sought medical help? Was I depressed? Was I just working my way, the best way that I knew how? Was I just getting by with the tools that I had at the moment? I think so.

I have many spiritual people that I have worked with over the years. I am not an expert- but on my journey- I have found a few things that worked for me. Your journey may include praying, meditation, a grief recovery or support class or it may just be time. My journey has included many of those things- and it now includes yoga.

I have found that writing Yoga Nidra’s have been a direct path into my healing. When I guide a class in a NIdra, I feel empowered and free. Nidra means Yogic Sleep. I write a guided meditation and work it along with a short yoga practice… They are transforming. Really.

My friend Mary and I went on a girls trip last year. I put together a picture board on Pinterest and manifested this trip. I wasn’t sure why I needed to be there- I just knew I needed to go to Sedona Az.

While we were in Arizona, I decided to search for a yoga class. A wonderful woman named Heather led us that evening- and it was a Yoga Nidra. The Nidra spoke to my soul and she motivated me to start writing again. I shared with her after the class how much her words meant to me. I felt, that class- was the reason I needed to be in Az. She suggested that I go home immediately, while the memories and thoughts were fresh, and to journal about it. I did just that.

During the Nidra, Titled “Resilience”, she asked us to bring forward the most painful memory that we had… There was so much more than this… but at that moment, all I could think of was the memory of Paul and the mess I had with his daughters. I needed peace. I needed to make this okay.

A remarkable thing happened when I wrote about my need to heal this. The healing began.

When I got home, the very day that I got home from Az…  I got an email from Jennifer. She apologized. She said during her healing, she said and did things that she was not proud of. (I knew that it wasn’t personal… but it was amazing to finally let it all go…) Boom. Magic. All possible, because I became willing.

All possible in my mind- because of Yoga. If I had not been willing to look into this pain, been willing to see my part and agree to work on it… I am not sure I would’ve gotten the email. I think, no- I believe- My willingness, set things in motion.

Many people have said that they aren’t flexible so they can’t do yoga. Yoga is not about being flexible. For me- it’s a discovery of mind, body and spirit. its the most divine connection between all of these. To me, this is the truest sense of spiritual awareness… It’s a way for me to listen to me. If I can feel stress in a certain area of my body- I am that much closer to defining the cause and releasing it.

It has been said that Yoga is not about the ability to touch your toes- but what you learn about your body on the way down to your toes. It’s a journey of self-exploration and discovery that you will never find in another type of therapy.

People have shared their experiences with Yoga and here are some of the adverse things that I have heard: “It conflicts with my religion.” “I can’t quiet my mind.” “It’s boring.” “It’s not a quick enough pace.” “It makes my stomach upset when I do some of the poses.”

I can’t speak for you or convince you why you should try it again… I can only share with you why and how it works for me.

I have learned through yoga how to push through fear.

I have learned how to set goals and stick to them.

I have also learned to cut myself some slack.

I am okay with being a 49 year (Now 53!) old woman who is not perfect.

Yoga is not a religion.

Yoga can consist of chants and awareness of energy or vibrations, but not always.

I have heard of many yoga classes where the teacher plays Christian, Spa or even gentle pop music. I believe that true spirituality does not conflict. Ever. If I am in a place of love, which is supported by my religion or by my lack thereof- I cannot feel conflict. Love does not fear and does not support fear.

There are dozens of health benefits and reasons to do Yoga. I encourage you to open your mind and see if you could too- learn to love again through self-discovery. Learn to forgive. Learn to open up. Learn to give and live in a place of Love.

Some of the other things that bring me peace and healing have been: Music. Writing. Meditation. Reading. Prayer. Spending time with friends in nature. Belly laughs and compliments from  and to random strangers.

I had a realization a few weeks after I started dating Tom… Tom pointed out something that bothered him… about me.

Oh hell no… what? Me?

In each of us is a little person with faults… old hurts and insecurities. (Imagine a scared little wounded girl, her name is Denise. She has short bangs, hunched shoulders and doesn’t speak openly or clearly… she listens a lot- because she doesn’t think her voice is important.)

He didn’t say this to be criticial, it was just an observation, and I took it to heart. I was so hurt… How could such a wonderful weekend leave me with such fear and doubt? I picked up the phone and called a friend. I talked to her and realized I had some insecurities from my childhood. I also had some lingering shame. As an abuse survivor who has dealt with a lot of pain and healing throughout the years- I was surprised that someone else’s opinion about me would matter so much after this much healing… I thought I had worked through that stuff years ago. Guess what? It comes in layers. Healing comes in layers!

So add that to the first relationship since Paul’s death and the commitment to be vulnerable- and there you have it again… fear.

I realized in talking to the second friend- that I was afraid. I liked this guy. Oh. My. God… what if he died too? Hello tears.

You see- signing up for a relationship is one thing- saying you’re ready to date and show someone your faults, your strengths, your body, your fears… equals complete vulnerability.

I wasn’t so sure I was ready for that. In the past- I would’ve pushed Tom away. I would’ve made excuses why this wouldn’t work. I would have created chaos and ill feelings so that I could have pushed him away. I would have let everyone know why he wasn’t perfect and why it wasn’t a good idea.

That’s what years of working on me does… it gives me insight and an ability to see my own BS- before I deal it out for everyone else to see… Before I get a parade of people to back me up.

I let him know about my anxiety and I was also able to heal another layer at the same time. I was able to stand up for what I wanted- and not have to hurt someone in doing so. I was able to tell him what concerned me- why I felt the way that I did… and Boom- the magic continues!

Healing has come in waves- just like the grief did. It swept in and stayed… and so does the healing.

Just when you think you can’t take one more ounce… hold on… you will get relief. When you think you don’t have anything else to give… hold on… You will find strength.

God never abandoned me. Death is a gift. I now know that this process and losing Paul was the most beautiful gift. I have learned so much and I have learned there is so much more to learn.

One more beautiful thing that has happened in this time- many of you know and love May Erlewine… well- she wrote a song for me. She took my words and put them to her beautiful melodies. I am so honored. She recorded it for me in April 2013. Since then, she has re-recorded it with her band and wants to release it on an upcoming album. She owns the rights to the song… and it’s her music… but my heart. The song is also called “Just Send Love”. ❤


Okay my friends- I have enjoyed writing to you immensely… I have enjoyed every opportunity to share my journey. I feel like it is time to close. This is not a good bye. I will write again… but this chapter in my life must be done. In order to finalize this healing- I have to finish this book.

I want to thank you all for your love, support, kindness and encouragement through the past few years. I don’t think I could have survived it without you all.

To my daughter Hailey and her husband Cody- Thank you for all of your help. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for looking out for me. Seems odd to say these things to your child… it’s not supposed to be this way… But thank you for being my best friend, for listening to me, painting, being my handymen, holding my hand in the darkest moments of my life and for always dusting me off and helping me back up.

I send love and respect to all who held my hand on this journey. Mom and Phil, Cindy and Don, Rick, Kim and Eric, Poochie and Jordan, Doni and Marc, Jordan and Candice, Gracie,  Brock and Kelli, Brenter, Leela, Kitty, Kearney, Mar and Jon, Darlene and The Stella’s, Kerrie, My ATF family, Suzanne, Helen K, Kathy and my recovery sisters/family, Meg, Chris and Steph, Beth, Heather R, Heather G, Wendy, May and Benita. Namaste my dear ones…

I want to send special warm thoughts and well wishes to all of Paul’s family, especially to his daughter’s Mellissa and Jennifer. I know your dad looks down on you and that he is proud of how you have handled these tough times. I thank you, for your love.

Lastly- I want to thank Thomas. Thank you for showing up at the perfect time and for showing me that I can continue on this path of love. Thank you for allowing me to honor these memories and for allowing me to finish the healing. It takes special person to be able to look beyond the broken shell. Thank you for your patience. Thank you for your love. But most of all- thank you for being strong enough in who you are- that this memory didn’t threaten or scare you. I debated in my mind many times about how to finish this book and show people that they too had what it takes to move on after loss. I honestly didn’t know how I would do it- and then you came along.

This book is done. I Love you and miss you Paul Franklin Henry. I thank you for your love and for the memories that I will have forever. Thank you for the wonderful gifts and the lessons that this sadness has brought me. Thank you for watching over me and making sure that I am okay. You promised that you would… and you did.

RIP My Marine.

Chapter 37

*** If you are just joining the blog, you may want to read a few of the previous posts to catch up,  this is a healing journey.

This is my story as I walked along side of my husband Paul, during his battle with cancer. The journey began in 2011- these are the emails and journal posts that I used to keep all of our friends and family in the loop.

This began as a way to update everyone and soon became my therapy. You may notice that I jump around a bit, or that my grammar sucks… it is what it is. My Yoga teacher told me a few years ago… “How we do anything, is how we do everything” ***


I did something today that I haven’t done in a really long time… I cried for Paul and those memories. Seems odd that it was today. I haven’t been sad or haven’t been feeling any particular thing… but there it was. I looked back at some old facebook stuff and immediately was drawn to June 2012. I read my words and I cried. I read what my friends had written and I sobbed.

I keep thinking about when he first found the lump and when he had his first appointment in 2011- I do believe it was around this date. I remember that on Feb 10 or 11th– we went to the Petoskey Casino for the night to celebrate Valentine’s. This happened to be just a couple of days after his call from the Dr. that told him- I hate to say this on the phone, Paul, but I think it’s cancer. SO maybe that is the reason? Or maybe I just needed a good cry.

A lot has changed in my life… I honestly started feeling the steam build in the Spring of 2013… By the time I enrolled in my Yoga class- I felt like I was moving at such a rate- that I didn’t know which direction to move. The possibilities are endless… and the best news yet? My daughter has recently announced that she is pregnant and I am still dating Tom.

Hailey and Cody will be wonderful parents- I just wished they lived closer. I guess all things happen in God’s time… and it’s a perfect time for everyone to welcome a new baby.

I finished my Yoga certification and I was teaching weekly classes… Until my parents remodeled their basement and I got booted. A new place will open up soon… I have no doubt. I really believe that I am meant to teach healing arts. Massage and Yoga- maybe even a healthy cafe? I have thought a lot about this… I haven’t given up that dream.

This is how I met Thomas… In May, I decided to put a profile on Match.com.

I had some past experience with that site before Paul and I got together… needless to say- it wasn’t for me. People freaked me out with their boldness and with their responses… I lasted a few weeks- then removed my profile.

This time it was different. A few men contacted me and a few “winked”, but I didn’t really speak to anyone at length. Then… Thomas emailed me.

He made me laugh. He immediately made me think outside of my comfortable little box and the things he had written on his profile- made me think deeply.  I also felt like I had known him for years.  I forwarded his profile to my daughter and she said- wow- it sounds like something you would write. I was connected to him right away.
We talked for a weeks before we met. I was nervous… anyway- things are good- and here I am!

Almost 8 months later!  He will retire in June and we are planning to move to Cadillac. Not sure of all of the details- for now- we will take it one step at a time.

Tom is a wonderful man who allows me to speak of my fears and my past. He is not threatened by Paul or doesn’t feel like he has to compete with his memories. He is comfortable in his own skin. He likes me- for me today… he knows I am a work in progress.

I have a friend who just recently lost her husband to cancer- we talked via facebook chat tonight… how ironic that all of these things happened and here I am writing. I feel like it may be a little push from Heaven.

So- as I close the journal today- I will open up my book.

Here’s to finishing- Just send love.


Chapter 36

*** If you are just joining the blog, you may want to read a few of the previous posts to catch up,  this is a healing journey.This is my story as I walked along side of my husband Paul, during his battle with cancer. The journey began in 2011- these are the emails and journal posts that I used to keep all of our friends and family in the loop.This began as a way to update everyone and soon became my therapy. You may notice that I jump around a bit, or that my grammar sucks… it is what it is. My Yoga teacher told me a few years ago… “How we do anything, is how we do everything” *** 3.3.13Today is a day that nobody wants… it has been pretty emotional and very tiring.I am over it.I realize how far I have come and how much more work I still need to do.I am pissed… I am hurt and throwing a pity party. Bottom line- the very HP that I trusted and relied upon… it seems has abandoned me. I know this isn’t true… but I can’t help but feel this today. I am at a stand still and moving forward hurts. I am in a fear based place. I had a good talk and cry… a hot bath… a few sad songs and here I sit in front of the computer looking for my answers… I know my God lives within me… this is where it gets confusing. If he lives within me- does it mean I already have the tools and the answers within me? If so… why do I feel so stuck? I just got back from a meeting. I ran up to Traverse City to get spiritually fed. I am glad I went. It really broke up the day. I need a nap and a good dream.  3.18.13 Okay so today is not my favorite day either…  Not my favorite by a long shot. I am still seething… so I shall just write a few positive things and let it go… can’t afford to flow in the negative today. (This will also be an edited post… all of the words that I wrote were necessary to relieve the anger and tension within me- those details will remain private. It is not necessary to point any blame.) Today I am grateful for my friends. I feel bad for the people who don’t have the type of support that I do. I loved my husband- and I am angry for this aftermath. I made a decision today to release some toxic energy and remove some people from my life. This is how I did it… I imagined a great big mass of vines and green seaweed flowing between each of them and me… slowly and ever so carefully- I untangled the mass and took back what was mine and gave them back what was theirs. I did it all in love. I wished them well and I prayed for peace. Today I blocked and removed Paul’s daughters on social media. (Insert swollen tear stained face… shaking hands and scared little girl. I was a mess.)This was a hard decision… a very drastic choice on my part. Again… one of the beautiful things I have learned is it’s okay to practice self-love and remove things that don’t build me up or add positivity to my life. Holy wow… I feel okay now. Here was a beautiful example of me, giving my power to other people. I stalked them, yup… I did. I wanted to see all of the things that I wasn’t included in. I was sick. I totally let myself spiral into a dark space… It was time to straighten up my act. It was time for me to grow up and to stop allowing other people to control my happiness. I believe this was one of the reasons I was feeling stuck.Another new decision is that I have decided to find a new job. It’s time. Tomorrow I shall start the day with gratitude and a new light… the light will begin with me.  4.12.13 Lots of changes coming at me lately… feels like the winds of change have just taken up residence on my street this year. This is what I am finding out- Love does conquer all- if I am willing to let it in. I have been hiding in some hurt lately. I have also played the victim and allowed myself to stay stuck. It’s a process of healing for me. I know it’s not a permanent place to rest… but some days it’s not worth the fight to move beyond it. Why is it that the things that are worth the most- require the most work? Don’t you wish that you could just wave that damn wand… you know the one… and make things all better?  I do. Yesterday was my last day at the gym. I had been there for 4 ½ years as the Manager and the time had come for us to part ways. It’s not a bad thing… it just is. That’s the hard thing about change… you can’t really stop it- and you can’t really initiate it when you feel like it’s “time”… it just simply happens when the powers greater than me- think I am ready. God hasn’t brought me this far to dump me on my butt… so I keep moving. Another of the recent changes has been owning my own power with people who are close to me and to stop giving that power to people who don’t have my best interest at heart. It’s tough when someone dies… lots of emotions and hurtful things come to the surface to be healed. And again- it’s not when I want it- it’s when God feels I am ready. I always have a part in it… it’s never someone else’s fault. I always… have a part in it. Today, my part is to love me- and not let people hurt me or pray on my vulnerability. Here’s something I want to urge every single person reading this blog to do- please- if your loved one is sick… or if you’re sick… be specific about stuff. Stuff is the one thing that will creep in and ruin relationships and old friendships. Stuff will also make people feel protective, greedy and angry. Stuff contains memories… Nothing will bring the person back. Nothing will make it hurt less. Nothing you keep or give will ease the pain. It’s just stuff. I had some big lessons here. I realized my fight to hold on to stuff was just holding my healing back. I am so stubborn. In the end… I released my attachment to the stuff and held on to the memories and that’s when the next layer of healing began. My life with Paul was short- too short. We used to sign cards to one another- and to say to each other- “Forever isn’t long enough”. My memories are still strong. My emotions still raw. I still cry every week- but sometimes it’s not over anything specific… sometimes it’s a slobbery, messy, screaming match with God. I usually win… seriously- he lets me have my fit… then- he comforts me with stillness and calm. That’s how I win… he doesn’t give up on me. I had a complete melt down a few weeks ago. I cried and cried and really threw myself a grand party. To top it all off- I had a honking big cold sore. Not only did I feel like crap… I looked like it too. Here’s the deal… the real deal… When I give other people my power- when I give other people the right to hurt me with words or actions… I am playing the victim. I had a crazy time that day. I woke up- did a meditation and cried for the rest of the day. It was as if I was praying for it all to happen… funny how it all did. Not in my perfect little, pansy toting party dress sort of happen… it was much messier… This God that you people taught me about… the one who will protect me, love me, keep me safe… give me the desires of my heart… never leave me… These are not the desires of my heart!! This is not the way that I had imagined things would be if I let someone love me… if I let all my defenses down… if I let someone in and didn’t hold back. Trust in the process you said… I trusted. Now I am broken and alone. My heart still aches. My mind still rests in the sadness and my life is not where I want it to be. I am a hot mess. How did this happen? How do I get back? How? One baby step at a time… that’s how. Day by day… one moment… one breath. In the calmness that I yearn for- I find my answers. In my heart- I find the softness… in my mind- is the chaos. I don’t like the noise. Breathe in…. breathe out…. One breath at a time. I need to remove things and come back to the basics. That’s what I am doing today. My heart keeps leading in the direction of a new business… and I hope that I get to explore it soon. Be blessed my friends… and thank you for your love.Denise ***Notice the next date- a full year later***  6.18.14 I feel like I have abandoned my old friend… my writing had stopped for so long that I honestly don’t know if I can gain the rhythm back. I have had a long winter. We all did. It’s now summer and the mood is light and the season for growth is upon me once again. First of all- I must say- I am feeling healthy- good inside and out. My life has changed so much in the past year- it’s crazy. It’s been over a year and a half since I ate meat. I am vegetarian now. I eat fish on occasion- but not often. I now work at the hospital, in the sleep clinic and I am still doing massage- but now my table is at Cadillac Massage Center. AND… I just completed a 200 hour, six month certification to become a Yoga Instructor. It was strange how it all happened… but the short version is that I did it. I pushed through all of the fear. Pushed through all of the lies that I seem to make up when things don’t go my way. I did it. I am so excited… and a little scared too. Honestly…. I am scared of the changes. I am so busy right now- I am not sure I could do one more thing. And… then- I met a guy. Yup. I met a man. I have been talking to him for a few weeks and I really like him. This is hard for me to talk about… to make sense of… I am not sure of a few things. But I do know that it feels good to be attracted to someone.  I am not losing the memory of Paul. I will always have that. I am just continuing to live my life. I am finally picking up the pieces and living, truly living. My day usually begins at 5:40am- and I am out the door by 7:20… I don’t usually pull back into my driveway much before 7:30-8:00pm… and that’s just with massage and the hospital. How in the world am I going to teach yoga and have a relationship? Okay- reality is this… I knew that I was supposed to study and learn.. I did my part. Now I am waiting for the rest of the picture to unfold.  I knew I was supposed to teach and I did it. People keep asking- where are you going to teach? When are you going to do classes? My answer is- I will know when I am ready and when the time is right. For now… I am just sitting with the new knowledge and gaining strength with it. There is so much to know. SO much. My heart tells me that I will be teaching one on one classes. More like personal training- more like Yoga Therapy… and helping people heal. There isn’t anyone in our area who does this. And then- this guy comes into my life out of nowhere… his name is Thomas, by the way, and he makes me laugh. Damn, it feels good to laugh. So tonight, I am just starting the flow again… just gaining some strength in my words and will be back again real soon. Peace and Love. Denise

Wrapping things up…

Just a heads up to everyone who has followed my journey of healing. There will be three more posts– and the story, “Just Send Love” will be done.

The posts are scheduled for tomorrow morning, Saturday morning and the final one will be next Wednesday.

I am not sure what the next step is for the book… but I am sure it’s not done. Sure of it.

My healing continues.

Just for today, I will continue to write. I will try to continue to inspire others to push through fear. Together we can do this. I promise.

With Love and Gratitude…



Chapter 35

***If you are just joining the blog, you may want to read a few of the previous posts to catch up,  this is a healing journey. It’s my story, as I walked along side of my husband Paul during his battle with cancer. We began this journey in 2011- these are the emails that I used to keep all of our friends and family in the loop. *** Update 11.26.12 Hello Everyone, It’s been a bit since I have written an update… Not sure if it’s even appropriate at this point, but because so many people still ask- How are you doing? I thought I would write a little update. (My last post was from the UP in August.) I just got home this evening from WV, visiting Hailey and Cody and Bogey Chupp- for Thanksgiving. The trip was exactly what my soul needed. A nice trip to reflect and to be thankful. My life may not be what I feel it should be… But it’s mine, and I am thankful for it. I have awesome friends and family who have loved me though this… And, I am okay. I am gently reminded on a regular basis that I really am okay. I still feel like I am in a haze… I do still cry a lot… I am working on a routine that works for me… And most importantly, I am working on feeling everything that comes up. (I will explain more later on this process.) A friend reminded me just last week when I was talking to her about not sleeping well… and overall feeling poorly- she said- Denise, you lost your husband. (Four months ago today to be exact.) Give it some time… I guess- because I am not used to everything that keeps happening or coming up… I feel out of sorts. Still. All of these “firsts”. When I talk about people asking me how I am doing, I am not suggesting that it’s a bad thing. I appreciate the concern and the ear to talk things through. I was talking to Paul’s daughter a couple weeks ago and we touched on this… People ask me daily- sometimes ten to fifteen times a day- if I am okay? Again… it’s not a bad thing… it just is. It’s a way for me to process- talk- listen and to talk about my husband. I miss him terribly. It’s hard… but anything in life that is simply that good- should be hard, I suppose. The strange thing about the conversation with Jennifer, was that nobody asks her anymore. After her dad’s memorial… people just don’t talk ask how she is doing or about her dad. A few people have asked me if going back to work has helped? Dp they mean, does keeping busy help? Help with the process or the grief? The answer is no. Nothing makes it better. Nothing makes it feel any less. It’s always there. Always. It’s something that I have to go feel my way through. When a person attends a memorial, they witness grief. They experience sadness. They may even feel bad for the family for a day or two afterward. When a family loses someone, it’s a hole. A gaping hole carved into the very fabric that held them together. It’s like a bad dream… with each new day as a reminder that it isn’t a dream. I have started my book. Most of you may remember that when Paul first got sick, there were emails that went out and I asked everyone to pray and to send love. I believe love is a universal language. It doesn’tconflict with anyones spiritual principles or religion and I feel that is where God lives. In. The. Love. I remember a particular conversation with a friend, he was so shook up when he found out about the cancer… He went to church and he prayed. He asked me what else could he do for us? He is not a religious man, he just felt like he needed to ask God to help, but didn’t know how. He asked me to help him understand. (You don’t know how much your question and your concern impacted me… thank you John Caskey.) I asked him to just send love. When someone doesn’t have a particular faith or a deep relationship with God… Praying seems foreign. We almost feel hypocritical showing up and asking for anything, or undeserving. I know it may come easy to some of us…but he- struggled, and wanted to know how he should be praying or what he should be asking for? I told him to concentrate on a beam of light from God (From heaven above or Papa daddy, as he now calls him) to Paul… and in that beam… to send Love. So… that will be the name of my book. “Just Send Love”. Thanks to Hailey and Cody for the invite to Thanksgiving. Thank you for letting me hog your dog for five days. (Bogey is my granddog, he sensed my grief and didn’t leave my side. He slept with me each night.) They surprised me with a Spa day for my birthday! It was perfect! Thank You to my friend Karen, for coming to watch Cody’s game… it’s nice to travel over 500 miles from home and have a friend in a neighboring town come to visit and hang out. I am in awe of the kindness that people have shown. Truly amazes me each and every day. People have also asked me if it’s getting harder because of the Holidays? I don’t know… it just is. This time of the year was always hard for Paul… he lost his son nine years ago in a car accident- Paul Jr., was his bestfriend. They did everything together. So in our house, every October, things got different. Hunting season brought back memories… then the accident Anniversary… then his son’s birthday… Thanksgiving… his birthday… Christmas and then New Years. So- I am sure it will all hit me soon… but right now- I just miss that… I miss the unusual feeling that had become my norm. I used to call it the “weird”. I had never met his son. But- it’s been my norm for the past few years… almost like the change of the seasons… so- I miss him- missing his son. I find a lot of strength- knowing they are together… but here in my house… I miss that. Please send me an email- and let me know if you’d like to be removed from the email list… I really won’t take it personally… I love each of you- thanks again. Peace and Love, Denise ***This is where the email updates ended. On my computer, I have a journal… along with an unposted email update. I got scared because of a response from someone to the last email… and I didn’t send it. Here it is… along with some Journaling that I did to stay connected to the healing process. Some of these are before the last email update… Some are afterward. This is what it took and the path that I traveled- to get to today. *** 1/22/13 Hello Everyone, Just wanted to share a few thoughts and to let everyone know that I did indeed- survive the Holidays… I was talking to a friend- in order to sort through some feelings. Some old hurts seem to re-surface from time to time that need to be healed…also I always try to check my motives to find out my part in any uncomfortable situation. And… there have been a few recently. Today was no different. What she helped me realize, is that when we deal with the loss of a spouse and the journey through the cancer process…that we suffer from PTSD in some aspects. How could I forget this or not know this? I was with a friend a few weeks ago who was diagnosed with cancer and spent a few hours in the Oncology ward at Spectrum Health.  Since then… anger and shortness seem to be my new friend. Anyone who knows me- knows … this is not who I want to be. This is not who I strive to be… so it’s uncomfortable. My friend had a tumor removed from her uterus the size of a head of lettuce and two smaller ones in her stomach and intestines… Just walking around the hospital gave me a sense of peace, de-ja-vu, and anxiety all at once. Watching woman walk the halls with patches of hair gone… talking about their children. Listening to the fear in their voices. Watching family members with red noses and swollen eyes walk into the elevator…. Damn it… I hate what this does to families. (This friend passed since this post… RIP Kristin C) Okay- so back to my Holiday’s… I survived. It wasn’t easy- but it was okay. It’s all okay… until someone asks me if I miss my husband? Umm… yes… like my left arm. *** That was the last update- but it was never finished- and it was never sent. I will explain why and finish some thoughts now. During the first six months after Paul’s death- I had moved back into my little house, gone back to work and started attending meetings again. I got through my birthday, the Holidays then jumped into the new year. All firsts… and anyone who knows the healing process, knows that these moments stick out. There were times when I honestly felt it was all too much. I went back to work in Sept 2012. It was overwhelming. You may remember, I was the manager of a gym with over 500 members. People would come up to me daily to see how I was doing. Dozens of times a day. People would ask me a question about Paul, about cancer, about the VA hospital, about me, about his girls… As I mentioned above, I had spoken to Paul’s daughter Jennifer, shortly after he died and realized my journey was different than hers. She had lost her dad… and a few weeks later- nobody asked her how she was. This was an uncomfortable phase with us. We avoided each other. Things got sticky. (I won’t go into details because it’s not important… just know this- it was all necessary to bring me too where I am today.) The difference between my grieving process and hers was that each and every day for many months- someone would ask me about my journey… She went through all of those firsts… and nobody asked how it felt to her. I had invited so many people into my world through the updates and being so candid with my feelings- people felt nothing was off limits. Friends would openly discuss my grief and allow me to cry and not interrupt. It was so magical. It was surreal. A friend of mine was upset with me because I wasn’t available to her during a time of need. She responded back to my November update with some painful words. It made me realize when I started the Jan update… that I seemed sort of needy. Or at least that is what I was feeling at the time. Attention seeking? Important? Not sure…. I say these words to not diminish the process or to place blame on anyone. I am merely explaining why I never sent or finished my last update. I am not someone who enjoys the spotlight. I am open and try to be transparent- but by continuing to do the email updates… meant that I felt that I had something to say- and that people would want to hear it? Again… the voice in my head said- Stop it Denise… it’s time to move on. And… that’s what I did. I stopped writing the updates. They were supposed to be about Paul. They were started to update everyone on his condition. They turned into a journal of my feelings and my healing. They were intended for one thing- and ended up being another. It’s okay… I look back at it all now and know it’s all as it should be. So here are a few of the things that stuck out in the process over the next few years… Remember, they jump around with dates. I didn’t update this information publicly. *** Saturday Sept 1,2012 I spent all day yesterday with my mom at Munson Hospital… boy did that bring back some painful memories. Good- yet painful. My heart aches with the loss… as it is healing. I have decided to continue to write as the time allows or the thoughts come forward…hoping to heal. My biggest fear is fear. The thought of being trapped, without options… fear can be so overwhelming. It is the one thing that I am learning more about as I go along. My husband taught me about strength. He taught me thru his illness how to be strong. He taught me with his Marine blood- how to push on and not to get trapped. I love, that he showed me how to be strong. I love that he showed me how to love. I had a massage the other day in Traverse City. When I showed up at the massage office, I asked her to limit the conversation.  I told her that I really just wanted to enjoy the massage and sort of meditate. (Insert smirk here…) I wanted-something different. I wanted an escape. It was funny… AND- not at all what I had anticipated. Not at all- what I thought- I wanted… But exactly what I needed. She was very kind and talented therapist. She did trigger point therapy and Asian body work. She was also a Reiki Practitioner, who had learned from the same teacher that I did. We had an immediate connection. I told her why I wanted what I wanted. She knew I was a massage therapist and that I had lost my husband. She began asking me questions about pressure… then the conversation started rolling about our Reiki Master Teacher- and the blessings of knowing spiritual healing and spiritual people. I told her about how Paul and I had met. I told her about his illness and how I was processing as I went along. She asked about the things I needed to heal. I told her it was anger and my fear. I told her about my book- the reasons I didn’t feel I could write right now… and that I had gotten advice and words of wisdom showing me that if I write my truth- Not wanting to deliberately be harmful-  if someone took offense- then it was their problem and insecurities not mine. If my intent was Not to cause harm… and it did- because of what the other person was working on… then it was their issue- not mine. It was the longest massage I have ever had… our conversation flowed. (Remember that I initially told her I didn’t want conversation… lol) She asked me what I had learned from Paul. She asked me what I had taught Paul. I had to dig deep into painful memories and I cried. I told her that Paul had taught me how to be strong when I didn’t want to be. He was a Marine… he taught me the real meaning of loyalty and showed me the rewards of standing up for what you want. I taught him how to relax. He was a work-a-holic who didn’t know how to separate his work from who he was. I taught him how to enjoy a slug day, and we both taught each other how to love again. During the massage, I learned to accept what God wanted me to have- as he wanted me to have it… not as I felt, that I- needed it. I learned that God will give me what I need, as long as I am open to receive it. She also told me this- and I will never forget it. She said, “Denise, I can’t promise you when it will happen… But I promise you that it will… You are like a buoy floating in the middle of the ocean, just bobbing around without any sense of direction. You don’t know why or what you are doing- but the universe and the people who love you- are supporting you and holding you together in prayer and in love. I don’t know when it will happen… but it will- Anytime someone experiences this level of grief, there will be a huge growth spurt. Huge. At some point, you will be catapulted forward at such a rate of speed… you won’t know what hit you. It’s a gift.”  (This sounded familiar to me… I knew it to be true… but didn’t know why.) Thank You Amy Yee… Namaste. Now- back to my mom’s surgery. My mom had total ankle-replacement surgery and I spent the morning and day with my step dad and early evening with my sisters and nieces. I went to the hospital at 7:00 am and didn’t leave until late. Here’s how it played out…Phil (my step dad) and I were there together. After the surgery- my mom’s Surgeon came out and took us into a room to go over the details. He was directing his conversation to Phil (this is the first time I had met him…) He was going over what to expect, as far as pain. Immediately, I felt myself go into “caregiver mode”. I interrupted and asked him if he knew of my mom’s intolerance to a certain pain medication? He said- Yes… they had discussed it. He continued his conversation and at one point- he said something like- “As we discussed earlier, about her therapy and her healing…” I interrupted again. I said- “Excuse me, but could you please repeat that previous conversation? I was not privy to it- and would like to know what the outcome will look like…” I swear to God – he rolled his eyes at me. He did answer my question and then proceeded with his conversation- to Phil. Okay- here’s the magic… In that instant- right at that very moment… I knew what it was like to be the daughter. During Paul’s illness- I kept a tablet with me at all times. I knew all of the details of every procedure and at times even got the Doctors on the right page. I had all the details, and if you needed to know something- just ask me- not the Dr.’s.  In that instant… I knew what it felt like to be Jennifer and Mellissa. (Paul’s daughters.) They had every right to ask who ever and whatever they wanted. That was their dad. They had every right to act or do whatever they needed to do… to be okay. In my controlling frame of mind… I thought I knew what was best. I thought I knew how they should behave or act and when they should be there… They had every right to be whoever they wanted to be. That was their dad. Just like I had every right to-ask those questions to that surgeon. That was MY mom. Here is the beauty of this…Because I want to heal the anger- God gives me these types of awareness’s. That night as we were all sitting in my mom’s hopsital room… talking and going over the details of her surgery… it all hit me again. You see- I was hurt. I was angry. This was about two months after his death and I was talking to my sisters about my feelings. I was talking about Paul’s daughters- how I felt abandoned- but wasn’t willing to reach out to them. Here’s the real deal… I am going to be honest about this. My communication with his daughter’s had pretty much stopped after the memorial. We had a few emails and a few struggles with “stuff” but it wasn’t at all what I thought it should or would be like. We held Paul’s hand on his death bed and promised to look out for each other. And then… I didn’t see them.  I was throwing myself a pity party about the hospital journey and about why they weren’t helping me. I was sad because I felt like I was doing it all alone… I felt like his family just left it all up to me. I had told them how I wanted it… even went as far as to-say- this is how it’s going to be… then I was pissed that they let me do it. I was hurt. I was angry. I was feeling a lot of things… and they were not pretty. All necessary but not pretty. As I discussed these things with my sisters, I realized this was one of those times- when I could either rally people into my corner and allow them to decorate that pity party with me- or I could see what God- was really wanting to show me. My family is wonderful. They were willing to co-sign anything that I threw out there… after all- I was hurting. I was a mess. They love me. They validated me and made me feel justified in my anger. They did what I needed them to do. Stand with me in my corner. Stand beside me. I no longer felt alone. But I also- didn’t feel good. What the hell? Really? I finally got to play it all out and got everyone to see why I was so mad and hurt… and… I didn’t like it. The next day- I sat down and wrote an email and apologized to Paul’s girls. I wrote an email that said I was sorry for being so controlling and judgmental and until that very moment wasn’t able- or willing, to see what I was doing. Here’s another thing I know because of being in recovery…  Making amends isn’t to ask for forgiveness. It’s to apologize for your behavior and to cleanup where you have wronged. As soon as I was willing to see this- the anger started to subside. I saw that I had a part in all of it. I had set the pace and even dictated the outcome… I apologized and I set the wheels in motion to heal. Today is 01.06.13 I am settled into my house and work is getting better. I survived Christmas and realized that this is going to take a long time to heal. I didn’t understand completely or maybe I just couldn’t comprehend it in that moment…  I wasn’t prepared to lose my husband. I look back now with the help of these emails at my actions… I had completely immersed myself into the process and the fight. I have done some healing and have had lots of help. I see an Acupuncturist, a Spiritual Healer, a Chiropractor and a Massage Therapist. I won’t go into detail about what those appointments entail… let’s just say- I have to learn how to release Paul and his energy back to him and to God. And now from Neale… On this day of your life, Denise, I believe God wants you to know… …that how bad things may look right now means nothing. It’s how good you know they can look with God’s help that counts. Life has a habit of changing itself completely around in 24 hours. Heck, in 24 minutes sometimes. Don’t you dare give up on Tomorrow because of the way things look Today. Don’t even think about it… Love, Your Friend…. Neale Goodmorning- today is 2.24.13 It’s been a few months since I have written. Not sure why- I just know that I was not supposed to open up to the emotions until now. Sometimes, I can just feel things. Sometimes I just know when I am headed into a dark time and when I need to process stuff. I have had a time of that recently. The Holidays were rougher than I let on… It didn’t hit me until Christmas day when my step dad mentioned those we had lost and the loved ones left behind at the blessing before our meal. I couldn’t stop crying. It hit hard and I felt weak. Thought I was going to hyper-ventilate. I cried until I shook. I spent time with Hailey and Cody and my family. Paul’s girls didn’t come up- so I didn’t get to see them. I am going to talk about some painful things in this post-and it’s not meant to be a jab at anyone- they are just my feelings and the things that have come up. I have been feeling very angry and short with people. I have had an extreme sadness and jumped right into the “victim mode”. (As I look back now… I realize I was in a depressed state. I had tools, but I still felt very alone and sad.) I had a few things that popped up recently and immediately I took offense. How dare this person? Why wouldn’t they be thinking of my feelings? This is what I know about me… I have come too far to play the victim card. I am not saying that I am immune to it… I am just saying that I don’t like how I feel when I do it. Today I recognize those feelings and I don’t stay there. I also remember thinking shortly after his death, “DON’T THESE PEOPLE KNOW WHAT I AM GOING THROUGH?” I would walk into a store or a meeting and people would be laughing… I didn’t like it. Today when I am faced with feelings that I don’t like… in other people and in myself. It’s an opportunity to work on me. I am not always willing to see it like this- but I think God will keep bringing it back around until I do take a look at my behavior. Because at the end of the day- I can-only change me. Not other people. Sometimes it means I have to “own my own power”and stand up for what I feel is right. Other times- it’s to gently let go of painful stuff and just know it’s not my garbage. It’s extremely tough to know what is mine- and what is other people’s junk sometimes. This is why I am grateful for a program of recovery and loving friends who don’t validate my BS- but point out my defects and help me, to be a better person. Recently I had a situation that hurt deeply. I really felt like I was giving my all. It was five months after Paul’s death and I had resumed my work and was falling into habits. I started feeling overwhelmed. Almost toxic. I asked to have some relief from work. It wouldn’t have cost anyone money- but me. I was willing to pay for someone to relieve me. I asked my bosses at the gym if I could have my friend who covered during Paul’s illness come in to help. They said no. As a matter of fact, they infomred my that my job was about to change. They told me that the entire format would soon change and that I was going to be expected to do more. (They lived in another state- I ran the gym. I. Did. Everything.) I found myself quite emotional, I wasn’t being heard. I cried. I walked away from the conversation and stepped away to compose myself. About fifteen minutes later, my boss came into the kitchen and said- “I just asked (Husband), how long this stuff takes?” Really? How long “this stuff” takes? She didn’t understand grief, but her husband did. He had lost his first wife. She went into the back room and asked him, “How long does this stuff take?” Like, there is a formula for grief… insert this time, this tool or this emotion and you will be done. WRONG. The lesson came weeks later- when I realized that I didn’t need permission to do what was necessary to keep balance in my life. I was unhappy with the words that were exchanged and had given my power to people. I was relying on them for financial and emotional security. Hmm…. Step back. As I was explaining (okay… complaining) to a friend about the scenario… the answer came to me. I control my destiny, my income and my happiness. If I am looking to-other people for these things- I am giving my power to them. In that instant… I made a shift in my perception and took a new path. I also had an opportunity to look at what makes my heart happy. For a very long time I have been stuck. Probably since Paul’s illness began in 2011. I abandoned the Spiritual Healing Certification program and took-on a new role. I wouldn’t change any of it for the world. I am just saying that I am now realizing how completely immersed in this whole thing I have become. It had become my identity. Part of the problem recently has been that I felt my job was to grieve. I went right from caregiver to grieving widow…Who decides when it’s enough? Who decides when you can move on? Nobody can tell me the answer to these questions. Nobody can tell me that it’s time to move on. That answer has to be an individual one. It comes when I am ready. It comes when the time is right. If you’ve lost someone- then it will come when you’re ready too. Don’t rush it… don’t let other people push their reality on to you. It’s your life. Live it like you want. For me, it has come in as hope. I didn’t feel a lot of hope in the beginning. I haven’t felt many new feelings- until recently. This is what it feels like… It feels like old crumpled up and squished down, wrinkly, old wet sweater. Heavy, smelly, old wool sweater. It seems as if I have been weeding through bags and bags of old clothes. Realizing what fits and what I need to get rid of… the problem is- if I never look for new clothes… I am stuck with all of the old stuff. The heavy smelly old stuff. These new feelings have come in like fresh cotton sheets dtraight off the clothes line. They feel crisp and new. They feel like hope. I feel like I have hope. Maybe this is the beginning of that “catapult” the massage therapist spoke of? Hmmm….. Namaste everyone- until there is more… I sign off. Denise