The Search for Intelligent Life

I deleted my Facebook account after explaining that I had grown weary on logging on and seeing so much hatred and intolerance thrown around. Coincidentally, this happened right after the presidential election and some people, who obviously were not paying attention, made the assumption that I couldn't accept a Donald Trump presidency.

This assumption cemented my impression of how ignorant people can be and how few people really know me at all.

My choice to delete my Facebook account was something I toyed with for a little over a year. It all first started when the issue of transgender bathrooms was the biggest talk of social media. The ignorance about transgenders and the complete and total intolerance scared me. Not many people were open-minded enough to even try to educate themselves about the topic.

Conclusions such as allowing people to use the bathroom of their gender identity meant giving a green light to pedophiles to prey upon our children were spread and the name calling began. People used their religion as their reason for denying people their right to simply relieve themselves just like anybody else.

I certainly do not want to bash anyone's choice of religion nor do I want to group together any people of a certain religion but often it is one particular group that seems to find justification in a book that has been edited through the ages to control the masses. How they can twist around the true meaning to make it relevant to what they want to banish is amusing to me.

After the election, suicide hotlines were bombarded with people who suddenly feared how their lives would change with a less-than-compassionate government about to take control. In the past 8 years we saw huge advances in equality for all and now these freedoms are being threatened.

Over the past year and a half I saw the true colors of people that I know from my everyday life and although I can respect the idea that we have differences in opinion, it was their pure hatred and lack of open-mindedness towards anyone who was "different" from them that made me ill. It does make me afraid for what is next.

I can agree that political correctness did go too far over to the left but there is a huge divide in this country, one that is just going to get bigger and uglier with hate ruling the day.

I'd like to be hopeful and give this new president-elect a chance but who is he really? How can anyone forget his hateful comments and judgments towards immigrants, women, and others? How can anyone trust a man whose comments and ideas (if followed through with) would set this country back not move it forward?

It isn't just the power of this new president but the fact that with a Republican majority the progress made for human rights can possibly be overturned. Can back-alley abortions really be a thing of the future? Will the LGBT community be persecuted by religious zealots who believe it is justified for them to spew hate upon those they deem as living lives of sin?

Why can't we all just get along? We need to come together and find a way for all of us to live as one. We need to show respect for others, compassion and be open to learning about what we don't understand.

Most of all we have to remember that underneath it all we are the same. We are all souls having a human experience. We need to show kindness towards each other just as we would want others to show kindness towards us.

RIP Monika

This past week I lost a good friend to cancer. Her diagnosis came after a bout with bronchitis that wasn't responding to antibiotics. In her mid-50's, she had struggled with health issues the last several years but always seemed to have the strength to battle through. This latest health crisis came on fast and furious and sadly it was too much for her to survive it.

Before her illness took a drastic turn I was able to talk to her about what she was facing. After losing my dad and feeling like there were things I wished I'd asked him, I decided I wasn't holding back anymore. I asked my friend how she felt about death and what she might be fearing.

I trusted in the relationship we had and she opened up and shared her fears with me. Looking back I feel content that I said what I needed to say to her and hopefully I helped her trust her beliefs and let go of the fear.

I will miss this friend because she was so raw, so unique and in this world where people often hide who they really are, with Monika you always knew just how she felt about something. Sometimes she was so strongly opinionated that she would turn people off but to me, I admired her for not being afraid to tell it like she saw it. She wasn't one to follow the crowd. I didn't always agree with her but that's okay. I don't need to agree with everything someone says to be friends with them. Our differences are what keeps life interested and with Monika, life was always interesting.

She might have been loud about her beliefs but she also had a heart that was filled with compassion for others. She was a very complex person who struggled with fibromyalgia and bi-polar disorder and wasn't shy about sharing those struggles. Because of her chronic illnesses she lived with huge financial struggles and was never ashamed of it.

Her compassion showed in her love for her chocolate lab Eddie and her flock of birds. I jokingly referred to her as the "bird lady" as she acquired quite a few birds that she lovingly raised and shared stories about. Right before we lost contact with her she posted about re-homing them and I was saddened as I realized that the only reason she would be doing this is because she knew she wouldn't be here to care for them.

Had Monika and I lived closer I am sure we would have hung out together. I always felt she would have been that friend that would pop by in the morning for a cup of coffee or borrow a book from.

Sadly we were only cyber friends who kept in touch by private chats never to have a real face-to-face interaction. It doesn't matter that we never knew each other in the real world. We still touched each others' lives.

Monika was a writer and our mutual connection was through a now-defunct online writing site. We supported each others' writing throughout the years and our friendship developed. The online writing community is a strong one and I have found several very close relationships through my writing. The support of fellow writers is a gift that I am so grateful for and these friendships are as real as my real-world ones. Because of her health challenges Monika was unable to work outside the home and writing helped her supplement her income as well as give her a creative outlet.

She had struggled for so long with many challenges. She did have joy in the midst of those struggles and those joys were her daughters, her grandchildren and her beloved birds and Eddie and of course, her many FB friends that showed her how loved she was for who she was.

She will be missed.

Being Thankful in Spite of Grief

This is my family's first major holiday without my dad. I don't want to be sad anymore.

Thanksgiving is a day of gratitude and instead of focusing on sadness, I would rather recall the memories of Thanksgivings past when my dad was here. It has been three months since that awful day when we had to let go of my dad and I experienced the deep pain of grieving one of the most important persons in my life.

Not that my grieving process is over; I will feel this for the rest of my life. My grief has changed from a constant state of numbness and ever-flowing tears to a place where I can go out into the world and function. There have been so many lessons learned since saying goodbye.

I never realized just how much I would change from this loss. Almost instantly little messages came to me and I started to see things in a different way. I discovered that the only way for me to get through this process was to look inside of myself for answers that were always there but hidden. Divine intervention in the form of signs was waiting but I needed to open my eyes and my heart and listen for it.

During this process I also realized that I needed to get back to myself. I had been lost for a while, caught up in daily human dramas that threw me off of my path. Getting back into myself I could refocus on who I really was and who I needed to be. I thought about who my dad was and through my memories I was able to see him for the man he was and not just as my dad.

How he lived his life became a lesson to me. I began to hear his advice given to me over the years in a new light. Suddenly I understood what "don't sweat the small stuff" meant. I began to see what really was important and what really mattered.

Things my dad had said over the years actually helped me to accept his passing. I miss my dad but I have to be honest with myself. The last few years my dad's health was failing. There were things I wanted to say to him while we waited for a diagnosis when he was in the hospital. I didn't say things to him because his hearing was so poor that I would have had to shout for him to hear me and even then, he might not have understood what I was trying to say. There were many things the last few years that I wanted to discuss with him but because of his hearing I didn't. Especially when he was in the hospital it was difficult to attempt to speak intimately when there was little privacy to begin with.

My dad wasn't happy the last few years of his life here. His health was failing, he lost his job, he moved from the home he raised his family in and he felt the world had changed too much for his liking. I knew what my dad's beliefs were regarding what happens after death. I know that his beliefs were so strong and I needed to trust those beliefs.

So today as we celebrate Thanksgiving I am grateful. I have almost let go of all the sorrow ( I am closer than I was) and be grateful for having been blessed with a very special dad. I feel joyous for the adventure his soul is experiencing now and I look forward to being with him again when it is time. He hasn't left me and I know that. Love never dies.

Lessons in Grief

If living here on Earth is school, grief is a course most of us would want to skip out of.

It is 1 month today that my father died. I have a hard time saying that he is no longer "with" us because in truth, I know he has been with us.

It's just different now.

Grieving has been an emotional roller-coaster for his family; no surprises there. It's strange how in one moment I can be encouraging a family member to "fully feel" their emotions all the while feeling very in control of my own emotions and not too long afterwards I completely lose it.

There have been good days and bad as I go through this process. About 1 week ago I finally began to give the appearance that I am functioning. It wasn't easy to get there. Even as I look back I am amazed at my family members who had no choice but to return to their jobs and be out in the real world. How grateful I am to be unemployed!

Yesterday I left my house and didn't cry once. That was huge to me. It means I am coming to grips with this loss.

I have had friends and family who experienced their father's passing and although I felt sympathetic to them, I didn't really understand. My relationship with my dad was not picture-perfect; I am sure no one's truly was. At the end of the day, he was my dad and I believe that he always wanted the best for me and he always believed that I was good enough.

My dad was a man of few words but when he did speak, the words had meaning. I know in my heart that he would want us all to move forward with our lives. I know he wouldn't want regrets because he knows they are a waste of time.

I am still struggling with that.

We humans are not supposed to live forever. It is expected that as we age our bodies are going to wear out and sometimes our quality of life lessens because of that. We are not the same person we were in our youth. We are still valuable to our loved ones as we often focus on what the person means to our lives. When an older person dies, we want more time. We don't want to let go.

My dad's life had changed so much the past few years. Although, for the most part, my dad's mind was fine save the occasional forgetfulness, his body was breaking down. He'd joke about needing "new knees" when tackling too many walks up and down the stairs. There were magnifying glasses all over the house to help his poor eyesight. He had headphones that he used to listen to television so that the rest of the household didn't have to. After he lost his job (when he was 80!) he started to act like he was waiting to die.

Probably the final straw was when his doctor recommended that he give up his driver's license. Dad loved to drive and I think that losing that freedom helped to put his will on a downward decline.

I remember when he was forced to give up driving and I felt for him. I couldn't imagine how helpless he must have felt. My dad was always independent and with my mom working, he was stranded at home all day.

Yes, the last few years of his life he became a different man. A man who was feeling defeated by his own aging and also by a world that he felt he didn't fit into because of technology and a various other changes.

When I think about these last few years, yes, he did have moments of enjoyment, but on the whole, he wasn't very happy.

I think sometimes my siblings and I focus too much on the dad we knew in happier times. The dad with the quick wit. The dad you went to for advice. The dad who kept you on your toes by quizzing you about history or other subjects. The dad we remembered from our growing up and early adult years.

That man became lost to the aging process.

So as I sit here reflecting one month after his passing, I have to be at peace with it all. Dad was ready. It's selfish to not accept it.

He lived a good life and like I said before, he didn't LEAVE us. He is still here. I feel him in the stillness of the early mornings as I watch the darkness turn into a new day. I thank him daily for never failing to love me even though I wasn't always worthy of it. I thank him for all the gifts he gave us.

I know that he was a highly evolved soul and I don't fear where he is now. I know he is free and surrounded by everlasting love. I just miss him and I guess I always will until I leave here and we are reunited.

Distracted by Grief

Grief has me frozen from being able to breathe. As much as I argue with myself, I can't seem to move beyond it.

I know he is in a better place. I know his soul is free of the body that had worn out. But still my mind wrestles with the "what if's" and "I should have".

I have seen others do this when they lost someone they love. Somehow the advice I always gave to others seems lost on myself.

The man I knew as my dad had been somewhat lost to me for years before he passed. Life changes and his aging changed him from the dad I would go to for advice to a man that seemed to be waiting to die in order to escape a life that he felt was passing him by.

It is selfish of us (his family) to not be able to let him go. He really was ready to move on to what's next. He was there for us and gave us his all. His family meant the world to him and he left behind his legacy in his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren and countless others that he touched in his time here.

We all have our memories that will never leave us. We carry him in our hearts forever through our memories which are filled with love. Love never dies and even death doesn't end that.

Death isn't the end and I am sure of that.

Grief isn't forever and hopefully as each day ends I will get closer to being in a place where my sadness doesn't feel all-consuming. Hopefully I get to a place where I can think of my dad and smile without tears.

Thoughts on Courage and Caitlyn Jenner

As the mom of a transgender person, it excites me that Caitlyn Jenner is getting so much exposure for the transgender community. What I fear is the negative response to it all. The truth is that as much as the media is latching onto the transgender movement, we still have a long way to go before we become an accepting society.

Caitlyn Jenner receiving an award for being courageous has brought about an awful lot of hateful comments and also comparisons about what it truly means to be courageous. Comparisons are being made to soldiers and although I feel that anyone who offers up themselves voluntarily to fight for their country is worthy of being called courageous, the Arthur Ashe award is for ATHLETES not soldiers. There is a time and a place to recognize war heroes.

There just seems to be far too much hate from people who cannot understand or even imagine that being transgender is a REAL issue. Some even compare it to being gay and believe that there is a "cure" for that.

A transgender person is someone who believes that they were born into the wrong body. I cannot even imagine the pain that Caitlyn Jenner endured even as Bruce Jenner becoming an Olympic hero all the time suppressing/not understanding why she felt the way she did. Hiding that from the world must have been an enormous burden and certainly no way to live a life.

The people who call Caitlyn selfish for how she finally decided that she was going to live an authentic life after being married 3 times and fathering 6 children don't seem to understand that for 65 years she tried to live the lie but couldn't. It is tragic for her children and ex-wives and I do feel for them. I do believe that living an honest, authentic life benefits all who are a part of it. It is never too late to begin.

The world knew Caitlyn as the Olympic hero and Kardashian step-dad/father/husband and as viewers of the reality show will agree, there was always something "off" with Bruce. Maybe the viewer blamed Kris for being overbearing but the truth was that this was a person who was suffering from depression from trying to live a life that was not authentic. Did Caitlyn deserve an award for finally breaking free and becoming who she is?

No, definitely not. But unlike others who feel there were better candidates for this award I still feel happy for the exposure it brings to transgender people.

Those with open minds and hearts will listen to Caitlyn's message and be inspired by it. Those whose minds and hearts remain closed will feel the need to be offended by it. I do believe the media is just jumping on the latest bandwagon. Hopefully this opportunity will last long enough to change some minds and open some hearts. I hope this only because I fear for my child living in a world with so much hate towards people who are "different" from the accepted normal.

We all have challenges in this world. Caitlyn Jenner sharing her journey is an opportunity for transgender people and I hope it does a lot of good. I applaud her courage and thank her for it.

Taming the Monster

In my blog "Let's Talk About Mental Illness" I have been boldly sharing my family's experiences with opiate addiction. As a writer nothing fuels my passion to write more than when it is personal. I just get fired up and I cannot hold back!

I have to admit that during my career writing web content I was often shy about sharing personal stories. I did let go and write about my own child's journey with mental illness only because of the frustration I felt over how ignorant so many people were about the subject. In my mind sharing my story could only help educate others.

Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. I am not going to quote statistics but safe to say that everyone knows of someone who has either been treated or is in treatment. Not everyone talks about it and to me, this is sad.

Addiction is most often a secondary reaction to some kind of mental illness that has gone untreated. In my husband's case it is the result of an extremely abusive childhood. My husband left home at 15 years old and unfortunately never received any positive guidance or direction. He shoved away all the pain and instead sought out ways to self-medicate and survive.

Many years later the cycle of self-abuse finally became too much for him and desperate to change, he finally is receiving professional treatment.

You are never too old to get onto a different road and it is never too late to change your course.

The road to recovery has not been easy at all. It is never as simple as one might think. Life is complicated but if you persevere you can do it.

He cannot do this alone and as anyone who loves an addict knows, sometimes it feels like the whole family needs to band together to tame the monster of addiction.

This isn't an easy journey that we are on but we have to face this monster and deal with it or else it will destroy us all.

My husband has demons to battle and put to rest. It isn't going to be pretty for him to re-live the nightmare of his abusive childhood but he needs to in order to let it go. He deserves peace in his life once and for all.

At times as we battle this monster called addiction I don't know how we are going to win. There are times I want him gone out of my life because the struggle is so hard.

I believe he can get to the other side and learn how to put the pain to rest. I believe he is strong enough to forgive the past and move forward and leave it all behind him.

Everyone of us has some battle to fight and sometimes we need help to fight through it. I can't fight it for him but I can help be here to support him. I am learning how to little by little and more each day. I'm not perfect; none of us are.

Life isn't always pretty but there are no rainbows without rain.