How Sister Ships Sail.

“I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship.” ~ Louisa May Alcott

Like ships passing, I realize I’m on one and my sister stands on the other—after we’ve ridden side by side for a while now.

Our ships never completely paralleled.

I like my ship. Even while I view the vivacious parties and glorious sunsets over there, on hers.

She might not get the same view of the sunrise or meet the peeps I will on my ship.

We have different destinations.

Either of us could be rerouted or sail into inclement weather.

We bought our tickets and said where we want to go.

Now, we enjoy the adventure, greet the people, choose events and excursions, relax and relish.

Knowing we’re not actually driving the ship, we must trust.

I’m certain my big sister read the safety rules and learned her ship’s map.

When I holler across from mine to hers, “Hey, where are you going?!” she screams back, laughing like an 11-year-old girl on vacation with her mom and best friend, “I don’t know! Where are you going?”

It dawns on me that maybe I don’t know either. As I try to formulate an answer and speak it into the wind between us, I see her man come up behind her and wrap his arms around her.

She turns to look at him the way Rose looked at Jack on The Titanic.

There goes a love story.

My sister turns and waves, joy dripping from her face.

“Have fun!” she screams.

“I will!” I shout back, like a promise. “You too!”

How Wild Women Roll. #bloglikecrazy

“You grow most vigorously in conditions of kindness, resonance and good laughter.” ~  Danielle LaPorte, White Hot Truth

Hocking Hills.
Handful of women.
Spoonfuls of gossip.
Emerging friendships.
Gallons of deep diving.
Conversations on grief.
The MeToo hashtag,
Most of us know.
Been there. In it.
Growing awareness.
Heartache and love.
Stir in laughter.
Hiking along cliffs.
Considering our edges.
Meditating and creating.
Manifesting new chapters.
Practicing a no-bullshit zone.
Singing our souls’ songs.
Howling at a full moon.
Threading a web.
Releasing tears.
Owning pain.
Worrying as women
Over the state of our country.
Holding individual sorrows.
Taking root in trees.
Unfolding tarot cards.
The mysterious unknown.
Openness. Presence. Nature.
Practicing a no-bullshit zone.
Turquoise and purple flames.
Spectacular colors crackling
The center of feminine fire.
Yoga flowing like water.
Aromas simmering.
Food nourishing.
Sisterhood
Giving birth.

 

How my Sister & I Grew up in Different Families. #bloglikecrazy

“There is space within sisterhood for likeness and difference, for the subtle differences that challenge and delight; there is space for disappointment—and surprise.” ~ Christine Downing

My sister once told me one reason siblings are different is they’re not born into the same family.

Jayne—the one and only first born—was welcomed into the world with hope during a stage my mom and dad had been told the world was tough, but maybe they didn’t quite believe it yet.

Our brother—Mr. Middle Child—arrived on the scene into Hey, maybe we can make it.

Then, just five years after my sister’s arrival, I was born into the heart of challenge.

I swam in my mom’s frustration for nine months. I ate her Oh God, what have I gotten myself into? for nourishment.

Maybe that’s why I spent too many years wishing to leave this world.

Or what I was doing at the age of eight weeks, returning to the hospital with pneumonia, checking into an oxygen tent, and keeping human touch at a distance.

My mother said the doctors told her, “Go home and take care of your other children.”

Five days later, when my parents picked me up from the hospital, a nurse said, “This time, take care of her.”

My mom hardly had room for me in her arms with all that pressure.

Besides, my independent streak and fighting inclinations had already taken root in that tent. I won my first battle and was ready for more.

However, as a toddler, I quickly learned my mother was not somebody you wanted to do battle with.

The lessons my sister learned—baking, measuring, and Winnie the Pooh seemed spent before I arrived.

We all learned about Mama Bear and that saying: If mom’s not happy, nobody’s happy. Yeah, totally true.

My mom wasn’t happy.

My dad worked. If I said all the time, it might seem like an exaggeration, but if I said he was a workaholic, that might be underplaying it.

My father appears as a visitor in my young memories.

Then, right at that crux, where my parents parted and my sister did her final years at home, the families my sister and I lived in shifted again.

By the time I was a teenager, I knew parents were just playing at righteousness and big sisters were really the difference makers.

After all, who explained divorce and that love that goes on, anyway? Who took care of me when I was sick or let me tag along on dates? Who worried when I stayed out late?
My big sister parented me when my parents were busy doing other things—like trying to get their sh*t together.

Ok, are you with me so far?
1) Parents fall in love.
2) Get pregnant.
3) Get married.
4) Have my sister.
5) Have my brother.
6) Have me.
7) Struggle.
8) Make a new decision.

My formative years were filled with my parents arguing, cutting up credit cards, building bookshelves, road trips to therapists, and me being left alone. Well, often in the care of my brother and sister.

This was the 1970s. These things were done. My parents tried for traditional, but that’s one thing neither of them could adhere to.

The thing is they tried—really hard. They wore us all out with the struggle.

What a different world develops in five short years—both the years since my sister was born and the ones after my parents divorced.

Jayne found love and leaped into it. She moved to the other side of the country.

I was unprepared for life without her. She built a family with her husband and sons, as she should.

I found myself a part of a new family with my stepmom, stepbrother and stepsister. We did family stuff like vacations, dinners, and playing canasta.

I was getting the love I needed. So was my sister—in another world.

In the beginning—her beginning—my sister was served hope with a side of parental presence. I arrived for leftovers.

I never saw the full meal in my original home, so I didn’t miss not getting dessert.

Jayne knew something had been left off the table. She took off to find something sweet.

I stayed home and was introduced to peace. Plus, I got my turn to be the big sister! I poured love and protection into my stepsister’s atmosphere.

See, my sister showed me how, having arrived first in the world. And those five years, they made all the difference.

 

 

How Facebook Helped Heal my Grief. #bloglikecrazy

Dear Facebook Connections,

When my boyfriend died in March of 2016, you heard my cries. You read my words.

You walked beside me on my journey and many of you shared yours. We connected. You helped me heal by hearing my pain and not minimizing.

I’m fortunate to have a web of flesh friends and family who were there for me. I’m grateful for them, obviously.

Yet, Facebook folks were also integral to my healing. You were a safe space for me to publicly state my truth and share my tears without being faced with grimaces, the oh-so-subtle rolling of the eyes, the sigh of impatience, or the look of pity.

Nor did I feel alone. Many of you commented on and connected with me in my grief.

You also stand witness as my sister and I commemorate, celebrate and memorialize our loved ones who left this party called life too soon.

Not just my beloved Kevin, although losing him weighs heaviest on my heart. With him, I experienced sacred love. The love endures and you continue to react to my writing through this metamorphosis. Thank you.

Thank you, Facebook folks, for serving as a support system.

My sister found great solace with widownet. Deep Grief, Great Love and Grief Yoga educate, elevate, comfort, and even commiserate with me. Yes, sometimes we need that, too.

Elephant Journal publishes pieces (including mine) on grief, how to live a better life, and be of benefit to others.

Facebook friends, you’ve benefited Jayne’s life and mine by welcoming our stories about my beloved Kevin Lentz, my brother-in-law Tom Gerlach, my mom, and my brother Bill.

Thank you for serving as a sounding board for our losses and allowing us to use you to keep their memories alive as we learn to live without them.

We miss our people who died. It’s indescribable, and yet, you let us try.

I’m Sick of People Telling me What I’m Ready for or not Ready for.

“And when you have reached the mountaintop, then you shall begin to climb.” ~ Kahlil Gibran

When my sister Jayne started dating after her husband of 33 years died, a friend told her, “You’re not ready.”

She said, “I’m sick of people telling me what I’m ready for or not ready for.”

As if anyone else knows, right? After a break-up, divorce or death, deciding to move forward is an individual decision.

Or sometimes, it just happens. I went out with my sister and a friend one night and suddenly months later, I’m trying to decide if this guy is right (for me).

I never made a conscious decision to start dating after my beloved’s death.

I did determine to stop saying, “Every other man is going to be such a f*cking disappointment!” I wish I could stop feeling that way.

I wish I could be ready to allow a man to replace the irreplaceable. Of course, that will never happen. How nice it would be to invite a man into the space that once held me like a hammock swinging at the beach.

It’s still a stretch I’m not sure I’m ready for. It’s been a year and a half since my Fire (as I called him) went out of this world.

He called me Ice for 25 years before he melted me with intimacy and we became us. After his departure from earth, part of me froze again. Then, shattered. You know what it’s like when you drop a bag of ice on the cement? In grief, I’m that ice, and forever his.

He (still) wants for my happiness in the way that I ache for his presence.

Maybe I’m not ready for another man. However, if I wait until I’m totally solid again, I could turn into one of those women who swear off love. Wouldn’t that be a shame?

My sister Jayne has taught me that once you’ve had a happy, successful relationship, it means you know how, you’re capable, and when you’re ready and open, you can create it again.

From where she stands now, it may appear easy to the outside world. Nope.

I remember her first date with another man and how she crumbled the second she got away from him, like I did after my first date with someone other than my beloved.

Those dates weren’t with less-than-fine men. They just weren’t ours.

Jayne had great love with her husband, Tom Gerlach for triple decades. They never stopped holding hands, laughing, and navigating life in unison—until his life was over.

She went on, the way one braves Mt. Everest. Moving forward tested her.

Now, five years later, my sister’s in love with a man who fulfills and ignites her in fresh ways. She’s different now.

Not just different from the 18-year-old who pledged her love to a man a lifetime ago, but transformed through the experience of grief.

Grief drops us. The pieces that once fit easily are lost and new parts form.

We determine to be ready for life without the one thing that matters more than anything. Then, we say, F*ck it! I’d rather die.

Fortunately, or unfortunately as it feels at the time, we know better. We could never willingly inflict the pain of loss onto our loved ones.

So, we determine to be ready, to turn the page to our next stage of life. We do this over and over again.

We take baby steps when we long for gargantuan leaps. We smile and laugh and find ourselves caught off guard when the tears engulf us again.

Grief is kind of like being a teenager; emotions are raw and we’re growing, but we can’t see it. Like a teenager wants to be grown, we want to be woke.

Who’s to say when we’re ready? Just the quiet voice that whispers, Yes!

The Days on the Calendar after Death

“Bring me your suffering.
The rattle of broken bones.
Bring me the riot in your heart.
Angry, wild and raw.
Bring it all.
I am not afraid of the dark.”
~ Mia Hollow

If you’ve lost someone and you’re still grieving, I get it. If you haven’t and you don’t, lucky you.

Sadness slipped inside my skin today. She’d taken a vacation and I began to think of her in the past tense. I was making peace with my beloved’s passing and the signs from the other side waning. I’d be alright.

Until I wasn’t, again. The heaviness came upon me after days of living in my head and socializing.

It’s not that I’m pretending I’m fine with others. I am. In the moment.

That’s a giant leap from where I was when Kevin died a year ago.

Now, there are more good days than bad.

Today isn’t wretched, but I’m tired from digging my way out of Grief Canyon to get a better view.

For all my progress, I’m without him. Still.

I miss him like trees miss rain. Still.

I wail in the woods. Still.

Even with hope’s evidence before me.

After the death of my sister’s husband five years ago, she’s fallen in love again. It’s a beautiful example. I knew it would happen because she wanted it so fiercely she manifested this new love.

The only thing I want today is my yesterday man—not another one. The one who soothed my soul and served as alchemy to a better me.

In grief, we stand staring at our path with our only desire to run back.

The year my boyfriend died ended. A new year began. I drew a line in my mind, but it washed away like words in the sand at the beach.

On January 17th, friends and I celebrated my beloved’s birthday. While memories of his last two taunted me, I toasted him, ate Italian food, laughed, told stories, and ached for his presence.

I endured Valentine’s Day—that cheesy holiday I made fun of until he gave it meaning.

The anniversary of my beloved’s death came and went, like it does for so many.

We move on, but they’re all just days on a calendar. Without him.

 

How to Walk the Bridge to Better

“Our job isn’t to fight fate, but to help each other through, not as soldiers, but as shepherds. That’s how we make it okay, even when it’s not.” ~ Lucy Kalanithi

Bridge Builder, Light Bearer. Those were the words I wanted on my tombstone.

Now, I think escort might be good. No, not that kind of escort!

It’s been my honor to chaperon people across their own life bridges. I didn’t have to build the bridge, but I often shined the light.

Sometimes, like when your sister’s husband dies, all we can do is sit in the dark with our loved ones and hold the light until it catches them.

The bridge seems to form under one’s feet as they walk the path of life.

However, traversing through the darkness—whether it comes from death, divorce, disaster, or simply losing our way—is lonely.

No one else can feel our unique brand of despair in our precious, vulnerable hearts.

That’s why for many years I didn’t let people in. I preferred to suffer the dark nights of my soul alone. I’d saddle up to my suicidal tendencies and keep everyone away from me. Until I didn’t.

Even now, I can’t let everyone in, but I’ve learned to recognize the light bearers. They’re the ones who stand in the darkness with you, shine the light, and fully acknowledge your right to sit where you are for as long as you need to. Light bearers aren’t there to convince.

They’re a power by their presence. They see your pain and appreciate it without pity. They don’t try to pull you out of the pain, but hold your hand while you’re in it.

That’s what my sister does for me—always. Not just since the death of my beloved.

Jayne showed me the light when we were kids and our parents divorced and later, when I was a teenager, she opened her home to me.

My sister has held the light a thousand times.

The light is like bird food. I can’t actually feed the birds. But, I can fill the feeder and let them come.

Now, I’ve become a woman whose heart fills with the sight of cardinals’ colors, beaks and feathers outside my window.

I’ve done nothing; I’ve done something.

I offer food, but I can’t physically carry or direct the birds to it. That’s not my job; it’s God’s, or angels or the Universe. This Amazing Force alerts the birds the food is out and calls them to fly to it.

For me, that’s God. He builds bridges and sends the escorts to help us across the dark chapters of our lives into the light.

God isn’t just in the magic. He’s in the in-between moments building bridges to tomorrow, to our next beautiful chapter.

My biggest lesson: we don’t have to build the bridges!

Often, I have no idea how I’m going to get from here to there.

How would I get out of my marriage and onto solid ground? How could I get out of sales after 20 years? How could I become a writer? How could I get out of relationships that weren’t right—especially when I was desperate to make them into more?

Sometimes falling apart is the bridge.

If those men I was involved with hadn’t let me down or dismissed me, I would’ve missed the greatest love I’ve ever known—sacred, worth-it-all love.

Deep in it, when my beloved Fire died and I cried every f*cking day, when devastation felt like my middle name, God was building a bridge.

My sister—and so many others—held the light.

Earlier, when my sister’s husband died (four years before I lost my guy), I wanted to be the one to build the bridge for her. But, the only bridge she wanted to walk over was the one leading to yesterday, the one that no longer existed.

So, I prayed and stayed present through the black nights that rippled into days, weeks, months and years. I held the light, as did a whole gang of angels—both human and beyond.

Somehow, my sister, after going one direction for 33 years of marriage, learned to walk a new way through the darkness. Over time, a bridge to a better life formed beneath her—right there, in the dark.

Now, after all we’ve been through, I no longer feel the need to be a bridge builder.

Instead, I pray: God, use me. May I be of benefit. Let me shine the light. And especially, Help me pay it forward.

All I can tell you is this: that rush I get from feeding the birds is nothing compared to being a light bearer for another human being.

When the light catches their eyes—after the darkness—they almost fly.