The Art of Letting Go

The trees are about to show us how lovely it is to let things go.

The trees are about to show us how lovely it is to let things go.

I’ve been preparing for the colder weather by decorating and cleaning.

This has included going through old papers deciding what needs to be shred. Some of the things I’ve come across, like a term paper from 20 years ago, have given me a good laugh. Yesterday, however, I came across some that document loss – of job opportunities, of time, of plans for a family.

Reading them was like reliving the painful experiences over again.

Cancer left more heart-centric feelings than head-centric memories. I had no time to think of it during; only survive. I was blessed to be cured of cancer, but the treatment took its toll not just on my body but on my life.

I’ve come across old calendars.

They remind me I was constantly “in the hole” at work using the Family Medical Leave Act to take time off without pay after using up all my paid vacation time and paid sick time for my medical appointments. It seemed like the only time I spent with family and friends was when they accompanied me to doctor visits. Weeknights and weekends I used for resting to recoup the energy I expended from working.

All work and no play took its toll, physically and especially mentally.

It wasn’t long before I had the most serious manic-depressive episode I’ve ever experienced. I wish I could go into more detail, but it was so severe I only remember waking up in a psych ward with no memory of the four months prior.

When I ask about those months…

My husband gets a faraway look in his eyes and starts describing my mother going crazy like Shirley MacLaine in the movie “Terms of Endearment”. When I ask my mother she does start to sound like Shirley MacLaine in “Terms of Endearment” and tells me that it’s probably a good thing I don’t remember. My best friend who visited me in the hospital she can’t even talk about it; her eyes fill up with tears. All of them say ‘We weren’t sure we would get you back.’


What is Past is Prolong

My husband has encouraged me to throw out the old stuff and let the bad memories go. He promised I could rely on him, my family, and friends to be my memory. So with that, I promised in return that I’d toss it but ‘Wow – it is freakin’ hard!’

I am really relating to the people on the television show “Hoarders”.

As I’m purging the past, I’m keeping these things in mind:

  • I’m making space for new positive memories and experiences.
  • CTRL+ALT+DELETE. Take control, consider alternatives, delete what doesn’t work!
  • Can I get this elsewhere (the library, online, from a friend)? If yes, discard!
  • If I died what would my loved ones do with it? Try to minimize possessions!
  • Do I already have one? For example, a VHS taps and a DVD of the same movie?  Consider discarding both because I can probably get it at library or on Netflix!
  • Can’t decide? Place in a “save for later” box. Things still in the box 6 months/1 year from now can then be purged.
  • Think of others who would make better use or appreciate more things I am not using (like clothes, shoes, purses, blankets, toys, etc). Feel good about helping others less fortunate and donate them to a local St. Vincent DePaul or women’s shelter!
  • And most importantly, in addition to singing the theme song from Disney’s movie “Frozen” while I clean I am reminding myself to let go of
    • my attachment to things
    • guilt
    • hurts (real and perceived)
    • things that make my heart feel heavy
    • old plans and desires
    • the past!!
Posted in Cancer, Courage, Mental Health, Random Crap, Seasons | Tagged , , , ,

I Hate Autumn

On Second Thought…


The first time I had a Depressive episode was Labor Day of the year I turned 13.

I was out to dinner with my dad. He asked me how my day went and I burst into tears. Concerned he asked me what was wrong but all I could do was answer “I don’t know” while I hyperventilated. Every Autumn since, I’ve had to fight the demon that is Depression.

It’s that time of year again.

I am entering Fall with my usual trepidation and taking the necessary precautions to ensure good mental health: eating healthy, getting enough but not too much sleep, keeping active, staying in a routine, and being diligent about taking my medications including a Vitamin D supplement.

Autumn Bike Ride

One of my favorite ways to stay active is bike riding.

This summer has been especially beautiful for it filled with many days of warm sunshine. Last week I was out for a ride when on the path in front of me the wind blew and a shower of crisp dry leaves floated to the ground.

My heart sank. I felt sadness so acutely and tears came to my eyes. A semi-famous sports player recently Tweeted something to the effect that Depression isn’t real and that such crybabies need to suck it up. I wish that someone with beliefs like his could feel what it is like to be in my body at such a moment when I “leak tears” for no rational reason or am overcome with forceful emotions.

After crying in the woods over fallen leaves, I asked some friends for their wisdom about Autumn blues.

They gave me three things to do.

  1. Utilize essential oils/fragrances
  2. Clean my home with a pleasant vision of using each space in the colder weather adding blankets and pillows
  3. Decorate my home for the season with encouragement to make a special visit Hobby Lobby.

The biggest takeaway from my friends: Don’t psych yourself out over Fall; psych yourself up for it!!!

So I’ve started to Fall clean and am happy to report I am making steady progress.

I went out and bought a beautiful jar filled with cinnamon scented potpourri, some artificial Fall foliage, a handful of knick knacks, and a special pillow burnt orange embossed with leaves with “Thankful” on it. In every room, I’ve placed at least one item that cheers me: a trio of orange daisies in a tiny orange vase wrapped in burlap and tied with a straw bow,  miniature wooden squirrels holding sunflowers, garlands of golden warm burgundy leaves. My husband and I both have noticed how much more relaxed we feel embracing the Autumn slow-down in our decorated surroundings.

In addition to cleaning, I’ve also started a Favorite Things List to help psych myself up for Autumn.

My original list was rather limited, as you may have guessed, not even large enough for a “top 5 things”. For this reason instead of making routine small talk about the weather I’ve been asking “What do you like best about Autumn?” and adopting the nuggets I glean that ring true for me.

“Things I like about Autumn 🍂 Fall”

  • Pumpkin bread
  • Marching bands
  • Thursdays (when new movies are released)
  • Movie weather
  • Fireplaces
  • Hot chocolate
  • Hedgehogs
  • Squirrels
  • Chipmunks
  • Monarch butterflies
  • Wild flowers
  • Neapolitan tree leaves (green, red, orange, yellow)
  • Crisp scent of fall
  • Sound of leaves under my feet
  • Soft PJs
  • Layers
  • Fuzzy socks
  • Scarfs
  • Sweaters

Happy Autumn! Happy Autumn!


Posted in Mental Health, Random Crap, Seasons | Tagged ,

We Are Not Alone

Last week I had lunch with a friend I hadn’t seen in awhile and her husband.

They had only been married one year with a 3-month child when Husband was diagnosed with cancer. As the conversation came around to something about doctors, I replied ‘oh yeah, I know how that is.’ to which Husband exclaimed ‘you had cancer?’ I laughed and nodded.

So we got into the nitty-gritty of the cancer experience.

Many memories came rushing back – the fear, the frustration, the appreciation of every moment. When I came home I watched more reports on Hurricane Harvey and started to see the similarities between that disaster, cancer, and mental illness.

Such events are unexpected and devastating and put you into crisis mode.

Those around you jump in as superheroes giving you support, love, and prayers. At the same time, people stand by feeling helpless because what they can do doesn’t seem like enough – they cannot be in your shoes.

We form a bond with fellow survivors. Talking with my friends going through cancer, they were relieved that I too was familiar with having diminished patience when others complain about “trivial things” and the lack of interest in things that once brought joy (for me it was the television show Grey’s Anatomy).


A trauma forces a shift in your worldview; you find a clarity of what you value. It reshapes you.

I am lucky (knock on wood) that my cancer was cured.

However, the effects on every aspect of my life – body, soul, mind – lingers. Physical wounds visibly heal. Mental wounds are more difficult to triage. Everyone can understand the common pain of a bruised knee. It’s harder to understand the pain you’ve never personally known.

Having a mental illness is much like cancer.

It’s a serious medical illness that affects every aspect of your life. It can keep you out of work, requires treatment, and sometimes hospitalization. It’s very disruptive, chaotic, dangerous. Yet, the suffering of mental illness is invisible and hard to understand.

My personal hurricane –

I had cancer followed by a major manic depressive episode. My expectations of the future and trust in others weakened. My grief, anger, and feelings of loss deepened. My faith was twisted; grateful to God for the life I was given, angry at God for the life I worked for taken away, and confused as to the purpose of it all.

I was blessed to work with many soulful, intelligent, kind young people who helped restore my faith. They gifted me with a great hope for the future. I wish everyone such a life-saving experience.

As we’ve witnessed with Hurricane Harvey,

There is good, there is kindness, there is love, there is light in this world. Most importantly, we are all survivors and we are not alone.

Posted in Cancer, Mental Health | Tagged , , ,


I think it’s safe to say we’ve all been thinking about Mother Nature a lot this week. 

‘Tis the season when leaves begin to fall, school supplies are bought, and sweaters are dug out of dressers. Today catastrophic hurricane Harvey continues its rampage and flooding of Houston, Texas, the Gulf Coast. 

It makes my heart ache when I watch the television news of homes lost, affected families, and people helping others to safety.
During the summer of 1993 my city, Des Moines, was flooded and went for two weeks without water. It was devastating and a hardship. Harvey’s destruction is immeasurably worse. However, I see similarities 

  • unexpected crisis
  • people banding together
  • shock and loss

and when the worst is over…

  • grief and anger
  • healing
  • opportunity to start anew and planning for future
  • rebuilding
  • new mindset (good and bad)
  • appreciation 

My thoughts and prayers are with the people being bent by the terrible storm but not broken. 

From The New York Times: Where to Donate to Harvey Victims (and How to Avoid Scams). Find out how to help those affected by the devastating flooding in Texas.

Posted in Courage | Tagged , , ,

Owning It

We’re not gonna stress. We’re all such a beautiful mess.

I remember the time when actor Hugh Grant was arrested for allegedly picking up a prostitute. His movie “Four Weddings and A Funeral” was highly popular and he was dating supermodel Elizabeth Hurley. Shortly after his arrest, when the incident was all over entertainment news, he was scheduled to appear on the Tonight Show. The first question from Jay Leno was ‘Ok, I have to ask, why’d you do it?’ Hugh answered ‘I was a bad boy.’ I loved it! It was as if the country exhaled. Why? Because Hugh owned it.

I’ve many nieces and nephews. When I was in college, the Internet was born and so were they. I’m sometimes shocked and at the same time impressed at what iGen shares online. Talk about putting stuff out there to own it!

So here it goes.

Over the years I’ve let myself become small to fit what I thought others wanted me to be. I was authentic but I just wasn’t 100% authentic. Like a white lie, true but not 100% true. Star-shaped I kept trying to chip off my points to fit into a box. Blend to not be a target. Head down to not be chopped off. Invisible to not be there at all.

Then I met a young lady.

Being wise beyond her years she yelled at me ‘Claim Your Space!” Such a loud forceful voice from a wisp of a girl was unexpected making me jump and laugh hard. So repeating over and over in my head the mantra she gave me to “Claim My Space!” I began to consciously take up more physical space and extend my bubble of personal space.

Claim your space! You deserve it!

drawing by the ​wise young lady

I practiced in the hoards of crowds at the State Fair. When I didn’t step out of the way of someone (as I normally would have) and bumped into him instead, my best friend asked if I’d seen him. Yes. Yes, I had. He had seen me too. He didn’t move at all. Neither did I. So I claimed my space.

Writing this and reflecting back,

I realize I didn’t claim my space around children at the Fair. One reason is that I am not a monster who would go around steamrolling little ones. Second, children did not even try to yield their space. Of course, they also have no concept of personal space either. Or boundaries. Just a random thought. I digress.

Back to Hugh and owning it. I’m here to own my life. Live big. Be brave. Claim my space!

Recommending Viewing

My new jam is Bailey Bryan’s “Own It” from her album “So Far” (available on iTunes).

Posted in Courage, Mental Health, Random Crap | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Day of Courage

 Tomorrow is the “Grand Opening” of this blog.

I’ve been writing for a week and have felt exhilarated each time I hit the Publish button to put myself out there.

I wrote in my first entry about the challenge my Courage Collective gave me.

For every time I censor myself I have been putting a quarter in a mason jar. When our Circle meets again they’re making me donate the money to the political party I oppose. 😱

The mason jar challenge came into being when we were going around the room introducing ourselves and I was very guarded (as usual) giving only need to know information. Being aware it was a courage group, I had wanted to offer up my WHYs of being there

  • To be more trusting.
  • To own my manic-depressive experiences.
  • To own my cancer experiences.
  • To share my stories in the hope of helping others (especially young women who are where I once was).

but I didn’t.

When we broke into small groups to set our intentions,

I was able to confess what I had wanted to share. I felt the fear and did it anyway remembering what a new friend from NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) said “Have you tried to just put it out there and see what the response is? Sometimes you should let people surprise you.”

And they did. Now I have around $10 in a mason jar for He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named 🤦and this blog 😊

Some Bits & Pieces

1 –  My first manic depressive episode happened when I was a freshman in high school. It is there that I learned that to be vulnerable is to be weak. To be weak is to be a target.

I  remember when classmates extended me a kindness when I was being bullied or having a panic attack or a really bad day. These are the classmates that you haven’t talked to in 20 years but if you called or texted them today they’d be the first in line with a shovel to sandbag around your house bringing ten other people to help. To them, I say “Thank you.”

I love Brené Brown but vulnerability has a time and place. From my experience, high school is not it. I don’t know if this is the right place, but it is definitely the time. I’m never going to be any younger than I am now.

2 – Why George? That is none of your business.

I will not be sharing All, but I do have some Bits & Pieces.



Posted in Courage, Mental Health | Tagged , , , , ,


I think women are harder on other women than we are on men.

I have been invited to “like” several FaceBook business pages this past year. When a man asks me to do so I feel flattered. When a woman asks me my first feeling is ‘Who do you think you are?’

I realize the irrationality of that. I love my dog; if I get another will I love my other dog less? Of course not! There is an infinite abundance of love. This also applies to supporting our sisters in the bonds of friendship.

Supporting another woman in her endeavors, giving her an ‘atta girl!’ is not a win/lose situation. It is kindness, compassion, love. If our sister is successful does that mean there is less success to go around? I think there is a solid argument that if she succeeds there is actually more success available. Especially when our sister then uses her success to help others.

This reminds me of a few quotes.

Native American Shawnee warrior and chief Tecumseh – quoted as saying:

A single twig breaks, but the bundle of twigs is strong.

English comedian, actor, writer and political activist Eddie Izzard – me  paraphrasing:

How can the meek inherit the earth? I think they should all get together and pool their resources like, ‘What do we want?’ ‘THE EARTH!’ ‘When do we want it?’ ‘NOW, MOTHERLOVER!’ 😄

Let’s remember “success” is subjective.

I’ve heard women say ‘when I see how Jane [dresses, wears her hair, works, lives], I just want to go up to her and say ‘honey, you need to change [this and that] then you’d be successful’. I’m not innocent in this. I’ve thought the same and done it telling friends they should change! It can be insulting to be told ‘if you were more like me you’d be better’

What I define as success may differ from you. For me it may be money; for you, more free time. Just as I may prefer pink sparkly high tops; you may prefer black high heels. 

We can encourage and support our friends to pursue their dreams without telling them they need to change. *When a friend asks us what we think (be it about what they’re wearing or a situation in their life, let’s reply ‘What I think isn’t important, it’s what you think; how do you feel about it?”   

We can let our friend know what we would do and what we like, but to truly offer support we need to be respectful of her priorities and values. We should strive to encourage everyone “to thine own self be true” and to help each other live wholeheartedly.

*Exception being criminal acts, harm to others, harm to self – take your friend seriously and get them help!

All that said, it comes down to envy and greed.

Scarcity/abundance thinking not only applies to business but personal successes as well. Who hasn’t felt jealous at some time in their life when someone announces that they’re getting married, having a baby, buying a new car or house, going on a vacation, the list goes on.

It takes awareness and practice to feel jealousy then flip it and instead be genuinely happy for someone saying “Good things come to those who get off their ass and go for them!”

Some people do not believe in giving compliments.

The theory being if they give one it’s appreciated more. I call bullshit. The dictionary defines a compliment as:

  • polite expression of praise or admiration
  • an act or circumstance that implies praise or respect
  • congratulations or praise expressed to someone

I do believe in giving compliments as much as possible because life is too short not to tell people how much you are appreciative of them, how much you like their contributions to the world, and to encourage them to keep going.

We can all use a little cheerleading from time to time. Let’s sincerely compliment each other more!

This rhetoric may sound like Pollyanna.

Life isn’t easy. Life isn’t fair. We all have our stories, our battles, our demons. Shit happens but let’s not push each other down into the mud of it.

The young women, all the women, in our lives need to see women courageously claiming their space and supporting each other (even if they have differing beliefs, religions, political parties, values). We can lift each other and rise together. We can just be there for each other.

So I say, “Congratulations!”

“Congratulations for your successes Women! I am sincerely happy for you and I’ll admit it, I’m a little jealous! You’re inspiring me to get off my ass and go balls to the wall after my dreams too. Thank you!”

Recommended Viewing (if you don’t know who Pollyanna is.)

Pollyanna Trailer

Posted in Courage | Tagged , , , ,