Category Archives: loss

Give Yourself a Break…Election 2016

Greetings Friends,

I wanted to write you all a quick letter because I have something to say that I feel might help one or a few of you. I tend to stay away from politics. As you know it’s a very hot topic right now and it stirs passion and high emotions for a lot of us.  That being said…

Scrolling through my Facebook page today I see a lot of people who are angry, sad, confused and scared. Not everyone feels this way, certainly, and that’s okay. Everyone is entitled to their own choice. I am comforted by the words of Barack Obama as he speaks of tolerance and acceptance and unity. He is so eloquent and I will miss him come January. I hope he will continue to lead with dignity and hope.

Here is what I want to tell you. Are you paying attention?

You need to disengage for awhile.  Look away.

I spent a long time this morning pouring through Facebook reading article after article about the election. I was consumed and couldn’t think of anything else. I couldn’t even focus on the work I was supposed to be doing.

I’m not saying you can’t feel sad or angry. You sure can, but you need to take a break. Pull yourself away from the computer or the TV just for a short time. 30 minutes. Go outside, look at the sun. Watch a bird fly. Take your dog for a walk.

I decided to listen to some music. I picked a song that reminded me how much I love music and how much I love my husband. Then I got to thinking about how much I love my family. No election can take those things away from me.  While listening and writing this to you, I feel like a person again. I’m breathing.  I’m celebrating creativity and love.  My heart is full and I am grateful.

Please, take a break today.

Sending my love to all of you…pass it on.

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Everyone Says Hi

It’s so weird to me that when someone we love dies, the world just keeps moving. I feel like everything should stop while we all process the sad news, but it simply doesn’t work that way. Monday morning when I found out David Bowie had passed away I felt like I had been punched in the stomach by a schoolyard bully. He took my lunch money, too. I was left alone by the monkey bars with tears in my eyes. During the weekly staff meeting, I reported that I was sad. A few of my co-workers said they thought of me right away when they heard the news, while other co-workers looked at me like I was a crazy person. Well, crazier than usual. They just don’t get it.

I have learned that some people just don’t give a shit about music. I have read that “pop music of today is disposable.” Have you listened to what’s popular today? A lot of repetition…verse and chorus sound the same…weird topics about nothing at all. No wonder we only hear it in the background while we’re twerking in the club and then walk away, discarding the wasted tracks. It’s like a deep kiss from a sultry lover followed up by a stinging backhand slap to the face. I’m not saying music can’t be fun. There’s a time and a place for upbeat, dance/pop/country music that regales a summer evening at the beach drinking beer out of a plastic cup with one’s friends. But the non-stop, constant barrage of this stuff is enough to make an authentic music lover sad.

That being said, it’s easy to see why many people don’t care about music. I guess I was lucky that I grew up in a family that thrived on creativity. My Mom is a wonderful writer and can make up funny stories. Although she claims to have no musical ability, she is above and beyond, a music supporter. In a previous blog I told you about my brother and me listening to my Mom’s 45’s from the magical striped box in the closet. Paul and I listened to her records before we listened to anything we picked. The Beatles, The Doors, Neil Diamond, John Denver, Billy Joel, Paul Simon, Herman’s Hermits…we heard them first through Mom. And you know my brother Paul is about the most musical person I know. (See previous blogs.) He is also the biggest David Bowie fan I know. I may have only been a casual Bowie fan, if not for Paul. Luckily, Paul encouraged me to listen beyond “China Girl” and “Let’s Dance” to hear what Bowie was really about.

And what was Bowie really about, you ask? He was about life. He was a lover and a fighter. He was happy and he was angry. He was one of us. He wasn’t perfect or conventionally beautiful. He wrote and sang about what we all were living every single day. He showed us that it was cool to be different. It was okay to love yourself, no matter what. Fuck what those other people say!

Although it’s sad to see him go, we are all so lucky to be able to share in his life. And just think of all the people after us who will continue to celebrate his catalog of creation. It’s special to us because we were here when it happened and that’s why we are so shocked and sad. He told us to be heroes and now we have to be. We have to keep talking about music and art and fashion and innovation. Let’s inspire each other just like Bowie inspired us. Those people who don’t care about music…or just don’t understand it, leave them be. Wish them well and put on your headphones. You get it. Remember, you’re not alone. There are others just like you and we accept you just as you are, because that’s how it’s supposed to be. ‘Don’t stay in a sad place where no one cares how you are. Everyone says hi.’

 One time with me….Awwwww….WHAM, BAM THANK YOU MA’AM!!!!!!!

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Beautiful animation by Helen Green

Is This Cup Half Empty? (Dedicated to Ray North)

I’ve been struggling with a thought lately. Here’s my question: Am I living life to the fullest? What does that even mean? I hear people talk about it all the time, but who actually does it? I asked some of my friends and family what they thought.

I have a friend at work. Yeah, can you believe that? His name is Joe. He is a writer. Not only is he a genuinely nice person, but he makes me laugh every day. He’s one of those people that just makes the day better. You can give Joe the most boring topic and he will think of something clever to write about it. He self-published a children’s book, They Don’t Make Books About Uncles and he’s working on a play that I know will be successful…he’s just that kind of guy. Although I’ve only known Joe for a short time, I very much admire him and I know that he has changed my life for the better. He has inspired and encouraged me to write and create and try. That being said, I asked Joe what it means to live life to the fullest. We have the same job and it’s not always glamorous. Yes, we write and create, but there are rules and guidelines to follow and it can get monotonous and frustrating. It’s not always easy to be a creative type in the corporate world. Joe told me that it’s hard to live every moment to the fullest, but it’s what you make of the good things that happen. He said we have to fully enjoy the successes and the happy times. I happen to know that Joe’s family and friends are very important to him and he works to cultivate those relationships. Immerse yourself in the great moments and don’t worry about the small, mundane stuff. Maybe work is just what you have to do to get to the next great moment. I think Joe is on to something. He seems like a happy person to me.

Jeanne and Joe

I also discussed this topic with Steve. You all remember Steve; he’s my husband. You may remember him from such blogs as…you get it. I asked, “Steve, are you living life to the fullest?” He said, “Well, I sure am busy.” That’s not what I meant and I’m sure he knew that. Steve’s passion is music and sound. I believe that when he’s playing music or recording, he is doing what he loves most. In those moments, he is living life to the fullest. In our discussion, we talked about how it may be hard to live life to the fullest when you have to worry about bills and money. One cannot simply travel and take time out to write a novel or produce an album. How can a person be happy when he is hungry or homeless? Well, that’s an interesting thought. Is it only rich people who can really take advantage of a full life?

Jeanne and Steve

I have been listening to a book by Elizabeth Gilbert called Big Magic. In this book, Gilbert talks about living a creative life. It’s a choice one makes to pursue their creative endeavors in a responsible and mature way. She explains that creating is free. It’s for the rich and the poor. She mentions that if only the rich could create, the world would surely be a boring place. She cautions her listeners/readers to never make the artistic craft a burden. Work at it because you love it. Don’t do it to impress other people or even make a living. Do it for yourself; to make you happy. She describes a different way of thinking about being creative and talks about her path as a writer and novelist. She wrote Eat, Pray, Love for herself to work through her own life issues. It just happened to resound with millions of readers. (If you’re a creative type, I would highly recommend listening to or reading “Big Magic.”)

While I’m tossing all of these ideas around in my head, something sad happened. One of my brother’s best friends from high school, Ray North has been battling cancer for awhile. After a brave fight, Ray passed away on November 10th. My brother flew to Texas where Ray was getting treatment to be with him and to ultimately say goodbye. I hadn’t seen Ray since I was in high school. We went to the same school, but my brother and Ray graduated the year before I started. Basically, I knew Ray through Paul. Since I always thought my brother was pretty cool, I knew that Ray was cool, too. He was really cute, he could sing, he was in marching band and he had this killer smile. Oh, and he wasn’t rude to me, his friend’s stupid kid sister. Paul recently talked about when he walked into his new high school as a sophomore, he was very nervous. Ray was one of the first people to talk to Paul and made him feel welcome, including Paul in the “cool crowd.” That’s pretty powerful stuff. That’s a gift you never forget about.

At Ray’s wake and funeral I learned even more about him. He has a lovely family. A beautiful wife and four happy kids. Paul and his friend Eric, (also one of Ray’s good friends from high school,) made a slideshow about Ray. In every picture Ray’s smile shone. There were pictures of Ray goofing around with his family growing up and then enjoying happy moments with his wife and kids. I am not kidding, at Ray’s funeral, the church was packed. Not one empty seat. And it was a pretty big church. I was astounded at all of the lives Ray had touched at church, at work, through Scouting, or just within the community. Everyone in that huge room loved Ray. He wasn’t the type of guy you sorta liked. You could only love Ray. One quote from the homily stuck with me. It’s a quote from Lord Baden Powell, the founder of the Boy Scouts.

“No one can pass through life, any more than he can pass through a bit of country, without leaving tracks behind, and those tracks may often be helpful to those coming after him in finding their way.”

Every person who spoke was touched by Ray. Ray enriched the lives of others just by being himself. He created a happy life for himself and for those around him. He wasn’t rich and he wasn’t famous, but without a doubt, he lived life to the fullest.

I’m not sure what got me thinking about living life to the fullest, but God or the cosmos, or whatever you believe in, brought me an example when I needed one. So, I’ll take a dash of Joe, a pinch of Steve, a generous portion of Elizabeth Gilbert and mix it all up with Ray to fashion my own life from now on. It’s probably not something I will be good at every day, but at least I have some wise and trustworthy guides to lead the way. I wish I could tell you exactly what it means to live life to the fullest, but I’m not still not entirely sure what it means. I think it’s a different story for all of us. It’s about finding contentment and creativity inside of yourself, loving everyone as hard as you can and ultimately leaving behind a legacy of infectious joy. Also, if you have a killer smile, that could really help.

Ray

Where Did that Apple Fall?

I like to write blog posts that are humorous and fun to read. I am in a rather thoughtful/melancholy mood lately, so this post may not be as funny as usual. Okay, maybe you didn’t think any of them were funny. If that’s true, I hope you will keep that to yourself for now.

Very recently, something sad happened and I’d like to talk to you about it, if you don’t mind. You all know my husband Steve, right? Nice guy. Well, his father John Sullivan passed away. See, I told you it was sad. Yes, he was sick. He hadn’t been doing well since before Thanksgiving. It has been a difficult time for Steve’s family. On Tuesday March 10th John left this Earth to begin an adventure somewhere else.

Can I tell you a little bit about John? Here’s a bit of what I know about him. He was an only child. He was a respected electrician for many years. He actually had a hand in building many famous structures in Chicago. Sometimes when I drive downtown with Steve he’ll point out a building his Dad helped to build. John married his wife Noreen 57 years ago. They have 6 children. John loved to laugh and had a great sense of humor, hence 6 kids. John also loved animals and eating tasty food.

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As you can read from my schlocky bio, I’m missing a lot of information. I only came to be acquainted with John in the last few years when I met Steve. When I met John, he was already an older gentleman and I have to admit, I was a little scared of him. He was very quiet and I felt like I had to impress him, so he would think I was a good match for his son. Due to his quietness and my self-imposed anxiety, we did not know each other very well. While sitting at John’s memorial service last weekend, I felt like I was meeting him for the first time. There were dozens of pictures of John as a kid, a young man, a newly married man, a father and a grandfather. I learned that he had a lot of laughs in his lifetime and touched the lives of many people. But really, who was this man? As I thought about this question, I started to feel sad that I didn’t know John at all. I felt like I had missed an opportunity to know this man that was so well loved by so many. But, wait a minute…

Steve is extremely personable. I am always so proud of him when we attend a party or dinner and he can talk to anyone. He is everyone’s buddy. When we attend a huge event like a concert where there are thousands of people in attendance, Steve will run into someone he knows or meet someone new. People easily share personal information with Steve. A guy came to our house to fix the dryer. Next thing I know, this man is telling Steve about his Dad passing away. The nice man who fixes our cars has told Steve all about how his wife beat cancer. Strangers feel that they can trust Steve. People seem to recognize a friendly spirit in him. I learned recently that everyone at John and Noreen’s church loved him. John reminded all of these kind people of their own grandfather. He had a friendly spirit, too.

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Did I mention that Steve has a joke for every occasion? I’m not kidding. Steve is able to get a joke into most every conversation. I’d say 98% of them are even funny. Here are some examples of random joke subjects: Spelling bees, dentist appointments, putting a shirt on, Easter Sunday, eating a snack at a hockey game, etc. Just like his Dad, Steve loves to laugh and loves to make others laugh. Bringing laughter and humor into this world is important to Steve. Maybe that’s why everyone likes to hang out with him so much. The very first time I met Steve was in a room full of strangers. (I was auditioning to be in his band.) He put me at ease by making me laugh. Maybe that’s why I sang so well and I was hired to be the band’s singer. It’s possible.

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Steve loves animals. Upon meeting Steve, my cat Sadie was full of hate and rage. She has always been skittish, especially around men. I’m talking about “I will kill you” hatred. She would hiss and bite at him no matter what he did. Most people would have thrown their hands in the air in defeat after a couple of days. Steve tried to win Sadie’s heart for over a month. It wasn’t always easy and I thought one (or two) of us was going to have to go, but she very slowly came to trust him and now they are the best of friends. She just needed to train him. When we go to a friend’s house Steve can always be found petting the dog or cat. Just recently we acquired a set of squirrel friends who hang out in our yard. We can stand at the window and watch those little guys all afternoon. Here’s a story I thought of recently: During the stressful planning of our wedding, I was waiting at our wedding locale (Steve’s sister’s house) for the tables, chairs, dance floor and tent to be delivered. Whilst waiting, Steve’s parents came to the house for a visit. Right before they walked up to the patio, I noticed something small and fuzzy on one of the patio chairs. It was a baby hummingbird! He was so cute and barely the size of a golf ball. When I pointed out the bird to John, his face lit up. He was talking to the bird and insisted we find a little box to put him in, along with some sugar water. It was really touching to see. Very soon after, the Mama hummingbird came to get the baby. That was a beautiful sight, as well.

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Although Steve isn’t big on eating, John was. He loved snacks, treats, dinners, lunches…whatever you had. When the food was on, no need to ask John twice, he was happy to fix a plate and dig in. John was the best man at our wedding. I remember about an hour after dinner had begun, Steve found me outside and told me his Dad thought it was time to cut the cake. People were finishing up with dinner and wanted cake. A man after my own heart! Let’s get to the cake already! It really was a fabulous cake.ND7_8279

Maybe I didn’t know John very well personally, but he has certainly touched my life in a dramatic way. He wasn’t a perfect man, he made some mistakes along the way, but overall, he brought a lot of happiness and laughter into this world. I’m lucky to see the best of John every day in Steve. I think John would be pleased to hear that. Although John is physically not with us anymore, the silver lining is that I actually did know him pretty well and I’m still learning more about him every day through Steve. What a beautiful gift, don’t you think?

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