How are you feeling?

What are your plans for tomorrow?

Welcome to the thirteenth edition of my “Gatekeeping” blog series. I shared the back story of these simple and yet powerful questions in this post.

It’s been almost another two years since we last did some Gatekeeping here.

And again, I can hardly believe I let that much time pass since my last Gatekeeping post. It was two years in between that one and the one that came before it. When I started doing these I’d typically share them every few months or so.

Yesterday afternoon a good friend shared that one of her old and dear friends was missing. By the end of the day his body was found. He died by suicide. My friend and her family adored him, his wife and their two young children. He was a local school teacher, beloved by his students. No one knew how much pain he was in, until this happened.

Anyone following a story like this will likely feel sadness. I am not alone in that.

Anyone who has lost loves ones to suicide may experience triggers, when they hear about others who are following in their heartbreaking footsteps. That is not unique to me.

So I am not surprised to be feeling down this morning.

I am aware of my privilege, to be able to honor, sit with, and somewhat wallow in my feelings today, while my husband is at work and our children are at school.

However, I know that life must go on and I have things that I need to get done.

I intend to get to those things shortly.

But first, let’s do some Gatekeeping…

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Over the past six years, I have lost loved ones to suicide. I realize that there is likely nothing I could have done to change the outcome of their lives, but it is something that I struggle with as I continue to work through my grief and try to make peace with these people taking their own lives.

I know that many of us suffer in silence when we are going through difficult and uncertain times in our lives. It doesn’t have to be that way.

I am not asking you to tell me your secrets or your problems, unless you want to of course. But I invite you to check in here periodically (you can also email me or send a Facebook message) and let me know how you are feeling and what plans you may have for tomorrow.

Here’s an excerpt from the post I referenced above called Gatekeepers:

My favorite line in Meg (Hutchinson’s) song (called Gatekeepers) is, “maybe every day, in ordinary ways, we hold each other on, we keep each other here.”

I think that is so profound and it certainly rings true for me.

There have been countless people throughout my life that have been “Gatekeepers” to me. Though I have never seriously considered taking my own life and strongly believe that I will never do so, I have survived some very rough patches where my self-esteem and self-worth were severely challenged. 

I love the idea that in “ordinary ways” we can make extraordinary differences in the journeys of loved ones and even strangers that we meet throughout the course of our day-to-day lives. 

Kevin “the Gatekeeper” Briggs has done so by asking those two simple questions of strangers he has met contemplating jumping (off the Golden Gate Bridge), Meg Hutchinson has done so through her music and song, Bob Edwards has done so with the stories he shares on his radio show and you all have done so for me over the years through your comments here, your caring ways, your love and your support as my readers, fellow bloggers, friends and family members. 

Thank you so very much.

I post “Gatekeeping” blog entries now and then and hope that they present the opportunity for anyone who reads them who is having a hard time coping with challenges they are facing in life to share. That said, you are certainly welcome to comment about the things you are feeling good about too. I believe that being able to recognize and name the things we are grateful for is essential to help us find peace and joy in our lives. That is part of why I loved participating in Lori’s Perfect Moment Mondays.

Sometimes it’s the little things than can help keep us a float when we feel like we are drowning. Just knowing that others care and want to know how we are feeling, as well as being able to think about what we might do tomorrow has the power to help us get through tough times.

Thank you for reading. I hope that however you are doing today that you know there are people in your life (I am one of them) who care about how you are feeling and want to know what your plans, hopes and dreams are for tomorrow and the days to come.

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I will start us off by answering the questions myself:

I am feeling… 

Sad — Between following the loss of my good friend’s friend and the news of the death of Soundgarden front man/singer Chris Cornell (age 52), possibly by suicide (though as of yet undetermined), along with hearing a childhood friend’s father also died this week, grief seems to be surrounding me.

Though I don’t have direct connections to any of these people, my heart breaks for my friend and all those whose live were touched and better for knowing her friend. I was never a huge fan of Chris Cornell, though I certainly like some of his songs. However, my sister and many of my friends are/were. So I get their grief and needing to process his death, as a musician/icon of our generation.

And though I didn’t know my childhood friend’s father well, I vividly recall seeing him at church many Sundays when I was growing up. He had a big personality, wore colorful clothing to match his energy, and I can still picture his smile from across our congregation. He was older than my parents, but not by a lot, and all of these losses are reminders that nothing is promised us and any day can be our (or our loved ones) last.

Hot — Typical to Chicago, our spring was brief and now we are getting a glimpse of summer. I have a low tolerance for humidity and though it seems too cool to turn on the A/C, it is also a little warmer than I would like with out. #firstworldproblems

Hormonal — My period is due any moment. I am sure my emotions are exacerbated by that. So I am trying to give myself grace as a I process my feelings.

Tired — I didn’t get enough sleep last night. That is something I have control over, for the most part, and need to work harder at going to bed earlier. As with a morning routine that includes my alarm going off at 5:00 a.m. to get up and work out, going to bed after 11:00 p.m. is not the brightest idea.

Grateful — Anytime I/we learn of the death of someone close in age to me/us, with a spouse/partner/significant other and children, it hits close to home. I feel thankful to have Bob, Sean, and Abby in my life. As difficult as things can be with a husband who works hard and a lot (which his wife and children appreciate so much), a teenager who is learning to navigate life at 13 (which I am still doing at 42), and a 7-year-old daughter who also has her struggles, especially when things don’t go as she hopes/expects them to (don’t we all?!), on days like today I need to pause and recognize how very blessed and lucky I am/we are. I can’t assume they know how much I care and I love them. Though I feel like I share that often, today I will say it out loud, to each one of them, when they get home from school and from work. I may even call Bob before then, because it matters. He matters. They matter. You matter. WE. ALL. MATTER.

Motivated — I am working towards some big goals with my health and fitness coaching business in the month to come. Three years in to doing this I still love it! I am not where I’d imagined I would be by now, in some ways, and that’s okay. It’s a process and I am always learning. And I still really enjoy helping people on their health and fitness journeys, leading accountability/support groups, and working with the awesome fellow coaches on our team.

I am also always working on my own health and fitness. I am enjoying doing Beachbody’s newest workout program release “YouV2” with Bob and our newest morning workout buddy, Sean! I crave Shakeology’s newest flavor Vegan Vanilla every day, especially making my version of a “Miami Vice” tropical smoothie (without the alcohol) by adding fresh-cut pineapple and strawberries to it.

Though I try not to focus on the scale, I have hit a bit of a plateau there recently. I find that frustrating, as the plateau came after I gained about 5-8 lbs. from where I like to be. I have been following the Portion Fix/21 Day Fix Eating Plan now for over 500 days in row. I am proud of that and it really works for me. That said, sometimes I am too liberal in my allotment of extra containers when I splurge, especially yellows = carb servings. So I continue to work on reigning that in.

My plans for tomorrow/the days to come… 

This afternoon Abby has ballet class and swim team practice and it is my night to be carpool mom/driver. So I will be doing that after school and homework is done.

Tonight Sean and I will be attending a meeting with fellow 7th graders and their parents at our parish church, in preparation for him making his confirmation next year.

We have Sean’s 504 plan meeting tomorrow morning at his school. I don’t talk about that much here, but know that, as any parents do/try to, we are doing the best we can to support our twice exceptional son on his journey with some special needs.

This weekend my sister and her family are coming to visit. We will watching our niece and nephew for part of that time. Sean and Abby enjoy playing with their cousins from Wisconsin and I look forward to some quality time with our god-daughter and her little brother, as well as their parents. Hoping we can fit in some Euchre and/or other family games while they are here.

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Photo credit: Brandi Lee (www.baleeimages.com)

You read that right.

This is about LTYM Chicago 2016.

I started writing sometime after the show, one year ago yesterday, about the incredible experience that was Listen to Your Mother Chicago 2016.

I would add things to it now and then, getting pretty far with my post, but never finished or shared it until now.

It’s never too late.

On the day of the show (May 1, 2016), I didn’t look at my phone/use social media between 2:00 p.m. (right before the show began) until a little after 7:00 p.m. (after dinner with my family). It was awesome to be fully present/in the moment for those 5 wonderful hours.

I believe my memories during that time are actually more vivid for not having tried to capture them, other than taking mental pictures.

As we gear up for LTYM Chicago 2017 (one of the many Listen To Your Mother Grand Finale Season shows across North America), I give you my recap from 2016 and encourage you to join me in the audience THIS Sunday, May 7th at 2:00 p.m. at the Athenaeum Theatre.

And a shout out to my good friend Audra, who shared this guest post, “Are You My Mother?” here awhile back, and then read it live this past Sunday, as part of the LTYM Detroit 2017 cast!

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13 people

13 stories

Different perspectives

Shared experiences

Strength is our common thread.

I went first and read “We Are Moms.”

I was surprised not to be able to see anyone or anything in the audience.

There were bright lights and blackness.

I found that strangely comforting.

I knew some of my loved ones were in the audience, but not exactly where they were sitting.

I could feel their presence though, along with the love radiating from everyone there, both those on stage with me and everyone in the seats of the theater, as well as so many I know were with me in spirit.

I channeled my inner sloth and tried to read my piece slowly.

I savored my few minutes in the spotlight.

I got to tell part of my story.

It was amazing.

I did well… really well.

Better than I thought I would.

I shined.

Photo credit: Brandi Lee (www.baleeimages.com)

Then I got to return to our tribe of 13, who welcomed me backstage with awesome affirmation and validation.

And I was so excited to share with them about what it felt like out there, how I couldn’t see anyone specifically and how much I loved that! They all seemed encouraged to know that.

Then came Sidney with “When My Butterfly Gave Me Wings.”

It was an honor to share the stage with Sid, who is definitely stronger than she thinks. The piece she shared, about surviving the death of her mother, was so moving. Sydney’s mom has so very much to be proud of. And it was so fun to be carpool buddies the morning of the show and represent the south side of our town together.

This is Sidney’s recap of her experience that day.

And I don’t think I told Sidney until after the show that I also associate butterflies with our daughter Molly, who died soon after she was born in April 2008. So from the moment she stood behind the podium, at our first practice, wearing butterfly earrings and I heard what her piece was called, I knew we’d have a special bond/connection. Though our losses came at very different stages of lives for our loved ones, we both sadly know the grief of losing a family member much too soon and I believe that through sharing our journeys we honor their legacies, as we pay it forward.

Next up Melisa reading “I Let Go.”

Melisa is one of the Co-Producers of LTYM Chicago and National New Cities Mentor. She shared a touching piece about letting go of her son, as he left for a trip overseas. Melisa gave me a glimpse of life with older/young adult children, which may seem far away now and yet I realize will be here before I know it.

Thank you Melisa (and Tracey), for choosing me and my story to be part of Year 5 for LTYM Chicago.

This is Melisa’s recap of Sunday and really the past five years since they brought LTYM to Chicago.

I love the significance of the necklaces! Not to mention that we (the cast) bought necklaces (different ones) for them too.

And I love that Melisa and Tracey have evolved into both being Phobe-like leading up to the big show in recent years. I am sure if I had been involved sooner I would’ve been more Monica-like too. But having evolved myself over the years, I definitely was channeling more of my inner-Phobe this past week and for sure on Sunday. It was such an amazing experience!

Followed by Francie with “Belle of the Ball.”

Oh, how I can relate to Francie’s story, at least the part about getting sent to one’s room during a childhood birthday party. My dad still loves to tell people that story (I was upset my friends were not paying attention while I was opening my presents)! And I am so grateful that Francie got sent to her room way back when and wrote about it later, so I would get to meet and share the LTYM Chicago 2016 experience with her. Francie is an awesome writer and you can read more/follow her here.

And then Beth read “Fifteen Hours of Great America.”

Beth rocked the stage, as she shared a real, funny, and heartfelt piece about the highs and lows of her family’s trip to Great America. Who can’t relate to a family trip that comes with high expectations and plenty of things not going as planned?! I love how candid she is in her writing, allowing her readers to know they are not alone and feel validated.

Beth was the only cast member, besides Melisa and Tracey, that I knew ahead of time (through blogging) and so being part of LTYM Chicago 2016 with her was extra special. Here’s Beth’s recap of show day. So true about our bond, the laughter, lack of judgement, and support we share.

Megan shared her struggle in “Bruised Apples.”

Megan’s piece was one of the most moving, honest, and powerful pieces in our show. She talked openly about her struggle with Postpartum Depression, after the birth of her second child. I know so many who have also dealt with PPD and am so proud of Megan for letting others know she has been there and they are not alone.

And I couldn’t agree more about what Megan says in her recap, that motherhood never looked so very strong and beautiful as it did that Sunday!

Photo credit: Brandi Lee (www.baleeimages.com)

Bonnie took the stage with “Mothers in the Hood.”

Bonnie is unapologetically herself, which I love about her and think so many of us strive for. Through sharing both her confidence and vulnerability, she gave us a window into what it feels like to live in the inner city and deal with gun violence at your door step. It is a powerful message about wanting to protect our children and the reality of raising them in our world today. You can read more/follow Bonnie here.

Tracey was next and read “Homeschool Supermom.”

Tracey is the other Co-Producer of LTYM Chicago and Director of our show (see above where I wrote about how much I adore Tracey and Melisa). She is a natural on stage, telling us what it’s really like to be a mom who home schools her children. I still giggle thinking about the antidotes she shares and how validating it is to be reminded, regardless of what kind of mom we are, whether by choice or circumstance, we are all supermoms! You can read more/follow Tracey here.

Thanks again, Melisa and Tracey for EVERYTHING you both do to make LTYM Chicago so awesome!

Then it was Mollie’s turn with “Me and My Uterus.”

There’s something about Mollie, that makes you want to be part of her world. The way she can make us laugh and feel special while we are with her. Mollie wrote and shared, in a hilarious and touching way, about how her body changed after having her two children and how she knew she was done.

Mollie’s recap captures so well what it felt like to be on stage speaking to the loving faceless abyss that was our audience and I am grateful to be part of her world now.

Followed by Andrea moving us all with “No Greater Love.”

Andrea has an incredible way with words. She paints a picture that is easy to enter and so relatable. I still think of Andrea and her story, in those little moments of motherhood when I am struggling and need a little push to be the mom I want, and my kids need me, to be. This wasn’t Andrea’s first LTYM rodeo and it was easy to see why she was invited back again, to be part of our 2016 Chicago cast. You can read more/follow Andrea here.

And then our Neen read “Remembering My Mother’s Power the Day We Buried My Father.”

The older I get, the more I appreciate that both of my parents are still alive, though navigating life with aging parents certainly has it challenges. Nina’s piece, along with Sidney’s, were heartbreaking for me to digest, as I realize I will likely be in their shoes someday (having to bury my mom and/or my dad).

Nina shared in her recap, “I am smiling because this happened. I loved every minute of my perfect experience, our perfect experience. I’m allowing the truth, beauty, love, strength, gratitude and my version of perfection to take hold of my life and guide me. This is reality now.”

Usually when I think about navigating a new reality, it is after I have experienced loss or an unexpected change/upheaval in my life. I love that Nina is taking our amazing LTYM Chicago journey (thus far) and allowing it to guide her, to invite more positivity and comfort zone challenges to move her along. This kindred spirit is such a gift to our Tribe of 13. And I feel so blessed and lucky to be one of Neen’s 12.

Up next was Rachel with “Early Dismissal.”

Not having been a mom with an office job in the professional world, Rachel gave me (and others who may have had different life experiences) a hilarious and touching inside look at how she tries to balance motherhood with the working outside her home. And we all know, as Tracey also shared about homeschooling, that none of us can have or do it all, in spite of our efforts to juggle as moms. You can read more/follow Rachel here.

And then Pete wrapped it up with “The Road Trip.”

Pete is one of the best storytellers I’ve met. And as a mother to my own son, I relish in Pete’s perspective on his mom. Pete’s tale of a road trip he took many years ago, with his mom and aunt, was an awesome way to end our show. I will forever laugh and think of Pete, when I hear Kris Kross’s “Warm it Up” or MC Hammer’s “You Can’t Touch This!” You can read more/follow Pete here.

Photo credit: Brandi Lee (www.baleeimages.com)

We had fun, didn’t we?!

As my mom would say, being part of LTYM Chicago 2016 was “a peak life experience.” Beyond grateful for the opportunity and all those who were with me, whether on stage, in the audience, or in spirit.

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